My MacBook Pro Experience - Day 7

In this installment of my MacBook Pro Experience I'm going to be covering some of the basic skills and knowledge I’ve discovered that someone making the switch from Windows to Mac really needs to carry out basic functions within the Mac OS X environment.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

In this installment of my MacBook Pro Experience I'm going to be covering some of the basic skills and knowledge I’ve discovered that someone making the switch from Windows to Mac really needs to carry out basic functions within the Mac OS X environment.

If you are already a Mac user, this post might come across as pretty basic, but the idea here is to get across the main differences between the two platforms to readers not familiar with the Mac.  If you know what you are doing when it comes to all things Mac, you can help others by posting your tips and tricks here. 

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Keyboard and Keyboard Shortcuts

The first difference to get used to is the keyboard and the keyboard shortcuts.  For those new to the Mac there are two keys that you need to become familiar with:

  • Command key (sometimes called the Apple key).  This is the main modifier on the Mac.  However, don't expect it to work like the Windows key - it doesn't bring up a system menu.  In fact, the Command key is similar in function to the CTRL key on a Windows PC.
  • The Alt/Option key is a key that doesn't seem to be used as much as the Command key (or Control) but I've found that it comes in handy when navigating through documents.

If you're handy with Windows you're more than likely familiar with keyboard shortcuts for cut, copy and paste.  However, just because the Mac keyboard has a Control key (marked on my MacBook Pro as CTRL), don't think that you can use the same CTRL+X, CTRL+C and CTRL+V that you're used to.  On the Mac the Command key (shortened to Cmd) replaces the CTRL key.  Fortunately, the letters used are the same, so CTRL+X, CTRL+C and CTRL+V becomes Cmd+X, Cmd+C and Cmd+V.

Now I'm not going to list a gazillion keyboard shortcuts in this post, instead I'm going to pick on a few that I've found most useful over the past few days.

  • Open a file
    Gotta file on your desktop you want to run.  You can't just select the file and hit ENTER.  It doesn't work, that only allows you to rename the file.  Nope, instead you have to hit Cmd+O.
  • Delete
    On the Mac platform the Backspace key that is at the top right of the keyboard is the Delete key.  When working with text this deletes from right to left just like the Backspace key in Windows does.  If you want the features of the Delete key (deleting left to right) you press Fn+Delete (Fn stands for Function).
    Got a file on your desktop you want to get rid of?  Pressing the Delete key won't shift it.  You have to press Cmd+Delete instead.  This will send the file to the Trash.
  • Closing and quitting applications
    When using the Mac OS there's a subtle difference between closing and quitting an application.  After you've closed a application, the application is still running actually running, you just can't see it.  The application's actually been minimized to the Dock.  You can tell that it's there by looking for the icon on the right-hand side of the Dock.  You close applications using Cmd+W.  Quitting an application means that the app's no longer running and if you want to use it again you have to relaunch it.  You quit apps using the Cmd+Q keyboard shortcut.
  • Minimize vs. Hide
    It took me a little time before I got the difference between minimize and hide.  Minimizing an application means sending it to the Dock - you'll see the icon on the right-hand side of the Dock. 
    Mac tutorial

    You can do this using Cmd+M.  Hiding an application (done using Cmd+H) means that the window or windows are hidden from view but nothing is sent to the Dock (apart from a little arrow that you can see underneath the icon in the Dock). 
    Mac tutorial

    The main difference between the two is that if you minimize an app to the Dock, using Cmd+TAB to switch to the app (analogous to ALT+TAB in Windows) keeps it minimized in the Dock while switching to a hidden window restores that window and it's ready to use. 
  • Working With Text
    Here are a few useful keyboard shortcuts when working with text:
    Cmd+Left Arrow - Go to the beginning of a line
    Cmd+Right Arrow - Go to the end of a line
    Alt+Left Arrow - Jump one word to the left
    Alt+Right Arrow - Jump one word to the right
    Alt+Shift+Left Arrow - Select one word to the left
    Alt+Shift+Right Arrow - Select one word to the right
    Ctrl+P - Go up one line
    Ctrl+N - Go to next line
    Ctrl+K - Delete to end of line
    Ctrl+T - Transpose letters
  • Taking Screenshots
    Here are some useful keyboard shortcuts for taking screenshots:
    Cmd+Shift+3 - Take screenshot of whole screen
    Cmd+Shift+4 and drag - Capture selected screen area
    Cmd+Shift+4 then press spacebar then click on a windows - Captures selected window
    To copy to the clipboard instead of a file, press Ctrl while using one of the above keyboard shortcuts
  • Drag Background Windows Without Switching To Them
    Interesting trick this - you can move background windows without switching to them using CMD and drag the titlebar.
  • Force Quit
    Applications do still misbehave under Mac OS.  Sometimes they misbehave so much that the only thing left to do is to kill them.  This is where Force Quit comes in handy.  It's a lot like CTRL+ALT+DEL but instead you hit Cmd+Alt+Esc.  The Force Quit dialog then allows you to choose an unresponsive application to close.
    Mac tutorial
  • Immediate Shutdown
    If you want to shutdown your Mac in a hurry then the keyboard shortcut you need is Cmd+Option+Control+Eject.  No chance of pressing that by accident.
  • Shutdown Dialog
    To display the shutdown dialog press Ctrl+Eject.
    Mac tutorial
  • Eject CD/DVD on Boot
    This one can be handy too - to eject a CD or DVD at bootup hold the mouse button down while powering on the system.

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Installing Applications

Installing applications is strange under Mac OS if you're used to installing stuff under Windows.  It's strange not because the process is confusing as such but because it's so simple - if you know what you're doing.
The first application that I installed on the MacBook Pro was Firefox.  I downloaded a .DMG file and this seemed to mount similar to mounting an .ISO under Windows.  This fired up an installer of sorts which just sat on the screen doing nothing.  I expected something to happen.  When nothing seemed to be happening I tried clicking about.  Still nothing.  Then I stopped and took a look at the image - was this telling me to drag the Firefox logo to the Application folder?  I tried this and by accident dragged it to the desktop.  I assumed that this had messed things up but I still tried running Firefox - and it worked!  Amazing!  I then dragged the icon to the Application folder (you'll find this in the Finder), and tested it again - and it worked.  Pretty neat.  My only complaint here was the lack of language on the screen - it assumed that I knew that I was doing.  Since then I've installed other apps and noticed that there's a huge variety of installers out there.  Firefox maybe wasn't the easiest to start off with.
You can also run the applications directly from the .DMG file - just mount it and open it up but this is long-winded - however, I wonder how many people do this?  If you don't "get it" that you move the app out of the downloaded .DMG file, it's easy to think that it's already installed. 
After copying the app from the .DMG file, you can either delete it (unmounting it first - the easiest way to do this is to click the eject button in Finder) and then selecting it and hitting Cmd-Delete.

Mac tutorial

Mac tutorial

Mac tutorial

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Login Items

There's a really good way under the Mac OS of controlling what applications run at startup - it's called Login Items.  You can access Login Items by clicking on System Preferences and then selecting Accounts and the Login Items tab.  From here you can define which applications and files you want to see run at startup.

Mac tutorial

The Dock

Don't make the mistake of thinking of the Dock in the Mac OS as being a substitute for the Windows taskbar.  In fact, the Dock is more a combination taskbar and quick launch menu. 

The Dock comes with preconfigured applications that you can click on and run much like the Windows quick launch menu does.  Click on them and they run.  You can also get up a context menu by using a secondary click (two-fingered tap for me on the MacBook because I changed the settings in the Keyboard & Mouse applet in System Preferences).  This context menu allows you to control the behavior of the application.

As I said earlier, you can spot applications which have been minimized to the Dock because you'll see the icon there.  You can also see hidden windows - notice the little arrow underneath the icon in the Dock.

Oh, and to empty the trash secondary-click on the trash can and choose Empty Trash.

Mac tutorial

Mac tutorial

Mouse Interaction with Applications

If you're not the kind of person who likes to memorize keyboard shortcuts, then you'll want to use the mouse to interact with applications running in the Mac OS.

Windows users will find that interacting with apps in the Mac OS is not a huge paradigm shift.  It's pretty intuitive - red button closes the application, the yellow button minimizes it and the green button maximizes and restores the app.

Some apps have a button on the right-hand side of the title bar that allows the sidebar to be expanded/collapsed.

Mac tutorial

Creating Archives

I was pleased to find just how simple it is to create ZIP archives in Mac OS X.  Just select the files, hit secondary click to bring up the context menu and select Create Archive.  Nice!

Full gallery of images here.

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