Key for Switch to Apple - 01  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , , , , , ,

Macs are elegant; Macs are powerful; Macs are, for the time being, remarkably safe from infection. But when people tell you that Macs are "intuitive," you're well within your rights to sneer. In my ten years of using Macs, I've found them no more intuitive than Windows PCs, perhaps even a little less so. If you're a recent or prospective switcher, you might avoid some trial and error by dipping into the following grab bag of factoids and advice.


Just like Windows, Mac OS X organizes information as files within directories. Beyond that, there are differences that may take a few seconds to puzzle out, and some that will be more frustrating—it largely depends on your computing style. If you like to use the keyboard more than the mouse or trackpad, and if you like to customize everything possible, these tips should save you a fair bit of time and annoyance.

Right-click. You probably already know that life with Windows is made easier by right-clicking wherever possible to view the context menu. Contextual options are just the ticket to learning more about what you can do in any particular situation. On a Mac, right-click is Ctrl-click. Depending on which Mac hardware you're using, you can also configure your mouse or trackpad to respond to actual right-clicking (you'll find that option under Apple | System Preferences). Whichever way you do it, do it constantly and you'll never stop learning.

Find the Finder. The Finder—Apple's rough equivalent of Windows Explorer—is what lets you navigate files and folders on your Mac. (People have strong opinions on the relative merits of the two interfaces; I'll keep mine to myself and just mention a few differences.) You'll know you're in the Finder, as opposed to another application, because the word Finder will appear on the top left corner of the screen. After that, pressing Cmd-n (don't press Shift to make it a capital or it'll be a different command) will open a folder-navigation window. If you prefer, you can do this in one step by clicking on the little blue smiley at the far-left side of the Dock. Just like Windows Explorer, Finder is always open, even if there's no Finder window open. As you navigate through the window (say, by double-clicking on a folder to show its contents), you're using the Finder. You're also using the Finder when you perform basic housekeeping functions such as dragging a file from one folder to another.

Open files in various ways. As in Windows, you can double-click on a file or application icon to open it. If you're slow of mouse-thumb, other options are to press Cmd-o or Cmd-DownArrow. Just don't expect to open a file by pressing Enter! In Windows this opens a file; in OS X, it lets you edit the filename.

Customize the Finder view. You can set preferences in the Finder, but—in a prime example of what isn't intuitive about a Mac—most of these preferences are not in the Finder's Preferences menu. Instead, they're hidden under the View | Show View Options menu—and the options here will differ in accordance with how you're currently displaying files (as icons, as a list, or in columns). Take some time to explore the settings here; they can make a big difference in your everyday interactions with the Mac.

Choose your sidebar. One thing I recommend, for convenience, is to customize what appears in the left-hand sidebar of folder-navigation windows. You can do some of this under Finder | Preferences | Sidebar, and you can also drag elements (such as folder icons) directly into the sidebar, or pull them off. This is a good way to make your commonly used folders more quickly available to you.

Display extensions. Another thing I recommend, for the sake of avoiding surprises or confusion, is to go into Finder | Preferences and check Show all file extensions.

Understand a key difference: extensions. Speaking of file extensions, Macs do use them the same way Windows PCs do—to determine which application should open a file—but this is a relatively recent development, and it continues to coexist with the Mac's older way of doing things: Some files are stored with a property called creator, which, if present, can override the effect of the filename extension. You'll probably never need to view or change a file's creator (though there are third-party utilities that let you do so); I mention this mostly so that you'll know why your Mac can sometimes open a file whose name has no extension. The Save dialogs in some Mac applications will give you the choice to use extensions or not. Definitely use extensions if you plan to send files to your Windows-using friends. Your Mac might know that MyWordFile should open in Word, but Windows won't—the file needs to be called MyWordFile.doc.

Customize file associations. And speaking of determining which application opens a file, there are at least two ways you can customize that.

1. To open a file with a particular application just once, Ctrl-click on the file's icon and choose Open with….

Mac Tip 1

2. To make a choice that your Mac will remember, Get Info on the file (select the file, then press Cmd-i), go into the window that will pop up, and set the Open with option. You'll have the option of applying your choice to all such files (for example, you can choose to have every JPEG open with Photoshop instead of Preview).

3. Here's a quick-and-dirty third way that will never occur to the average Windows user: Just change the extension. For example, a plain-text file that ends in .txt will normally open in the Mac's TextEdit utility, but if you change its extension to .doc, it will open in Word.

Change icons. Now that you know how to "get info" on a file or folder (Cmd-i), you also know how to change its icon. Just drag and drop (or paste) an image onto the icon that appears in the upper left-hand corner of its Get Info window. The image should be approximately 128 by 128 pixels. (story Link)

This entry was posted on Apr 27, 2009 at 2:09 AM and is filed under , , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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