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Mac Newbie
September 29, 2004 2:22 PM   Subscribe

I am about to order an iMac, my first Macintosh. What do you wish someone had told you when you got your first Mac? (mi)

I'm not looking for "install Quicksilver" etc. I'm more interested in higher-level stuff, important patterns that are different on Macs and Windows, but not immediately obvious.

Like this completely made-up example: "the Control Panel equivalent is System Preferences, except for display options, which are always controlled by the Monitors widget. this is because the Mac thinks about settings as belonging to physical objects, etc etc."
posted by lbergstr to Computers & Internet (46 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
On Windows, you can Alt-Tab between all open windows.

On a Mac, you Alt-Tab between open applications.
Once you are in your desired application, you Alt-` (backtick) between the windows of that application.
posted by 4easypayments at 2:47 PM on September 29, 2004


On Windows, you can send a file to the recycle bin by selecting it and hitting "Delete".

On Mac, you send a file to the trash by selecting it and hitting Apple-Delete.
posted by 4easypayments at 2:50 PM on September 29, 2004


A big change for me was not thinking of the Dock in a negative light.

On Windows, the Start menu is often meaningless; everything you install dumps it's frickin' icon there. Unless you're pretty anal about keeping only frequently used programs in the Start menu, it becomes a messy mire that's less helpful than frustrating.

The Dock, on the other hand, is a simpler, easier-to-use version of the same concept. A user explicitly drags her frequently used items to the dock, and they're always available at a single click.

It doesn't sound earth-shattering, I know, and it's something I fought against for some time, but now that I've embraced the dock, I love it.

Another thing: despite it's much-vaunted "ease-of-use", the Mac can be plenty opaque. Yes, it's easy to use when you know where things are, but to keep a pretty interface, the things you need are often well-and-truly hidden. It's frustrating. Even after two years, I'm stumbling across new preference settings I didn't know existed. (Just today I found out that the Finder has a Preferences panel, though that still won't let me keep a "list view" by default.)

I've recently discovered Apple's support forums. They're labelled "discussions" on the coporate site's support tab. They're actually quite useful.

I hope those are high-level enough for you. I've got lots of low-level advice, too, of course: use BBEdit, look into VLC to play AVI files, use SpamSieve to block spam (outstanding!), etc.
posted by jdroth at 2:50 PM on September 29, 2004


...that I was going to turn into one of those freaky Apple Cultists. I used to roll my eyes at people who weren't even as annoying as I am now, about my Macs.

Um...some of the stuff you're used to doing on a Windows machine is so ingrained that the realization is just stunning, that it doesn't happen on a Mac. Like there's no right-clicking. Like there's no ctrl-alt-del, it's command-option-escape. Like the buttons to collapse and close and enlarge your windows are on the other side.

And if you use Office for Mac, it's even more frustrating than it is for Windows, if that's even possible. Nothing's where it's supposed to be, it's like the Bizarro world.

And yet, I would never go back in a million years.
posted by padraigin at 2:53 PM on September 29, 2004


1. Get a two button mouse. The Apple mouse is useless.

2. This. (Yes, I'm still harping on it.)
posted by dobbs at 3:01 PM on September 29, 2004


On a Mac, you Alt-Tab between open applications.

Actually, you Apple-tab between apps.
posted by dobbs at 3:04 PM on September 29, 2004


One thing that's frustrated me is the lack of an easy way to set default applications for particular extensions, or for urls. I had to get a 3rd-party program (IC-Switch) to set the default newsreader, for example.

jdroth, I could use some of that low-level advice myself.
posted by swift at 3:05 PM on September 29, 2004


swift: Select a file with the extension you want to change. Hit apple-I ("get info"). Under "open with..." you'll see a list of applications, and a button labeled "Use this for all files of this type." Pick the application you want as the default, and click the button. Voila.

lbergstr: Do not fear the column view. It will feel awkward and bizarre at first. But it is a vast improvement over the icon or list views, once you get used to it.
posted by ook at 3:12 PM on September 29, 2004


Extra memory, extra memory, extra memory.

You can use both the dock and the desktop for stuff frequently used.

And--as i'm learning with OS X, use Disk Utility often to repair permissions.
posted by amberglow at 3:14 PM on September 29, 2004


I could use some of that low-level advice myself

yeah, i've been unsuccessfully looking for a one-stop-shop "advice for switchers" guide. i figured that if i got good answers to this question (which i have, already! thanks!) i could combine it with merlin's collection of os x inventories, tips and hacks and approximate it. (dive into os x is a mark pilgrim production, and hence is probably good, but it's offline so i have no way of knowing)
posted by lbergstr at 3:15 PM on September 29, 2004


I've posted it before but the forums at Mac Mentor are worth visiting for switchers.
posted by dobbs at 3:31 PM on September 29, 2004


remember your passwords and read up on keychains. the keyboard for my Imac was made for some tiny handed people I did not know existed, so if you have mutton chops for hands you may need a replacement.
posted by TomSophieIvy at 3:32 PM on September 29, 2004


OS 9 was pretty loosey-goosey about where files lived. OS X tries to persuade you to keep your files in certain places. I have no idea what Windows is like in this regard.

For the most part, you should allow yourself to be persuaded: things will work more smoothly if you do. In short, keep all your apps in the Applications directory, and keep most of your other stuff in your [username] directory. I keep my MP3s on an external drive, but other than that, I do keep all my docs, fonts, etc, in my home directory. Makes life less confusing. A friend of mine is still thinking in OS 9 terms and keeps half of her stuff at the root, and gets confused when she can't find it (it could also create permission and privacy issues if you set up multiple users).

Never mess with the /System directory, and only mess with the /Library directory with care. I have set up my own directories inside of the Applications and home directories, of course. It's a good idea to spend some time noodling around browsing the directory structure in the Finder to get an idea of how things are laid out.
posted by adamrice at 3:45 PM on September 29, 2004


My one piece of advice is do not muck about with permissions. I did this when I tried to move files between two different users and it caused me a hell of a lot of grief.
posted by adrianhon at 3:47 PM on September 29, 2004


Be prepared to be amazed when certain things "just work," and don't bother trying to figure out how (e.g. Wireless internet with airport). Be prepared for other things to not work, don't expect to (always) be able to figure them out yourself right away (e.g. file sharing with PCs). Don't be afraid to call appropriate help centers (i.e. your network admin, AppleCare, etc.).

On that note, find a mac-lover to help you with anything that goes wrong. There likely is a very easy way to fix it, it just might not be readily apparent to *you*. This mac-lover "friend" can be the guy at the local Apple retail store.

Don't bother with a two button mouse, focus more on learning keyboard shortcuts. Most of them are pretty similar to the 'Doze commands (i.e. copy: ctrl-c becomes command-c), so they should be easy to learn. If you are really missing your right-click, you can always ctrl-click, but almost invariably everything in that menu can be done just as easily with a keystroke. As a sidenote, the apple key is not called the apple key, it is called the command key.

Hopefully the order page will tell you this, but if you are ordering a new iMac, be prepared to wait a month or two for it to come. Brand new Apple products never ship right away. To be fair though, neither do almost any high tech toys, the difference is that Apple lets you order stuff as soon as it is announced, rather than wait a year for it to go from CES, etc. into actual production. To my knowledge there has never been an instance of apple "Vaporware."
posted by rorycberger at 3:55 PM on September 29, 2004


Learn from dobbs's example: Remember that confirm dialogs exist to protect you from data loss, and read them before you click OK.
posted by jjg at 4:21 PM on September 29, 2004


"Like there's no right-clicking"

There is. As has already been said, get a better mouse - or use your optical two-button plus scroll-wheel/button three mouse that you already have. If it's a Microsoft mouse, download the specific mouse driver - it will work without it, but if you enjoy super-sensitivity on Windows (like I do), you'll need the driver to make your pointer nice and whizzy.

Look into using the command line terminal sooner rather than later.
posted by nthdegx at 4:23 PM on September 29, 2004


versiontracker.com is a good place to look for software.
If you set the Mac to look for and remind you about system updates it will mostly actually only alert you to SYSTEM updates, not clunky new beta stuff that doesn't work, not new versions of a browser that are 20MB and no better than the old browser, and it will tell you if the stuff it has for you to download is necessary or if it's just a gimcrack for an iPod you may not have. I never messed with Windows Update [or when I did I was immediately sorry] but the Apple Software Update feature seems to actually work. The one time that I recall that there was a security hole that was found in some Apple thing, there was a quick simple patch available the next day. Impressive.
posted by jessamyn at 4:28 PM on September 29, 2004


(1) If you are, or ever have been, a software developer then check out XCode. It is vastly faster, easier, and more fun than Visual Studio. It took me about six months after getting my powerbook to start playing around in Apple's development environment. ObjectiveC is just as nice to work with as the rest of the OSX environment.

(2) Don't trust the sloat-load drive on your ibook/powerbook. My DVD-R worked for about six months. Due to the flexing of the TiBook case, I have to open the powerbook, remove the optical drive, reseat the cables, and bolt everything back together if I want to make use of it. I have an external firewire CD-R drive from a previous laptop that I use to burn CD-Rs. If I needed to do DVDs, I'd get an external burner for that too.

(3) USB thumbdrives are great for moving data between computers. But if you have a digital camera, you probably have a 128 MB Compact Flash, SD, or MemoryStick. Just get a USB adapter for it and you've got a $15 memory stick.

(4) You can install MySQL on a 1GHz G4 and not notice any performance hit. Great news for software developers and web developers.
posted by b1tr0t at 4:42 PM on September 29, 2004


Actually, you Apple-tab between apps.
Oh. Oh dear. You can see I'm still in the early stages of my Microsoft deprogramming.
posted by 4easypayments at 4:44 PM on September 29, 2004


What do I wish someone had told me when I got my first mac? That ejecting a floppy disk without trashing it (so that the ghost remained on the desktop) and then putting it into another mac makes the disk unusable. But that was in 1992.

For you: the biggest conceptual change that I notice Windows users not getting is you don't reinstall the system when it breaks! I know this fixes lots of things on Windows, but on the Mac there's almost always an easier way to fix it. If you're bashing your head against a brick wall with a problem and are tempted to reinstall (and spend hours fucking about with backups and settings etc), *don't*. Just make a new user, see if the problem happens there, and if not set about fixing your own user.

Mac OS X very, very rarely gets into such a state that it has to be reinstalled. Your user might get borked, but the system will be fine. The Mac I'm typing on has been upgraded from 10.1 to 10.2 and 10.3 over four years without being reinstalled once.
posted by bonaldi at 5:54 PM on September 29, 2004


bonaldi, I bought my first mac just over a year ago (a powerbook). I'm starting to feel that maybe some of my windows habits have crossed over here (it's running slower than I remember it running when I got it--though of course that could be an illusion).

Reading your post makes me think that I should just make another user and copy over some stuff and compare run times. Am I understanding what you're suggesting?

Also, any good online tutorials on this? (I've never created a new user or copied anything from one to another). (And as I type this I think that maybe I'm not understanding as all users would be drawing from the same well so the speeds should be the same, no?) (I'm on Panther right now. Maybe I should just wait for the next release...?)
posted by dobbs at 6:25 PM on September 29, 2004


lbergstr, in all honestly, I would SERIOUSLY suggest against an iMac. Instead, I would get a revved up iBook or Powerbook. It's worth it, and here's why:

I bought an iMac last August. Thought it was the cutest thing in the world, and it truly is, but the portability of the laptop supercedes any benefit of the iMac (except price). Just after I bought my iMac, my g/f bought a Powerbook, which has the ability, with a $30 cord, to connect to a TV. Spring for a bluetooth wireless keyboard and suddenly you have a huge monitor at no extra cost and the ability to have your computer accessible at a moment's notice.

I just sold my iMac and bought the latest Powerbook and do not regret it one bit. I can do my research, writing, listening to music, whatever...anywhere I want and with minimal or no loss of speed or quality.

The iMacs are a great idea and wonderful for occasional users, but in my opinion, my 12", which is tiny BTW, exceeds every expectation and is absolutely gorgeous.
posted by BlueTrain at 6:38 PM on September 29, 2004


Well, I just ordered my iMac, BlueTrain (woo!) so obviously I'm going to be a little resistant to that idea...(thanks for the input though)

Seriously, for a while I thought exactly the same way you did. "Why buy a computer I can't use to send email in front of the TV?" I've probably spent the last six months hemming and hawing over buying the increasingly long-in-the-tooth PowerBook.

However: the iMac is a seriously good deal for the price, and I have a ThinkPad from work for when I must be away from my desk. So at this point I think I'll wait for the G5 PowerBook.
posted by lbergstr at 6:54 PM on September 29, 2004


Well, you're right about the PB being a little old. Luckily, I was eligible for the $200 rebate if I bought the PB and iPod, which was the real seller for me. Otherwise, I would have waited for the PB G5 as well (though rumor has it it won't be available 'til 4th Quarter 2005). Hope you enjoy it.
posted by BlueTrain at 7:00 PM on September 29, 2004


It's very easy to do, dobbs:

Go into accounts in System Preferences.
Click the little + at the bottom left.
Give your user a name and so on in the Password tab
Click the security tab, then "Allow user to administer this computer"
Click Login Options
Log out, and log in as the new user.
Run apps etc.

I understand what you mean about drawing from the same well, but in Mac OS X's case, that's generally not true. Although certain things are setup system-wide and can have an adverse affect on performance - kernel extensions, for one - most over-time slowness comes from little startup items you install and forget about, or ever-ballooning preference files that never get trimmed down and so on.

Making a new user gives you, essentially, a brand-new system copied from a pristine original, with only the system-wide extensions you've installed left over. The difference on my Mac is quite noticable, but it's not so bad that I feel any need to do anything about it.
posted by bonaldi at 7:02 PM on September 29, 2004


Um...some of the stuff you're used to doing on a Windows machine is so ingrained that the realization is just stunning, that it doesn't happen on a Mac.

I think that's the biggest thing to realize and the biggest stumbling block for switchers. Mac OS X is not Windows so don't expect it to work exactly like Windows. Somethings are harder on the Mac but a lot of things are easier on the Mac.

Some of the other major things I've found Windows users often have trouble with:
  1. Closing all the windows on an application does not necessary quit the application itself. You have to explicitly quit the application yourself.
  2. Clicking the green expand button often will not maximize your window. What it does is expand the window to fit as much of your content as possible.
  3. If you want to do something, try the most obvious way first. Windows users often have a mindset that tasks have to be more complicated than they are and are often surprised that the most obvious way to accomplish something is in fact the way to accomplish it. For example, if you want to uninstall an application, you can just throw it in the trash. With only a few exceptions, programs don't need an uninstall app to uninstall a program.

posted by gyc at 7:05 PM on September 29, 2004


My favourite thing is to keep a folder called Apps and within it folders for Engineering, Office, Net, Games etc.

Inside of those folders I put aliases to the appropriate applications. Then I drag the actual Apps folder to the dock. Now I can start up any application by clicking on the App icon and digging through the shallow hierarchy.
posted by substrate at 7:07 PM on September 29, 2004


1 - Read Mac OS X Hints, which will clue you in not only about cool stuff you can do, but about cool apps and tools you can use to do cool stuff.

2 - Read their Solutions Guidebook [PDF]. It is a tad outdated now, but it will help you through the first few hours of customiing your system and getting it working the way you want.

3 - One reason I mention the above is that a big difference between Mac OS and Windows is that the Mac has about a million tiny, hidden, crazy, awesome innovations floating around inside that are barely documented and yet consistently updated and improved with each release. A good example is PDF Workflow -- just hidden, and awesome.

4 - On the Mac, there's no good reason to use MS Office. There are a huge number of really great Mac only apps, like Mellel and OmniOutliner -- rather than commit immediately to Office, try to find more Cocoa-ified versions of the same apps.

5 - Almost as much as RAM, your computer needs free HD space. Weird, but true.

6 - Hmm, there was one more, but it's jumped ship and I can't remember it. Damn.
posted by josh at 7:15 PM on September 29, 2004


1. Built-in screen capturing. Shift-Command-3. Shift-command-4 to capture part of the screen.

2. Built-in pdf creation. Using Print or Save As under the File menu.

3. Two-button mouse with a scroll wheel.
posted by shoos at 7:22 PM on September 29, 2004


If you turn off the "genie" and "magnify" animations on the dock, you'll get a significant speed bump.

There are tons of very neat, very useful applications in the "Utilities" folder, located in the Applications folder.

Versiontracker is not the end-all-be-all of OS X software, unfortunately. If you can't find the sort of application you're looking for, you may have to google around a bit, check sourceforge, or even install Fink.
posted by LimePi at 8:00 PM on September 29, 2004


Have to disagree with the suggestion to forgo the two-button mouse and agree with above: ditch the apple "no-button" mouse. Right-clicking uses one finger, keyboard shortcuts require two. Mac mice do not have scroll wheels. Scroll wheels are good because you can scroll through ask metafilter.

Because you're switching this may sound strange but when OS X came out, it took me a year until someone told me that I could copy files from one location to another by Command-C (Copy) and Command-V (Paste). It took Mac 15+years to do that.
posted by jeremias at 8:05 PM on September 29, 2004


The executable binary for a given program is generally slightly larger. This is in part a RISC thing, and in part because the "shared" libraries (stuff a Windows person will think of as DLLs) are in fact bundled in to the application.

Windows Explorer treats a "move" operation on a folder as a recursive copy-then-delete. Finder doesn't. It treats it like a Unix mv command -- moving one item to replace the other. If you expect copy-and-delete, you'll be surprised by the potential destructiveness of Finder move and mv. Debates rage on about which is more intuitive, but regardless, you should adjust your expectations accordingly.

A Windows or Unix user might expect to find a large selection of free software options for a given application. The Macintosh developer culture is still very stuck in a shareware world, with dinky scripts and minor utilities on offer for a few bucks apiece.

Fancy screen operations don't sap CPU in the way they would on other platforms, although they do eat a little bus bandwidth. Apple's Quartz Extreme is very, very good about offloading desktop graphics to the GPU.

For the most part, you don't need to concern yourself with the health and performance of the filesystem. Less so than with NTFS and FAT, certainly.

A lot of Macintosh "technical advice" is going to sound like voodoo ritual. That's because much of it is hokum or left over from the platform's more unreliable 16 bit days or from particularities of certain ancient models of Mac. A lot of the advice out there is as useless as telling an NT user to fiddle with CONFIG.SYS -- that shit just doesn't apply any more, and even if you follow the directions it won't do any good.

Contrary to a Windows user's experiences, often you can't find a no-CD patch for any version of a Macintosh game. Keep your originals around because you're going to be answering prompts for insertion. This sucks more for us laptop users who don't want to lug CDs and waste battery on spinning them, but it's still an annoyance on the desktop.

If you decide stick with the dock instead of going with something like Quicksilver (which is free) or Launchbar (which costs money but is better or at least does more though it isn't as extensible), the first thing you should do is make an alias to your Applications folder on it.

MS Office on the Mac is actually very usable -- probably more so than the Windows version -- but somewhat vestigial unless you desperately need compatibility with Microsoft-format documents. For just getting basic office work done, there are quite a few excellent shareware word processors and spreadsheets that are simple but powerful.

If you work with Visio docs, you're fucked. No commonly available tool can import or work with .vsd. OmniGraffle is good (better than Visio, actually) for basic diagramming work, but some of Visio's best features, like magical reverse engineering of database schema diagrams from extant DBs, are missing.

Even if you mostly avoided using the "DOS Prompt" or command window as a Windows user, you very much should learn to use the Unix command line. There are incredibly powerful tools there for which you won't find a graphical interface. The Windows command line is extremely crippled, and usually a hindrance or a tedious chore. The Unix command line is a source of nearly unlimited power.

The Trash doesn't empty itself when it hits a certain size, like the Recycle Bin does.

Unless you see the words "kernel panic," your Mac is probably not actually crashed and there is probably a better way out than the reset button. The kinds of things that cause crashes in Windows -- shitty drivers, mostly, or broken applications running with too much privilege -- aren't really problems on the Mac.

If you play with the "Classic" environment, remember that it's eating CPU time even when nothing's running or if it says it's "sleeping." You probably don't want to leave it just sitting in the background.

Any drive or partition can be made into a boot drive. You can even switch back and forth very easily. Take advantage of this by making fully-bootable backups.

Everything that really matters is in the Users directory. All else can be replaced or reinstalled.

You can find utilities to turn off most of the annoying metallic interface, but not all of it. Get used to it, because you can't kill it all.
posted by majick at 8:16 PM on September 29, 2004 [1 favorite]


One of the greatest levels of being self sufficient is feeling like the little problems are solvable.

Take a look here:
OS X Panther Solutions
posted by filmgeek at 8:16 PM on September 29, 2004


I wish someone had told me to be careful using Fink. I'm not so cozy with it.
posted by inksyndicate at 8:52 PM on September 29, 2004


Learn to love multiple users. If multiple people will use the computer, or if you will use it for very distinct purposes (work/home) create multiple users and fast-user-switch between them. Helps keep your life organized and neat.
posted by alms at 9:31 PM on September 29, 2004


Almost as much as RAM, your computer needs free HD space. Weird, but true.

Here is the explanation I've ascertained. Because of its nextstep heritage, OS X allocates swap space in exponentially larger amounts. The first two swap files are 64MB, but the next will be 128MB, and the next 256MB, and so on. If you don't turn your computer on much, and run lots of applications, you can easily end up with a gig of swap allocated, even though most of the 5th (512MB) swap file may not be being used. Right after you reboot, only one swap file is allocated.

You can see the swap files in the directory /var/vm (you need to be at the command line, I don't think this is visible by default in the finder):

[advil@sheep advil]$ ls -l /var/vm
total 262144
drwx--x--x 12 root wheel 408 Sep 26 13:47 app_profile
-rw------T 1 root wheel 67108864 Sep 25 17:05 swapfile0
-rw------T 1 root wheel 67108864 Sep 26 22:35 swapfile1
-rw------T 1 root wheel 134217728 Sep 27 20:55 swapfile2


This is after 4 days uptime, with only a few things (safari, mail.app, emacs, terminal, preview) running.

It also sometimes seems like the amount of swap space used grows gradually in a permanent fashion with the time since the last reboot. Sometimes, when I haven't rebooted in a few weeks or a month or so, even closing everything I have running doesn't bring it back down all the way. So if you're tight on disk space, reboot every once in a while.
posted by advil at 9:49 PM on September 29, 2004


bonaldi, thanks for the instructions. I did it, and it appears much faster, but I think part of it might be that I have less fonts in this user.... which leads me to ask: how do I get fonts and non-app files from one user to another?
posted by dobbs at 10:18 PM on September 29, 2004


A directory exists already at /Users/Shared which is accessible to all users, you can use that to move files from one user to another.

Fonts for one user are installed at ~/Library/Fonts
fonts for all users are installed at /Library/Fonts so you can either move them to the new user or install them for all users. Font book is good for installing them and will put them in the right places, giving you a choice of installing them for all users or just yourself.

One of the things I notice about windows (I am not a switcher) is that when windows freezes it's all frozen, on mac you may have Safari or something freeze on you and think you have to reboot, when in fact the Finder and other apps are working just fine. OSX does a good job of separating apps. To "force quit" something type command-option-escape, and choose the thing you would like to quit. This window is a separate app, from it you can relaunch the finder also, which is sometimes useful. Also the dock is a separate app, even though it seems like it should be part of the finder. The finder can be frozen while the dock is not, you can then use it to launch terminal and relaunch the finder. Killing the finder at the command line will cause it to be relaunched, you won't simply have no interface.
posted by rhyax at 10:54 PM on September 29, 2004


Thanks, rhyax.

As to force quitting, I occasionally find it doesn't work and have started using the free Escape Pod, which works perfectly.
posted by dobbs at 11:34 PM on September 29, 2004


When toggleing through open Apps via command-tab, you can quit any of the apps by hitting q while it's highlighted. H for hide. This is really handy for quitting a lot of apps at once.

Speaking of running a lot of apps, under OS X, apps don't use memory like they did under OS 9. You can run a lot of apps in the background and unless they're doing something, they won't use much memory.

Finally, I strongly recommend getting a little network monitoring utility called "Little Snitch." I know you said you were looking for more lower-level stuff, but I see this as a patch for what should be a part of the OS X system. Little Snitch is very simple: any time any app asks to use any port on the network, Little Snitch comes to ask you about it.

Naturally you're able to create permanent lists of always-okay network access (your browsers, for example, or Mail, etc.), and never-okay network access (shareware programs that want to phone home, malicious web pages that try to open ports they shouldn't, etc.) Try it out and you'll be surprised at how much traffic goes over your network that you never knew about.

Oh, and another shout out for two-button scroll mice. Great thread.

P.S. Search P2P for "Serial Box"
posted by squirrel at 2:44 AM on September 30, 2004


Use Mac Help (from the Finder's Help menu).

It has sections for switchers & OS9 to OSXers. Ask it a question and you'll usually get a decent reply.
posted by i_cola at 4:51 AM on September 30, 2004


Get the AppleCare plan (extended warranty). Seriously. I didn't, and have had to invest my own money in fixing a hard drive that would have been completely covered under AppleCare.
posted by rocketman at 6:34 AM on September 30, 2004


MacUpdate is a better resource than versiontracker. There's a really nifty Sherlock plugin for it. I had pretty much forgotten about Sherlock, but I've been playing with it more and more lately, and it has some useful bits.

The whole iMac/laptop question: You can buy a 17" iMac and a 12" iBook for the price of a 17" Powerbook. Something to keep in mind.

Screenshots are PDFs by default. This is frustrating. But there's an alternative: cmd-cntl-shift 3 or 4 captures to the clipboard, so you can paste into whatever graphics program you've got and save it as whatever format you want. If you don't need something like Photoshop, Graphic Converter is an excellent graphics utility with scads of clever hidden features (did you know you can make a web photo gallery with it?).

Sometimes when the system is acting hinky, logging out and logging back in helps. Faster than a reboot. If your network connection gets hosed, the best thing to do is have a "dummy" network location set up. Switch to the dummy, and then switch back.
posted by adamrice at 7:53 AM on September 30, 2004


What do you wish someone had told you when you got your first Mac?

If there's one - and only one - thing you need to know as a new Macintosh user, it's this: skip all the "extras" and "cool stuff" that doesn't come from Apple until you're really sure you know what you're doing. This is far less of an issue nowadays than it was "pre-OS X," but you can still destabilize a Macintosh by adding the wrong extension technology. Trust me on this, no matter how cool something seems or how glitzy it appears on-screen, I can guarantee you can use the Mac in a fully functional way and not need that extension. Use the Software Update utility (in System Preferences) to keep your machine up to speed with Apple's releases, then just sit back and enjoy a stabilty Windows users can only dream about.
posted by JollyWanker at 10:16 AM on September 30, 2004


"Trust me on this, no matter how cool something seems or how glitzy it appears on-screen, I can guarantee you can use the Mac in a fully functional way and not need that extension."

Avoiding unnecessary extension bling is a great general rule. With the exception, obviously, of SideTrack, a kext ("extension") which is the only available way to make Apple's laptop touchpads usable enough to prevent the system from being thrown at a wall in frustration. And -- maybe -- the sooper seekrit Panther version of (de)Metallifizer to prevent the eyeball-searing pain of the current version of Finder.

But it's true: apart from a couple of little enhancements to fix the major flaws of the system, it's usable as is, and you don't have to go chasing for the cool stuff to plug in.
posted by majick at 12:02 PM on September 30, 2004


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