What can I do with my new toy?
June 14, 2010 12:32 PM   Subscribe

Lifelong PC user that just bought an Apple laptop. What are the first things I should do to make my experience great for years to come?

I just bought a 13 inch macbook pro to replacing my 6 year old pretty much dead Dell laptop. Up until this point I've pretty much been PC only - aside from the occasional use of a friends Mac.

What can I do with my new super-speedy computer that I couldn't do I my old PCs? I'm getting myself acquainted with the quirks of the OS, so not really looking for tutorials - just unique things about Macs and the MacOS that make them great. I'm also looking for any tips of keeping my computer in tip top shape so that I can use it well for years to come

I'm a casual user, doing mostly web browsing, occasional bits of coding, video, etc...

Thanks all
posted by jourman2 to Computers & Internet (24 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Learn the finger gestures for the touchpad. They're so simple, but they make your browsing and working experience so much easier. Seriously, for most tasks, I don't need a mouse with my laptop anymore. It's fantastic.
posted by litnerd at 12:39 PM on June 14, 2010


f8 to show all spaces
f9 for expose
f11 to hide all windows
f12 for the dashboard

or go to settings->expose & spaces and configure some of these to automatically happen when putting the mouse in one of the window corners.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:42 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I switched over to Mac OS from Windows 98 several years back, the main thing that took getting used to was learning to let go. For example, I used to organize my MP3s by directory in a manner that I thought was perhaps a bit fastidious. I was very accustomed to ripping a CD and manually putting everything where it should be. When I wanted to listen to music I would navigate to the files and then start playing them via Winamp.

Switching to iTunes was a major challenge, especially leaving the checkmark in the box that said, "Let iTunes keep my music organized" - that was hard. Yet a few months later I realized that everything was just fine. I went and looked and it was indeed still organized (by iTunes) just about how I would have done it.

To expand: all the programs that used to take over my Windows machine and demand that I do things their way would just drive me INSANE. However, when your Mac wants to do something a certain way, it's probably for the best. It's rare that it does something wrong all on its own.

In other words, just don't fight it.

I'm beginning to doubt that that was very helpful, but that was my major experience, so ... yeah.

I'm also looking for any tips of keeping my computer in tip top shape so that I can use it well for years to come

There really isn't anything to do. I used to reinstall Windows (from 95 through 2000) about once a year. I haven't ever had to reinstall Mac OS X. Updates work, upgrades to the OS work, and it's rare that you have to scrape off and re-sod.
posted by komara at 12:42 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


These are mostly physical tips, but especially if you're thinking of taking it around frequently, get a Speck hard case. I love that I have the only red computer around :) Pretty much any bag built for laptops will have a decent amount of cushioning, but this is a lot nicer than a sleeve because I don't have to take it out and put it back in every time I want to use it; I just open it and go to town. (Yeah, I'm lazy.)

I've also been glad I bought an extra power cord/brick. I use my MBP as my primary home computer, but I also took it to school every day while I did my master's. I kept the extra brick in my backpack. It was really nice not having to re-plug it in by crawling behind the couch every time I got home. Since I was dating someone fairly seriously and spending most of my weekends over at his place, I very nearly bought a third one, but two is more than sufficient now that I'm out of school and living with a partner. The fact that you can switch out cords is actually pretty cool, as I found when I realized that my short cord was not long enough for those last-seats-at-the-back-of-the-class plugs in lecture halls. I just switched it with the longer cord I had at home.

The multimedia stuff is predictably great. I've used nothing but the internal mic while recording sung music and podcasts, and friends recording simultaneously in other countries told me that it sounded better than a professional setup. Garage Band is something I really should have gotten into and am only now dinking around with, but it's easy enough to start. iMovie is reasonably easy, too.
posted by Madamina at 12:43 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Get an external drive and set up Time Machine. It's amazingly painless to do and having automatic backups provides great peace of mind.

A couple related questions on Super User that you may want to peruse:

Underused Mac OS X GUI features
Cool features of Macs / OS X?
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 12:51 PM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Every month or so, let the battery drain to nil and let it sit overnight. When you start it up again, you'll see a "falling circle of dominos" thing that tells you the computer is resetting the battery. It's supposed to increase the accuracy of the menu bar thing that lets you know how much power you have left.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:53 PM on June 14, 2010


f8 to show all spaces
f9 for expose
f11 to hide all windows
f12 for the dashboard


Apple rearranged those keys a couple years ago.

F1-2 Brightness controls
F3 Expose
F4 Dashboard
F5-6 Key illumination controls
F7-9 RWD/PLAY/FFWD
F10-F12 mute/volume controls
posted by Fleebnork at 12:56 PM on June 14, 2010


Buy an external hard drive and start using Time Machine. It will automatically back up things on your hard drive without having to set up schedules or more complicated settings.

Keep things in your user directory. With Windows, applications regularly did not obey permissions, so almost everyone logged on with Administrator access and got in the bad habit of storing items in non-user directores such as C:\things. With OSX, while it's likely you still have administrator access, applications work fine and don't need access to all bits of the file system. Keep all your own stuff in your own directory, as it should be.

Avoid bloatware such as anti-virus scanners, anti-malware programs, "disk optimizers", etc. While OSX is probably just as vulnerable to these bad programs as Windows on a technical level, it is unlikely you will be infected by anything. Plus, with backups and simpler reinstallation of the OS (no Windows validation here), you can recover from anything disastrous quickly.

Learn how to use Spotlight, which indexes everything on your computer. Don't wander through the Finder, just search in Spotlight.

There's really not much to learn though; the main benefit of OSX is that it gets out of your way, and you can use pretty much the same applications. OSX-specific software does seem to cost more money than Windows software, but since Apple users demand a higher level of fit-and-finish, it does work better. For example, Omnigraffle isn't as powerful as Microsoft Visio - but it's so much simpler that you can actually pick it up and use it without reading a lot of help files.
posted by meowzilla at 1:02 PM on June 14, 2010


Also, a non-OSX-related thing: AppleCare. It's a bit expensive for laptops ($250 USD for your 13" MBP), but it covers practically everything, software and hardware. You can buy it up to a year after the original purchase date of your hardware so there's no rush.

I've found Apple's phone support to be rather good, such that I don't feel overwhelming dread at the thought of calling them at all. (Which is pretty good by the standards of phone support.) Even if you don't see yourself calling much, 3 years is a long time in the laptop world, and the hardware support is just as good.
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 2:09 PM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


You can run Skitch which is a nice tool for taking screen grabs and better than anything I ever tried on the PC.

Time Machine is great for when you need to recover a file you've altered accidentally.
posted by backwards guitar at 2:25 PM on June 14, 2010


One of my favorite nice things: Buy something in a browser, click the site's "Print Receipt" link, then hit "Command-P" to print. But wait: In the dialog that shows up, click the PDF button and select "Print PDF to Web Receipts".

A PDF of the receipt goes into your Documents/Web Receipts folder, findable with Spotlight, automatically backed up next time 'round with Time Machine, and it took five seconds.

Another that comes to mind: select text on a web site, control- (or right-)click on it, select Speech, then "Start Speaking." Ka-boom, instant screenreader. I sometimes "read" sites this way while dealing with the dishes or whatever in the kitchen.

Mac OS X is full of awesome little things like this.
posted by jmcmurry at 2:30 PM on June 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


Apple rearranged those keys a couple years ago....

they didn't really rearrange them, they flipped the defaults to to the hardware controls (Volume etc) hitting fn+F8-F12 works as defined.

I prefer the default controls (F8 show all spaces - no function key) and there's a setting to flip this if you'd prefer.
posted by bitdamaged at 2:50 PM on June 14, 2010


The 'home' and 'end' are hard to figure out per application. I still can't figure it out except for the 'Terminal' app.
posted by cowmix at 3:07 PM on June 14, 2010


they didn't really rearrange them, they flipped the defaults to to the hardware controls (Volume etc) hitting fn+F8-F12 works as defined.

I prefer the default controls (F8 show all spaces - no function key) and there's a setting to flip this if you'd prefer.


I'm not sure I understand what you mean.

On my 2010 Macbook Pro (and the two-year-old one I just sold), F8 is the play/pause button. That's the default.
posted by Fleebnork at 3:18 PM on June 14, 2010


I'm not sure I understand what you mean.

If you press Fn-F8 (not just F8) you revert back to the "old" key mapping, which for that key shows all spaces. In the System Preferences keyboard pane, you can check the box labeled "Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys" to toggle this.
posted by Nothlit at 3:27 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Get the apple care in 11 months, you don't need to get it right away. Buy it from somewhere like Amazon where it will cost you less. (I don't get apple care, but people her say you should.)

Use adium for IM/IRC/twitter.

As for coding, it's a UNIX, jump into your shell of choice. I think if you want gcc, you need to install xcode.

The best part of OSX is not having to screw around with stuff. If I wanted that, I'd run linux. (Though my servers run linux still.)
posted by Brian Puccio at 4:23 PM on June 14, 2010


Buy and install Undercover, just in case it gets nicked! It's a one-off $50 fee and totally worth it for a chance to recover your laptop.
posted by ukdanae at 4:29 PM on June 14, 2010


I don't own a Mac, but when I was thinking about buying one, everyone was raving about Quicksilver.
posted by alligatorman at 4:59 PM on June 14, 2010


A few things that maybe aren't intuitive coming from Windows.

Closing a window (command+w) in most cases does not quit the program, unlike Windows were closing the window usually quits the program. To quit a program use command+q or find quit under the programs menu (eg. Firefox -> Quit Firefox).

A lot of programs are distributed using a Disk Image file (.dmg). Opening the .dmg and double clicking the program will run the program from the disk image, mounted as if it's another volume, but there can be issues in that when you eject the volume it may not save things that would ordinarily save a state. Often, the developers give you a hint like an arrow to drag a program to your Applications folder. That's the preferred method to run programs, dragging them to Applications. It's just a little bit weird coming from the Windows method of installing a program or running a .exe directly.
posted by 6550 at 5:08 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, a non-OSX-related thing: AppleCare. It's a bit expensive for laptops ($250 USD for your 13" MBP), but it covers practically everything, software and hardware. You can buy it up to a year after the original purchase date of your hardware so there's no rush.
Don't buy AppleCare from Apple. Buy it off eBay. You'll save a bunch of money. Seriously. I've done it 3 times (3 different computers) without a problem.
posted by 47triple2 at 7:11 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


A PDF of the receipt goes into your Documents/Web Receipts folder, findable with Spotlight, automatically backed up next time 'round with Time Machine, and it took five seconds.
jmcmurry, I DID NOT KNOW THIS. Thank you!!!!!
posted by spinturtle at 8:40 PM on June 14, 2010


What everyone has said about AppleCare is true. You get an entirely different, better stream of support and service. We don't get it for our desktop Macs but for laptops it's essential.
posted by Pamelayne at 11:24 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd like to mention that the "Print PDF to Web Receipts" is awesome. It's (probably) the best part of the fact that anything you can print, you can print to PDF. Word doc? Web page? Terminal session screen? Anything.
posted by komara at 6:46 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the tips all. It's definitely been a learning process for the past few weeks, but I think I'm getting a hang of it. The hand gestures are really killer. Nothing but good stuff with the macbook so far.
posted by jourman2 at 12:43 PM on June 27, 2010


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