Special-k Sr. has gone mac
June 20, 2010 11:41 AM   Subscribe

I just converted by parents to mac users. What can I do to make the transition/experience more enjoyable?

My parents have been using a PC for a very long time. Every few months their computer becomes ridden with every kind of virus/spyware that’s out there until it becomes completely unusable. Understandably, they hate their computer and rarely use it. So to rid them from the curse of the pc, I got them a new imac. They both love it so far.

I've installed Firefox with Ad block. That alone has been a world of change for them. I also installed Fluid and created an application for gmail so my dad can just access that from the dock. I also added their computer to my logmein pro list so I can troubleshoot remotely when needed.

They are not stoked about installing applications in their own so I’d like install everything I can for now. Besides Firefox, I've installed Skype and Office.

Can you recommend software / tools / greasemonkey scripts that help your parents get the most out of their mac?
posted by special-k to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
posted by radioamy at 11:43 AM on June 20, 2010

Oh also I'm a big fan of Caffeine. You know how when you're watching a video and your screen keeps dimming so you tap the mouse, then a few minutes later you have to do it again...and then you consider going and changing the screen settings but it's a PITA? With Caffeine, you click on the icon and it prevents your computer from going to sleep. When you want to go back to your regular settings, just click it again. Brilliant.
posted by radioamy at 11:45 AM on June 20, 2010

Thanks radioamy. I forgot to mention that I did install Caffeine. My folks still peck at the keyboard very slowly so I don't think they will enjoy quicksilver much (or complicated keyboard shortcuts in general).
posted by special-k at 11:49 AM on June 20, 2010

Set them up with some fun, useful widgets for the dashboard. Calculator, weather, calendar, that sort of thing. I find them super handy, and it's one thing I really miss on my PC.
posted by heyho at 11:56 AM on June 20, 2010

Hook them up with 1password so that they don't need to remember and type their passwords in for every service they use. This way they can set more unique passwords and keep their identities more secure, as well.

Notational Velocity is really great for taking quick notes, and is super intuitive to learn. Might be a good way for the folks to keep track of random information. Also, if they ever get used to using keyboard shortcuts, you can set a universal keyboard shortcut to make a new note in Notational Velocity.

If they like to keep their personal library, DVDs, etc. inventoried, Delicious Library is terriffic.

Also, TapeDeck is a pretty sweet audio recorder for recording short memos, etc.

Do they cook? My favorite cooking application EVER is SousChef. It's hooked up to the cloud, so they can get access to an almost unlimited amount of recipes, and they can store their own. With an Apple remote, they can set SousChef to full screen and even have it speak the steps out loud to them so they can cook away from the computer.

Also, Things is great, simple task management software. I use OmniFocus myself, but used to use Things (and for a while used The Hit List), but Things is the one I'd definitely recommend for newcomers.
posted by ferdinandcc at 12:10 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I also added their computer to my logmein pro list so I can troubleshoot remotely when needed.

What's the advantage here? In Snow Leopard you can just do screen sharing.

My suggestion would be to back off for a month, let them figure out how they want to use it, let them find the fun, let them come up with questions. Nothing sucks the fun out of discovery like someone coming in and setting everything the "way it should be."

Allowing someone with little mac experience find their own way of doing things has it's advantages as well. I'm all the time learning new stuff from people that are new to computers (not just a mac thing), because I have basic assumptions from using them for 20+ years.

Which is cooler, telling your dad, "To get pictures off your digital camera all you have to do is plug it in," or letting your dad find out on his own?

I'd be reluctant to give them more than an 1 hour overview. Anything more is turning this into a community college class run by you and they are going to want the PC back.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:23 PM on June 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Time Machine with an external disk or time capsule and Jungledisk or some other offsite backup.

Seconding 1password with an overview of how to use it.

Shared/linked Dropbox /accountfolder on the machine so you can stage stuff as necessary.
posted by iamabot at 12:36 PM on June 20, 2010

Thirding 1password (though my Dad didn't want the FREE copy I gave him, he says because he is "paranoid", which makes no sense to me).

Also agreeing on Time Machine for backup, and Notational Velocity, which is the best note-taking app ever.
posted by misha at 12:47 PM on June 20, 2010

As much as I like Firefox, Chrome on mac is faster and has been pretty solid on my machine. I know everyone considers it unnecessary but I've been been putting Intego AV on the inlaws machines.
posted by iamabot at 1:02 PM on June 20, 2010

When I got my 70 year old mom on the Mac two years ago, I just gave her a mouse with a left mouse button, told her to use the command key instead of control for things like copy paste. I showed her the difference between Finder and Windows Explorer. I showed her iPhoto and we plugged in her camera and she loved how it "just worked". She mostly used Quicken and MS office so we put the Mac versions on it. I took apps like Garage Band and iMovie off the dock and added apps she'd actually use. I installed Perian and Flip4Mac so most video shows up. We got an external HDD for Time Machine backups.

Within a few minutes she getting used to cmd vs ctrl button difference and was on her way. When we talked a week later we talked about how it was more of unlearning Windows than learning the Mac.

I suspected we'd be doing more screen sharing but my mom pretty much figures out what she wants to do and doesn't seek assistance from me or my brother.
posted by birdherder at 1:25 PM on June 20, 2010

Apple Mail works pretty great for my mum. It "ding"s when she gets mail, shows how many messages she has in the dock, she can access it easily from iPhoto (choosing the appropriate resolution without having to resize the photo).

Install NeoOffice, so that they can view all the powerpoint slideshows that old people are constantly fwding to each other.

I recommend maxing out the ram because I usually come home to visit and find that she never closes any applications. With lots of ram, that doesn't matter.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:45 PM on June 20, 2010

My dad likes gmail notifier so it makes a little noise when he has a new message. We do screen sharing via Skype or iChat [I set up accounts for him on both] which is super simple. He uses xmarks because he has a laptop that he sometimes uses when he travels and this way it's all there. He does Time Machine which is great because his iMac died for no known reason and now he has a complete backup. You might also want to invest in Applecare so if there is a problem you can get it taken care of quickly and easily. Don't know how your folks' motor skills are but some people really prefer a trackball solution at the point at which they're getting a little trembly in the hands. Also gave my dad VLC which will basically play any weird video formatted thing he downloads from the internet.
posted by jessamyn at 2:06 PM on June 20, 2010

Seconding iChat as a necessary app. Screensharing is an amazing feature and has helped me troubleshoot ridiculous (to me) problems.

Software that should live in the dock:
iLife (or at least iPhoto + iTunes)
Office (or possibly a fluid Google Docs SSB)
Address Book or a Google Contacts SSB.
Mail client

Mailplane can be good if your parents want to switch between Gmail accounts easily, or you could go with Mail.app. Potentially some games as well like solitaire, chess or my fave Tetris clone Quinn, or you could create SSBs for their favorite game sites. Also, a Pandora SSB could be great for your parents as well.

Hardware: USB hub for the digital camera/other accessories so they don't have to reach behind the machine, external hard disk for Time Machine backing up nightly, headset for Skype/iChat AV (though switching between audio sources is not as automatic as it should be).
posted by AmitinLA at 2:43 PM on June 20, 2010

When my parents went through this, I just let them know that there was probably a way to do anything they wanted and sat back, answering/researching their questions as they came. They're total converts now. Granted, though, my parents started out a little more generally savvy than you make yours out to be.
posted by cmoj at 3:52 PM on June 20, 2010

Here's a thought that may be useful to others in this situation.

Some older folks are more comfortable learning new information through a format that's familiar to them. If that's the case with your folks, you might try giving them a book about switching to Macs. The one that I've heard recommended a lot is David Pogue's Switching to the Mac: the Missing Manual. It might initially be too techy for them, but with a book they might feel more comfortable just wading in and figuring things out.
posted by librarylis at 4:17 PM on June 20, 2010

My suggestion would be to back off for a month, let them figure out how they want to use it, let them find the fun, let them come up with questions. Nothing sucks the fun out of discovery like someone coming in and setting everything the "way it should be."

My thoughts exactly. I'd step back and watch how your parents use the computer and then ask questions.

- anything confusing?
- anything you don't like?
- anything you wish you could do?

The apps that come with the mac are often very simple, which can be a wonderful thing. If using spotlight to open an app is all they want there's no need for quicksilver (I can't imagine ever suggesting quicksilver unless they're computer pros, and it doesn't sound like they are).

Maybe keychain is good enough for them? I love 1password, but it's not the simplest program, and every time a new update to a browser comes out 1password needs to be updated. It's usually quick and painless, but still something your parents wouldn't need to deal with if keychain is all they need.

They'll never know if third party apps are better if you don't allow them to try and get use to the ones that came with the OS.

That said two thoughts:

1. Not sure why you chose firefox over chrome or safari. I think you'll find a lot of former firefox users on the mac. It feels slow and bloated compared to safari and chrome. It has a lot of great extensions; will your parents really use them? And the new Reader feature in safari is fantastic for older eyes and very simple. You'll only have to show them how to use it once.

2. Love notational velocity

(oh, and prefer superduper over time machine, but time machine is more hands off)
posted by Dennis Murphy at 5:57 PM on June 21, 2010

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