10 Basic Things Every New Mac Owner Should Know and Do
I remember getting my first Mac, I was excited and somewhat exhausted. Exhausted because I had just walked up 5 flights of stairs carrying my shiny new 13″ MacBookPro. Never before had I touched a Mac, besides playing around with them at the Apple Store.
For my previous computing experience I had only ever used Windows and was feeling fairly confident about switching to Mac. I mean it’s a computer, I know how to use Windows, and a Mac shouldn’t be that much different. Right?
Not 10 minutes after logging in for the first time, I found myself on Google asking how to install an app on Mac OS X. To anyone who’s used a Mac for a while now, installing an app is just common sense. To someone brand new, the little things can be somewhat confusing. Here’s is a list of top 10 things every new Mac user should know.
#1 — Installing & Uninstalling Apps
How to Install / Uninstall
Most commonly apps are installed on Mac OS X by simply dragging the downloaded file into the Applications folder. This is a big difference from Windows, and something that may at first be a little difficult to wrap ones head around for anyone new to Mac OS X.
For this example I’ll use Firefox. The process of installing it went like this:
- Downloaded Firefox from the Firefox website (downloaded in .dmg format).
- Opened (mounted) the .dmg file.
- Dragged the Firefox icon into the Applications folder.
- Ejected the Firefox .dmg file.
That may actually sound a little bit confusing, at least the .dmg part. It becomes a lot simple if you just think of the .dmg file as a zip file, which when extracted shows the app. In fact it works a lot like a zip file as well, the downloaded Firefox .dmg file was just over 44 MB and the extracted (mounted) Firefox app was over 100 MB.
And then there’s the whole mounting and ejecting the .dmg. What’s that all about? When you mount a .dmg file it acts as if it were a portable external flash drive. As you can see from the adjacent screenshot it even adds itself to the sidebar right next to my actual external drives.
Once you are done installing your application, you simply eject the mounted .dmg as you would if it were an actually external drive (right-click on mounted .dmg and select eject) or eject it from the sidebar.
A Couple More Tips:
- Not all apps are installed this way. Some apps (such as Parallels) use a setup wizard.
- Apps downloaded from the Mac App Store install automatically without any manual setup process of any kind.
- Apps don’t have to be dragged to the Applications folder to install. It can be any folder. If you don’t drag it to the Applications folder however it won’t be included in the Launchpad. Simply put, it’s recommended to just install apps to the Applications folder, that’s what it’s there for.
- Apps with the .app extension don’t need to be installed. Even while it’s in its mounted state you can just open it. (it’s still recommended to drag them into the Applications folder though)
Uninstalling apps is really simple. See that trash bin located in your dock? Just drag the application you want to remove / uninstall to the trash bin.
A Couple More Tips:
- Not all apps are uninstalled this way. Some apps (such as Parallels) use an uninstallation wizard.
- Commonly small preference setting files and other minor files remain when you just drag on application to the trash bin to uninstall. If you want removed every detail of an app use AppCleaner.
#2 — No Need to Defrag
If you’ve switch from Windows to Mac OS X, then you should be pleased to hear you no longer need to defragment your computer. Yay!
Mac OS X is built on the powerful UNIX system and uses the Mac Journaled format. If any part of your hard drive is fragmented it automatically gets defragmented by the OS. Usually your Mac will wait until it’s idle before defragmenting anything that needs to be defragmented.
To Defrag or not to Defrag
Some would argue that defragmenting a Mac is actually necessary, and in some cases it may be. If you are interested in manually degramenting your Mac I’d recommend you check out either iDefrag or Stellar Drive Defrag.
For the purposes of this article though, I downloaded iDefrag and ran a test. It showed that I had 0.1% fragmentation. 835 out of 735,789 files on my computer were fragmented. That’s nothing to worry about, and most likely those files will be automatically defragmented the next time my Mac is idle.
#3 — Close Unresponsive or Crashed Applications
Force Quit Applications
One of Apple’s slogans is “It just works”. Yeah… that’s not always the case.
It doesn’t necessarily happen often but sometimes applications just crash or freeze.
If you come across such a situation you can either right-click the application in the dock and select “Force Quit”. If the “Force Quit” option isn’t shown, hold down the “options” key and then right-click the application.
Alternatively if you are looking for something more like the Windows version of Ctrl — Alt -Delete, all you have to do is press Command — Options — Esc. This will bring up a small utility called “Force Quit Applications”. Just select the application you need to close and click the “Force Quit” button.
One more Tip:
- If an application that used to work perfectly fine starts acting up, try repairing the disk permission. Instructions here: How to Format & Repair a Drive with Disk Utility
#4 — Minimized or Closed?
Close, Min and Max Buttons
For any new Mac user switching from Windows this may be somewhat confusing at first. In Windows, the buttons are located on the right hand side and the right button means close (quits app), middle button maximizes and the left most button minimizes. It works a little bit differently on a Mac.
The red button on a Mac doesn’t quit the app, it just hides it. The middle yellow button minimizes the open application to the dock and the green button maximizes the window.
To fully close an application, right-click it on the Dock and select “Quit”. Alternatively quit it from the menu bar or press “command — q” while viewing the app you want to quit.
A Couple More Tips:
- Included in a few applications (such as Safari) on Mac OS X is the feature to make an app full-screen. The feature is located on the upper right of an application.
- When an application is hidden and not actually closed you can tell by the indicator light under the application in the Dock.
- Enable the indicator light if it isn’t already enabled by going to System Preferences -> Dock -> Enable “Show indicator lights for open applications”.
#5 — Find out everything about your Mac
System information is an app you can find in the Applications folder or by searching for it in Launchpad.
It stores all the information about your Mac. You can see how much memory you have, how many cores, hardware UUID, serial numbers and so much more.
If there is something you need to know about your Mac, down to what of applications are installed and even further down to see what versions of those apps have been updated then check System Information.
There is seriously a ton of information here.
#6 — The “fn” Key
“fn” Key is Awesome!
The “fn” key is useful and if you’re new to Mac you should definitely check it out.
For one it’s the default key used to activate Dictation & Speech on your Mac.
Secondly it’s used as a modifier key. Here’s a quick example of some of my favorites:
- fn — delete: Deletes to the right instead of to the left.
- fn — control — F2: Navigate the menu bar without the use of a mouse. Use arrow keys to maneuver and return key to select.
- fn — F11: Moves all open applications and windows to the far side of the screen. This reveals the desktop and gives quick access to all the desktop icons and files.
- The Shift, Control, Options and Command keys are also modifier keys.
Here are a whole bunch more awesome keyboard shortcuts you should definitely check out: Mac Keyboard Shortcuts
#7 — Manage Login Items
Disable Login Items
When installing new applications they sometimes like to register themselves to startup automatically every time you restart your Mac. The more items you have load up on start the longer your start up will take.
Because of this it’s important to manually manage this list. I like to keep it to its bear minimum as I like to have my computer always functioning at full speed.
If there is an app that you want to have automatically loaded on startup, click the “+” button and navigate to the app (usually stored in your Applications folder). To remove an app from the startup list, select it and then click the “-” button.
#8 — Quick View
How to Quick View
Quick view is probably one of my top 5 favorite features on Mac OS X, I use it constantly.
Here’s how it works, you select a file and press the space bar. Simple, easy and fast.
This works for every file, and every folder. If it’s a picture it will show a large preview of the picture. If it’s a video it will play the video. If it’s a folder it will tell you the file size and number of files inside of it. If it’s a document it will preview the document.
In the above I mentioned it will preview the video, this however only works for supported video formats… which brings me to my next tip.
#9 — Enable Support for all Video Formats
Perian is this awesome little app that enables video support for pretty much every video format that you’d ever really use. Once installed it resides in the System Preferences.
The great thing about Perian is, you install it, it works, and then you never have to see it or worry about it again. It’s a really simple and clean application, I can’t recommend it enough.
One More Tip: Are you using Quicktime to play your downloaded videos? If you are, be sure to check outMPlayerX, it’s a far superior video player, and it’s free.
#10 — Enable Right Click on Magic Mouse and Trackpad
Turn on Right Click
I can’t imaging having to use a computer without the ability to right-click things. By default in order to emulate right-clicking you have to hold down the Control key while clicking on an item. I’m actually surprised this isn’t enabled by default. If you want to enable right-click like any sane person would want to, go to System Preferences -> Mouse -> Point & Click -> “Enable Secondary click”.
It’s the same process for a Trackpad. Go to System Preferences -> Trackpad -> Point & Click -> “Enable Secondary click”.
One More Tip: Remember this location in System Preferences, it’s a great way to check on the battery life of your Magic Mouse and Trackpad and even your Keyboard (System Preferences -> Keyboard).