It’s a common symptom among new Mac users to be really ecstatic about their new MacBook, praise the speed and functionality, then after a month or so start seeing some flaws; much like in any relationship, where your passionate blind love from the first weeks starts to fade, giving way to more realistic assessments.
Some hard-core Linux geeks will probably miss their configuration files, kernel hacking and source code install. Windows users might miss their favorite software(Picasa, Winamp or Total Commander). I didn’t miss my Windows machine one bit, partly because I got used to other essential Mac software, partly because I use my Windows software from within Windows virtual machines, and mostly because I realized the Mac offers me all the productivity tools I ever wished for, out of the box or for free.
This article lists several essential but frequently forgotten configuration tips that make the most of your Mac. A future article will cover some vitally important FREE (or really inexpensive) Mac OSX software for your daily chores.
Regular readers might have already read these tips here, on HackTheDay, but I hope they’ll learn a few new things as well.
Use the 7 geek tricks for a fresh OSX install
The most important of them are:
- Always download your latest updates
- activate the keyboard shortcuts, Enable Full Keyboard Access, and try to learn the most important shortcuts: don’t miss the complex Screenshot shortcuts, the Keyboard Navigation ones (you’ll want to remember Ctrl+F2 to access the menubar, Command+comma to invoke the preferences screen for the current app, Command+Q to quit the current app) or Command+` to tab through the current’s application opened windows
- activate “Use F1-F12 keys to control software features.”
- activate the two-fingers secondary click
Deactivate the Mac startup chime by using the free StartupSound.prefPane application
I know, this falls into the category of vital OSX apps, but it’s so darn important that you’ll want to use it right ahead.
Open folders in a new Finder window
One of the many things novice Mac users don’t know is that in Finder, all it takes is to keep Option key pressed while double-clicking on a folder. Also, in case you didn’t know, the Undo command (Command+Z) also works in Finder, when deleting, undeleting or renaming files. Now.. does Windows know how to do this? Yeah, I thought so…
Activate your Expose Active Corners and shortcut keys
I rarely use Command+Tab to switch apps, the reflex of moving my mouse to the corner got under my skin. It’s way faster and gives you the full overview of what happens on your screen. In Expose, quickly see the names of the opened windows
Just press Alt(Option) key while in Expose mode. See any change?
Use Spotlight to launch Apps
Spotlight comes included by default, as opposed to Quicksilver, Butler or other application launchers. You do need a bit of tweaking to successfully use it as such: first of all, change the order the results are displayed, unchecking as many file types as possible(the fewer, the more responsive Spotlight is) and changing the order to match your behavior.
Customize the time display in the menu bar
The above link show you how.
While you’re at the menu bar, feel free to remove any unwanted icons by pressing Alt(Option) while dragging them out.
Get comfortable with Automator and Terminal
If you’re a Linux geek, Terminal will rise to your expectations.. if only you know how to properly set it up to make it look as cool as you need.
I configured it to have a transparent background so I can see what happens in my other apps, to display ANSI colors and, off course, to use these settings as default for every new window. The fact that it allows for multi tabs is a welcomed addition. Here’s my Matrix-like setup:
As for Automator… this is one of the most powerful tools on your mac, and probably the most underrated one. Most Mac users never even opened it. I, for one, have used it to define a Multiple file rename Finder plugin, that I use now and then to rename, in 3 seconds, hundreds of selected files – a task that would have taken many annoying minutes, otherwise. Curious on how I did this? Keep tuned for a future episode.
In the meantime, you might want to take a peek under your OSX hood – there might be more amazing gems you didn’t know it has…