Long time friend of the blog Shona, is buying a Mac Book and she’s hardly ever used OS X before!
You just don’t hear about Dell users welcoming Sony users to the wonderful world of Windows Vista. But we Mac users consider it something of duty, to make new users feel welcome – and what better way to say Hi, than a list of stuff to try out, once the excitement of taking your shiny new Mac from its box has given way to the joy of using the best operating system money can buy.
I’ve tried to list mostly tips which I find useful, but which it took me a while to find out about – rather than taking the time to verbosely list all of the immediately obvious functions which OS X is famed for and which are documented in the user guide, included with every new Mac.
The list of undocumented key commands in OS X is seemingly endless. I’ve been a Mac user for years and there’s barely a month goes by when I’m not either reminded of a key combination I’d forgotten about, or I find a new one thanks to the great community of users over at Adam Christian’s MacCast.com
- Command + Shift + L: Searches Google for any text highlighted anywhere, from any application.
- Open any random web page and drag the mouse over a selection of text.
- Hit Command + Shift + L. OS X will open a new Safari browser window and search Google for the selected text
You don’t have to manually open Safari browser, cut the text you want to search for (Command + C), open a new browser tab (Command + T), click in the Google search box and paste (Command + V) the text you want to look up. The shortcut key does it all for you! More than that, it works in any application where you can highlight text, even in file and folder names and input boxes.
- Press Command + `. The ` symbol is in the top left-hand corner of the keyboard (the key also with the tilde (~) symbol on it). This key combination activates window switching, and it’s perfect for instances where the window you want to look at is below the window on top. You can use it to switch between all open windows for the current application – while Command + Tab switches between all currently running applications. So macro and micro navigation of all windows is possible with just two keys directly under your index finger and thumb.
- Trackpad scrolling. The middle scroll wheel mouse is, as far as I’m concerned, the greatest invention since sliced bread – and doing away with the mouse altogether, when using a laptop trackpad, doesn’t have to mean going back to the dark days of clicking and dragging the scroll bar. Simply hold two fingers down anywhere on the trackpad and pull the page down. This is best demonstrated on Google Earth and Google Maps, where the zooming in and out gesture allows trackpad users to zip around the world as well as move in and out of street view. Brilliant!
The thing about the Command key is that you really can do an awful lot with it, by combining it with other key modifiers. Here’s a quick list of Command + keys and what the shortcut will do.
- Command + H – Hide the current application.
- Command + H + Option – Hide all except the current application
- Command + Option + D – Show / Hide the dock
- Control + Shift – Temporarily turn on magnification when floating over dock icons
- Command + Shift + 3 – Takes a snap of the screen and places it in a PNG file on the desktop
- Command + Shift + 4 – Draw a selection around an area of the screen to be grabbed. Also, hit the space bar after typing 4 for window selection
- Command + 1, 2, 3 & 4 – In any Finder window this switches between Icon, List, Column and Quicklook viewing modes
- Command + F – Opens OS X’s famously fast Spotlight Finder search, where you can save your search criteria for later quick recall. There’s lots of documentation on this over on Apple’s OS X website.
- Command + Space Bar – Opens Spotlight, the find anything, anywhere system wide search tool which Bill Gates trumpeted as “one of Windows Vista’s most exciting revolutionary new features”, 2 years after Apple first introduced it in Mac OS X Tiger.
If you hit Command + Tab, the currently running applications icon strip also enables you to choose modifier keys for the application currently highlighted. So if you want to quit an application without switching to it, just Command + Tab to it and while still holding down Command, hit Q – the system-wide Command key modifier for Quit, or hit H for Hide and so on.
SpacesGo to the Apple Menu, up in the top left hand corner of the screen, and choose System Preferences, then Exposé and Spaces, then click the button labelled Spaces, from the tab at the top of the panel. You should see a control panel like the one pictured to the right. Spaces is disabled by default in Leopard, as are Application Assignments, so turn Spaces on and then click the + icon below the Application Assignments list to add an application to any Space.
- All your currently running applications will now be listed. Choose ‘Other’ from the drop down box and find ‘TextEdit’ in your applications folder.
- Change the pop down menu ‘Space 1’ to ‘Space 2’*.
- Hit Command + Spacebar and type ‘TextEdit’. Spotlight will list all instances of the word ‘TextEdit’ your hard drive, as well as the Application itself as the first selection in the top right hand corner of your screen.
- When you hit Return your desktop will now move to desktop Space 2 and launch TextEdit.
You can drag the top of the TextEdit application window (or any window for any application, folder or file) hard against the edge of the current desktop Space to change to another desktop Space, or use Control + Arrow Keys left, right, up, down to manually shift from one Space to another, which can also be re-defined in the System Preferences panel for Exposé and Spaces.
*You can also change ‘Space 1’ to ‘Every Space’, so the selected application is always visible in every desktop Space you switch to.
Dock FoldersAs well as being able to drag and drop any application file icon into the Dock, at the bottom of the screen you can also drag folders anywhere to the right of the dock dividing line, on the right hand edge of the Dock.
Doing so will enable you to view folders in three different ways, which can be defined by right clicking on the folder icon in the Dock (Control + Click on a laptop trackpad) and choosing from the contextual menu options displayed.
Drag, drop, cut and paste done right
One of the first things Microsoft Windows users who switch to using a real computer notice, in terms of the difference between the Apple way and the Microsoft way of laying out the desktop, is that Windows tends to hide all but the front-most application by displaying windows in full screen by default, with other open applications only accessible by clicking in the Start menu bottom tool bar or by using the ALT + Tab program switcher to bring them to the top.
OS X, on the other hand, displays application windows in a more top-down or table-top style, with all open applications visibly spread around the workspace. This enables easier dragging and dropping of interchangeable ‘objects’ between different applications, such as images and text selections. It is also one of the major things about Mac OS which gives it it’s much deserved reputation for ease of use.
In the Windows world, where the output of an application might have to be ‘Exported’ before it can be opened in another program, in OS X – more often than not – you can simply ‘pick up’ the object you want to use in another application and drop it in place.
- Hit Command + Spacebar and type Stickies. Hit the ‘Return’ key to open the Stickies application and then switch back to this browser window using Command + Tab.
- Highlight any text on this page by dragging the mouse around it and pick it up by momentarily holding the mouse over the selection.
- Without leaving go of the mouse button, hit Command + Tab to switch to Stickies
- Again, without leaving go of the mouse (with the text still selected) hit Command + N. This will create a new Stickies notepad, which you can now drop the text selection into.
Notice how everything; links, images, font formatting – anything you had under your mouse – was pasted into Stickies without problem. But it isn’t just manoeuvres with low memory requirements which benefit from Mac OS X’s famously solid system wide object awareness. You can also move large selections in Photoshop into word processing software, or audio samples from voice and music recording software into wave editors and MP3 compressors. Anything which can be placed into the clipboard can be moved between applications, via Spaces and Exposé.
Let’s say for example you have an MP3 file iTunes you want to send via e-mail. All you need do is locate the MP3 in whichever way you choose to find it (Spotlight / iTunes / Finder / Quicklook) and drag and drop it onto the Mail application icon. Even if Mail isn’t currently running, Mail will intelligently open a new Mail window and add the MP3 file as an attachment.
Being able to hold onto the mouse selection, while performing a number of other tasks, including launching applications with the Spotlight menu, and Command + Tab / Command + ` between application windows, is an invaluable time saver. Here’s a Vimeo.com clip of how I use these OS X features in a couple of real world examples…
More coming soon
I hope that’s enough tips to be going on with for now? Look out for more as and when dear Shona mail’s me asking for more. Enjoy!