mac os x to my liking

Published on 26 Feb 2009 at 1:34 pm. No Comments.
Filed under Mac.

Lately it seems I’ve been setting up or advising on setup of more and more Mac OS X systems. When a new windows user converts and loads up this “vastly superior” operating system their first thought is usually “ok what now”

Here are a few things I do to every Mac OSX install that I help setup. I find these to make working with MacOSX.

Setup Spaces and Expose

Open System Preferences from your Applications folder or Action Bar  –> Select ‘Show All‘ at the top  –>  Click on “Expose and Spaces” –> Click the Spaces tab at the top.

Make sure “Enable Spaces“  and “Show Spaces in Menu Bar” are both checked. Then go to the bottom where it says “To switch between spaces:”

I change this to COMMAND (shamrock looking thing) Arrow Keys.  This allows me to quickly switch to a different space by holding COMMAND and hitting up/down/left/right. This saves a ton of time when using multiple desktops. Now you can run email and IM on one desktop, browse the web on another, code/produce/create on another, etc, etc. Here I also setup certain Applications that run on Every Space.  I have Firefox and Audium (IM) set to run on every space, so no matter where I go they follow me. Of course I have two monitors so I have the room to always have these up.

Next click the “Expose” tab at the top. Under “Active Screen Corners” I set the upper left corner to “Desktop” the upper right corner to “Dashboard” the lower right corner to “Sleep Display” and the lower left corner to “All Windows(The “All Windows” setting is essential for windows switchers who may be frustrated not having their “task bar”)

These settings save so much time. If I need a file I know is on the desktop I just move my mouse to the upper left corner and he desktop appears. If I want to give a song a thumbs up or thumbs down on my pandora running on my dashboard I just move my mouse to the upper right corner and the dashboard appears. If I am looking for a window and can’t seem to find it, I simply move my mouse to the bottom left corner and every window available will appear, allowing me to select the one I want.  Finally when I am walking away from the computer, I simply put my mouse in the lower right corner and the display goees to sleep.

Setup Trackpad For Laptops

One thing that Windows users really miss is right click, I use it so much that I always use an external mouse on my MBP. One way to get at right click is to hold “Option” while clicking, that’s a pain though. If you open your System Preferences and then go to “Trackpad” enable the option “Tap trackpad using two fingers for secondary click” (this is supported on most newer laptops). Then you can simply tap the trackpad with two fingers and the “right click/option/secondary” menu will appear.

Clean Up The Action Bar

Remove anything on the Action bar that you probably won’t use everyday.  To remove items simply drag them from the Action bar to an empty spot on the desktop. You will see a little cloud appear by your cursor that lets you know it’s ok to drop the item for removal, a little puff of smoke and a swoosh sound confirm it’s removal. You aren’t deleting anything, just removing it from the bar.

The list of items to remove likely includes:

  • Photo Booth
  • iChat
  • Front Row
  • iPhoto (configure it to start when camera connected)
  • Address Book
  • iCal (i actually use this quite a bit because of iPhone integration but i keep it somewhere else, details below)
  • Mail (if you are web based like 90% of the world)
  • iMovie
  • Garage Band
  • Time Machine (if it’s on the bar)
  • Safari (if you are going to use FireFox, Safari 4 looks really nice so far but i live on FireFox addons)

Once you have removed those add some items you will use quite a bit. To add items open up your Applications folder by double clicking your hard drive on the desktop. Applications will be one of the folders listed in the window that appears.  Open this folder and drag items you will use daily to the bar. When you get to the bar, two existing items will get bigger and split to produce a hole where you can drop the new item.

Some Items I Add To The Action Bar Are:

  • FireFox
  • VMWare (if you need to run legacy windows apps on your Mac this is much better than bootcamp. You can run the apps in MacOSX and even drag and drop files between the two operating systems. Will also run many other operating systems. This is a must buy for me.
  • Terminal (geeks only)
  • Spaces (if it’s not already there)
  • System Preferences (if it’s not already there)

Any app you will use on a daily basis, I would put on the bar.

Next I drag the actual Applications folder to the action bar. There is one thing to know about adding folders to the bar and that is that folder shortcuts need to go on to the right of the dotted line on your action bar. To the right of this dotted line is where applications that are minimized will show up. This is also the only place that you can drop folder shortcuts. Drag Applications from your hard drive (make sure you drag the actual folder,  not the shortcut that appears in “Places” on the left side when you open your drive) and drop it on the Action bar to the right of the dotted line. Windows users will likely want to right click the new short cut and under the “View Contents As” select “List“. This Applications folder is now your “Start Menu”

I also create folders with names like “Business”, “Internet”, “Audio/Video” and put relevant items in them and drag those folders to the bar. I will cover creating these folders and the shortcuts they contain in another post. For now just having the Applications folder on your bar is a good start.

Install Useful Applications

IM – Audium + Growl + OTR

System Monitoring – iStats Menu – besides monitoring CPU/Memory/Network one of my favorite things about this App is that it puts a full date in the menubar including the Month and Day, an ability I wasn’t able to coerce out of the default time display.

VMWare – install and run windows on your mac without rebooting. They have a fully functional trial, get it and set it up if you need to run windows apps. Run it till the trial expires and see if you really do need those apps before buying.

VLC – video viewer for WMA files. I like it so much I use it for pretty much all my video viewing.

Cyberduck – FTP/SFTP/WebDAV/Mosso Cloud/Amazon S3  – if you don’t know what those are you don’t need it.

Install X11 from the Apple website, some apps listed below require it.

Gimp – Photo editing – if you aren’t going to buy Photoshop, Gimp is a great (and powerful) alternative. It’s no MS paint so there may be a little learning curve.

Divx – for those movies that VLC won’t play

Rip/Encode DVDs for AppleTV/iPhone/iPod – get and install ffmpegX and then install Handbrake

Browse and install Dashboard Widgets the one I use most is Pandora the rest are personal preference. I would suggest getting a better calculator, as the default dashboard calculator sucks.

Setup Time Machine

This is pretty self explanatory once you plug in an external drive, but I thought I’d list it here as a reminder to do it. Time machine is the way backups should be, make sure you get a drive and set it up.  I have it configured to backup to a network drive, but that was a pretty involved process and I won’t get into it here, but you can read about it yourself on macosxhints.

That’s all I can think of for now, hopefully some of this info will save you time and help you enjoy your new MacOS to the fullest.

Comments are closed.