Friday, May 06, 2005

How to Switch to a Mac - Part 6 - Will I have the time to invest and learn a new system?

Note: I’ll capture screen shots from my system and either upload the pictures or provide links of the different components and views that are discussed below. Check back in a few days.

Learning to use Mac OS X will take time but Mac OS X is so easy to use, you’ll be productive in a short amount of time. When I switched to a Mac, I felt uncomfortable but over time I’ve found the OS X environment to be more intuitive and easier to use than Windows. In today’s post, I’ll highlight the major components of the OS X environment.

The inviting, beautiful graphical user interface (GUI) to Mac OS X is called Aqua. One of Apple’s slogans is to "Think different", a slogan that sure does apply to Aqua. When one sees the Aqua interface for the first time, they’ll notice the vibrant colors and icons. Although Windows switchers will have to devote time to learning Mac OS X, the process will be streamlined because the OS X environment will be relatively familiar. You’ll find a desktop, windows, folders, menus, navigation, and keyboard shortcuts. In fact, most switchers will appreciate the ease of use and simplicity of OS X, I know I did. Aqua includes a Desktop, Finder, Dock, and Menu bar that work together to help you navigate and organize your Mac environment. The Dock is used to allow you to access your most frequently used applications, folders, and minimized windows.

Most of your work in OS X starts from the Desktop. The first and probably most important icon that you’ll see in the upper right corner of the Desktop is the Macintosh HD. In fact, when you launch OS X for the first time on your new Mac, the Macintosh HD is the only icon you’ll see on the Desktop. You can view the files and applications on your hard drive by simply double-clicking it. When you access the hard drive, the Finder application launches, the Finder will be described in a bit. You can store documents, folders, files, pictures, and almost anything on the Desktop. When you insert a CD or a DVD into your Super Drive or Combo Drive, OS X intelligently identifies it and creates an icon and shows it on the Desktop. You can double-click it and easily access the files, music, or movie that is on that disk. When you connect an external device to your Mac, OS X immediately knows what kind of device it is and performs a process known as mounting. An icon is shown on the Desktop that corresponds to the type of device that is connected. There is no need to load or install drivers, what a relief for you Windows switchers!

The Finder is what Macintosh users use to navigate around the system. It allows one to access almost anything on your Mac such as hard drives, folders, files, CD/DVD drives, and applications. You’re able to view and access just about anything on your Mac. You can move things around, copy files and folders, perform searches, and delete things you don’t want anymore. Windows users often perform these tasks with Windows Explorer. Finder is more intuitive, flexible, and easier to use than it’s Windows counterpart. There are three ways to view things in Finder, by icon, by list, and by path. Now, let’s talk about the Dock.

You can use the Dock to launch applications. By default, the Dock is the strip of icons located at the bottom of the screen. The dock gives you quick/easy access to your most commonly used applications, files, destinations, and whatever you want to access with a simple click. If you’re not comfortable with the dock on the bottom, you can move it to the left or right side of the screen. You launch an item from the Dock by simply clicking on its icon, the icon pops up out of the Dock to initiate … a really cool effect!. Apple provides you with a pre-configured Dock that has icons for the most commonly used applications that Apple installed with the system such as Finder, Safari, Mail, Address Book, Calendar, and iTunes.

You can customize the Dock to meet your needs. You can add or remove any icon by simply dragging the icon into or out of the Dock. A small black triangle below an application’s icon indicates that it is currently running. Multiple applications can run at the same time on a Mac, thus you’ll see several black triangles. You can view the contents of a folder in the Dock by holding down the mouse button over the folder. You can further define the behavior of the dock via the Apple Menu or in the System Preferences screen. You can control the size of the Dock, its scrolling behavior, its position on the screen, its minimizing behavior, allow it to auto hide, and add or remove icons. The Dock is divided into two unequal halves, partitioned by a vertical bar. The left side is for application icons whereas the right side is for documents, folders, and the Trash icon. You can easily rearrange the position of items in the Dock. All you do is click and drag the icon to the desired location. Note however that applications must stay on the left.

The Trash is used as a temporary folder for deleted items. The Trash is located on the right hand side of Dock. The Windows counterpart is the Recycle Bin. There are several ways to send items to the Trash. You can drag and drop files or folders into the Trash, you can use keyboard shortcuts, or you can use the Menu Bar. To view the items in the Trash, you click once on the Trash icon. You can permanently delete items from the Trash by selecting Empty Trash or Secure Empty Trash from the Finder Menu Bar. Once you delete items from the Trash, they’re gone and can’t be recovered.

Menu Bar
You’ll find the OS X menu bar at the top of the screen. The Menu Bar is where one interacts with an application. It’s also the location where preferences and settings can be viewed/adjusted; users can log in and out, and a restart or shutdown sequence can be initiated. The menu bar changes with the current in-use application. When you switch between running applications, you’ll notice that the Menu Bar changes to reflect that running application and it’s associated menu items. What you’ll notice about the Menu Bar is that some applications have different menu items. The Menu Bar changes to reflect the capabilities and options of the application.

One of the most important Menu’s is known as the Blue Apple Menu, it’s located on the far left and has the famous Apple icon. Some of the most important items are:

About this Mac - Lists information about the installed OS version, memory and processor.
System Preferences - Takes you to a special system configuration and settings window
Dock Menu - allows you to customize the Dock
Recent Items - Lists the applications and documents that were recently opened or used
Force Quit - Allows you to quit programs that are unresponsive.
Sleep, Restart, Shutdown - Self explanatory
Log Out - Shuts down all running programs and documents and returns you to the login screen.

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