I spend a lot of time on my computer, so I want it to be as fast as possible. To improve productivity, I meddle a lot with the OS, oftentimes tweaking it to make it run the way I want. Macs are built pretty solid, have a gorgeous screen, and have a pretty solid OS, so I made the switch to a Mac from Windows in Sep 2009 (Find out why I switched to a Mac).

One thing I noticed about OSX is that everything is centered around the ⌘ key. I’d say about every keyboard shortcut that I do requires the ⌘ key…so much so that I’m pretty sure my ⌘ key will get worn out pretty soon. Anyway, onwards with my observations about the Mac.

Firefox was a basic, essential software that I couldn’t live with, and was installed first. Then I realised my old keyboard shortcuts in Firefox didn’t work anymore, but I did a search and found my answers:

  • Address bar (or location bar, which explains the shortcut): ⌘+L
  • Search bar: ⌘+K (Don’t know why it’s K…beside L I guess?)
  • Go backwards a page: ⌘+Left
  • Go forwards a page: ⌘+Right
  • Cycle tabs backwards: Option + ⌘ + Left
  • Cycle tabs forwards: Option + ⌘ + Right

Interestingly, the trackpad allowed you to do a 3-finger swipe left/right to go backwards or forwards, which was immensely useful, but I was going to use an external keyboard, so I couldn’t rely on that all the time.

Next, Finder – Explorer’s equivalent…somewhat. It’s fun to use, but has several major differences in usage. For instance, I appreciated that the Enter key no longer runs or opens the application. The Enter key in fact is a shortcut for renaming the file/folder, so that’s a bit different, but in a good way. To execute a file in Mac, you just have to hit Command+Down. Takes a little bit of getting used to, but an appreciated difference. Here are other differences in Mac when you’re coming from Windows:

⌘ + Q = Quit
⌘ + W = Close window
⌘ + O = Open a file in your application
⌘ + P = Print
⌘ + A = Select All
⌘ + X = Cut (Only seems to work with text, not files/folders)
⌘ + C = Copy
⌘ + V = Paste
⌘ + S = Save
⌘ + Z = Undo
⌘ + Shift+ Z = Redo
⌘ + Y or Space = Quicklook
⌘ + Tab = Cycle forward through windows
⌘ + Shift + Tab = Cycle backwards through windows
⌘ + H = Hide application
⌘ + Option + H = Hide other applications
⌘ + Option + 3 = Screen-shot whole screen
⌘ + Option + 4 = Screen-shot region

I quickly came across a quirk though: There wasn’t a way to quickly create a new file wherever I was. So, if I was at /Some/Directory/Deep/Deep/Down, most probably working on my files inside, and I wanted to create a file there, I couldn’t. I had to open the application that I wanted, create my file, and save it to the location that I wanted. Slow. So I searched again, and found NuFile – http://growlichat.com/NuFile.php! Problem solved =)

Next difference I came across – files could not be moved (or cut and pasted). So that took a bit of researching, but I found out that moving files can be easily done with Quicksilver! It’s a fantastic application. I use Launchy a lot while in Windows, but Quicksilver brings it to a whole new level. File indexing is super fast, and I can search for a file almost instantly because it would have already been in the Quicksilver file catalogue, whereas Launchy has a lagtime. Speed of searching is super-quick as well!

In the process of learning about Quicksilver, I also found out that you can do very fast screen captures with it (screen or region), scale those images, and even save them into a different format, all with Quicksilver and a few keystrokes! iCal is another application that I want to explore, because of it’s useful calendaring features and the great thing is that Quicksilver has a iCal module. So I can type something like “Lunch with Bob, 3pm, Craig Street” and have that entry appear in iCal!

The other productivity boosts were to do with the Mac’s incredibly fast sleep/hibernate feature, and wake-up time. It completely beats any Windows machine. In addition, connecting to your wireless network is almost instantaneous – I can open the lid of my mac, see the screen blink on instantly, and viola, I’d be connected to the Internet already. There was no way I could achieve that with Windows.

One thing that I was looking for, though, was the ability to turn off the monitor on my Macbook. In Windows, I just wasn’t able to do so with my Thinkpad. Well, in Mac, it’s possible – just hit Control+Shift+Eject, and your screen will be turned off. Neat 😀

In Windows, one of the keys I hit alot is the Windows key. In the past, I didn’t buy Toshiba notebooks because they had a funny keyboard configuration that put the Windows key at the top right (they’ve since changed it I think). In the Macbook, there’s no “Mac key”, but there’s F11 (or Fn+F11, depending on your settings). Hit that, and all windows will hide, and you’ll be brought to your desktop. Alternatively, if you’re using the new Macbook Pro’s, you can do a 4-finger swipe upwards.

There’s going to be a whole host of features that I’m sure I’ll discover in OSX, but so far it looks like a pretty solid OS. The only complaint that I have with it is its cumbersome Finder app. Explorer is much more flexible IMHO. This isn’t an isolated case too – the presence of a popular Finder-alternative called Path Finder is only testament that Finder’s features are lacking. I want to try using Path Finder, but it doesn’t integrate fully and replace Finder, so I might hold off that for a bit.

That’s it for this post, but look out for more posts on Mac and OSX!

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