Since the 10.4 version OS X has had a search system called Spotlight. Among other things, Spotlight allows you to search your computer for files matching whatever criteria you enter. In addition to regular files, Spotlight will also show you any programs that match what you’ve typed in. In 10.5 or newer, the tip hit will also be highlighted first and you can simply press enter to select it.

You can access Spotlight in two ways, by click its icon () or pressing command+spacebar. Start typing the name of the application you want launch and press enter when it is highlighted.

This will launch the application. Over time you’ll find you can search for and launch applications very quickly using this method.

As a followup to my previous post I thought touching on how to get the most out of the Mac keyboard and mouse or trackpad would be a good idea. Although the keyboard and mouse are mostly the same between a Mac and a PC there are a few key differences that can really get a guy hung up.

Keyboard Shortcuts
Watch a long time Mac user and you’ll undoubtedly see them using a large number of keyboard shortcuts. Keyboard shortcuts let you perform actions that would normally require the use of a mouse but switching from the keyboard to mouse is a time consuming task.

If you’re coming from Windows then you probably know at least some keyboard shortcuts. Ctrl+c for copy, ctrl+v for paste. You know that most keyboard shortcuts using the ctrl key plus some other key to get something done. You might also know that the Windows key plus some other key on the keyboard will fire off something completely different. On the Mac the majority of the keyboard shortcuts are fired off using the command key. Below I have a list of some of the most common keyboard shortcuts on the Mac. It is not an exhaustive list

Shortcuts that work nearly anywhere

  • command+x, command+c, command+v: cut, copy, paste
  • command+space bar: spotlight search. Really useful for launching apps
  • command+left or right arrow: One area I’d fault the Mac on, poor use of home/end. This shortcut replicates home/end in most situations. In some apps they are remapped to change tabs, like in iTerm
  • fn+delete: On laptops, fn+delete will act like the delete key on a PC keyboard, deleting the character in front of the cursor.
  • command+tab: Switch between apps
  • command+~: Switch between windows of the current app
  • F3: On the newer Mac laptops and the aluminum keyboard, F3 initiates the all windows exposé.
  • option+e and then the letter: Gets you that thing above the e 🙂
  • ctrl+click: Right click
  • command+q: Closes all windows of the current app and quits the app
  • command+w: Closes the current window (or tab in some apps)
  • command+m: Minimize current window
  • command+h: Hide the current application. Similar to minimizing an app but doesn’t require Dock space
  • command+option+h: Hide all windows other than the current window
  • option+mute,volume up/down: Open audio preferences
  • option+F3: Exposé preferences

Discovering More
If you want to know about more keyboard shortcuts look no further than the menu bar. Just click a menu and look at the symbols shown to the right of a menu item. The ⌘ is the command key, ⇧ is shift, ⌥ is option, ⎋ is your power button and ⌫ is your backspace (delete) key. ⌥⌘T will usually bring up a special characters palette allowing you to find these symbols and more.

Also know that the option key serves as a modifier for a lot of things. For example, if you hold down the option key and then click the AirPort icon in the menu bar (by the clock) you’ll additional information about the wireless network you’re connected to. If you hold option while clicking the apple menu, the usual “About This Mac” will become a shortcut to the System Profiler.

The Trackpad
While the keyboard is fun and all, the trackpad is where the real magic is. Using the multi-touch trackpad found on the latest generation of Mac laptops will make any other trackpad nearly impossible to use. The trackpad, made of glass with the perfect texture, is large and also serves as the button. You can click using just about any part of the trackpad which actually comes in handy more often than you’d think.

A favorite sticking point of Windows users is that Macs don’t have mice or trackpads with multiple buttons. They then assume that OS X doesn’t understand the venerable right click. This couldn’t be further from the truth. OS X has supported context based right click menus from day one. Accessing them was just different, in the beginning. You’ll find that control+click will produce a right click menu, but so will clicking the trackpad with two fingers. If you’re a fan of tap to click as I am, then you’ll you can find that setting in System Preferences. Once enabled, tapping on the trackpad with two fingers will produce the right click menu. Over time, I’ve found this to be much more useful than a dedicated button because I can get the menu from anywhere on the trackpad.

Here’s a list of the other capabilities of the multi-touch trackpad:

  • Two fingers slid up or down: Scrolling, just like the wheel mouse
  • Four fingers slid up: Show desktop
  • Four fingers slid down: Exposé

For more visit the trackpad preferences in System Preferences. Apple also provides a lot of good information on this topic at http://www.apple.com/support/mac101/work/

Think I missed something? Leave it in the comments!

I know someone who just picked up a new Mac and it got me to thinking, I bet people new to the Mac platform don’t know about all of the great software you can find for the Mac. I thought I’d write up a post on some of my favorite free and paid apps.

  • Firefox
  • RipIt: DVD ripping made easy
  • Adium: Multi-protocol chat
  • Growl: Must have notification system
  • NetNewsWire: RSS reader that syncs with Google Reader
  • BootChamp: Simple menu for rebooting directly into your BootCamp OS installation
  • Tweetie: Twitter client
  • iTerm: I can’t let go of this great ssh client.
  • 1Password: Store all of your passwords. LastPass is free alternative that is more cross platform
  • Automator: Built in robot too useful not to mention
  • Caffeine: Sometimes you just don’t want your Mac to dim the display or go to sleep.
  • Colloquy: Decent IRC client
  • Cord: Remote Desktop Client for Mac.
  • CrashPlan: Time Machine is good but I just have to have a second way of backing up all of our photos. CrashPlan really does a good job and has saved me.
  • HandBrake: Very good video encoder and DVD ripper (requires VLC)
  • Loginox: Swap out that ridiculous login screen image.
  • MarcoPolo: Change preferences based on your location or “context.”
  • MacFusion: Mount/Map ssh/sftp servers in Finder allowing any app to directly access remote files
  • smcFanControl: The Mac generally does a good job with the fan but there are times when having it cranked up on high is a good thing, especially for your lap.
  • NTFS-3G: Mount NTFS drives as read/write
  • SmartSleep: Preference pane that allows you to adjust how your Mac sleeps or hibernates

I think that about covers it. There are far more applications in my applications directory but the apps I listed are must haves in my book. If there are any apps you think I missed leave a comment.

So it turns out I was entirely too ambitious about most of my keynote predictions (seen here). The only thing I got right is what everyone already knew, that Apple’s new tablet device would be revealed.

There is already an amazing amount of coverage about the iPad, more than I can remember seeing for any other tablet announced or released by any other company. Like the iPhone, the general attitude towards the iPad is definitely love it or hate it. Those who love it see it for what it is meant to be, those who hate it see it for what they wanted it to be.

Unfortunately for those who wanted it to be a full fledge computer in tablet form, the iPad is simply what to needs to be, an enlarged iPod touch or iPhone. Based on what was shown at the keynote, the iPad is meant to be a device used primarily for the consumption of media. A convenient appliance that you can use to browse the web, check your email, browse Facebook, view photos, play a game or whatever else developers can come up with. Everything the iPod touch or iPhone can do but in a larger form factor.

The choice to use the iPhone OS was a wise one. Everyone, except Microsoft apparently, knows that an OS meant to be used on a desktop or laptop computer just isn’t a good fit for use on a tablet. Tablet computers have existed for years now but never really caught on because, as Steve Jobs said of netbooks, they fail to do anything better than what they’re trying to replace. They simply hack off the keyboard and mouse and replace it with a stylus. While in theory this sounds great, in practice it has proven to be less than successful.

This is because desktop operating systems like OS X and Windows were designed entirely with the idea that a keyboard and mouse would be the primary input devices. Replacing a keyboard and mouse with a stylus is simply a less convenient way to do the same thing. While handwriting recognition is certainly an impressive thing, the utility of it in reality just doesn’t live up to the hype. Obviously tablet makers have long been aware of this because most tablet designs created in the last eight years have been the convertible laptop, a standard laptop with a screen that is able to rotate and fold back down into the closed position. If the tablet is such a wonderful thing why isn’t able to be a stand alone product?

Yet so many people are upset that the iPad isn’t a full fledged OS X device even though history has certainly shown it just doesn’t work well. In fact, I believe no “tablet only” device will ever be successful if it attempts to utilize a desktop OS as its foundation without some new interface on top of it. It simply can’t because all of the widgets, the buttons, check boxes and drop down menus, are all small and require the precision a mouse provides. It’d be a miserable experience. The iPhone OS on the other hand was designed from the ground up around the idea that you would have ONLY your fingers as input devices. Much in the same way Microsoft created a fantastic interface for it’s media center functionality, Apple created a specific type of interface for iPhone OS so that it was more appropriate.

Certainly 2010 is going to be the year of the tablet computer. Many manufacturers have already shown off a number of different designs. Obviously Apple is the only manufacturer releasing an iPhone OS based tablet but a number of devices will be running Android which, like the iPhone OS, is designed to be used primarily on smaller touch enabled devices. Other manufacturers, notably HP, have shown off Windows 7 based devices and despite now offering a multitouch enabled interface, is still just a regular Windows 7 system. Time will tell, but I believe the Windows 7 based systems will continue to sell as well previous Windows based tablets unless Microsoft creates an entirely new interface, just like they did for media center.

These are my predictions for today:

  • Tablet (duh)
  • iPhone OS 4.0
  • New iTunes to support Tablet, iPhone OS 4.0
  • Subscription based services for Music and TV
  • At least a BTO i5 powered MacBook Pro
  • Refresh MacBook Air with same touchpad as all other MacBooks
  • iLife ’10 with support for OpenCL and Grand Central (improved encoding speeds)