I recently wrote about me getting a Mac, the reasons I made the switch and how I really like it. I would now like to add nuances to this overall picture. What is really cool? What is hard to get used to? Which are the things I could not find how to achieve on the Mac?
I think I am one of the few who prefers the trackball (Thinkpad-style) to trackpads. For me, trackpads are clumsy, it is hard to position the cursor correctly, they make an incomfortable sound and I often click inadvertently by pushing too hard (but not hard at all). So I had thought I’d get a mouse but then I found out the usb ports are located on the left hand side of the Macbook which does not seem to logical unless Apple specifically targeted left-handed people. Or does everyone already have cordless mice?
Anyway, I gave the trackpad a try and I was thoroughly satisfied. The trademark two-finger scrolling works miracle, clicking is silent and the trackpad is wide enough to be able to lay two-fingers on the pad and click with my thumb which serves as a right-click. Absolutely phenomenal. My plans to acquire a cordless mouse have been postponed. (Even more so since I learned from a colleague that to really get the best out of the mouse you need to purchase a driver. I can imagine paying for software, but for a mouse driver? that seems harsh.)
Managing windows and menus
Having said all about non-keyboard input I always try to minimize the time I have to lift my hands from the keyboard in all applications. Switching between applications is easy with cmd+tab and I also learned the cmd+` and cmd+~ which switches between windows of the same application and is very useful. Closing an application with cmd+q and a tab/window with cmd+w also come in handy and was easy to learn. However, one thing which I miss badly is a key combination to just go to the menu and browse there (e.g alt+f1 in gnome). I mean there are several combinations to activate certain menu items but if I do not want to learn a few dozens of them per application it seems a good idea to me to have just one and then be able to access everything. Or maybe there is, waiting for me to discover it.
Command line boosters
Another feature I adore in the terminal is to be able to quickly navigate. Go to the start, to the end, skip a word forwards, backwards, delete a word, etc. One extra advantage of my favorite text editor, emacs, is that its combinations coincide with those used on the command line, which is fantastic. After a while, I learned that they can all be invoked in Mac terminals, too, it is just that they seem less logical too me. For example , Esc-D is to delete from the cursor to the end of the word, why is Ctrl-W Delete the word to the left of the cursor? (found here). Also, Esc is too far away to reach comfortably. I know iTerm can be programmed to respond to any key combination, so I might do some tinkering here to have a more consistent interface.
Getting applications installed on your computer is quite easy with the disk image installers or one can always compile from source the advantages of which are described in this excellent article. I have to tell that the provided applications are really top notch like iTunes or iPhoto, and I haven’t even had the time to try all of them (iMovie, Garage Band, etc.). One caveat is that some applications, like iPhoto treats your data as one big library file so you need to export particular files if you need them outside of the application (how do you upload individual photos to a photo company’s site to have them developed? how do you upload an image to a photo-sharing website? you’ll need plugins or you have to export them thus duplicating the photos and wasting space). This surely suits ordinary users but advanced, tech-savvy users don’t like this kind of obfuscation, or at least I don’t.
A big pain for me is the presence of spaces in directory names. It may be an old habit to automatically evade them but it looks amateurish to me. Which Mac (and OS/X) is certainly not. It is a great machine (and operating system) to have.
Post scriptum. I am most interested to see what Fernando has to say about his first steps with his Mac.
Update I realized the iPhoto Library file does contain the actual photos although in a shrunk version. You can’t see this in the Finder, you have to use the command line (which is ok since that can be considered as a habit that distinguishes a normal user from a power user). To be able to burn the photos to a DVD or upload them somewhere, you still have to export them and thus have your photos duplicated (even if only for the time of creating the CD/uploading the photos).