10 Things to Know about Getting Started on a Mac

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Posted 10 Aug 2009 in Geek Girl

macbookMacs are easy to use, even for native PC users who are learning how to use a Mac for work or want to switch to a Mac from a PC.

Some people feel that Macs are more intuitive than PCs when it comes to function, but I simply feel that Macs are easy to learn if you are willing to be patient and ask questions. These are my 10 tips on how to get started on a Mac. If you have a tip, leave it in the comments!

  1. Instead of the taskbar in Windows, the Mac has a Menu Bar, which runs across the TOP of your screen. After a few days, you will stop looking for the START button and taskbar at the bottom of your screen. I promise.screenshot_10aThe default status of the Menu Bar looks like the screenshot above. When you open different programs (applications), the Menu Bar will change to give you menus for those respective applications.Dock
  2. Launching programs is easy, thanks to the Dock. The Dock is similar to the Quick Launch bar on a Windows PC, where shortcuts to programs (applications), file folders and files reside and sit, waiting on you to click on them. It is simple to add new programs or folders to the Dock, which, by default, sits at the bottom of the Mac desktop.The Dock can be moved to the left or the right (I have mine on the left) and open programs are identified by a small glowing dot below or to the side (if docked on left or right) of the program’s icon.
  3. What’s the best way to launch programs than the Dock? Look in your upper right hand corner of the screen for the magnifying glass – this is for “Spotlight” – a built-in indexing program that allows you to search your entire hard drive. Type in the first few letters of the program you are looking for and click on the name to
    start the program.
  4. spotlight

  5. How do I open files on my Mac? You have a couple of good options – either use “Spotlight” to search for files by name. Or click on the name in your folders to start the program, or open the application you want to use and select File > Open from the Menu Bar.Folders
  6. Your existing hardware will work on a Mac, although you may need to reformat your iPod to work on a Mac. Yes, this means that your music will be deleted, so be sure you have backup copies on your external drive.
  7. The Mac comes with a lot of software preinstalled (Apple calls them applications) such as iTunes, iMovie, iPhoto, iCal, Mail and Safari. While Microsoft Office does not come preinstalled, you can purchase a version for the Mac or choose either OpenOffice, a free office suite, or start using Google Documents or Zoho, both free online office suites.
  8. All software is not Mac compatible, so here’s a list of Mac alternatives to PC software you are accustomed to using:
    • Microsoft OfficeOpenOffice – OpenOffice is a free software suite that is compatible with Microsoft Office.
    • MediaMonkeyVLC media player – A free audio program with cool features, low CPU consumption and supportive community.
    • Windows UninstallerAppCleaner – You can delete programs by dragging its icon to the trashcan (in the dock) or make sure you get all of its files and settings by using the free AppCleaner.
    • Google Talk, AIM, MSN MessengerAdium – Multi-client Adium makes it easy to chat with friends and family no matter what IM service they use.
  9. Many programs that work on PCs also work on Macs. They come in Mac compatible versions that offer the same basic features, and sometimes cool features just for Macs. The programs may look slightly different, but don’t worry – the programs work on Macs.Some great cross-platform programs that are must-haves are:
  10. How do I install programs (applications) on my new Mac? Download the installer file from the software vendor’s website, then drag the installer file to the Applications folder in Macintosh HD > Applications. Some programs will have pop up windows to make this process faster or easier, but some won’t, so don’t panic if all programs don’t have more advanced installers.
  11. osx_draginstall

  12. No, you don’t have to use a mouse! The Mac’s standout feature is the large number of keyboard shortcuts that make it easy to use Mac software and programs without ever touching the touchpad or a mouse. These printable shortcut lists from Make Use Of make it easy to learn the most commonly used shortcuts. The shortcuts shown below are the most common shortcuts on a Mac.macintosh-symbolsOther shortcuts can be found every program’s menu. If you are going to use a Mac a lot, or just like working faster, make notes of the shortcuts you need most for every program you use regularly and memorize them.

In all, Macs can be just as “easy” to use as PCs. With a little patience and enthusiasm, you can learn to love the way Macs work and do all of the same things on a Mac that you learned how to do on a PC.

What Mac questions do you have? Did I miss a tip? Have you made the switch or thinking about it?

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