Switching from a PC to a Mac is like switching from an automatic transmission to a manual. Everything is different and it can mess up your equilibrium.
On the one hand, you love your PC because it’s comfortable. You know where all your files and applications live. But on the other hand, you keep hearing the media rhapsodizing about the Mac. And every time you see some hipster in a coffee shop tapping away on his svelte Macbook Air you feel a deep sense of cupidity swelling up in your heart.
So one thing is for sure: whether your think Macs are overpriced computers designed to make insecure consumers feel cool or whether you think they provide real value over PCs, it can still be hard to adjust to the unfamiliar world of Mac OS X. I mean let’s face it: when you’ve been steeped in Windows world for most of your life, going for a Mac can feel like visiting a foreign language; heck maybe even a different planet!
So in this guide I’m going to do you favor. Check it out. I’ve got your back. I’m going to show you 3 power tips that will help you quickly adapt to your Mac so you can get the most value out of it.
1. Quick Definitions
One of my all time favorite Mac tips is also one of the most unfamiliar. It’s pretty hidden but once I show you learn this you’ll never forget it.
Let me start with a question: let’s say you’re banging out an email to your boss and you want to know the meaning of a particular word. What do you do? Do you throw it in Google using like this?
On your Mac you don’t have to go to the internet or download any accessories to look up words. Never again will you be stigmatized for missuing a word in an email.
You have two options for definitions built right into your beloved Mac:
- You can hold down the Control button while clicking the word and then choose Look up in Dictionary from the popup menu.
- Or you can position the cursor on the word and tap the trackpad with three fingers. The integrated dictionary app will sprout into view and a smile will undoubtedly grace your face.
On a side note, the three finger trick only works if you have your Mac properly configured for it. Press the Command Key + Spacebar and type “track” to open the System Preference for your trackpad and make sure Look up, Tap with three fingers is checked.
2. Keyboard icons and stuff
One of the most confusing things about the Mac are the arcane icons Apple uses to refer to certain keys. For example, the Command Key has its own icon and some keys have icons that don’t even show up on the keyboard. The Option key on your Mac probably just says “Option”. (with no associated icon) Yet if you open up a user manual or read a technical website, they may refer to certain keys on your Mac using peculiar symbols.
You might think this is some evil stratagem by Apple to punish PC users for waiting so long to use Macs – but I promise you that’s not what’s going on.
Check out the chart below for the six biggies you need to know:
- Whenever you see the Command Key on your Mac think about the Ctrl Key on your PC. For example, Command + z undoes your last action on a Mac just like Ctrl + z does the same on a PC.
- Whenever you see the Control Key on your Mac think about the right click button on your PC’s mouse. Control clicking something in Mac land is simply tantamount to right clicking (Die-hard Apple aficionados call it Secondary Clicking). Incidentally, you can also Secondary Click an item by tapping it with two fingers. Just make sure it’s enabled in your Trackpad options
- The Options key is somewhat similar to the Alt key on a PC but there are subtle differences. For example, pressing Option + f doesn’t always conjure up the File menu of the current application.
The last three keys: Shift, Caps Lock and Function, are self evident so I won’t get into those. Just spend some time today getting acclimated with the Mac hieroglyphics in the above table and you’ll be fine.
3. Getting around
Some things on Macs are actually more intuitive than PCs. For example, forcing an unresponsive application to close is pretty straightforward but — what about finding stuff?
It actually couldn’t be easier and since you’ve read this tutorial this far you already know how to find things on your Mac.
What!? Vonnie, what are you talking about man?
Yup, earlier I showed you how to access your Trackpad options simply by pressing Command + Space and typing track. Well, uninformed Mac users take the circuitous path of clicking the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen, selecting System Preferences from the drop down menu and then finding and clicking the Trackpad icon.
That’s lame and clearly the Command + Space shortcut is smarter.
This is called Spotlight and it’s Apple’s way of helping you find anything on your Mac. In Windows 8 and 8.1 you would press the Windows Logo key and filter the results with each keystroke. It’s the same difference.
The nice thing about Spotlight is that you can use it to not only search for files, photos, apps, music and movies on your local machine but also stuff in the app store and locations near you.
It’s really that easy.
Getting hungry and want lunch? Just type in your favorite restaurant name and you’ll get the location, phone number, website, directions, hours of operation and Yelp reviews all in one shot.
The Bottom Line
You have now joined the ranks of the upper stratum of geeks who are both conversant with Macs and PCs.
Sure, there’s a whole universe of settings on the Mac that we haven’t explored that wasn’t the point of this guide! I just wanted to show you the most salient options so you could quickly adapt.
Now go ahead and strut your way into the Genius bar and when the tech politely asks you “How may I help you?”
Smirk, raise your left eyebrow and quip:
Don’t you mean, how can I help you?