Article: You Have a Mac…Now What?

by on November 2, 2006

This article is an idea I’ve been working on since August, but never could complete it. With many college students picking up MacBooks (either regular or Pro) or some other Apple product to do their homework on, play their music, and communicate with the world, many are wondering what other things they can do besides using the obvious built-in tools on their computer.

Beef Up Your IMs

Although iChat is great for many, some might want to connect with multiple AIM accounts, or to AIM, Yahoo, MSN, Jabber, or some other chat service. One solution out there is Adium X, a full-featured little program that is being improved every day. Xtras let you customize the appearance and things you can do with it.

Improve Your Search

If you haven’t ditched Safari for Firefox, as some have, you’re in for a bit of a treat. Inquisitor 3 has been recently introduced as a free add-on that finds things as you type, making the Safari search box like Spotlight.

Get Fetch

With the growing trend of the Internet being used a place for assignments, many students will need to upload files to the web. Although there are plenty of free programs out there, Fetch is the best (and one of the oldest) out there. The best part is that it is free for students and people at charities.

Switch Between Programs Fast

I get asked this more than anything else when I’m doing stuff on my computer: how did you just make that box pop-up? If you press Command+Tab, it will let you switch between programs, just like Alt+Tab on Windows. If you hold down Shift, it cycles backwards, and if you let go of Tab and hit a Q, your computer will attempt to quit that program.

In case you were wondering, the Command key is the key with the “cloverleaf” on all keyboards (and the corresponding symbol as menu shortcuts).

Throw the Applications Folder in the Dock

The Dock is a rather powerful tool (that’s the thing at the bottom of your screen with random icons in it). If you drag the Applications folder from your hard drive to the Dock, it allows you to access all your programs really fast. Once it’s in the Dock, just click and hold the mouse button and a menu will appear with all your programs.

Reorder Things in the Menu Bar

See the little icons at the top-right corner of the screen? Those show the status of your computer, or let you adjust things like display settings or which wireless network you connect to. You can reorder them by holding down the Command key and dragging them. If you drag them off of there, they’ll disappear, but you can bring them back by going to the following location on your computer and double-clicking the item you want back.

Yourharddrive/System/Library/CoreServices/Menu Extras/

PDF Who?

PDF capabilities are built right into Mac OS X. You don’t need Adobe Acrobat Reader to open them – just use Preview, which is located in the Applications folder (it also opens just about every other kind of image file). You can make your own PDFs for emailing or sharing on the web by going to File > Print and then picking “Save as PDF” from the PDF button.

What Else?

Hopefully these tips will help you next time you’re using your Mac. For even more, be sure to check out our archives.

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