Almost six years ago, I published How To Use Mac OS X, and it was pretty popular at the time. My ideas have changed slightly since then, so I thought I’d outline how I work these days. This might be helpful for others and, even better, I might learn some other heavy-user setups.
Dock Control · It’s on the side because vertical space is at a premium on a laptop. I prefer the right side but can’t think of a good reason.
Almost everything in the Dock is a running application. Most of them I start once and run forever. No shortcuts, no URLs, no folders.
I use the ultraminimal TigerLaunch by Brent Simmons for launching occasional-use programs: e.g. Photoshop Elements, Keychain Access.
Here’s what’s in the dock, top to bottom; the “groups” aren’t separated or anything, they’re only in my mind:
Housekeeping group: Finder and System Preferences.
Web group: Camino and NetNewsWire. OK, in 2009 it’s maybe weird to still be using Camino, but hey, it’s good. I run with two browser windows and on average thirty or forty tabs, some of them months old.
Mail group: Mail.app and a Fluidized Gmail.
Creative group, i.e. tools for thickening the continuum: Terminal, Lightroom, Aquamacs, NetBeans, and Eclipse. I don’t use “screen” or iTerminal or Terminal tabs, but usually have three or more Terminal windows open.
Life management group: iCal and Address Book.
Time Machine, because I hear some things don’t work if it’s not in the dock. [Update: Apparently I was wrong. My dock is now Time-Machine-free.]
Stragglers: Dock transients that get run ad-hoc. Most commonly features Safari (for bank websites that don’t grok Camino), Preview, iTunes.
There’s an exception to the these-things-run-all-the-time rule; Lightroom, NetBeans, and Eclipse are monster programs that can suck the life out of your computer. So I try to avoid having all of them going at once.
The Dashboard · I don’t use it. Silly thing.
Finder and Launcher Replacements · Nor any of these. Tried a few, let ’em go after a while.
What’s in the Menubar · Tweetie status icon, TigerLaunch, Spanning Sync status (it insists), iSync status (Spanning Sync insists), Time Machine backup status, Display preferences, Bluetooth status, WiFi status, Canadian flag (pull it down to get at the wonderful Character Palette), battery status, weekday & time.
Exposé · I have mouse-to-bottom-right set to show the desktop, otherwise I don’t use it. This may be eccentric.
Spaces · Don’t use it. Maybe I should try again; in the early days there were just too many important programs (Lightroom, NetBeans) that didn’t play nice with it.
Monitors · Whenever possible I work with my laptop plugged into the biggest monitor available. I used to distribute the windows across the laptop & outboard screens, but I don’t any more, I usually leave the laptop closed.
What with no Spaces and only one screen, it gets damn busy, but I find that the OS X UI makes that pretty easy to deal with.
Desktop · Kind of cluttered, I keep things there that I should really look at but don’t seem to get around to. Some of them are years old. It’s OK, because of the busy screen I never see it anyhow except when I reboot.