I’ve used a Mac for an extremely long time; long enough that this blog’s topic tag is Mac OS X, what macOS used to be called. Herewith a looking-back summary.

Previously on Mac Lore · Clicking on that “Mac OS X” link cost me a half hour rat-holing on my journey over the years. So you don’t have to, here’s a compendium of advice I give people about the Right Way To Do It; although some of the recommendations are not Mac-specific:

  1. My Dock

    Your screen is wider than it is high. So put the Dock on the side not the bottom.

  2. Dock size and magnification are a matter of taste, but don’t auto-hide it, because…

  3. Remove from the Dock every app that you don’t use regularly. That way, everything there is either running or likely to be, and it becomes a useful visual status check. To the right is a snapshot of mine as I write this.

  4. Go spend some quality time in the System Preferences for Trackpad. Definitely turn on “Tap to click” and “Secondary click”. Then use the accessibility preferences to enable double-tap-and-drag.

  5. While you’re in System Preferences, make sure your keyboard repeat rate is turned up to the max; few things are more boring than holding down the spacebar or whatever and watching the cursor inch across the screen.

  6. Command-space, which brings up Spotlight search, is your friend. It’s really pretty good. Not enough people know that you can highlight things in the result list and type command-I to get a nice little popup with useful information about what you just found.

  7. Use the tab trick in your favorite browser for one-click access to things you care about. (When I wrote that piece it didn’t work in Safari, but now it does.)

  8. Keep a couple of browsers around. Chrome and Safari are both great on Mac, Firefox is OK but recently I’ve found it slow. It’s common to use one for work stuff and the other for personal. Another option is to be logged into Google in only one of them and Google-invisible in the other. Speaking of which, Safari is starting to have a strong privacy story.

  9. Preview

    Your browser will open PDFs directly and want you to read them there. Don’t. Download ’em and open ’em up in the awesome Preview app. Particularly if they’re big or complicated; Preview laughs at 500-page graphically-complex documents and provides a superior read/search/navigate experience.

  10. Despite the fact that Preview is great, do not try to use it to fill in legal forms. It will look like it’s trying to work, but it won’t. For that purpose (and that purpose only) go get Adobe Acrobat Reader.

  11. Related to Preview: Let’s assume you’re a professional who sometimes needs to show off your work. So use the command-control-shift-4 gesture to grab a piece of your screen, shift over to Preview, hit command-N and it creates a new graphic with what you just captured. The only fly in the ointment is that when you save it, it’ll want to use PNG and you almost always want JPG, so you have to toggle that on the Save menu.

    This is how I captured the Dock image above.

  12. Keynote

    If you have to give a presentation, use Keynote; it and Preview are Apple’s two truly great Mac apps. Do not go near PowerPoint, it’s a travesty on Mac.

  13. Learn to use the control-key navigation tricks. They make editing text — any text in almost any app — dramatically faster.

  14. Turn off all the notifications you possibly can. You should own your time. If you have a reasonably active life there will always be new things to read in mail and Twitter and Slack and so on; so go read them when you come to a stopping point. The only notification I leave on is the desktop Signal app, because you have to know me pretty well to reach me there. And (at work) mentions on Amazon Chime.

  15. Inbox Zero is a great idea but unattainable by most of us. Instead, try the Low-stress Inbox technique.

  16. Use a password manager. Really, please use one.

I wrote the first of these in 2002. I wonder how many more are in my future?


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Chris Rose (Apr 05 2020, at 13:08)

The only question I have is... why do you want jpg instead of png?


From: Tim (Apr 05 2020, at 13:29)

Because Preview doesn't seem to know how to compress PNGs, so they're way big.


From: Steve Loughran (Apr 05 2020, at 13:55)

No clipboard manager like flycut?

Couldn't live without one.


From: John Cowan (Apr 05 2020, at 15:20)

1. When I put the Dock on the side it overlaps with zoomed windows: not so on the bottom. Since all my windows are zoomed, that matters.

4. Trackpads, feh. I disable mine unless I have to live without a mouse, which was the case for the last few days between when my mouse finally broke down for good and all and the arrival of my new mouse today.

5. A high keyboard repeat rate means ssssstutttttering.

6. I've never gotten Spotlight to find anything I wanted. Or Look Up either. (Most words I need definitions for aren't in ordinary dictionaries, but that's just me.)

7. The tab trick would be fine if I could remember which number goes with which tab without counting them. At present I have 15 pinned tabs in Chrome, more than usual but not that much more.

8. Chrome is fine.

9. I much prefer viewing PDFs in Chrome to any other viewer. As for Preview, I wish I could disable it altogether. (Have you seen the balls it makes of LibreOffice documents?) It's fine for previewing images, though.

12. I present in LO Impress. I'm considering using Google Slides, but haven't gotten there yet. I see the import story from ODP to GS has improved a lot, though.

13. I probably should learn the control-character tricks, even though I'm not an Emacs weenie but an "ex" troglodyte. Occasionally I drop into vi mode, but usually not for long.

14. During work days I leave work email and work Slack notifications on. When my superiors want my attention, they want it N*O*W. You probably don't have this problem. Off work it varies, but I often turn on personal email and irccloud.com notifications if I'm not concentrating on something.

16. Security? I'm careful with my employer's SSO password and my banking passwords, and otherwise I don't much care. My favorite blog has no notion of accounts or passwords: you just specify your name and an email address, and an URL if you want, and there is essentially no identity theft (except when a regular makes a joke). Indeed, the same is true here. I use haveibeenpwned.com occasionally to see if it's time to start using a different password on newly created accounts. (Nobody can convincingly pretend to be John Cowan on the web, anyway.)


From: William Vambenepe (Apr 05 2020, at 16:11)

What about Finder? Single worst part of the MacOS experience from my POV. Do you have configs that make it work? Do you use a replacement?


From: Andy K (Apr 21 2020, at 01:13)

Maybe it's too obvious to mention, but my favorite shortcut is Command-tab, which makes it very quick to shift back and forth between 2 apps.

BTW, I use the vertical start menu in Windows as well. There you can also use Alt-tab to switch between apps.


From: Témok (May 06 2020, at 07:46)

Dear Tim,

From your blog, I understand you use Homebrew to install non-macos packages. I have been using Fink for the same purpose, for about 12 years. I'm happy with it, but occasionally a package might be unavailable/outdated in Fink's repo, but not in Homebrew's; I guess the reverse is also possible.

Would you have a strong recommendation for me to move from Fink to Homebrew? Thank you, Best wishes, Temok


author · Dad · software · colophon · rights

April 04, 2020
· Technology (85 fragments)
· · Mac OS X (118 more)

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