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CubaMark Jun 11th, 2009 02:48 PM

New Mac Setup and Orientation
I've just prepared the following note to send to a friend who has purchased his first Mac (a MacBook Pro 15"). Some of the comments are specific to laptop users (trackpad), but in general I think it's useful for most new Mac users.

Any comments / suggestions / critiques? I think of this as "stage one". "stage two" would jump into add-ons (FruitMenu, NuFile, iStatMenus, etc.) and more advanced tips. But I don't want to overload switchers' brains... :)


The following two add-ons are essential for viewing of all video file formats on the web, including Windows Media Video files (WMV).

1/ Install PERIAN (Perian - The swiss-army knife of QuickTime components)

2/ Install Flip4Mac (Download details: Windows Media® Components for QuickTime)

3/ Set your Trackpad preferences (Apple Menu-->System Preferences-->Trackpad

(a) check "tap to click"
(b) check "dragging"
(c) check "secondary tap" (this is equivalent to RIGHT CLICK, aka CTRL-CLICK)

4/ Customize the "dock" - the row of icons across the bottom of the screen. You can access the options either in APPLE MENU-->SYSTEM PREFERENCES-->DOCK or by right-clicking (control-click) on the dividing line between application icons and folders on the dock itself.

Here's how *I* like it - you may have other tastes...

(a) if you prefer, the dock can be relocated from the default (bottom) position, to be either on the left or right sides of the screen (vertical).
(b) turn Hiding On
(c) in the System Preferences-->Dock Preferences, turn ON magnification, but set the slider to minimal, just enough to give you a visual cue when mousing.
(d) in the "FINDER" (which is the equivalent to Windows Explorer), open a new window (FILE-->NEW WINDOW or press COMMAND-N) and click on the Macintosh HD in the sidebar. Drag the Applications folder to the dock, below (or to the right of) the dock dividing line. You can drag any file or folder here, so it makes a useful launcher for templates / frequently access documents etc. Consider dragging the DOCUMENTS folder, etc.
(e) With the Applications or Documents or any other folder on the dock, you can single-click on the folder to give you a pop-up list of the contents, selecting an item from within the folder without opening the folder itself.
(f) CTRL-CLICK (or two-finger TAP on the trackpad) on a folder in the dock for options, I recommend "sort by name" and "display as folder"
(g) NOTE that you can remove icons of programs that you are not going to use frequently by simply clicking and dragging them off the dock ("poof!"). Applications can always be added again later by opening the Applications folder and dragging the icons to the dock.

(h) If you find dragging a bit tricky, you can also double-click on an application icon in the Applications folder, and the icon will appear in the dock while it's running. When the program quits, the icon disappears from the dock. You can keep it there by opening the program, then Right-click (or CTRL-click, or two-finger-tap-) on the program icon and choose "Keep in dock" from the pop-up menu!

5/ Learn the trackpad.

(a) one-finger-tap is a click
(b) two-finger tap is a right-click
(c) one-finger drag moves the mouse pointer
(d) two-finger drag scrolls the application window (e.g., up and down in a web browser window)
(e) four-finger swipe Left or Right shows currently running applications, from which you can swich to another application (same functionality as COMMAND-TAB, which is like ALT-TAB from Windows)
(f) four-finger swipe UP hides all windows and shows you the desktop
(g) four-finger swipe DOWN tiles ALL open windows, from which you can choose to switch to another application window


(a) Under "Apple Menu-->System Preferences" consider checking the box beside "Require password to wake this computer from sleep or screen saver". Useful if it will be left unattended in a café or office environment.
(b) I recommend NEVER enabling File Vault, which encrypts the hard drive on the fly. If you ever forget the password for this feature, your data is essentially GONE.
(c) Consider checking "Disable Automatic Login". This will require you to enter your username / password upon bootup. NOTE that more options regarding login are available under the System Preferences-->Accounts preference pane.
(d) Viruses: As of 11 June 2009, there are still no viruses affecting Mac OS X. Relax! However, you can be a carrier of viruses, such as those hidden inside Microsoft Office files. If you feel like you need to have a virus program to be happy, consider the free and very capable ClamXav.
(e) Trojans: There are a couple of "trojan" programs which appear to be nice and friendly, but in fact damage or hijack your computer, out there. But they are exceedingly rare. Just be smart about installing only software that you trust. If in doubt, ask!


(a) Under System Preferences-->Sound, consider UNchecking "Play feedback when volume is pressed". This drives me totally batty.
(b) in the Sound preferences, you can also set "Ambient Noise Reduction" under the "INPUT" tab, which may make Skype calls clearer in noisy environments.
(c) this is also the place where you would select a USB digital headset / microphone, should you wish to use one. NOTE that the Mac audio-in port is LINE level, which means most PC microphones will NOT work. An external mic would need to be powered. But the built-in mic on the Mac is more than sufficient for most uses.

8/ Customize the Finder.

(a) with "FINDER" showing at the top left, beside the Apple menu, click on FINDER-->PREFERENCES
(b) under the GENERAL tab, UNcheck the showing of Hard Disks on your desktop. There is NO REASON for you to go into the hard drive 99% of the time.
(c) this is really a matter of taste, but I believe it helps with the adjustment to the Mac environment to forget about the Hard Drive as the source of all things. Your "Home Folder" is where you live!

9/ Understand where the Mac OS keeps things.

(a) As a multiple-user operating system, the OS keeps everyone's stuff inside their own protected folder, indicated by a little icon of a house, with your username as the folder name. The file path is: Macintosh HD / USERS / YourFolderName For want of a better comparison, consider this the "MY DOCUMENTS" folder on your Windows machine.
(b) Within your "house" are folders for Documents. Pictures, Movies, Music, etc. DO NOT MOVE THESE
(c) Within the /PICTURES/ folder will be a file called "iPhoto Library" if you use iPhoto to manage your digital photos. DO NOT MESS WITH THIS FILE! Manage your photos from within the iPhoto application.
(d) likewise, within the /MUSIC/ folder will be a file called "iTunes Library" if you use iTunes to manage your music. DO NOT MESS WITH THIS FILE! Manage your music, etc., from within the iTunes application.
(e) At the root of the Macintosh HD (hard drive), at the same level as the USERS folder where YOUR "house" is, you'll find the Applications folder. This folder is accessible by all users on the computer. This is where you will find all of your programs.
(f) SUPER important: NEVER rename the Home Folder! There are (complicated) ways to change the name, but it's really not worth it. Changing the name fo the Home Folder will result in your Mac becoming completely confused, and all of your documents will vanish.

10/ INSTALLING and REMOVING applications

The Mac OS is, generally, far easier to deal with when adding / removing programs. There is no control panel called "Add/Remove programs".

(a) to remove a program, open the Applications folder, click once on the program icon to select it and drag it to the trash (or press COMMAND-DELETE). Done.

(b) to install a new program, you will generally download files that arrive in your DOWNLOADS folder (accessible on the dock) that are named "filename.dmg" DMG is "Disk Image".

When you double-click on a Disk Image, a new white icon will appear on your desktop. Inside it will be an application installation package (often looks like a brown packing box that is open). Double-click this to launch the installer. You will need to provide, in may cases, your password to perform the install. ONLY do this if you are confident in the source of this installation program.

Once the install is completed and the installer quits, you will still have that white icon of the open Disk Image on your desktop. You can drag it to the trash, as well as the original "Filename.DMG" file that is in your /Downloads/ folder.

(c) now that a new program is installed, you will likely need to open the /Applications/ folder (which we put on the dock in Step 4 above) and drag the new program's icon on to the dock for easy access (or use the alternate method identified in step (4)(h) above).

(d) some applications do not have an installer, but rather make it easy for you by providing an "alias" (aka "shortcut") to the Applications folder inside the disk image. All you need to do - and this should be obvious when you see it - is drag the application icon onto the alias.

11/ There are many other things to learn in the other various System Preferences (like the screen saver, desktop picture, etc.)... but we'll leave those until you have explored and become familiar with the rest of the system.

Finally, here are some helpful websites to make your transition easier:

Apple's Official Switchers Page
Get A Mac

A good site for Switchers from Windows:
My First Mac - Help Buying and Getting Started with Your New Mac

There may be software you have used on Windows that is not on the Mac. Do a search at this site for free / shareware / commercial possibilities:
Mac OS X Software Updates and Mac OS X Downloads - VersionTracker

Peer help is always nice. Canada's Mac Community:
Canada's Mac, iPod, iPhone and Apple TV Community!

Especially check out the ehMac Pro Tips section!

* * *
Updated 2:51pm Central - thanks Chas_m!
Updated 8:50pm Central - thanks tilt, mkolesa, Ottawaman, HowEver, chewy and boukman!

chewy Jun 11th, 2009 03:28 PM

You should also get your friend to install VLC. If read/write access to an NTFS partition is needed, install the ntfs-3g macfuse package.

chas_m Jun 11th, 2009 04:28 PM

Two, sorry FIVE, thoughts:

1. It's just a matter of personal opinion, but I like to set users up the way Apple intended, ie no telling them "here's where I put the Dock" or stuff like that. They should at least START by doing things the way Apple wants, they can develop their own tastes later when they get more savvy.

2. I find your "step 8" absolutely bizarre. It's very reassuring to a new user to know that their hard drive is okay because it's visible and clickable.

3. Step 9 is very good, except that you need to tell them NEVER to rename the house folder except in the ONE safe way Apple (as of Leopard) finally implemented. Doing it any other way will spell LOST DATA.

4. In step 10, do NOT mention torrenting programs. Again, let's start them off as honest users and encourage them to buy the songs, videos and software they will use. It's much more important for the Mac platform to have mostly-ethical users, as we have a smaller pool of developers and have to work harder to keep them attracted to the platform.

5. There's no need for a new user to start bloating up the hard drive with all kinds of shareware and other programs (apart from the very good suggestions in Step 1). AFTER they've learned the basic Mac OS X apps and other great programs that are already ON their computer, THEN they should start exploring the larger world.

CubaMark Jun 11th, 2009 04:35 PM

Heh - okay - I'm good with the VLC, I use it every day. As for the ntfs -3g thingy... man, I've been using computers since before most people on this board were born, and I have no idea what that's all about... maybe writing to Windows network partitions...? ;)

CubaMark Jun 11th, 2009 04:44 PM

Chas, thanks for the input :)

I get what you mean - but I have come across so many switchers in the past couple of years who are still running with the default dock configuration, and who are completely lost when an application suddenly goes "poof!". I figure it's best to train them how to modify the dock from the get-go. But that's *my* logic ;)

#8 is bizarre? :D God, for me it's essential.... Maybe it comes from years of training Windows users on Macs. I see "explore the hard drive" as super-dangerous for early users (as you say, no renaming of Home folder), and Windows users who are used to the C:\ drive hierarchy always want to go exploring (and moving, and "cleaning up"). Once you're in the Mac environment, if Command-N gives you the "Home" folder, then why *does* the average user need to get into the HD at all? For me, having the HD icon on the desktop is just another place to drag-and-drop by mistake files and folders that they lose. Or maybe it's my OCD about keeping the root level of the HD clean...?

Torrenting: Right. I guess it was on my mind due to the "Lost Application Folder" thread that appeared here recently.

Thanks for those - I'll update the original post as we go along. Keep 'em coming, folks!

tilt Jun 11th, 2009 08:44 PM

Step 10 - Installing applications - what about software that does not come with an installable package? I mean those that you just drag and drop into the Applications folder?


mkolesa Jun 11th, 2009 09:29 PM

very impressive! that's the kind of thing it would take days to compile...

i do agree about the HD though (sorry chas!). for me it spells trouble and it's better to teach some good file management from the start so whenever i've instructed someone i always say to click the blue smiley face in the dock to bring up the hierarchy (having already gone through finder permissions as you've suggested).

i know what you're saying about the default dock placement but i prefer mine on the bottom, albeit hidden and with magnification, so that i can keep the right edge of the desktop free for other things (backup HD, ichat, reduced itunes window, etc.)

Chas is also right that it's wise to mention that any folders that are already there should not be messed with, even if it's only renaming... as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

4g. rather than dragging apps in and out of the dock which always seems risky to me (what if it's dropped someplace accidentally?), i always recommend launching an app then right clicking it in the dock if you want to keep it there permanently, or right clicking one you want to get rid of...

i'll keep thinking!

Ottawaman Jun 11th, 2009 09:36 PM

May I copy and share your "TIP SHEET" CubaMark?

HowEver Jun 11th, 2009 09:38 PM

Um, aren't you a little busy for this?

Oh, and I added your tips and chas_m's reply to the stickied ehMac links, tips and support thread, above:

chewy Jun 11th, 2009 10:35 PM


Originally Posted by CubaMark (Post 834429)
Heh - okay - I'm good with the VLC, I use it every day. As for the ntfs -3g thingy... man, I've been using computers since before most people on this board were born, and I have no idea what that's all about... maybe writing to Windows network partitions...? ;)

If you're sharing a hard drive partition with a Windows computer, OS X can only read from that partition :) It won't be able to write any new files to that partition. ntfs-3g for OS X allows you to use a different driver so that your Mac can read and write to that partition. It also lets you format hard drive partitions for Windows (NTFS) thru Disk Utility. It doesn't sound like you need to worry about this anyways, so I'd leave it off the list.

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