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I've Switched from Windows, Now What?

by Terrie Miller

Watching my Windows laptop inch toward ruin was unpleasant and frustrating. But the deathwatch was made worse knowing that I probably wouldn't receive a replacement laptop at work. Once I accepted the fact that I'd have to pony up for my own computer, I realized that this dark cloud might have a very nice silver -and- Aqua lining.

Apple laptops had been showing up at work since the first of the year--all of them self-purchased. In large part, the combination of Unix-based OS running on very appealing hardware seemed to be just the remedy for the Windows 98 blues. Even though I'd never spent that much time on a Macintosh before, I was soon unpacking my first computer from Apple--a svelte 12-inch iBook. But since I'm a full-time Web producer in a tough economy, I had to get up to speed ... and fast!

Like that first middle-of-the-night excursion to the bathroom in a dark, unfamiliar house, there was some clumsiness in getting used to the new iBook/Mac OS X environment. In the spirit of "learn from my mistakes," here's the first in a series of articles that documents the things former Windows users need to know when making the switch to Mac OS X. I hope some of these tips will help you get up to speed too.

Right-Clicking and Other Mousing Fun

Related Reading

Mac OS X: The Missing Manual
By David Pogue

A typical Windows user will quickly notice that there's only one mouse button on an Apple machine. Sure you can install a two-button mouse, but if you prefer to use the built-in version, just press the ctrl key while clicking. The ctrl-click combination gives you most of the same options as a right-click in Windows.

If you're using a Mac laptop's built-in Trackpad for the first time, you may notice some erratic effects caused by inadvertently touching the Trackpad. The first is the "epileptic pointer" syndrome: suddenly your pointer is jumping spastically from one part of the screen to another. Just relax--literally. You probably have both thumbs resting on the Trackpad at the same time, and you just need to lift one. Once you're aware of the cause, avoiding the problem soon becomes second nature.

Sometimes you may find yourself typing away when suddenly the focus changes to another area of the screen (I've often noticed this while filling out Web forms). This can be caused by your thumb dragging along the Trackpad at the same time you're typing. It's another case where experience will teach you better habits, but in this case there's a Mac OS X setting that can help. Under System Preferences -> Mouse, turn on "Ignore Trackpad while typing."

Screen shot.
Getting into the Mac OS X system preferences.

Screen shot.
In the mouse options dialog, you can turn on "Ignore Trackpad while typing".

When this option is turned on, Mac OS X will ignore much of your inadvertent mousing.

Keyboard Commands

Though you can be pretty quick with an iBook's Trackpad, you'll probably want to learn some speedy keyboard shortcuts. If you've been using Windows keyboard shortcuts, you're in for some frustration. Maybe some of these tips will help ease the pain.

First of all, the Mac's "Ctrl" key doesn't work the same as in Windows. But you can try using the key with the "cloverleaf" and Apple symbols: the "Command" (Cmd) key. For some of the more common keyboards tasks, Cmd will do the same as Control (Ctrl) does in Windows. For example, Cmd-C, Cmd-V, and Cmd-X do copy, paste, and cut (respectively) under Mac OS X.

Picture of keyboard.
The bottom row of the iBook keyboard. The Command key, with the cloverleaf/apple symbols, does many of the same things as the Control key under Windows... but the Mac also has its own separate ctrl key.

The "delete" key works a bit differently than you might expect also--it functions more like the Windows backspace key. To get a forward-delete text action like the standard delete key under Windows, try fn-delete. I was initially frustrated by trying to press delete to remove highlighted items from the desktop or finder windows; in those situations, try Cmd-delete.

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