Inside the mind of a Mac newbie

by Giles Turnbull

Remember my open letter to my brother? He was leaving full time employment and setting out as a freelance, and wondered whether to stick with familiar Windows or buy himself a Mac. I wrote an opinion - you can guess what I recommended - and I'm pleased to say that he picked a Mac in the end.

So now he has a second-hand G4 iBook (purchased from a reliable source). Naturally I told him to ask me anything he wanted to know, and I'd try my best to help out. I thought it would be interesting to keep a record of the things he asked me during the first week or so of use.

As it turned out, he needed my help much less than I expected, and only needed to ask me a handful of questions. Not all of them were things I expected, but I think they're an interesting peek into the mind of a first-time Mac user...

Q: I'm missing my right-click. How can I do that?

A: You got a spare two-button mouse lying around? Just plug it in.

Q: Yeah but the wheel won't work will it?

A: Just plug it in.

Q: Ooooh, the wheel works too. Great!

Q: How do I make that little row of icons disappear?

A: That's the Dock. Look for the blue Apple in the top-left of the screen - that's the Apple menu. Click on it. You'll see a Dock sub-menu...

Q: Got it. Aha. Dock. "Turn on Hiding." Gotcha.

Q: How do I make a window expand to fill the screen?

A: Hmm, this works differently on Mac OS. The green widget in the top left of every window will expand it, but not always to fill the whole screen. Depends on the app, the content of the window, and luck. Play around with it and see what happens.

Q: Why does clicking the red blob not quit the app?

A: Historically, Mac applications tended to use multiple windows. In many cases the tools would have a window of their own, the document a window, the preferences another one, and so on. So it became a general rule that all windows could be opened and closed independently, and that closing one meant just that - all it did was close the window. Closing the application was a different command. So it's a good idea to get into the habit of using Command+Q when you've finished with an application, to quit it completely. All running apps consume RAM, and since you've only got 512MB to play with, you'll be wanting to keep as much of it free as possible for running the OS.

Q: A couple of webmail applications I use (Lotus Notes based) seem not to work in Safari at all well...

A: Hmmm. Been a looooong time since I had to do anything with Lotus Notes, web-based or otherwise. I suggest you download Firefox and see if that's any better.

Q: I need to think about a back up solution.

A: Yes, you do. Storage disks are cheap nowadays, I think you need to buy one as soon as you can. As much space as you can afford. Don't worry about getting software with it - I think either Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper will provide you with the kind of backup you need.

What questions have Mac newbies asked you?


2005-12-02 10:52:05
Lotus Notes Web mail (Domino R5) works
With the latest versions of Safari and Java, Lotus Notes Webmail is usable.
2005-12-02 12:28:04
Maximize the Window...
The most asked question that I get from switchers that I'm involved with is, "how do I maximize the window to fill the screen?" Personally I don't like any window to fill the screen, but I guess many users from MS do. Safari is the most asked about because it does not fill the screen. Even after resizing it, the next time it may not fill the screen. You would be amazed by how many people think that the Mac is not worth it because of this.

My answer to them is to install Firefox.

So far, none of the users I deal with have wanted to switch back to Windows after two months of usage.

2005-12-02 12:37:01
How do I maximize a window
I'm always surprised how few mac users know this (although it's not exactly obvious) If you hold down alt (option) and click on the green blob it maximises the window instead of zoom to fit.

That said testing it has resulted in mixed outcomes, some apps do and some don't. In system 7 and os 8 and 9 it was much more reliable. But works with mail app, not with text edit. it seems to mater if it makes sense to make the window bigger.


2005-12-02 13:26:30
How do I maximize a window
Blimey, I didn't know about that Option-click thing. Top tip, Marc!
2005-12-02 13:35:36
mouse tracking problems
i'm a recent semi-switcher (still have my xp rig). love OS X (quicksilver should be built-in), but the mouse tracking drives me nuts. on xp, it's smooth as butter - but something about the speed/acceleration settings on OS X just doesn't work. i've tried steermouse, imousefix, etc. and can't quite get things to work right.
2005-12-02 13:54:54
Maximize the Window...
If you must expand the window to fit the screen, just drag the bottom right corner.
2005-12-02 13:55:35
Switching e-book
You might try this: I think it's an excellent resource for any switcher. Disclaimer: I wrote it. ;-)


2005-12-02 14:02:45
Maximize the Window...
I have a windows friend who bought an ibook and the zoom thing was a major issue, then again, on a 10x7 ibook, it is a major thing. BTW, the option trick does nothing, the zoom button has the same behaviour on 10.4.3 for me regardless of whether any key is pressed. Yes, Mail will full screen. Itunes does its alternate floater-window thing. Safari will maximize to the height of the screen accomodating the width of the page viewed and respecting the dock. I guess Apple is trying to be context sensitive and respect users of their 30" cinema display, maybe a game in which no one wins.
It would be nice if laptop users got fullscreen out of the zoom button, but those on larger displays got the best-fit behaviour which is what zoom does now. Hey Apple, how about a check box in the display prefs for this?????
2005-12-02 14:12:46
mouse tracking problems
If that's your biggest problem, try different mouse drivers. Many third-party mice come with drivers taht have more controls, and those drivers are usually free to download. Often they'll work just fine with a normal mouse.

I've always liked Kensington's software personally. (But that's partly because I like the hardware it comes with...)

2005-12-02 15:00:46
How do I maximize a window
option-click on the green zoom button doesn't always expand to the whole screen. It depends on the application and maybe the size of your screen. Safari for example on my 22" ACD doesn't expand in the horizontal, just in the vertical and seems to ignore option-click zoom altogether.
2005-12-02 15:03:38
Maximize the Window...
>You would be amazed by how many people think that the Mac is not worth it because of this.

Another case of people learning the Microsoft way and thinking it is the only way. I can always tell a Mac user on a Windows machine because they will be the only ones working with non-full screen windows. Unfailingly Windows users expand every application to fill the screen. It has to be a UI thing though I don't know what it is. To me having an application fill the screen is an inconvenience on Windows as well as the Mac.

Anyone have an explanation?

2005-12-02 16:42:59
mouse tracking problems
I had the same problem -- I thought I knew how to use a mouse until I tried it with the iBook. I ended up downloading Microsoft's Intellimouse drivers for OS X and that helped a bit. Just google for 'em.
2005-12-03 00:14:52
Gruber says it’s because click-through is default on Windows:
2005-12-03 00:27:08
Maximize the Window...
They are unconsciously trying to get the menu bar to the top of the screen.
2005-12-03 04:42:22
iBook+19" LCD

When using my iBook with a 19" LCD - is it possible to 'turn-off' the iBook's screen?



2005-12-03 09:22:57
Right Click Dock
How about following 'how to right click', and how to set up dock with 'right-click' the bar thingy on the dock :-)

And btw, just how do you close the last window in a Windows app without Quitting it?

2005-12-03 10:10:44
Maximize the Window...
>Safari is the most asked about because it does not fill the screen. Even after resizing it, the next time it may not fill the screen.

The procedure for setting up a default window is the same in Safari as for the rest of the OS: Open a fresh Safari window, resize it, show/hide toolbars, etc. Close the window. Future Safari windows will look like that.

2005-12-03 10:14:21
iBook+19" LCD
I don't think that iBooks are designed to do this, but there is a procedure for PowerBooks, so you could try it.

Hook up your external monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Make sure everything works. Close the computer, wait for it to go to sleep. After 5-10 seconds, hit a key on the external keyboard. The computer should wake up with the internal screen, etc. off.


2005-12-03 10:21:36
That's a great article. Thank you for it.
2005-12-03 11:09:18
right click
i hope you told him that you could ctrl + click on an object to make it seem like a "right click" in ms.
2005-12-03 11:24:12
right click
I did, but to him (and many other people, me included), one hand on the mouse + one hand on the keyboard is nothing like as useful as being able to right-click with one hand on the mouse.
2005-12-03 11:29:36
Maximize the Window...
There must be some weird psychology going on here because I was the same way. Previously as a (mostly) windows user, I would have everything fullscreen, with the exception of file explorer.

Then I went from windows to linux at work and mac at home and slowly changed how I worked so that everything isn't full screen in both OSs.

Now I think it is weird, and inefficient even, to have windows full screen. This is coming from a person that has never been a non-mac-expose user, however.

I think there is a lot to what someone else posted, people are subconciously trying to get the menus at the top of the screen.

2005-12-03 12:15:41
How do I maximize a window
I've been a Mac user since '88, and of the three operating systems I have running at home, the Mac gets the most use (such as now, for example).

In all the love I have for OS X, though, this is one of the only two major complaints I have.

I understand that the designers of the GUI wanted users to have a floaty, free environment, but sometimes the locked down form of a Windows GUI is just nicer.

My other complaint is related - it's the Dock. I appreciate that I get more screen real estate by letting the desktop and even app windows occupy the same space as the Dock, but it drives me insane when the Dock won't just stay the heck out of the way.

For people who like the Mac style of window management, great. But I wonder why no one has ever come up with a way to get all the chaos of Mac windows under control?

I like having multiple apps open, but it can be very distracting to have to see the other ones when I'm working on something.

If only there were a way to get all the benefits of working in Mac OS X, with the orderly window management of Windows (and no dock!).

2005-12-03 15:17:16
Maximize the Window...
Or you could save this javascript as a bookmark (it should all be on one line):


I also use this to resize the page to a column when reading lots of badly formatted text:


either keep these in your bookmarks bar or get to them using quicksilver/launcher of your choice

2005-12-03 16:29:08
Maximize the Window...
Thanks for the great Java screen size tip. I saved three presets: "narrow", "normal", and "large" in a bookmark folder named "window", which I put on the right side of the bookmark bar.

One of the best tips for Safari.

2005-12-03 16:43:44
How do I maximize a window
permissionmagazine wrote:
I like having multiple apps open, but it can be very distracting to have to see the other ones when I'm working on something.

I am also a long time Mac user and have the same complaint. Of course you can switch to a different application from the dock using an option-click, which opens only the windows from that application.

I only wish that Apple would provide an option to make this the default mode, and option-clicking would open the new application on top all the others.

There used to be a system patch that did that in OS 9.

Does anybody know by any chance of a UNIX trick to do that in OS X?

2005-12-03 17:47:12

NP. :-)

2005-12-03 17:49:09
Maximize the Window...
no problem. I came across the idea here:
2005-12-03 17:52:06
iBook+19" LCD
I'm not sure if this is what you are looking for but if you are watching a video or something on the other screen and you just want to get rid of the extra light... you can always just turn down the brightness of the main screen (press F1)
2005-12-03 18:23:29
Maximize the Window...
Another solution for Safari is to install the excellent add-on "Saft." It has a feature to auto-zoom all new windows to fullscreen.
2005-12-04 06:19:53
How do I maximize a window
If you are working with an application and want all of the other open applications to disappear, do the following,

Command (Apple) + Option + h

This will hide all of the other open applications, leaving only the application in the foreground.

2005-12-05 05:28:11
I don't always quit apps
I only quit apps when I am almost certain not to use it again for a long time. There is nothing wrong with leaving the apps you use most open all of the time. They may consume a little RAM, but the system manages that just fine and you are never to going to run out thanks to virtual memory. In fact, I tell switchers NOT to quit apps just because they closed the last window.
2005-12-05 06:49:08
How do I maximize a window
I use Desktop Manager:

Gives you virtual desktops. Open separate apps on each desktop. Keeps things nice and tidey.

I personally likethe floating windows in OS X. It allows you to customize apps to your own personal workflow much easier. It also cuts down on contextual menu hell.

2006-01-14 12:27:04
File Management, installing apps
As a current Mac newby myself, I'm finding file management a touch confusing. Everything feels hidden from me, whereas in Windows I could open up no end of folders and pour over endless documents. I feel a bit constrained so far in OS.
Also, installing Apps still feels like a mystery to me, sometimes I get it right and sometimes I don't. For example, Msn messenger always poop's up on the desktop whenever I use it, somehow it doesn't stay in the applications folder when I use it.