The FREE Mac Manual

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Perhaps it’s due to the general popularity of the iPod and iPhone, or a result of their hilarious advertisement campaigns, there’s no denying it – Macs are gaining popularity.

Gone are the days when Macs were only considered valid ‘office’ computers. These days, Macs are the slick icons of the design and music industries — and now they’re also spreading to the general consumer market.

But even though Macs are an overall reincarnation of simplicity and user-friendliness, most people – whether they are computer initiates or have been working with Windows their entire life – need a little help getting started.

Jackson Chung, devoted Mac writer and Assistant Editor on MakeUseOf, decided to do something about it. He immediately retreated to his Apple-cave and has been working tediously on MakeUseOf’s Incredible Mac Manual ever since.

This slick, sixty-odd paged monster is based on Snow Leopard – and tells you everything you need to know about Mac. Jackson supplies you with numerous tips, tricks and free apps. Get the hang of the interface and discover what your Mac is really capable of.

Mac Manual Table of Contents


§2–What’s on your Mac?

§3–Pre-installed Applications

§4–Third-party apps and plugins

§5–Pro Tips

§6–Cheat Sheet

1. Introduction

This Mac manual was written with the beginner Mac user in mind. It was intended to help recent Switchers learn more about the Mac operating system, to expose them to the best free applications, to extend their productivity and to assist them with day-to-day procedures by revealing useful tips and tricks from seasoned Mac users.

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If you are a Switcher, this ebook will prove to be incredibly useful as it starts from the very beginning — introducing the applications that come bundled with every Mac, their functions and how to use them. Once you’re familiar with what your Mac has to offer and how you can make the best out of it, we’ll begin to talk about plugins and third-party applications which will further enhance your workflow.

Along the way, I will share the Mac help tips learnt over the years after I switched to a Mac, providing you with first hand experience, sharing the mistakes I made so that you do not need to go through them yourself.

I genuinely hope that this ebook will make your transition to Mac a smooth one.

2. What’s on your Mac?

Some Switchers will buy a Mac without knowing what it is actually capable of doing. Sure, you might have heard that a Mac will help with creativity and/or productivity. However, your creativity or productivity isn’t going to skyrocket the moment you turn on your newly-bought Mac. You’ll need to know how it works in order to make the most out of your purchase.

So let’s return to the basics. I will begin with some of the applications that come bundled with every new Mac, explain their functions, how to use them and where to find them.

2.1 Finder

In Windows, if you need to view the contents of your hard disk, thumb drive, CD or DVD, you’ll would probably double-click on My Computer. In other words, you’re using Windows Explorer.

Finder is the Mac-equivalent of Windows Explorer. It allows the user to view the contents of local drives, networked drives, optical drives, portable drives, folders, files and so on. Think of it as a store General Manager — always on, always there, watching over everyone. Finder manages applications, files, disks and devices on your Mac.

There are 3 components to the Finder. These are probably the most obvious to a new Mac user:

• The dock

• The menu bar

• The desktop and Finder windows

You can find a representation of the Finder in each of these locations.

The smiley-faced blue icon on the dock:

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The Finder menu bar item:

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The Finder window:

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The dock

The dock is undeniably one of the main attractions when a Switcher starts to use a Mac. I remember the days when the dock’s ‘magnify’ function was on by default. Every time I walked into an Apple store, I’d roll the mouse pointer over the dock icons and watched the dock icons swell up and shrink.

But the dock is so much more than just eye candy. It’s an ever-accessible venue where your frequently-used applications can call “home”.

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The dock is divided into 2 sections by a broken line. The left section of the Dock houses your applications. Running applications are represented by a blue dot under them. The right section may be filled with anything, from images to bookmarks and even folders. Since OS X Leopard, these folders appear as “Stacks” and they spring up to reveal their contents. The number of items on the dock is virtually limitless — it will automatically adjust its size to accommodate.

To add an application to the dock, simply click and drag it to a desired position, then let go.

To remove an application from the dock, drag it off the dock and let go – it will disappear into a cloud of smoke – poof!

The dock can also be housed on the left or right hand side of the desktop. To change its position, click on the Apple icon in the menubar, select Dock and ‘Position on Left/Right’.

Dock Quick Tips

To quickly change the size of the dock, place the cursor over the broken line which separates the left and right section of the dock, click and drag up or down to resize.

To quickly hide the dock, press Command + Option + D.

The menu bar

The menu bar is that long bar located at the top of the screen. From left to right, it houses the Apple icon, application menus, menu bar applications, system icons, the time and finally, Spotlight.

One of the things that you must realize is that the Mac’s menu bar is dynamic. The menu bar will change to display the menu of the foremost application or whichever application that was last used.

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As you can see from the screenshots above, when Finder was the main application, the menu bar displayed its menus. As soon as I switched over to Pages (word processor, part of the iWork office suite), it dynamically changed to present Pages’ menus. The active application is always displayed on the left, directly next to the Apple icon.

On the extreme right of the menu bar, you’ll find the relevant system icons i.e. Airport status, Bluetooth status, displays, sounds level, languages, battery level (portable Macs only) and Spotlight.

As I mentioned earlier, there are certain applications that sit on the menu bar, so termed “menu bar applications”. I’ll elaborate on that when we get to the section about third-party applications.

The desktop and Finder windows

The Finder controls the desktop in such a way that it will display any connected devices: hard drives, networked drives, portable drives, iPods, CDs or DVDs and disk images.

You can easily customize the desktop to print the amount of disk space available/used, the number of files in a folder, the size of an image file, etc.

Simply right-click on the desktop, select ‘Show view options’ and check the box next to ‘Show item info’.

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The Finder windows are what pop up every time you double-click on the hard disk icon on the desktop. These windows let you browse your Mac and view files, folder contents, launch installed applications and gain access into system files and utilities.

On the left of the Finder window lies the sidebar. Generally, the sidebar hosts a list of attached devices, networked drives, a customizable list of places/locations on your Mac and a slew of quick search terms that can easily help you to find your files.

If you are connected to a network with Windows PCs or other Macs, they will appear in your Finder sidebar under ‘Shared’.

The sidebar is customizable. You can drag anything you like onto the sidebar for easy access.

Likewise, you can also remove any of the sidebar items to prevent them from showing up. Just click and hold, then drag them off the sidebar.

Finder Quick Mac Tip

Your Pictures, Movies, Music, Documents and Download folders are located within your Home folder.

Using Finder

Just like Windows Explorer, Finder can be used to inspect file properties i.e. sizes, modified or created dates and so on.

There are several ways to do this.

Get Info

Right-click on the file and choose ‘Get Info’ from the contextual menu.

The Get Info window will appear, showing you the file’s details as well as providing you a chance to label it with a color, lock the file to prevent deletion, select the default application for that particular type of file and control user permissions.

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You can also accomplish this by clicking the file once and pressing Command + I. Not to mention, you can open an unlimited number of Get Info windows for multiple items, they will automatically align themselves next to each other.

Column view

When in a Finder window, you can easily reveal a file’s basic properties by changing the view mode to ‘Column’.

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Finder Quick Tip

To change the view mode within a Finder window, press:

• Command + 1 for Icon view

• Command + 2 for List view

• Command + 3 for Column View

• Command + 4 for Cover Flow view


If there is ever a need to check the details of more than one file individually without manually opening a Get Info window each time, there’s Inspector.

Inspector is basically a ‘Get Info’ window that dynamically updates to show you the file properties of every file that you click on. This sidesteps the issue of having too many Get Info windows. Using Inspector, you get one Get Info window that changes the instant a new file is selected.

There are 3 ways to invoke the Inspector.

• Pressing Command + Option + I

• Right-click a file, hover the cursor over ‘Get Info’, press the Option key and watch as ‘Get Info’ changes to ‘Show Inspector’

• With Finder in focus (the frontmost application), click on the File menu, hover on ‘Get Info’, press the Option key and again, it will change to ‘Show Inspector’

Quick Look

First introduced in OS X Leopard, Quick Look was a breakthrough feature. It would allow a user to preview the contents of any supported file instantly. Quick Look has managed to change the way most Mac users preview their files. And in Snow Leopard, several new features have been added to Quick Look’s arsenal.

Conventionally, if one needed to view a document, for instance a PDF file, they would have to double-click on the file to launch Preview or Adobe Acrobat in order to browse through the PDF.

Now, all a user needs to do is hit spacebar while the PDF file is highlighted and Quick Look will pop up with a preview, instantly.

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The same technique applies to audio/video files, documents, images, mail attachments, etc.

In Snow Leopard, Apple added the ability to Quick Look documents and files without triggering a Quick Look window. Instead, file icons are now displayed in high resolution (up to 512 pixels) and are true to their content.

Hovering the cursor over documents supported by Quick Look triggers specific controls.

In the screenshots below, the file’s icon has been enlarged almost to the maximum. As you can clearly see, it is not a generic Pages icon but rather a true reflection of the content within the document. Using the right and left controls that appear at the bottom, I can literally flip through the document without launching Pages.

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Still the same document, showing a different page. Remember, this is a file icon.

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Here is another example of Quick Look previewing a video file within its file icon in Finder.

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It is seriously a revolutionary and powerful technique of previewing files without launching their associated applications, saving you precious time and allowing you to get on with your work.

Quick Look Quick Tip

You can preview videos from its file icon. While it is playing, press Spacebar and a Quick Look window will open, providing you with a larger preview.

2.2 Spotlight

Spotlight is Mac’s innate search engine. To invoke Spotlight, all you need to do is click on the magnifying glass icon in the top-right corner. Spotlight searches and returns the results in real time.

When idle, it will index the entire computer; the process is represented by a dot in the center of Spotlight’s magnifying glass icon. During this time, your Mac may seem to respond sluggishly but rest assured that it is only temporary until the process of indexing is complete. Spotlight will also start to index if there is a sudden influx of new files. Although you may hear whirring noises, this is absolutely normal — it takes additional CPU power to index a lot of files and the fan will kick in to cool down your Mac.

Spotlight Quick Tip

To bring up the Spotlight search field, press Command + Space.

Using Spotlight

Spotlight is a great way to search for files quickly. Besides that, Spotlight will also find Address Book contacts, iCal events, search through emails, PDFs, media files and applications. As long as you have a rough idea of what to look for, type in a search term and watch as the results come to life and narrow down to your possible target files.

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Spotlight categorizes search results based on file type. If you prefer not to have Spotlight show certain types of files or locations, you can easily set this in Spotlight’s Preferences (System Preferences -> Spotlight).

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In the ‘Search Results’ tab, you may customize the results by order of appearance and even choose not to display results from certain applications.

In the ‘Privacy’ tab, you may enter locations where you do not want Spotlight to search. To add a location, press the plus button and browse to the location you want to keep private.

Advanced Searching

Searching for filenames may be sufficient for most people but Spotlight is innately so powerful that it would be a shame not to share these advanced searching tips.

The tips that follow have not been documented by Apple and are therefore incomplete.

Searching for a specific filetype

Using the syntax kind:, it is possible to narrow the search specifically to images, music, PDF, Word documents, Pages documents, text, bookmarks, history, mail, ZIP files, etc.

For example, to quickly find my Summer ’09 PDF amongst all the mail I have with the same title, all I need to enter is ‘kind:pdf summer’ and Spotlight would have found the file for me.

Search by metadata

All files store metadata — simple file descriptions embedded into them but not clearly stated in the file name. For example, a Composer or Artist name are metadata that Spotlight can effortlessly search for.

Let’s say I want to play a song from John Mayer’s ‘Heavier Things’ album. All I need to do is invoke Spotlight by pressing Cmd + Spacebar and enter ‘album:heavier things’

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If I wanted to search for all the songs in my library by Bach, I’d simple enter ‘composer:bach’

There are heaps of other metadata search syntaxes that are available but again, they’re not documented so finding out about them is more or less a game of trial and error.

Here are a few more syntaxes:

• bitrate: Bit Rate

• by: Song Artist

• codec: Media Codec

• composer: Song Composer

• genre: Genre

• height: Image height in pixels

• width: image width in pixels

• ISO: Image ISO

• aperture: Image aperture

• to: Recipient

• from: Sender

• subject: Mail Subject

• date:mm/dd/yyyy Date sent or received

Using operators

Operators like > and < as well as – come in very handy when searching within a range of dates and other attributes.

If I needed to look for email messages received after 1st July 2009, I would enter:>

kind:mail date:>7/1/2009

As you can see, multiple search syntaxes may be used in tandem to narrow down the search even further.>

If you’d like to see all the images taken between 10 January 2009 and 30 March 2009, enter:

kind:image date:1/10/2009-3/30/2009

These are only a few ways to utilize the powerful search capabilities within Spotlight.

Launching Applications

Spotlight has seen dramatic improvements over the last few releases of OS X. In the course of that, launching applications became so much simpler.

Invoke Spotlight by pressing its hotkey, Command + Spacebar. Type the first few letters of the application you wish to launch and Spotlight would have found it for you. The more frequently you launch an application with Spotlight, the quicker it will be fetched and possibly ranked at the top.

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3. Pre-installed Applications

This section will briefly touch on several cool and useful built-in applications that everyone who owns a Mac should be introduced to.

Buying a brand new Mac comes with several benefits. iLife comes bundled with every new Mac and that’s always something to acknowledge. One particular component of iLife is used everyday, all over the world. That’s iTunes.

3.1 iTunes

iTunes is Apple’s multifunctional media player. But it doesn’t end there, iTunes also plays host to the infamous iTunes Store for songs, TV shows and movies; not forgetting App Store, the holy grail for iPhone and iPod Touch users.

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Not everyone will be satisfied with iTunes and there will always be a small group of users who are, for lack of a better term — rebellious. For those users, several alternative Mac media players are available — Songbird is one of them.

When using alternative music players, keep in mind that syncing compatibility may be an issue. You may not be able to sync music to your iPod or iPhone if an iTunes library doesn’t exist.

However, if you’re looking for a sleek and effortless way to organize your music, TV shows, movies, audiobooks, podcasts and applications for your iPhone and iPod Touch — then iTunes is the perfect solution. Its unique interface is unrivaled in terms displaying large music libraries; and because of that, the task of organizing with iTunes is a breeze.

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For more information about iTunes, visit MakeUseOf to download The BIG Book of iTunes with cool tips and tricks to juice up your iTunes experience.

3.2 Apple’s Productivity Suite

Many people often say that using a Mac will boost your productivity. It’s not just a load hot air. Using a Mac will indeed make you more aware of your work, and less of your computer — if used properly.

By placing a lot of unimportant detail and notifications out of view, you are then more focused on the task at hand. Besides that, Apple has written several great applications that go so well with each other, it’s unbelievable. These apps deal with your email, schedule and contacts; they’re known as Mail, iCal and Address Book and they all work hand in hand to provide you with the most seamless user experience you can find in any operating system.


If you haven’t used Mail before, don’t be afraid to dip your feet in. Mail is so intuitive and very simple to use. After setting up, it logs into your mail account and downloads all your mail to your Mac. There are several advantages to this. First, you can have offline access to your mail. Second, you are able to use Apple’s Quick Look technology to preview your attachments without launching Microsoft Word or any other associated applications.

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On the left, you have a list of accounts that Mail is currently managing. Smart Mailboxes that have been created by using specific search terms and any RSS feeds will also be displayed here.

Mail’s Setup Assistant makes it incredibly easy to add your IMAP or POP email account.

Here’s a quick run through of how to set up a Gmail account in Mail.

1. Before starting, make sure to enable IMAP from your Gmail settings. For step by step instructions, please read Gmail’s support article.

2. Launch Mail. If you’re doing this for the first time, the Setup Assistant will run automatically. If not, select Preferences from the File menu.

3. In the ‘Accounts’ tab, click on the plus sign on the bottom left hand corner.

4. The Setup Assistant will now guide you to add a new email account. Simple enter your email address and the password then hit ‘Continue’.

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The Setup Assistant is smart enough to automatically detect your email provider and account type in the case of Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo accounts.

If you use a Google Apps account and have a customized email address, the following page will be presented to you, where you are able to fill in your account details.

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Admittedly, depending on the speed of your internet connection and the amount of emails you have, it will take some time to download and store all of your mail and their attachments.

Like I said before, the operating system will not show unimportant details but if you’d like to be aware of the downloading progress, open up the Activity Viewer from the Window menu or hit Command + 0.

What gives Mail the advantage over other desktop mail clients is the well thought out integration between iCal and Address Book.

Mail analyzes the email content for addresses, names and phone numbers as well as dates and times. Any data that is detected will be surrounded by broken lines when you hover the cursor over them.

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Right click on an address or telephone number to automatically create a new contact or add them to an existing contact.

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If an email contains dates, times and keywords like “tomorrow”, “next Tuesday”, Mail will detect them and allow you to create an iCal event without launching iCal.

Look what happens when I receive an email inviting me for a game of squash:

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Mail detected the keyword “8pm” from the email and that allowed me to add that in my iCal schedule. All of the field were filled automatically by Mail.

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And finally, here’s the event in iCal. Notice how easy it was done?

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If you’ve dealt with to-do applications or time-management software in the past, you’ll be amazed at how easy iCal is to use.

This is iCal’s main window and interface. On the left, the sidebar lists all the different calendars you have for personal use, work, projects and subscriptions. To add new calendars, click on the ‘add’ button on the bottom left corner.

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You can easily toggle the calendars to display only the ones you want to see at any given time by checking the box next to it.

You can also switch between Day, Week and Month views (in order of increasing detail).

iCal Quick Tip

To delete an event, select it and press the ‘delete’ button on your keyboard.

If you currently use Gmail and Google’s Calendar service, you can effortlessly integrate iCal into the mix (OS X 10.5 and higher), allowing you to edit your Google Calendars directly on your desktop. Here’s how:

1. Launch iCal and enter its Preferences by clicking on the iCal menu -> Preferences, or you could hit Command + comma

2. Click on the Accounts tab

3. Click on the Add button on the lower left corner

4. Enter your Gmail address and the password

5. Click ‘Create’ and you’re done!

If you are a Google Apps user and have a customized email address, you can still use iCal.

1. Enter your customized Google Mail username and password, as shown below

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2. This is the additional step. Type in your full email address as the username, fill in the password and make sure that the server address is set to “

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3. iCal will verify your credentials and if it is successful, your Google Calendars will be displayed.

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For further instructions or help with troubleshooting, visit Google’s support page.

Like I’ve said before, Mail, iCal and Address book are all integrated and intertwined with each other. Why does this matter? Well, it makes creating and sharing events with your friends and family a breeze.

Let’s go through a simple example. Say, I’d like to organize a picnic with some of my close friends. All I need to do is double-click on a suitable date. iCal will then let me fill in the details of the event:

Now say, I want to email my friends to let them know about it — iCal will do it for me automatically if I add them as invitees.

Click on ‘Send’ and each invitee will receive an email just like this:

How simple was that?

Actually, that example had several prerequisites, one of them includes setting up Address Book.

Address Book

If you own an iPhone, Address Book shouldn’t be new to you. Every time you connect your iPhone, your contacts and their details are automatically synced.

Address Book is your personalized contact manager. You can use it to store phone numbers, email addresses, IM handles, birthdays, home addresses, and then assign a picture to be used for their caller ID on your iPhone.

To select the fields you want to use, enter its Preference and click on the Template tab. From there, you are able to customize the entire template — add, arrange and preset those fields to your liking.

On the leftmost column, Address Book displays any contact groups you have. To create a contact group, press the ‘Add’ button below the column.

Name your newly-created group and start dragging contacts in.

Having ‘groups’ is a really easy way to manage your contacts. You can also use ‘groups’ as a mailing list. When composing a group email, just type in the name of your group in the Recipient field and Mail will automatically add every contact from that group.

Address Book Quick Tip

You can set a contact as your own by adding a new contact, fill in the appropriate fields. When you’re done, click on the glowing blue ‘Edit’ button. Then, click on the Card menu -> Make this my card.

So those are just a few things you should know about Mail, iCal and Address Book. They’re work very well together, really simple to use and can easily integrate into your daily life.

3.2 Utilities

Every operating system will have its unique set of system utilities. Apple’s utilities are located in the Utilities folder [/Application/Utilities]. Within that folder, you will find many useful tools that can help you with a variety of task. However, I’d like to showcase two which I think will come in handy.

Activity Monitor

Activity Monitor is akin to Window’s Task Manager. It displays a list of every running application and background process. Alongside that, it will also display their CPU and RAM usages. Using this utility, you can easily identify applications that have halted or aren’t responding and take action accordingly.

Below the list of processes, Activity Manager also displays CPU activity, System Memory usage, Disk activity and usage as well as Network activity; divided across several tabs.

Just by looking at the list of processes, you can roughly gauge your system’s performance and tell the cause of a slowdown by observing the CPU usage of specific processes. Unresponsive applications are labelled in red and they can be terminated by pressing the large ‘Quit Process’ button at the top. Bear in mind that any unsaved work will be lost if an application is forced to quit.

In the past, I’ve found that some unresponsive applications may be unfrozen by sending either a ‘Hangup’, ‘Interrupt’ or ‘Kill’ signal. Select the application in question and click on the View menu, then ‘Send Signal to Process’ and select Hangup, Interrupt or Kill. For more information on frozen applications and reviving them using Activity Monitor, visit this article: Macnifying OS X: Learning To Utilize Activity Monitor on Mac

Activity Monitor is also a great tool to judge if your Mac has sufficient memory in order to perform efficiently. If you often suffer from the “Spinning Wheel of Death” then it’s a good idea to use Activity Monitor to confirm your worries.

When the physical memory (or more commonly known as RAM — Random-access Memory) is full and needs to unload information to the hard disk, the procedure is known as a Page Out. The opposite procedure is known as a Page In. The less RAM you have, the more pagings will take place. This tremendously slows down your Mac.

Observing the Page Out/In values in Activity Monitor is an easy way to gauge if you have sufficient RAM. If these values grow right in front your eyes, it’s a clear sign to add more memory.

In the screenshot above, my Mac has transferred 40.9MB in Page Outs. This value is still within decent range, considering that I’m running several memory-intensive applications like Safari and Pages; not to mention operating for more than 4 days without shutting down.

Activity Monitor Quick Tip

If you notice that your Page Out value is several times the amount of physical memory (RAM) installed on your Mac, you should really consider adding more RAM.

Disk Utility

Disk Utility is Mac’s version of Window’s Disk Management tool. It basically helps with formatting, erasing and partitioning drives; verifies them and fixes disk permissions; and is a really easy-to-use CD/DVD image tool.

Because Disk Utility can verify and repair disk permissions, it is therefore a troubleshooting tool as well. If you find that your Mac is acting weird, the absolute first thing to do is launch Disk Utility and repair your disk permissions. Most of the time, this will eradicate the issue at hand.

Disk Utility also allows you to easily create DMGs and disk images from physical CDs or DVDs, hence eliminating the need for third-party applications.

Interesting, Jeffry taught his readers to install Snow Leopard from a USB thumb drive and the only tool he used was Disk Utility. Find out how he did it: Upgrading Mac To Snow Leopard Using USB drive

Not only can Disk Utility create disk images, it can also mount them. Sometimes, the Finder would open an ISO image file as a regular folder in order to allow you to read its contents. However, some ISO files work better if they are mounted as an emulated disk drive. This is where Disk Utility comes in.

Instead of paying $100 for Toast Titanium, you can easily mount any disk image as a physical disk using Disk Utility. Simply drag the ISO file to the source list in Disk Utility and click ‘Mount’. Or click File -> Open disk image.

Create password-protected DMGs

Personally, I have a secret love for Disk Utility because it allows me to create password-protected DMGs. I frequently use passworded DMGs to store sensitive documents but you can use them to store anything that you’d like to keep away from peering eyes.

Disk Utility Quick Tip

Use Disk Utility to create password-protected DMGs to securely protect sensitive documents.

Here is how you can go about making your own password-protected disk image.

1. Click on File ->New -> Blank Disk Image

2. Type in an appropriate name and select the destination

3. Choose from one of the preset sizes or customize your own

4. Select either 128- or 256-bit encryption then click ‘Create’

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You will be then asked to input a password which will be used to encrypt the DMG. Be sure to enter a strong password and uncheck the box next to “Remember password in my keychain” or Finder will automatically retrieve your password and mount the image — essentially rendering the whole point of creating a passworded DMG moot.

Sometimes, I like to throw nosy people a curve ball and store my sensitive documents within two passworded DMGs: I have one password-protected DMG with my files in it. Then, create another DMG, protected with a different password and save the first DMG in it. In short, I have one DMG protecting another DMG. This method is not completely foolproof but it will deter casual intrusions of privacy from a co-worker or roommate.

Disk Utility Quick Tip

Wrap one passworded DMG around another passworded DMG to create a two-layer defense for your sensitive files.

4. Third-party Apps & plugins

In the previous chapter, we’ve taken a step back, broadened our view and explored the basics of what a Mac has to offer. Now, we will proceed to showcase applications (and plugins) to enhance your everyday workflow.

4.1 10 Great Free Apps

Let’s start with some essential applications. These are the apps I can’t live without and use on a daily basis. Most of them are set to start on login, which means that they are always on and ready to rock and roll whenever I call on them.

Depending on what you do with your Mac, you may or may not find this list helpful. Nevertheless, the majority of Mac apps are so easy to install — there’s no reason not to try them out!

iStat Menus

Category: System utilities, menubar app

Remember when I mentioned that OS X intentionally denies you of any unimportant detail? Well, some people actually prefer to know their Mac’s core temperature at all times. Then, there are people who can’t work without knowing the CPU and network activity. Others need to know how much of their memory is free and how much is taken up.

For those people, there is iStat Menus.

iStat Menus is a menubar application and its sole purpose is to allow you to view details regarding the CPU, hard disk, network and temperature. It may be overwhelming for some but for control freaks, there’s nothing better.

Read more about iStat Menus.


Category: File-sharing

Dropbox is a file-sharing, synchronizing and backup solution that is very innovative. It dedicates one folder on your Mac (set as default to ~/Dropbox/) to be synchronized so everything that is dumped into that folder will be uploaded to the Dropbox server and synced across every computer authorized with the same Dropbox account.

The thing I like most about Dropbox is its ease of use. How difficult is it to drop a file into a folder to upload it to the Dropbox server and share?

With its syncing feature, changes to a file are automatically registered without the need to re-upload. That makes it really easy to collaboratively edit a file among several people on different computers (logged into the same Dropbox account).

Read more about Dropbox.

The Unarchiver

Category: Archiving tool, Utilities

Sounds like a great movie title, doesn’t it?

The Unarchiver adds support for RAR, 7Zip, Stuffit, Gzip, Tar, GNU Tar, ACE, CAB and many more file archive formats that would normally stump Mac’s innate archive utility.

It’s fast, too. Extracting a 700MB sequential RAR archive took less than 20 seconds. Depending on the type of processor you have, your results may vary.

Read more about The Unarchiver


Category: Image editor

Skitch is an awesome image editor and screenshot-capture tool as well as a image sharing service, all bundled together in a compact application. In fact, images from this very ebook was put together by Skitch.

It’s great for taking quick snapshots of your screen, adding annotations, drawing arrows and sharing them with your friends and colleagues. You can save your images in different file formats e.g. PNG, JPG, GIF, SVG, PNG, BMP, TIF easily by pulling the “drag me” tab at the bottom of the window.

If you have a built-in iSight, it can also take your picture and allow you to edit it before saving or sending to a friend.

Read more about Skitch.


Category: Clipboard manager, Utilities

Update: Shadow is now known as Stuf and retails for $24.99

By far the best clipboard manager I’ve used to date. It supports multiple clipboards which includes a system clipboard that registers everything that is copied (even images, links and styled text) and an unlimited number of customized clipboards that you are able to share over a network!

Shadow is invoked using a hotkey. You can then browse through everything that was copied to your clipboard, double-click to make it the active object and paste it.

By default, it stores up to 200 recently copied items so your list may get a little cluttered. To cure that, Shadow has a search function.

Read more about Shadow.


Category: Quicktime plugin

Quicktime is great but its Achilles heel is the inability to play anything other than Quicktime Movie files — which is, needless to say, a quintessential feature.

Perian adds support for almost every video and audio format (except for Windows Media Video), bringing Quicktime back to life. For WMV support, there’s Flip4Mac.

Read more about Perian.


Category: File-sharing

Update: Daphnism is no longer available.

I actually have a personal attachment to Daphnism because I helped to develop (or rather just beta-test) this fantastic application. If you are a frequent DivShare user suffering from the death trap that is the flash uploader, this is your panacea.

Daphnism is a desktop client for DivShare’s online file-sharing service. It will allow you to add as many DivShare accounts as you want, upload, download, share file links, edit and delete files from your account — from the convenience of your Mac.

Daphnism is still in beta but the developer and I are constantly working together to fix bugs and add new features.

Read more about Daphnism here: Attain DivShare Nirvana With Daphnism [Mac Only]

Keyboard Cleaner

Category: Utilities

This application will prove to be an invaluable tool for MacBook users. It allows one to clean the keyboard and disregards any keystrokes while the application is running.

The dedicated media control keys will still be recognized. This was implemented out of consideration by the developer, so that you can quickly mute or pause iTunes in case a call comes through.

Read more about Keyboard Cleaner and check out our review: Quickly Clean Your Laptop Keys With Keyboard Cleaner [Mac Only]


Category: Music

It’s not only about work, work, work on a Mac. Playtime is great fun and Bowtie is eye candy while listening to music. It is a theme-able iTunes companion which will display the album cover art on the desktop.

With Growl and scrobbling support, it’s a great way to enjoy and expand your music collection. Bowtie allows you to rediscover your music is style.

Bowtie itself doesn’t contain any themes. Fret not, there is a collection of 11 great free themes.

Read more about Bowtie. And also, Bowtie – Really Cool iTunes Controller for Mac


Category: Instant messaging

Adium is a multi-protocol, customizable, skin-able, extendable, basically everything-able instant messenger. It allows you to connect to almost every popular chat network like MSN, Yahoo!, Jabber, AOL, Facebook, Gadu-Gadu, GTalk and ICQ.

To see what Adium is capable of doing, head over to its Xtras website where you will find just about every plugin, contact list theme, status icon, dock icon and extra sound theme available.

Read more about Adium.

4.2 More applications to discover

There are fewer software for Mac than there are for Windows so don’t be surprised if you favorite Windows program is not available on the Mac platform. There are however, a myriad of great applications for Mac that do just about everything imaginable.

I’ve just shown you 10 of my favorite apps. Now, I’ll attempt to break down most of the available (and free) applications into groups and list down the popular applications for every purpose. Think of it as a crash course in Mac apps.

Let’s get a move on.

Chat & instant messaging

Yahoo Messenger
Desktop chat client for Yahoo!

MSN Messenger
Desktop chat client for the MSN network

A MSN Messenger clone but with more features

A modified clone of iChat

An IRC Client

Chat and VoIP desktop application

A video chat client


Mozilla’s desktop email client

Displays a preview of incoming emails
Read our review: 4 Useful Plug-ins to improve Apple Mail

Notify (no longer available)
Elegant menubar app that notifies you of new emails
Read our review: Notify – An Elegant Gmail New Email Notifier [Mac]

Attachment Scanner
Detects keywords and reminds you to attach files

Google Notifier
Google’s menubar app to inform you about new emails and display reminders regarding upcoming Google Calendar events




Open source web browser

Google Chrome
Lightweight, fast browser


Shiira (discontinued)
Browser developed based on Webkit

Developmental multi-process browser for Leopard
Read our review: Stainless – Google Chrome’s Mac Twin [Mac Only]

Site-specific browser based on Prism

Browser based on Mozilla

Safari plugins

Amazing image browser for Flickr, Google Images, Facebook, Picasa, YouTube, etc.
Read our review: Take A Closer Look At Your Pictures With Cooliris

Adds search suggestions, undo closed tabs and other useful features
Read our review: Safari Search Plugins Showdown: Glims vs Inquisitor [Mac Only]

Advertisement blocker based on AdBlock

Multi-functional Safari plugin that adds a sidebar, quick search and History Flow
Read our review: SafariStand – A Cool Safari Plugin You Should Install

Text Editors

Text editor that is also capable of coding HTML

Easy-to-use rich text editor

Mac OS X version of Sun Microsystem’s productivity suite, OpenOffice

Free productivity suite

Image Editors

Free alternative to Photoshop

Simple open source image editor

Free photo editing software from Google

Powerful photo retouching software

Create screenshots and screencasts

Getting Things Done (GTD)

Centralized note-taking and mobile syncing application

Easy to use to-do application

Fully-featured task-prioritizing application

Another simple to-do application


Fetch artwork, lyrics with this iTunes controller with scrobbling support

You Control: Tunes (last update:March 10, 2009)
iTunes controller and cover art overlay display

Menubar apps that queues songs for scrobbling to

Amazon Album Art Widget
Retrieves album art from Amazon

Displays lyrics on the desktop

5. Pro Tips

Come a long way, haven’t we? In this short ebook, we’ve gone back to basics and slowly made our way up again. We’ve taken a look at two apps that every Mac user should learn to use: Disk Utility and Activity Monitor. We’ve also learned how to set up and integrate Mail, iCal and Address Book into our daily routine.

In this part of the Mac manual, we shall take a quick look through some pro tips. Most of these tips were selected from Apple’s arsenal, I’ve added some of my own and others I’ve gathered from other sources.

I hope that you will learn to utilize these Mac tips and become a better-equipped Mac user.

5.1 All about screenshots

To take a screenshot of the entire screen – Command + Shift + 3

To take sectional screenshot – Command + Shift + 4

To take a screenshot of a window or a menu – Command + Shift + 4 then hit Spacebar; the crosshair will change into a camera. Click to take the screenshot.

Save a screenshot of the screen on the Clipboard – Command + Control + Shift + 3

Save a sectional screenshot on the Clipboard – Command + Control + Shift + 4

5.2 Delete stubborn files

Sometimes Trash refuses to empty because certain files are in use.

In Leopard, hold the Option key while clicking ‘Empty Trash’

In Snow Leopard, securely emptying the Trash does the trick. Hold the Command key, ‘Empty Trash’ changes to ‘Securely Empty Trash.

5.3 Stop applications from starting on login

Applications set to launch on login are listed in System Preferences -> Accounts under the Login items tab.

To stop an application from starting up, select it then click the remove (minus) button

5.4 Merge Safari windows

Sometimes surfing gets a little too cluttered when you have too many Safari windows opened. You can merge them into just one window by going to the Window menu in Safari and selecting “Merge all Windows”.

5.5 Browse through tabs

Pressing Command + Shift + Left/Right arrows lets you scroll through opened tabs in Safari.

5.6 Save a webpage for offline browsing

Find an interesting webpage and would like to save it to later reading? Save it as a PDF to read later. Press Command + P and click the PDF button. Set the file name and destination then click Save.

5.7 Save a bookmark anywhere

Pull the favicon from Safari’s address bar to quickly save a bookmark to that page anywhere, even on your desktop.

5.8 Remember if you’ve saved a file

While working with a document, the red Quit button has a dot in the middle if there is any unsaved work.

5.9 Send a webpage via email

While still in Safari, press Command + Shift + I to instantly compose an email containing the URL of the page you’re currently browsing.

Otherwise, press Command + I to send the entire webpage via email.

5.10 Copy and Paste

To copy, select an item and press Command + C

To paste, press Command + V

To paste and match the formatting of the destination document, press Command + Option + Shift + V

5.11 Display the Keyboard viewer

Sometimes, locating the keystroke for “€” isn’t easy. To find other lesser-used characters easily, use the Keyboard Viewer.

Open System Preferences, click on Languages & Text. The left column, check the box next to “Keyboard & Character Viewer” to activate them. Subsequently, check “Show Input menu in menu bar” for easy access to the Keyboard Viewer.

5.12 Quickly set any application to startup during login

If you find that the application you’re currently using could benefit from launching during login, right click on its Dock icon and select “Options” -> “Open at Login”.

5.13 Create ZIP files

No additional software is necessary. Select all the files you’d like to zip up, right-click on one and select “Compress X items”.

5.14 Close multiple windows instantly

Option click the red quit button to simultaneously close every window by the same application.

5.15 Minimize into Dock icons

Snow Leopard only.

Sick of seeing so many minimized window icons on your Dock? Minimize them into the application’s Dock icon. Click on the Apple icon in the menu bar. Select Dock -> Dock Preferences. Check “Minimize windows into application icon”.

Minimized windows are now sucked into their application’s Dock icons. To view them, invoke Exposé to show all windows. Minimized windows are displayed below the active windows and are separated by a line.

Control-click on each one to bring it back up or Option-click to restore all minimized windows.

5.16 Set your display to sleep instantly

Snow Leopard only.

In addition to invoking Exposé and activating the screen saver, OS X now has the option to set an active screen corner to put your display to sleep.

Go to System Preferences, click on Exposé & Spaces. Under the Exposé tab, choose a corner to turn your display off.

5.17 Quickly navigate between folders

To move up one folder level, press Command + Up arrow.

To delve into a selected folder, press Command + Down arrow.

5.18 Increase the font size (Quickly zoom in/out)

This trick works in almost any application. Press Command + Minus to reduce the font size (zoom out) and Command + Plus to increase (zoom in).

5.19 Save Spotlight searches

If you search for a specific term regularly, for example images with “img” in the file name, you can make Spotlight automatically search for them and place the results in a folder on your desktop.

Following the example, invoke Spotlight and enter the search terms “kind:image img” and click on ‘Show All’. In the Finder window that appears, click on the Save button on the upper right corner. Set an appropriate title and choose Desktop as the destination then click Save.

This folder will automatically update with the search results live.

6. Cheat Sheet

6.1 General

Command + C Copy

Command + X Cut

Command + V Paste

Command + Option + Shift + V Paste and Match Style

Command + Z Undo

Command + Shift + Z Redo

Command + W Close window

Command + Q Quit application

Command + H Hide application

Command + M Minimize window

6.2 Finder

Command + A Select all

Command + I Show ‘Get Info’ window

Command + Option + I Show Inspector

Command + Delete Send to Trash

6.3 Safari

Command + T New tab

Command + N New window

Command + R Reload page

Command + Shift + Left/Right arrow Cycle between tabs in Safari

Command + D Bookmark Page

Command + Option + A Show Activity Window

Command + F Find in page

6.4 Others

Command + N New document

Command + O Open document

Command + T Show font palette

Command + , Preferences

Command + S Save

Command + Shift + S Save As…

Command + P Print

Command + F Find in page

Further Reading:

Mac Manual Published: May 2010


PDF ePub
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