It was 2007 when I got my first Mac. It was so nice and white, but man was it ever hard to use! Where was the “Start” menu I thought? And how the hell are these folders organized? And what is with this strange trackpad with only one button.… ONE BUTTON!? How will I right click to solve all my problems!??? It seriously took me over a year before I could admit to anyone that i had no clue how to use my shiny new MacBook, and even then 95% of my friends had Windows machines, and the 5% that used a Mac were embarrassingly in the same boat as me. Well I’m proud to say that that has now changed. Today, I’m an educated, happy Mac user, and I’m here to share my findings with you.
As I’ve pointed out before, and you can witness first hand in any college class or coffee shop
(or have a look at the numbers themselves) more and more people are introducing Apple products into their computing lives, and for good reason. They’re reliable, aestetically pleasing and easy to use, thats right, easy to use!
Early last year I added a second Apple machine to my roster of goodies, and that’s when I got serious about learning how to use them. I abandoned everything I knew about Windows machines, and OS X Lion had just been released, so I set out on a learning expedition, and a rewarding one at that!
On a daily basis I only use a few applications, as a lot of my work is web based, so I had to make sure my browser did everything I need. For as long as I can remember I used Safari. It has tabbed browsing, and a bookmark bar (just drag the url onto it and BAM! It’s now there, waiting for your beckoned call). But recently I needed something more, so I switched to Chrome. Now Firefox is just as good if not better, but my primary email is Gmail, and I use Google Reader and some other Google apps, so Chrome suited me well, and I’m using it now to write this post.
Next comes my inspiration for this article, Spotlight searches and Alfred. The problem with learning Apple is, once you find your way around the desktop, it all becomes simple and comfortable. You have the Dock, which is always there when you need something, and everything else just seems to work, so people don’t look any further because they don’t feel they need to, when right there, just below the surface, is a realm of goodies that make it not just easier, but way more FUN as well!
I first stumbled upon this quick launch feature by accident, when I hit the Apple key and spacebar together, and a little search window appeared in the top right corner of my screen. I typed inside it, and things started to appear! I quickly realized that I could look for and access anything on my computer from this little window, and from then on, my life has been much better! Go ahead and try it, you can open a file, preview a song, and most importantly, launch any application on your computer from here! Thank me later.
Next comes Alfred.
I discovered Alfred in a post on Lifehacker.com, the logo of a bowlers hat intriqued me. It made me think of askjeeves.com, an old search engive type website that would do its best to answer anything you typed in it. So I Googled Alfred app, and discovered a mass of people who swear by it, and praise it for its time saving abilities and ease of use, and they’re right!
Download Alfred (for free) and within seconds you’ll be Alt-Spacebar-ing your way to anything around you computer. The free version offers users a beefed up version of the Spotlight mentioned earlier, in that it’s a “smart app” and remembers what you use and how often, and arranges results accordingly. The interface is nice and user friendly and the results it comes up with seem to appear amazingly quickly!
When it comes to personalizing Alfred, the possibilities are endless. With the free version you can set ip up to search your local folders for apps, folders, and files, plus browse the web for an abundance of free extensions allowing you to tweet right from Alfred, to add calendar events and so on. When and if you decide to upgrade to the Power Pack for the $30 or so, you will now be able to control your iTunes, search your photos, contacts, the web and so much more with just a couple of clicks!
I’ve just been fiddling around with Alfred for a day or so, but I’ve already forgotten about the Spotlight search just like that!
So to sum it up for anyone who isn’t familiar with these awesome shortcuts;
- Apple key + Spacebar will bring up Apples Spotlight search, helping you to open and find things more quickly
- Download Alfred App to get a similar function as Spotlight, but with more features and capabilities
There are so many great shortcuts and simple ways to get the most out of your Apple computers, and I’ll do my best to share my favorites with you, so check back frequently for more tips!