Previous Blog Entry Next Blog Entry

My new MacBookAfter a lifetime as a PC user, today I bought a MacBook!  I am both excited and nervous, as literally the last time I used a Mac was in the junior high school newspaper club (oh yeah, you remember those little Apple computers!).  Needless to say, I’ve had enough experience with PCs, troubleshooting, software, tweaking, security-proofing, and speed enhancing that I could probably guide anyone else making the jump from Apple to PCs.  But I am in need of help myself right now!

I will note that I am still the proud owner of an Android phone, and do still support the open development platform in general.  And I’m super peeved that most of our library’s audio books are now inaccessible to me.  Feh.  But…I had it up to here with Windows 7, with HP, and with skeevy Microsoft screwing around with substandard product releases.  So, here I am :)

If you are a Mac person, please either comment below or email/IM/text/whatever me with any tips you have for a newbie Mac owner, particularly one who is used to running literally everything in a PC platform.

“I now have a MacBook as my primary computer – err, help?”

  1. Matthew Says:

    I think everyone should be competent on several platforms and applaud your decision. I find the switch to be similar to using other-handed scissors. If you really need a Windows fix, like to access you library’s audio books, I find VirtualBox,, does the job. Apple has a lot of documentation for switchers here and here’s a 35 minute youtube video, was made for Leopard, but mostly applies to Snow Leopard too

  2. Jerry Yarnetsky Says:

    Congrats! … if you should experience Windows withdrawal you can run Windows on your new MacBook using either commercial products VMWare Fusion or Parallels. The open source Virtual Box (no experience) or Boot Camp (built in for dual booting). Really, you can run about anything on a Mac virtually — I’ve got XP and Ubuntu along with Snow Leopard on mine.

    Chrome is the fastest browser so far.

  3. Kenley Neufeld Says:

    What a treat! Though I used Macs on/off with work for the past 15 years, I too purchased our first Mac last year for the home computer. It was a relatively seamless transition and I love how things seem to be zippy and just work. On my work Mac, I have Windows 7 installed (via Parallels) because the ILS (Horizon) is PC only but aside from that I stick to the Mac side of the machine.

    Though they are cross-platform tools, I use the following on a regular basis: Jing or Skitch for screen capture, Dropbox for file storage.

    Adium for instant messaging. You’ll want to grab Flip4Mac WMV for the occasional Windows Media file. AirFoil is fantastic to push any sound to a stereo or external speakers via wifi. Fluid is great to let you build your own desktop applications. Finally, if you are coder then grab TextWrangler.

  4. Jason Griffey Says:

    Congrats! I don’t think you’ll regret it…it really is the best of all possible worlds, since you can run anything on it.

    Just looking around my Dock to see what programs I use that don’t really have a Windows equivalent….here’s a short list to check out:

    Tweetie on Mac is my fav. Twitter client. I just use the freebie version.
    If you didn’t spring for it, iWork is worth buying JUST for Keynote. It is a great presentation program.
    Couple of things that just come in handy sometimes: Handbrake and Fairmount for when DVD’s start to really tick you off.

    I’ll think of more later!

  5. JenWaller Says:

    I’ve preferred to use a Mac since – no kidding – 1979. I use Windows when I have to. You’ll be glad you’re proficient at both.

    I’m going to second Jason’s suggestion about iWork. I always ran Office on my Macs, but when I got my last laptop I decided I didn’t want to put a MS application on it if at all possible. I switched to iWork, and I haven’t looked back. You can save Pages docs as Word docs. More importantly, Pages will automatically open Word docs. Numbers does the same thing (except for Excel).

    People commonly say they don’t like Macs ’cause you can’t “right click.” You can. Either buy a mouse that will allow it, or hold down the control key when you click using a standard Apple mouse.

    You have a great network of people to ask. Ask away!

  6. I now have a MacBook as my primary computer – err, help … | High technology information Says:

    [...] the original post: I now have a MacBook as my primary computer – err, help … var addthis_pub = ''; var addthis_language = 'en';var addthis_options = 'email, favorites, digg, [...]

  7. footnotegirl Says:

    I started out as a graphic designer before becoming a librarian, so I pretty much started with macs, they were my first computer and I’ve never owned a Windows machine, though I’ve used both Linux and Windows for work and other reasons (visiting friends houses, etc).
    I have to admit that I’m mostly a Mac user nowadays for the ability to allow myself not to have to think too hard about things and just have it work, dammit.
    If you do a lot of writing, I highly suggest a program called Scrivener. It’s absolutely lovely for writing ad only available on the mac.
    I use three different browsers, depending on what I want to do in this order of preference

    I use iChat for instant messaging and have never had a problem with it. I pretty much only use webmail and have never bothered even starting up Mail on my laptop. Same with Twitter.

    Get used to the slightly different finger placement of hitting whirligig+c/x/v whatever instead of ctrl+c/x/v.
    And also no CTRL/ALT/DEL. If you want to force quit a program that’s hanging (it does happen sometimes) you click and hold on the icon in the bar until the force quit option comes up.

    Get Time Machine set up pronto. It is the loveliest effing thing ever in the history of ever. Even better if you have an airport base with a hard drive and it all happens wirelessly.

  8. “I now have a MacBook as my primary computer – err, help?” and related posts « Blog Says:

    [...] View full post on Technology – Google Blog Search [...]

  9. Jim Peterson Says:

    Hey Sarah, I am also on the Mac learning curve, although it appears to be a little smoother than I thought. Since I’ve been using Linux for the past nine years, and OS X is also based on UNIX, the under-hood stuff is quite similar. AND I’ll echo your Micro$oft sentiment with a bullhorn!

    I’ll echo the sentiment about Keynote – WOW! I also use the free TextWrangler for editing HTML and other text docs, but Pages for word processing is as seamless as OpenOffice for that task. Hootsuite is my choice for keeping up in Twitter & Facebook, plus it also has support for other social media like LinkedIn, Facebook Pages,, MySpace & WordPress. Firefox is still my browser of choice, but largely because it will go fullscreen on the Mac (shift-command-F) and Chrome won’t – or at least I haven’t figured it out yet – and the insane list of Firefox extensions.

    Adobe Digital Editions handles most of the e-books available to us. I use the GIMP in place of PhotoShop, RipIt for when I need to take some movie entertainment on the road without lugging the discs, and VLC Media Player to handle nearly any video format.

    One site I’ve found to be very helpful is, a sub-unit of MacWorld magazine. It’s got lots of tips & tricks to help you get familiar with your new Mac.

    I think you’ve made a great choice on your new computer, and I look forward to your next post. And if you have any questions about anything, please feel free to shoot me an e-mail!

  10. Dorothea Salo Says:

    I don’t have much to add to the excellent advice you’ve already gotten, but I’m happy to answer questions by email if you have ‘em.

    Don’t forget to buy a dongle to connect your MacBook to projectors. Fluid may or may not work on Snow Leopard (I have not had great luck with it myself).

  11. Jevvy Says:

    Mac default keyboard shortcuts:

  12. Daniel Says:

    I’ve been a Mac user for a long time. I think you’ll love iLife. iPhoto and iMovie aren’t pro solutions but I really enjoy using them both.

    I use VMware to run Windows (XP) applications. Its usually pretty good unless Windows update is running, in which case, my experience has been you can’t really do anything until it finishes.

    Tweetie and Dropbox are both great recommendations.

    My best tip for newcomers is to use Spotlight. Hit “⌘-Space bar” then start typing the name of the application or document you’re looking for.

    Congrats on the new machine.

  13. Colleen Greene Says:

    I just did the same exact thing, switched to a Macbook a couple weeks ago after a lifetime of PC use. And I too own an Android phone… I love its Google integration and browser speed way too much to give it up for an iPhone.

    I’ve found “Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual (Snow Leopard Edition)”, by David Pogue, to be quite helpful. Although frantic pleas for help on Twitter always get answered quickly and thoroughly.

  14. walt crawford Says:

    Good luck with it (honestly, even though I’m likely to stay a Windows person–but then, I’m *never* likely to own an HP).

    Slightly offtopic, but I’d love to know how JenWaller managed to be a Mac person five years before the first Apple Macintosh came out…

  15. EIleen O'Shea Says:

    Get Parallels and then you can virtually run Windows (7 or whatever). That way you can see stuff in IE 8 or 7 and run any PC apps you need to. Be sure you upgrade the RAM to the max – you can never go wrong there. It’s easy to install and you can buy it from BBEdit is the best HTML/text editor in the world. Transmit for FTP, Snapz Pro for screen captures, and iBiz for tracking your consulting time, and WireTap Studio for capturing audio from any source on your computer. Enjoy!

  16. Angela Rand Says:

    Congrats Sarah! I’m currently a PC user but have vowed that the next computer I buy will be a MAC. Like you I’ve had it with updates, viruses, adware and substandard programs. My MAC friends love their Macs. I was impressed when one of our professors brought his new iMac to the classroom straight from getting it from the UPS delivery truck. Into his car it went and he unpacked it in the classroom and began using it! No windows “updates” !! I won’t buy another PC!

  17. Joe Morgan Says:

    Spaces is your best friend. I hate the fact that Windows doesn’t have it (though I think maybe 7 does?).

    Other tips. . .I would learn a few of the basics of the command line. Mac is a unix system and I’ve found that it is useful especially if you have different profiles (one for work, one for home, etc). Learning how to copy files from one profile to the other can save a lot of time.

    Here’s an odd one: If you turn the volume all the way down, you will still get that super loud BONG when you turn on the computer. But, if you mute it, you won’t get that sound. This is helpful to remember if you run late for meetings. For some annoying reason (probably branding) you can’t turn the sound off altogether.

    Honestly the best thing is that it’s easier to find help since there is less stuff out there clogging up google searches, so solving problems is actually much easier despite the OS being less popular.

  18. Irene Says:

    Hi, we met at your office when I visited SJPL last summer, I also just started using a Macbook. so far I’m mostly using the browser, but find the apple help very useable. I need to learn how to integrate macs on our network, even went to the Apple store genius and they didn’t know…

  19. Scot Colford Says:

    Awesome! I made the switch last year. (Although, I had a 6 month affair with Kubuntu in between long-term partners. Sucks to be the rebound OS.)

    My first suggestions are to
    1. Set up the right click. You don’t want to be pressing control every time you want a context menu.
    2. Embrace Spaces and Expose.
    3. Change your keyboard prefs to use F1, F2, etc. as standard function keys. Use gestures or other shortcuts for that stuff on the keys. Unless you never use function keys. Then just ignore me.
    4. Download Better Touch Tool ( to enhance your awesome new touchpad. You can set up all kinds of gestures and trust me — you’ll never go back.


  20. Robyn Says:

    My best suggestion: don’t think too much. Windows trains you to have to think about how to do something, and with Macs you don’t have to do that. So just quickly try the fastest, easiest thing that occurs to you, and 90% of the time it will work.

  21. Greg Says:

    If you live near a Mac store, take advantage of their in-house classes. I attended them (they were 1 hour over lunch) for iMovie and GarageBand, and they were perfect for getting me up to the “feel-confident-enough-to-start-exploring-on-my-own” level.

  22. David Says:

    I am a long time Mac user, but use Windows and Linux at work. Please ignore the advice about buying Parallels Desktop for your Mac. That is really a poor choice. It may be “slightly” faster than VMWare but VMWare can do SO much more. If you still have your PC, move your Windows partition to VMWare so that you can run your old Windows programs seamlessly on your new Mac. You won’t need a new license or register it again. I love using VMware to test out new software for the library (including Drupal/Wordpress installs, Ubuntu, etc., etc., etc.).

    I also recommend Dropbox but I think you already knew that one.

    I also disagree that Spaces is your friend. I never use it. I never use Expose either. In fact, I turn a lot of that fancy stuff off because I never used it.

    If you already have Microsoft Office on your PC I’d recommend running that virtually in VMWare on your Mac. The speed difference isn’t all that noticeable with Office as it isn’t terribly processor intensive. This way you can avoid buying Microsoft Office for Mac which isn’t honestly that great of a product compared with the Windows version.

    Also, if you know someone with VMWare Workstation let them transfer your Windows partition into a virtual machine for you. That way you can avoid the $40 cost and can download the free VMWare Player instead to run your virtual machine.

    Have fun! :)

  23. Sherri Says:

    I switched to a Mac in 2008 when I needed a laptop for my MLIS. After so many frustrating years with Windows I didn’t want to spend money on one more version (it would have been Vista). I love my Mac. I do have to use Windows for my course work so I run Parallels which works great for me. I use the Open Office suite for everything and often use Google Docs to share with others so it doesn’t mattter what kind of computer they are on. I found that Switching to a Mac for Dummies had all of the basics I needed for making that leap.I am learning about new apps from all of the previous posts. Thanks!

  24. JenWaller Says:

    Clarification for @walt crawford: I should have said I’ve been using an Apple (instead of a Mac). My mistake! I believe it was an Apple II?

  25. Joy Says:

    One nice site for tips is: Also, if you haven’t already done so…if there is an Apple store close to you I recommend purchasing the One-to-One membership. As the title states you sign-up for a session where you get a tutor to help you with whatever you are working on.

  26. Krista Says:

    Congratulations! I switched over to using a Mac about 2 years ago and love it. I find it much more user friendly than the PC that I use at work. There is a steep learning curve at first, but I think you will find in time that it’s well worth it.

  27. Christian Says:

    If you watch video on your Mac, be sure to get VLC Media Player — the Swiss Army Knife of media players.

    Need an FTP Client? Get Transmit!

    Password Manager? Check out the free KeePassX (available for Windows & Linux as well):

    If you’re looking for a vert simple database application, you might want to check out Bento from FileMaker. It’s sort of limited, but I believe there’s a downloadable demo you can get to see if it will suit your needs.

  28. Christian Says:

    Oh, and if you’re looking for a RSS reader, perhaps consider NetNewsWire:

  29. Michelle Says:

    I think you’ll love your new machine. It’s probably already been suggested but I highly recommend vlc player, the wmv component for quicktime, adium for chatting, cyberduck for ftp, and there are scores elsewhere. I was using net news wire but now I just use the google reader plugin for firefox. handbrake is a good DVD ripping utility – makes nice little mp4 files if you need to convert DVD content. There are a host of others – feel free to ask if you need suggestions.

  30. AP Says:

    In 15 years, I have had one Macintosh, one e-mac, one Macbook, one technical problem ( a decade ago sorted immediately at no cost to me) and I have never ever had a virus. I think it works out cheaper than a PC – free iPhoto for example, no repair bill, no antivirus suscriptions… Time Machine is worth getting. I have a friendly technician who casts an eye over both the e-mac and the macBook every 18 months, tweaks the settings, suggests a few improvements – it takes him about 30 minutes. You’ll probably find someone like this already on your staff.

    William Morris said “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” – both apply to the Mac.

  31. Scot Colford Says:

    I actually do enjoy my Parallels quite a bit. And I stick by my spaces/expose recommendation. I’m shocked to read David’s diss of them, since virtual desktops are one of the best things about the KDE and Gnome desktops in Linux!

  32. Alexis Says:

    I got my first Mac this past summer (had never even used a Mac before) and haven’t regretted it. I still have my old Windows PC, but I haven’t turned it on in quite a while. I thought it would be hard to switch, but really, it wasn’t. I’ve discovered that I really like iPhoto and iWord, though haven’t tried the other programs yet.

    I use Mixero for Twitter and Adium for IM. I’ll also give hearty agreement to getting Time Machine. It was plug and play and gave me wireless access instantly in addition to the automatic backups.

  33. rcn Says:

    Oh, good, you’re just a bit ahead of me in this move. I can glean some great suggestions from the comments here! So, hearty thanks!

  34. Terry Says:

    Walked in your shoes a year ago. This helped me, al “conversion chart “between If on Windows, Then on Mac put out by apple support. After inadvertently deleting my Systems Preferences and making new best friends at Apple Support, I Love my Mac now.

  35. zaheer Says:

    Congrats! … if you should experience Windows withdrawal you can run Windows on your new MacBook using either commercial products VMWare Fusion or Parallels

  36. David Holt Says:


    I guess I work differently than you do. I have never understood the value of having multiple desktops. Expose is somewhat useful, but less so now that the dock will group together an application’s open windows when you click and hold on the icon. I found that no matter where I put the “hot spots” for Expose, I would invariably accidentally move my cursor there and disrupt my work.

    I strongly recommend you DO NOT buy Parallels. I can’t understand why so many in the Mac community seem to like it. It is not an industry standard like VMWare and will likely not exist in a few years. They have lost this war to VMWare quite awhile ago. VMWare is used extensively and has thousands of pre-built virtual machines. Parallels really has nothing going for it. If you’re going to purchase virtualization software it would make a very poor choice. You’ll end up with a product that has limited appeal, a small user base, an uncertain future, and very little third party support.

  37. Bill Kempthorne Says:

    My short list of ‘must haves’ for any Mac. LaunchBar($), 1Password($), Adium, and Dropbox. There are free ‘launcher’ solutions but I love Launchbar plus it gives you a Clipboard recorder so no more hopping back and forth with copy and paste. 1Password for all the online passwords – that’s for safety, Adium for cross platfrom chats (AIM, iChat, gTalk, MSN, Facebooks, etc) that’s free. Dropbox to backup the basic settings, and important files – that’s free too.
    Then it gets down to personal preference. I do lots of text work and there are a massive number of cool text editors Textwrangler (free), Textmate($), and BBEdit($). I also like TextExpander for all the macro-functions. Makes email, blogging, and documentation a lot easier.

    And Last, you need to at least play a bit with Delicious Library – probably the poster child of a Mac Application and gives you a bar code reader for books with your Laptop’s iSight

  38. Ravi Says:

    latest tips and tricks collection at

Leave a Reply

LiB's simple ground rules for comments:

  1. No spam, personal attacks, or rude or intolerant comments.
  2. Comments need to actually relate to the blog post topic.