Mac Life – Part 7 – A Few Teething Problems?

Mac Life Part 7 exists to help Dan Williams who recently made the switch from PC to Mac after having a play with my set-up and has a few teething problems:

“Hi Joe, I’m now all set up with my Mac and very happy with it. It took me less than half hour yesterday to set up the Mac, Airport Extreme all working, broadband on, laptops can connect to the broadband, PC in with ethernet cable, Printer setup. I’ve also got firefox installed, exported and imported all saved passwords for hosting/networks etc and I have MSN messenger installed”.

Chatting with Dan reminded me of some of the things most people ask when they start using a Mac so let’s take a closer look:

The UK Mac keyboard layout

In an earlier blog post I couldn’t come up with anything that’s better on a PC than a Mac but I take that back, the Windows keyboard layout is better and less confusing than UK Mac keyboards!
The Mac keyboard is cursed with THREE modifier keys for no good reason I can think off. They are called the [Control], [Alt] and [Command] keys BUT people also refer to them differently! For example the [Command] key is often called the “Apple” key and the [Alt] key is also called the “Option” key, so that’s three keys, five names and two stupid little graphic icons nobody can relate to for starters – and I’ve got more!
There’s no Delete key on laptop keyboards. Instead you get a backspace key (top right) which, if you hold down the [fn] key (bottom left), can be turned into a “proper” Delete key, still with me? You probably noticed the @ key is inconveniently located above the 2 key but can you find the # key? Well, no prizes for guessing there isn’t one and you can get a # by holding down the [Alt] key and pressing the 3 key but why on earth is it missing?
I have more, but I’ll stop because I don’t want to put you off switching and after a couple of weeks you’ll get past the keyboard shortcomings and be back up to full speed so it’s just part of the Mac switching experience!

Expose & Spaces

Most people also seem to confuse Expose and Spaces, which isn’t surprising since they share a System Preferences Panel and the “Active screen corners” concept but if we take it a step at a time it’s easy enough to get a handle on:

Spaces are “virtual screens” so instead of buying a second monitor you can turn Spaces on and have up to SIXTEEN virtual screens – that’s a lot of screen real-estate and quite a lot to get your head around in one hit. For ages I avoided Spaces and settled for one screen but after I spotted my daughter zipping around 9 screens I decided it was time to teach this old dog a new trick and I experimented with 2 screens side by side. I’ve eventually settled on 4 virtual screens arranged in 2 rows and 2 columns and I can move between them effortlessly using the [Control]+Arrow keys. You can also set which applications open in which Space so they are always where you expect to find them. Anything not specified opens up in the current workspace.

Expose basically “exposes” stuff, it’s the way to show windows which are hidden under other windows, just press the F3 key to activate Expose and you’ll soon grasp the basic concept and tweak as you go along to your requirements.

Both Expose and Spaces can be controlled using the keyboard, mouse and active screen corners or any combination which suits the way you work. I’ve included screenshots of my Expose and Spaces set up at the top of this post.

I prefer to use the mouse for scrolling and moving the pointer around so I don’t have my mouse set up to control Expose or Spaces.
Since the Expose Panel is on the left I have the top left of the screen set as an active screen corner for Expose, along with the F3 key, which is set up by default. Extending my reasoning I have the top right of the screen set as the active screen corner for Spaces along with the F5 key. Finally, I have both bottom corners set to reveal the desktop along with the F6 key.
I also make heavy use of the [Command]+[Tab] key combination which cycles through the active applications, whichever space they’re running in – similar to the Windows [Alt]+[Tab] combination.
So with Spaces and Expose set up and in conjunction with the [Command]+[Tab] key combination I have total control over what appears where and how – it quickly becomes second nature, trust me.

However you set your system up you can tweak it later and you’ll soon evolve a setup which works best for you. If you have any Mac teething problems and I’m here to help, just ask.


2 Replies to “Mac Life – Part 7 – A Few Teething Problems?”

  1. Hi Chris, thanks for your input. Good point about the .htaccess files, that is a PITA!
    I hadn't personally run into that problem because I'm a long time Dreamweaver user and that displays .htaccess and other hidden files without problems.

  2. A big thankyou for the 'proper delete key' tip this has been driving me mad since I switched. The other thing apart from the # key is not being able to see .htaccess files to edit unless you set up your machine to show hidden files which meant going into terminal and running some code.

    Other than that all good!

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