Power Fundamentals Part 1: Fresh Mac for business users

Simon Barnett embarks upon a series to teach "switchers" to Mac OS the power fundamentals that will help business users work most efficiently. He begins with a fresh Mac in this first post.

Power Tip #1 - Dock positioning

Our first tweak, should you decide it's for you, is to move the Dock to the left side of the screen, changing it to a vertical Dock. Although arguably less impressive visually, for some it makes more practical sense to select an application in a quick, vertical movement, and then move to the side to begin using the app.

Since modern displays are wider than they are tall, a side Dock has less effect on screen proportions and takes up less space, especially when the hiding option is turned on.

Left is probably a better choice, seeing as Apple's traditional and default position for desktop icons is on the right, as is Mountain Lion's Notifications Centre.

To reposition the Dock on the left, go to:

Apple Menu | Dock | Position on Left

To turn Dock hiding on, go to:

Apple Menu | Dock | Turn Hiding On

When hidden, the Dock appears only when the pointer approaches the left side of the screen.

To toggle the bubble / bulge magnification effect, go to:

Apple Menu | Dock | Turn Magnification On

On is more useful for a very full Dock, off is better for a minimal Dock.

Power Tip #2 - Spotlight App Launcher

Someone just suggested you keep your dock minimal, but now you need an app that's not in the dock.

You could just use the LaunchPad app in the Dock and search for the icon of the app, but there's an even quicker method, especially when you have a lot of apps.

  1. Hold down command (⌘ or )
  2. Tap the spacebar (brings up Spotlight )
  3. Start typing the name of the app (the first three letters are usually enough)
  4. When you see its name appear opposite "Top Hit", hit enter.

Spotlight is the Mac's highly acclaimed search feature, which will be covered in greater depth in another post. Since it's set to prioritize applications by default, it makes a perfect quick-launch method for any of your hundreds of apps*. * Afraid of installing too many apps? Don't be. The Mac can take it.

MacOS X is built on an extremely robust UNIX framework, and applications are not tied to the system. They utilise the computer's core resources independently, so installing lots of apps won't slow your Mac down.

A new installation of Mountain Lion has 49 applications in the applications folder and an additional 169 in other parts of the system (total 218). I've increased that total to an excess of 700 apps, including most of the biggest pro audio, video and graphics apps without any affect on performance.

Power Tip #3 - Application Switcher

cmd-tab - Quickly switch between open apps

You could use Mission Control (Lion and Mountain Lion) or Exposé (Leopard and Snow Leopard) for switching between Apps and their windows, but a tried-and-trusted simpler and potentially faster method is "tabbing" between apps.

  • Hold down command (cmd, ⌘ or ).
  • Keep holding command and tap Tab (⟶|) until the block highlights the App you want. Holding shift ⇧ at the same time as command cycles through apps in reverse.
  • Release command to switch to the App.

Or while still holding command (i.e., Still in "app switcher mode"):

  • ` (grave key aka backtick) - move highlight to the left
  • mouse scrollwheel - scroll highlight back and forth
  • left arrow - move highlight to the left
  • right arrow - move highlight to the right
  • up arrow - enter exposé (Mission Control) for highlighted application
  • down arrow - enter exposé (Mission Control) for highlighted application
  • h - hide highlighted application
  • q - quit highlighted application

Once you have switched to an app, to switch between open windows of an app:

Command ` (grave key aka backtick)

Note: Moving back and forth between Mac and Windows? This function is available in Windows as alt-tab.

Next installment

Fresh Mac - Customizing home base: The Mac Finder (including yet another interesting way of storing and launching frequent apps)


Simon Barnett is a freelance tech consultant / support specialist, creative publisher, and Mac software (registered dev programme) and web developer in Cape Town, South Africa. In addition, he has had several years experience in designing and trainin...


Hey Simon - I have been in the process of switching since the new MBAs came out in June of last year, and have been doing relatively decently at it. The biggest problems I have come across are how to browse the Finder using the keyboard (in Windows Explorer, a quick Alt+D, and typing a few letters, tab, a few letters, tab, etc... got you right where you needed to go) I finally worked around this in Finder by learning Command+Shift+G and typing, tabbing, etc... The other one that I still find troublesome is the inability to right-click and select New File. I am a bit of a file freak, and I REALLY relied on this in Windows. Browse to the directory where you will store a new file, right click, new (Text, Excel, Word, what have you) file, name it, open it and get cracking. In OS X I have found a few script ways of doing this but nothing very intuitive or simple to use. Can you use any of your resources to find a better option for us? Good luck - and thanks! JN


It's useful to have Apps on the dock because you can open files intelligently by dropping them on the icon. Fo instance, if you drop a photo onto Mail a new message will open with the photo attached, by default a double click will open it in Preview but if you need Photoshop to make fancy edits drop it on that. For text files you might want the icons for Text Edit, Word, Dashcode, Text Wrangler. Much quicker than doing a right click and Open with...


I agree, great article Simon can't wait for the rest. I bought my first PC in 1987 and have been a big user ever since but got more and more disillusioned with Windows so took the giant step in July last year and bought a new MacBook Pro. Loved it so much I've just taken delivery of a new 27" i7, which is absolutely stunning. The transition has been relatively easy but I'm always looking for help and it sounds like your series may provide many of the answers I'll need.


Great job Simon, this is much needed as the transition has been slow and frustrating for some switchers. We need more - keep em coming!


Hi JN, I'm covering some shortcuts in the next article, but since I'm taking baby steps with this series, nothing as advanced as enabling the functionality you require with your second question. I will only get to that sort of usage much later on (good question, though - keep 'em coming). Here's a link to the steps for your second question. As solutions go, it's a little bit geeky / fiddly to set up initially, but I tried it - took me 5 minutes to do, and creates the right-click functionality you require: Your solution to the first one is correct, by the way - that is the best way to navigate to a folder, which I'll get to earlier in the series. Some other less-targeted methods will be outlined in the next article. As a general comparative list of Windows / Mac / Linux shortcuts, look no further than Good luck! Simon

Selena Frye
Selena Frye

Sorry about that. I was being indecisive about the titles in this new series, so it got a little confused. You are correct that the series is Power Fundamentals, so I've tweaked the first one and also this one to make it more clear. However, even thought it's a series, we want all of them to have self-contained, actionable tips that can be read on their own as well as part of a series. I'll try to make future titles reflect that as well. Thanks for pointing it out.


Thanks John. Agreed.. open-with type apps need app icons. My next article will have details on my personal recommendation for drag-and-drop type apps: the Finder window toolbar, since it's located nearest to documents.


Thanks Guy .. many more in the pipeline :) - Simon


Thanks for your reply. It clears up some confusion, but unfortunately now creates a further one :-) And once more I apologise for being picky! There are now two articles with the same title "Power Fundamentals Part 1: Fresh Mac for business users", both dated and timed as February 12, 2013, 12:17 PM PST. One can be found at, and the second (with different text) at ie the same as the first url with "?pg=2" (without quotes) tagged onto the end. Only the first of these is listed on your home page All three of your articles so far are excellent, and will help me no end to convert to the Mac. I look forward to more of your series. One request, please. It would be very useful if there was a link to a downloadable pdf for each article, so that I can save them for future reference.


Part 1 (1st page) Part 1 (2nd page) Part 2 (only 1 page) To make a pdf: - Open the page in your browser - Type command p (to print) - In Firefox or Safari: go to [pdf ] in the bottom left of the dialog box. In Google Chrome: Destination - - Save as pdf.. - Click Save The Tech Republic site does a good job of automatically reformatting the page for printing or making a pdf.

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