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)

By Simon Barnett

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...