10 things every new Mac user should know

Your guide to a short and painless learning curve.

gather round mac newbies
Gather ‘round Mac newbies

Switching from PC to Mac doesn’t have to be a headache. For the most part it's about finding your way around -- and learning a few different keystrokes.

Of course, if you’re really stuck, Apple offers top notch customer service. And if you don't want to make a phone call to tech support there is always a Genius at an Apple Store ready to help (make an appointment!).

That said, here are 10 handy things you need to know right off the bat.

Command key
Credit: flickr/J L
Command, don't control

Having trouble with your keyboard shortcuts since switching to a Mac? Just remember: All things "Control" on a PC are ⌘ (Command) on a Mac.

A quick cheat sheet:

⌘+C : Copy
⌘+V : Paste
⌘+B : Bold
⌘+I : Italicize
⌘+U : Underline
⌘+S : Save
⌘+W : Close current window/tab
⌘+Q : Close the application

More keyboard shortcuts

Quit now
Just quit already

Unlike a PC, where you click the X in the right corner of your screen to close a program, the Mac's left-sided red dot only closes the window, leaving the application still running. In order to avoid using precious memory, when you want to quit an application, look for the bolded text in the menu bar with the application name. Click the name and then click Quit; alternatively, a quick ⌘Command-Q will also do the trick, as will right-clicking on the icon at the bottom of the screen and selecting Quit.

Trackpad cat
Trackpad tricks

Many of the neat features of the Mac OS involve the trackpad, which comes standard on the laptops and is an option for the iMac as well as the MacPro. A couple of interesting gestures to know are:

Pinch – Will zoom in and out, a feature that is not only great for photos, but also for websites with tiny print.

3 Fingers Up + Swipe – This will display all of your open windows and programs. No more searching around for that one document you had open before you got lost in Facebook, Twitter, email, etc.

full-screen face
Go full-screen

Hey, screen real estate nuts this one's for you. You can have a program take up every pixel of the display. Just click the arrows in the top right corner of the application (many applications have this option now), and click them again to leave full screen mode. The arrows are hidden so move the mouse to the top right corner of the screen and you will see a blue square with two arrows.

Note: That big scary picture over there is not the author, but it gives you that full-screen feeling, doesn't it?

Time machine
Try time travel

Although not everyone uses this feature, it is definitely one of the most important. You don’t want to lose your data, and with Time Machine, Apple makes backing up your computer easy (instructions here).

A helpful tip: Your external hard drive should be twice the size of your computer’s hard drive so that you have ample space.

jetpack
Get fired up

Looking for an application? Launchpad gives you a view of all applications on the computer, similar to that on the iPhone. It is simple to use: two fingers to swipe between pages, and if you decide that you don’t need anything after all, just click in an area that doesn’t have an application and you will be taken back to the last thing that you were doing.

trash
Take out the trash

As green as Apple may be, don't expect to find a "Recycling Bin." Let's be honest, what you put in there was really trash, and Apple agrees. The Trash application also doubles as an eject function for any USB drives that you may have plugged in. When dragging a USB drive to the Trash icon, it morphs into an Eject icon and then you can safely turn off and remove the device.

storm troopers in sync
Simplify, simplify, simplify

If you've been thinking about switching to an iPhone, now's a good time to do it. Going all Apple simplifies just about everything. With Apple's iLife suite, syncing everything just got that much easier. Sure, you can do almost as well on a PC, but applications like iPhoto make managing your photos between your phone and computer effortless. Using both your iPhone and iPhoto allows you to organize your photos by the people in them, as well as by location. iTunes does the same for your music collection.

click to play
We call them apps now

The App Store is a great place to find new and exciting apps (a.k.a. software) for work, fun, and everything in between. What makes it especially nice is that these applications have been pre-screened and should not give you any problems. Even better, just like on the iPhone, click once to "buy" and then confirm your purchase; voilÀ, the app is installed and ready to go.

Almost alike
Accept that there will be differences

Although Microsoft makes versions of Office for PCs and Macs, there are a few differences. For example, on a Mac, the application will open each document in a separate window that will not take up the whole screen, as it would on a PC, allowing the user to simultaneously type and look at another window. In addition, some of the tabs within the applications have changed names, and these small changes cause frustration for many people. But you'll get used to them soon enough.

Alex Burinskiy is a technical analyst at IDG, ITworld's parent company. He was previously an Apple Store genius for four years, and he has worked with a range of Apple products, from personal to enterprise systems, for eight years.