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Summary:

It’s been about six months since I took the plunge and moved from PC to Mac. I thought it would be interesting to check in and see where I am now, how I am faring and what software I’m using.

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It’s been about six months since I took the plunge and moved from PC to Mac. I’ve outlined the thought process behind my move, my concerns, software choices and more in past posts. I thought it would be interesting to check in and see where I am now, how I am faring and what software I’m using.

As I originally anticipated, because so much of my work is done via cloud services, a good portion of my work process hasn’t changed significantly. I’m starting to think about supplementing these services with Mail.app or Postbox and iCal but am generally pleased with the way that things revolve around my online services. I’ve added Yojimbo to my arsenal and still find it invaluable for overall organization and avoiding information overload. I’m also currently evaluating a move to OmniFocus for task management due to a change in the nature of the types of tasks I am managing.

The MacBook Pro remains a joy to use. I still marvel at its performance and enjoy the brightness and clarity of the display. Using the touchpad has become second nature. I had a scare recently when my machine failed to charge, but it was just a problem with the adapter and Apple replaced it with no hassles. I’ve even become accustomed to the different keyboard shortcuts so I do feel quite at home when working on it.

There are a couple of nagging issues I have, though. The first is the freestyle nature of the application windows in relation to the menubar, especially when working with multiple displays. For example, if I move an Excel worksheet to a second display it feels wrong to have to move my mouse pointer to a different display to access menu options. I imagine I am still retraining myself to work this way, but it feels unintuitive to me.

I also really miss the ease of Alt+Tab-ing between applications on Windows machines. The Cmd+Tab cycle works well enough between applications, and I’ve discovered that Cmd+` cycles through windows within an application but those options only seem to work when the windows themselves haven’t been minimized. A minimized window seems to fall in to a black hole of sorts, and I’ve yet to figure out how to easily restore them.

I’ve done a good share of tweaking of system settings and keyboard shortcuts (like disabling that peskily huge Caps Lock key) and with the addition of some useful utilities I’ve been able to personalize my system so that it works just as I want it to. I have found that generally OS X is very configurable, but resolving the couple of issues I outlined above still eludes me.

After six months I think I have reached a plateau of sorts in terms of productivity. I am feeling very comfortable with my current setup and am ready to move onto scripting, adding more utilities for file processing, and my personal goal of mastering the Services menu.

In addition to getting those last couple of pesky issues cleared up, I’m looking for recommendations on your favorite tips, tweaks, utilities and personalization options that take your productivity up a notch. Please leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to check them out and share them in future articles.

I’m trying to get the most out of my Mac. How do you tweak out every last bit of productivity?

Photo by Flickr user neys, licensed under CC 2.0

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  1. For the Cmd+Tab issue you noted, have you tried Witch? http://manytricks.com/witch/ It may help ease the issue with minimized windows.

    Or use Expose. :)

    1. Ohh and SecondBar for putting the menu bar on both screens. http://blog.boastr.net/?page_id=79

    2. Thanks – downloaded Witch and will check it out. I think I’ve seen it mentioned in the past but hadn’t ever installed it.

      And SecondBar looks great as well.

      sb

  2. Consider using a 4 finger gesture on the trackpad to do Expose application/window switching instead of command-tab. It includes minimized windows and you can switch between windows and apps in a single click. I find Expose more efficient than cmd-tab.

    1. I guess this is one of the things that after 20 years of PC use I haven’t been able to change. I like Expose, and it’s not that it’s a long distance to move to do the sweep but I am so used to being able to just zip between windows quickly without moving away from the keyboard.

      With a lot of stuff open it’s also sort of a hassle to try to identify what I need in Expose, especially if they windows are minimized as I only get the smaller preview.

      sb

  3. Unsanity.org makes some very cool haxies to modify MacOS. I’ve always been addicted to WindowShade (an old MacOS9 feature) and popped for that.

    1. I love their tag line – unsane tools for insanely great people.

      Seeing what they’ve got now, thanks so much.

      sb

  4. Matthew Schultz Thursday, October 14, 2010

    If you are running Snow Leopard, you can restore minimized windows by selecting the app you want via CMD+Tab, continuing to hold down CMD, and then either arrow up or down (so, CMD+DOWN-ARROW. You’ll be able to select from the app’s open windows, including any minimized ones.

    1. WOW… I’ve been using a Mac for years and never knew the CMD+Up/Down Arrow thing. You just rocked my world.

      1. Oh and interestingly if you CMD+Tab afterwards, it’ll bring up expose for each app you tab to, without further intervention. Very nice.

    2. Hey guys- I wrote a free app called “FlyingWindows” that keeps you in Single Application mode by minimizing and unminimizing application windows. You can find it on Macupdate.

      I wrote it because I found it frustrating that any minimized windows that I had placed out of the way, when switching back to the application would force me to click the dock icon.

      1. Thanks – looking at Flying Windows now as well.

        Going to be a busy couple of days with all of these new recommendations.

        sb

      2. On a related note, I recently discovered that Option-clicking an app in the Dock hides the current app before switching to the one you selected.

        Also, when I start having window overload, I sometimes like to use Command-Option-H, which in most apps hides all other apps. The one app this doesn’t help with much is Safari, where I typically have dozens of windows open, so hitting Command-Option-H doesn’t change the appearance of the screen much.

        There’s a utility — a couple of them, actually, that make your current app’s front window stand out by slightly graying out everything else. They work by putting a screen-sized translucent gray window behind your current window. Another alternative for managing window overload. I don’t remember any names; perhaps someone can remind me?

    3. Thanks – that is awesome! Just the sort of thing I was hoping to learn.

      sb

  5. Matthew Schultz Thursday, October 14, 2010

    Also, get LauchBar ASAP.

    1. Looking at LaunchBar now – have been pleased with Alfred as a launcher / search tool so far but always looking…

      thanks
      sb

  6. Seconding TwisterMc’s suggestion. I had a much older version of Witch and it did a fantastic job of rescuing minimized windows. I’m sure the latest version is no less brilliant, as ManyTricks is a long-time stalwart of OS X development and truly a class act.

    1. Yeah – Witch looks like just what I needed / wanted – and full of a ton of tweaky options (I love options – you know, once I figure out what they do!)

      thanks
      sb

  7. Check out Cinch.

    It allows you to snap windows just like in Windows 7.

    1. Thanks – looks like I need to look at both Cinch and SizeUp to see how I really work. Excellent tip!

      sb

    2. Hey Scott, check out my short video of Cinch in action. It’s a great utility.

      http://jkontherun.com/2010/01/14/mobile-tech-minutes-cinch-for-mac/

  8. +1 for Witch.

    Plenty of great little apps out there to boost productivity:

    Quicksilver – legendary app launcher (+ so much more)
    Instantshot! – simple but powerful screenshots
    Growl – discreet notifications about all manner of useful stuff
    Bowtie – iTunes controller with discreet desktop integration
    Mail Unread Menu – adds a ‘new mail’ icon to your menubar
    iStatMenus – better menubar displays for time & date, power, cpu usage etc
    unRarX – seemless un-rar’ing of files
    YemuZip – quickly create pc-friendly zip files without all the Mac meta-gruft
    Cinch – snap windows to screen edges, like Windows 7
    1Password – securely manage your passwords (& so much more) – with great browser & Dropbox integration

    And that’s just a starter for 10 :)

    1. +1 for 1Password. Love that app.

    2. thanks – a lot of these I’ve seen or used, but will check out the others.

      sb

  9. When holding Cmd + Tab to cycle through apps. select the app you want with minimized windows and hold the Option key. This will auto maximize the front window again.

    1. Thanks Neil – lots of tips and tricks to learn!

      sb

  10. You should try Hyper Dock it allows you to see little windows of whatever you have minimized when you hover over the application with your pointer.

    1. Thanks – added Hyper Dock to my list. Going to be a busy weekend it looks like.

      sb

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