Unboxing a new Mac, most people say, is “sooo” much easier. Bad news, Mac fans. I go through quite a few steps to get my Macs the way I like them—almost as many as with Vista. There are two major differences. There’s not as much junkware to remove from a Mac and you can get by without antivirus software—though just because security hasn’t been much of an issue for the Mac OS doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future. Here’s what I do to get a Mac ready to use. Keep in mind this is my personal check-list, not what I’m saying you should do. But if you do, I’ll bet you’ll be happier with your Mac.
• Download updates. Apple seems to be better than the makers of Windows PCs at installing the latest patches and fixes on its computers. But it’s still a good idea to run Software Update as soon as you boot the machine.
• Add the Applications folder to the Dock. By default, the Applications folder—which contains all your programs—is accessed by first opening the hard drive icon on the desktop, then double clicking the folder. But you can put the folder permanently in the Dock. Just open the drive folder, and drag the Applications folder into the right side of the Dock.
• Resize, prune, magnify the Dock. I like to make the Dock smaller, remove icons for programs I seldom use, then turn on the magnification effect, which makes icons enlarge as you mouse over them. To remove icons, just grab them and drag them out of the Dock. Then Click the Apple logo in the menu bar, Dock, then Dock Preferences. From here you can resize the Dock to your liking, then turn on magnification and adjust how much the moused-over icons expand.
• Tweak the touchpad (on notebooks). One of my favourite features of Apple’s notebooks is the multi-touch capabilities of the touchpad. I like using two fingers to scroll and to tap with two fingers to launch the right mouse-button menu.
• Set up power preferences. By default, the Mac OS has three power-management settings: Better Energy Savings, Normal and Better Performance (on a notebook, there are three more for battery usage). But you can create a fourth. Once you make changes, they’re automatically saved and named Custom. If you have a notebook, click on the Battery icon in the menu bar, then Open Energy Saver. On a desktop, click the Apple icon, System Preference, then Energy Saver. Move the sliders to set times when the Mac’s screen saver kicks in, or when it goes to sleep. Click the Options button.
• Change colour preferences to PC settings. Click the Apple icon, then System Preferences, then Display. In the Display control panel, click on Color. Click the Calibrate button; the Display Calibrator Assistant appears. Click Continue. The next screen gives you a choice between the standard 1.8 gamma used by the Mac, and the 2.2 gamma used by PCs and TV sets. Click 2.2, then Continue.
• Download Firefox, Camino. I prefer to use Mozilla’s Firefox or the Camino browser, which is designed specifically for the Mac. You can get Firefox at www.firefox.com and Camino at www.caminobrowser.org. But even after you’ve downloaded and installed these, you can designate within each preference whether it should be your default browser.
• Download and install your favourite software. Once you’re done setting up everything else, you’re ready to install your favourite programs. I like to add Yahoo Widgets (widgets.yahoo.com), which place information applets right on the desktop—a set-up I prefer over having to invoke Dashboard via keystroke. I also install MenuMeters (www.ragingmenace.com/software/menumeters), which can add information about your system to the menu bar. The only one I set up is the hard-disk activity indicator, since Macs don’t come with hardware versions, as most PCs do.