A week with Apple

I’ve now been using the Apple for a whole week. I’ve spent as little time on my Windows box at home as possible (basically I’ve only been using it first thing in the morning and last thing before bed because it’s always on and I have to pack my laptop for work). I’ve been trying to get used to the Apple as much as possible and have found it to be a great little computer. There are still some nuances that I will have a hard time getting use to.

I mentioned before that I use Alt-Tab in Windows a lot. It’s great because it rotates through all the open windows. The Command (the key with the apple on it) Tab on the Apple only switches between open applications. I learned yesterday that you can switch between open windows within an application by hitting Alt-Tilda. However, that application has to be the active one in order to use that feature. It’s quite annoying. I would prefer to just “Alt-Tab” between windows.

Another thing about this particular laptop (and probably all 15″ MacBook Pros) that I find annoying is the ambient light sensor. While I like the feature as it saves my eyes and battery life, it also has an annoying habit of adjusting the brightness on the fly. It’s very sensitive. I noticed that there’s a sensor in each speaker that both have to adjust together to work. I noticed this by putting my hands on one speaker and see nothing happen (tried with the other speaker as well). I got it to work by covering both speakers, which are located on either side of the keyboard. The sensor is nice except that being on either side of the keyboard, it notices shadows from my hands when using the keyboard and dims and brightens while I’m typing (it’s done it about 10-15 times now while writing this). I imagine that’s just the way it is and not something that can be fixed (it’s not annoying enough to have me send the thing back to Apple).

I started using Spaces. I love it (though I have used virtual desktops in the past both in various window managers and desktop environments in Linux and with certain NVidia drivers in Windows. The nice thing about Spaces is that it makes it easy to assign certain programs to certain virtual desktops. It keeps my space less cluttered. The only thing I have an issue with is when switching to Firefox from another application using the Dock (I keep Firefox open all the time), it switches to the proper desktop, but does not switch focus to the active Firefox window (though it does make Firefox the active Application in the menu bar). It works properly for all other applications, just not Firefox. I’m hoping that either 10.5.1 or Firefox (or 2.0.1 or whatever is the next version of Firefox) fixes this little bug.

The only other issue I have with OS X is that when a window is not active, I can’t click on something in that window and both have that action happen and the window become active. For example, in Windows, I can click on a link in a Firefox window that’s not active and have that link open along with Firefox becoming the active window. Here I have to click once to bring Firefox to focus and a second time to click the link.

So once again, it sounds like I hate this computer. That is not the truth at all. I really like it, but there are some things that will take a lot of getting used to.

22 thoughts on “A week with Apple”

  1. To disable the ambient light sensor:

    System Preferences > Displays > uncheck box at bottom of window.

    Usually (but not always) Apple will provide a pretty simple solution.

  2. Instead of Alt-Tabbing, invoke Expose then just hit the Tab key. You’ll fly through windows of each application, then can use (I believe) the arrow keys. It’s really second nature when you get used to it–F8 or F9 (Expose), Tab, Tab, arrow key.

  3. Although I use alt-tab on windows all the time, I have never really got used to using it on my macs. Basically I just work differently there and have no need of alt-tab. One of the things that makes this possible is overlapping windows, but more recently Apple added the f9-f10 options of Exposé. Hit f9 and all of your open windows show up, just click on the one you want.

  4. And if you use Spaces, the n hit F8 to show Spaces, then hit F9 and it does an Expose on each Space…

    Beat that.

    If you were to Command Tab through EVERY window it would take an age. I would have to tab through up to 30 Windows. Please don’t tell me that’s a practical way to do things. In Windows maybe…

  5. PS The inactive window thing is a very intentional feature…just one of those things where how the windowing system differs dictates the design. If you are trying to switch between windows by clicking on them, you don’t want things changing just because you clicked on it. In fact, you can even move a window around in the background without activating it (hold down the command key and drag the inactive window by it’s title bar…it will stay inactive). It actually drives me nuts in windows when I click on a window to bring it forward and accidently click on a button or link.

  6. @jared
    Witch looks cool, but I couldn’t figure out how to configure it or get it to work properly. Command-Tab did the same thing. I just disabled it until I get more time to play around.

    @T. Essman
    Thanks for the suggestion. It’s not that I don’t like the ambient light sensor (I do like it quite a bit). I just don’t like where the sensor is located on the laptop. It makes it too easy to set off. On my old HP, it was located just under the monitor, which makes a bit more sense to me because it’s the monitor that it’s adjusting (HP makes a nice laptop).

    @Jon T
    It may not be a practical way for you, but I never have more than 5 or 6 windows open at a time (if I have more than that, it’s because I just didn’t close a bunch). It sounds less practical to have 30 windows open all the time (and a drain on resources too). Yes, the Windows Alt-Tab was far and away more practical than Command-Tab and Command-Tilda for me. Apple doesn’t automatically do everything better and Windows is not a piece of crap (OS X crashed on me this morning, destroying my Parallels installation and deleting all the cookies I had to keep me logged into certain websites… I wasn’t doing anything different than I had been doing for the past week, so it wasn’t a user error).

    Yeah, it does make sense now. I just got used to the Windows way of doing it after 15 years of using nothing but Windows. I’m getting used to it the more I deal with it (part of the reason I’ve been reducing my Windows usage at home).

  7. First off, “Welcome to the Mac world!”

    Second, love the name of your blog (Had a dog, his name was Jim, run away run away run away).

    The CMD-Tab thing I think you’ll get used to after a while. When I’m on Windows it annoys the crap out of me that I have to tab through all open windows. Once you get used to CMD-Tabbing to an app, then tilda-ing through the open windows I think you’ll prefer it (especially if you only want to switch windows within an application).

    The clicking on a lower window without activating a control has many benefits. The first being not accidentally clicking on a button or link you didn’t mean to (like the previous comment said). Also, besides moving a window behind the current one without activating it, you can also drag things from a lower window into the current one, which can be very handy.

    Here’s a separate tip: based on your blog title, you may find this useful for all of those flac and shn files from etree:


  8. @George
    Glad you like the name… you’re probably the first Phishhead to post a comment (or maybe even read the blog). I’ve been going by RunawayJim on various sites for a while and was excited to find that the domain wasn’t taken (considering my name is Jim).

    I’m not overly worried about the Cmd-Tab thing, it’s just annoying, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it (I already started using Expose to handle those issues). And thanks for the flac/shn solution, though I haven’t done a whole lot of that for a while and this laptop is actually for work. At home I still have an XP box, which is soon to become an Ubuntu box.

  9. Like the blog title as well….

    add to the previous post about XAct, also check out Play and Max from sbooth.org. Play will play SHN, FLAC, APE, etc – Max will convert between all the above and extract using EAC. Also be aware that Toast will burn from FLAC files directly.

    I use corners for Exposé “All Windows” and for Spaces. This allows me to drag and drop anything from any window to any other window by simply dragging it to a corner (and to another corner if it is in a different space), then over the target window (in whatever window/space it may be), and then after a pause and a blink into context, I let go. Once you get used to this motion and the pervasive drag-‘n-drop, there is no going back….

    Did you see the fluffhead on ESPN video? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdizU7Y4EV8

  10. @Eytan
    Thanks for the suggestion and the laugh with the ESPN Fluffhead. That’s awesome!

    I only have screensaver (to lock my session) and Expose “All Windows” as hot corners. I had Spaces and the Dashboard set to the other 2 corners, but I kept going to them by accident. It got annoying, so I turned them off.

  11. the drag and drop is the tits. Notice you can drag and drop a URL from Safari by the proxy icon, and it will paste into adium or iChat (and now mail) as the name of the page as the link name, with the link embedded….

    You like moe.?

  12. Yes, I like moe. I just don’t have the money to get out and go to a lot of shows (and I’ve basically lost interest in downloading live shows, unless I was there).

  13. Expose is totally where it’s at. Surely, the XP and older approach with Alt-Tab of generic file icons, along with the tab-tab-tab across to see the open files’ names can’t be advantageous over Expose. I still use Command-Tab for swapping between two apps in intensive use, but Expose is perfect for the big picture window management.

    As another reader mentioned, the ability to drag-and-drop between Exposed windows is wonderfully efficient. See text of a jpeg on a web page that you want in an email? Just grab the jpeg, expose all windows, hover over the email, kill Expose and drop the pic in. Direct and to the point.

    This is the type of functionality that Windows Flip with it’s non-scaling thumbnails and inability to receive dropped files pales in comparison. And “Flip 3D” is nothing but a linear, “Rolodex” approach — but it sure looks cool in the Vista TV commercials.

    Also, if you’re using a multi-button mouse, assigning “Expose All Windows” to your baby finger button (for example) makes using Expose LIGHTENING fast. I also use a dead corner for Expose’s “Show Desktop” command.

  14. @Bob Barker
    Alt-Tab in Vista now shows a thumbnail (the “Rolodex” approach is Windows Key-Tab, which is purely just eye-candy). It’s quicker to use than Expose. I still find it far superior to Expose, unless you’re dealing with a large number of windows.

  15. Wow. I am shocked you find it superior to exposé when using a SMALL number of windows. FOr me, with many windows it is hard in exposé to locate the window I want. Being able to snap up the 5 windows and drop to the one I want using exposé is (for me, anyway) vastly superior to alt-tabbing.

    YEah – I used to tape for years. I still download interesting shows. Flying out to NYC for NYE for moe. at RCMH (live in Seattle)

  16. Amazingly enough, I memorize where each window is in the order on Alt-Tab. I’ve never used it to move stuff around between windows, nor do I think i’d ever use it for that. Generally, I’m moving quickly between just 2 or 3 windows.

  17. You can even use Expose to complete a drag-and-drop (for example, a copy in Finder). This assumes you have the destination window open somewhere.

    Click and hold on the file’s icon. Press F9 to initiate Expose, hold the file over the destination window. Wait until the dest. window grows to full size. Drop the file.

    I don’t know if this is any faster than any other way. But sometimes it makes sense (to me) to use this. Very cool.


  18. I think the problem is that Windows encourages you to have open few applications and few windows (because windows are full size and applications—prior to XP/Vista—sucked resources and decreased system stability even while inactive), but OS X encourages exactly the opposite approach (because windows are not full-size (and the menu bar is at the top), and applications usually don’t use background resources).

    So for Jim’s particular usage pattern of only a couple windows open at any one time, Window’s version of Alt-Tab is probably better than OS X’s version of Alt-Tab and the same with that Flip 3D thing against Exposé.

    If he expands his windows usage, I feel that both OS X’s Alt-Tab and Exposé beat the Windows equivalents.

  19. I’ve never felt that way about Windows. In fact, there have been many occasions where I would end up with a lot of windows open. I would just use a combination of Alt-Tab and the mouse to choose stuff from the taskbar.

    This is one of those things that you just need to say “to each his own”. It’s not a matter of what Windows “encourages” or not. I hate that in OS X the windows are all smaller. It distracts me from the window I’m working in. I keep certain windows as close to full screen as possible (Firefox, Entourage, and other Office apps).

  20. I found this blog because I recently started work at a company that exclusively uses Macs. I am comfortable with Macs but prefer Windows. Not being able to use Alt-Tab to go through multiple open windows of the same program has made doing my job take 45 minutes for a task that I could previously burn through in 15 minutes. Apple is definitely inferior in this regard. Thanks for posting this info about about Command-Tilda. This will save me a ton of time!!!!

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