This article was first published on 2007-09-07. Due to the age of this article, it is included here for archive purposes only.
It seems my last article Top 7 Most Annoying Mac “Features” struck a nerve with some folks, which is always fun. It’s not easy coming up with annoying features of the best platform in the world.
I thought I’d shift gears this time and pick some of the best features of the Mac platform that give your Mac that Apple polish. Hopefully I will strike more nerves again. These are the features that when first discovered actually make you smile and a little amazed at how much thought Apple puts in its products.
In no particular order –
Software Install & Uninstall – With some exceptions, to install software you just drag the application into the Applications folder. To uninstall, just drag it into the trash. It’s (mostly) that easy. Windoze? Lengthy and complicated install/uninstall processes. Even when you’re installing something that requires an installer, it’s much more straight-forward and intuitive.
Safari Snapback – You Google something and go off on a few wild goose chases to find your information. Now you need to get back to the Google search results. If you were in IE or FireFox, you’d have to hit the back button countless times or re-submit your search. In Safari, simply click the orange “snapback” arrow and you’re instantly returned to the Google search results. And you know what else? It works in the address bar too, taking you back to the top level of the site you started on. Sweet.
Column Finder View – If you aren’t using this, I think you’re really missing out. Column view is simply a great way to navigate through your files & folders. It gives you an easy way back and and easy way forward. It easily shows you where you’re going and where you’ve been.
MacBook Pro Keyboard Illumination – Other than the fact that it’s just friggin’ cool, the ability for the MacBook Pro keys to illuminate from behind is beyond useful. Other computers have a mini keyboard light or whatever. Screw that! Backlit keys are where it’s at! Any idea what Mac I’m using right now?
Migration Assistant - Upgrading to a new Mac? No problem. The Migration Assistant helps you move everything (and I mean everything) from your old Mac to your new Mac without a hitch. Just hook up the old and new computers with a FireWire cable and you’re good to go.
MagSafe Power Cord Connector – Anyone that has a laptop can tell you a story or two of how it was almost or completely destroyed by someone tripping on the power cord. With two kids under 6, my MacBook Pro has been saved more than once by the MagSafe Power Cord. And it has that other Apple nice touch, the status indicator – amber-charging; green-charged.
Address Book – This little app is more powerful than it might let on. The real power is the integration of your contacts within not only the address book, but any address book-aware application. iChat, iTunes/iPhone, Mail, MS Entourage, Palm Desktop, and Safari are just the tip of the iceberg. And not only your contacts – but photos too. Assign a picture to a contact on your iPhone, sync, and now that picture displays for every aware application.
Sidebar – It’s like a mini-dock giving you easy access to frequently-used folders. Have a project folder you use a lot? Drag it into the Sidebar and now instantly access it from every finder window and open/save dialog box. Never use one of the items in there? Drag it out of the Sidebar and poof (literally) it’s gone. Like the dock – you can put just about anything in there – files, applications, folders, drives, etc.
Hardware Fit & Finish – Have you looked at your Mac lately? I mean really looked at it. Marvel at how everything fits together seamlessly. Look at the screws, if any. Most of the time they’re well hidden or compliment the look. The new aluminum/metal iMacs have just 2 visible screws, and they’re at the bottom. Look at your Apple notebook – no Intel, OS certified or other miscellaneous (fugly) stickers.
Downloads – When you download a file on a Windoze machine, you have to tell it where to save, then remember where you put it, then unzip it, open it, etc. Safari automatically downloads, unzips, mounts and opens. Being the most tech-savvy in my family makes me the computer support department, and this seems to be one of the hardest things for casual Windoze users.
The Dock – Well-done applications power the dock with extras. Yahoo! Messenger lets you view the number of emails & messages and even change availability status. Control iTunes. Transmit gives you FTP upload/download status and much more. Drag & drop a file to launch an application. Create an email message. What you say? Highlight your favorite Mac feature in this article and drag and drop it on top of the Mail app icon and you’ll see what I mean. Mac OS X is loaded with these types of things.
Dictionary – Find a word that you need to look up? CTRL- or right-click on the word and select “Look Up In Dictionary”. Notice anything else in that contextual menu? Perform a Google or Spotlight search too.
Screen Capture – You probably know about Apple-Shift-3 for capturing the full content of your screen or even Apple-Shift-4 for being able to crop what you want to capture. Now go a step further by putting that image on your clipboard instead of creating a file by Control-Apple-Shift-3 (or 4).
Spring-loaded Folders – A Mac oldie but one of my favorites. You need to get a file sitting on your desktop deep into your hard drive. Click and drag the file and hold it over the hard drive icon and wait a second – boing – it opens. Now without letting go of the mouse button, keep holding the file until you’ve found the place you want it and let go of the button.
iMac Remote Holder – This is unfortunately gone in the new iMacs. But the previous generation enabled you to magnetically attach the remote right there on the side of the Mac. No more losing the remote. Assuming you put it back of course. Like many Apple nice touches – not a big thing, but just something that makes you appreciate your computer that much more.
The Option Key – The Option key unveils a treasure trove of features. Try it often. Here are just a few:
- Option-click the minimize button minimizes all windows in the application gives you a really slick animation (hold the shift key for an added treat).
- Option-click on a minimized window will restore all windows for that application.
- Option-click on the close tab icon in Safari, closes all other tabs. Be careful – there’s no way to cancel this.
- Option-click on a running application in the Dock hides the front-most application and brings the clicked application to the front.
- Option-click on a closed application like iTunes or iPhoto and choose which libraries you want to work with. (Didn’t know you could have multiple libraries, didya?)
- Option-arrow moves cursor by word. One for the switchers who are used to using ctrl-arrow.
It Just Works – My favorite Mac feature is that in most instances, things just work. New digital camera? Just plug it in and iPhoto instantly recognizes it. No need to install drivers or anything. Wireless network configuration? What configuration? It just works. New external hard drive? Just plug it in. My favorite instance is when I was desperate for high-speed internet and had DirectTV satellite internet. It wasn’t supported for Macs so I broke down and bought a dirt cheap Windows machine to network the internet connection. I hooked up a wireless network on the PC that itself couldn’t see, but my 3 Macs simply connected to it no problem.
I could go on and on. There are thousands of nice touches that Apple puts on their hardware and software. Like starting to type a word and pressing the ESC key to get a list of possible words. Oh and how the Mac easily…. You get the idea.
What are your favorite Mac “nice touch” features? Let us know in the Comments section below!