3 OS X Tips for Windows Users

If you’re rather new to OS X, coming from or still living in a world dominated by Windows just like mine, you’ve probably run into the following trivial questions:

  1. How to cut and paste (move) files in Finder?
  2. How to lock the screen?
  3. How to restore windows using Command+Tab?

Here are the short answers.

Cut and Paste Files in Finder

In Windows, the keyboard shortcut Control+X (cut) followed by Control+V (paste) behaves exactly the same in Explorer as it does in other applications such as text editors or graphics programs. It moves files and even entire directories, recursively.

Not on your Mac. Cut and paste doesn’t work in Finder. I’ve been struggling with this for some time, but the solution is quite simple: don’t use cut and paste but use copy and paste special instead: Command+C followed by Command+Option+V.

Lock the Screen

I never leave a machine unlocked. Then I discovered that a Windows+L equivalent isn’t obvious in OS X. There are many tricks out there to mimic the same behaviour but unfortunately most of these are based upon either invoking the screen saver or logging off. Hey, I simply want to lock the screen, requiring a password to unlock when I get back.

I ran into the following solution which basically consists of creating a service using Automator and assigning a keyboard shortcut to swiftly invoke the service. The service itself executes the following command line:

/System/Library/CoreServices/Menu\ Extras/User.menu/Contents/Resources/CGSession -suspend

Exactly what I need. After creating the service with Automator – I named it “Lock Screen” – simply assign a keyboard shortcut to the service via System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard Shortcuts. I chose Control+Option+Command+L to make sure there is no conflict between existing, prioritized shortcuts in applications.

Task Switcher

In Windows, Alt+Tab brings a window to the foreground, whether its previous state was normal, minimized or maximized, it doesn’t matter. Not so on your Mac. If you minimize an application in OS X, Command+Tab won’t bring it back. The selected application is reactivated but a previously minimized window doesn’t receive focus; it keeps sitting in the dock. Try for yourself: open two applications, minimize the first, switch to the second and then try to return to the first via Command+Tab.

This behaviour seems normal, by design, as in OS X the Task Switcher iterates between applications and not really between windows.

I did find a workaround though: if you minimize a window, don’t use Command+M (the keyboard shortcut to minimize windows) but hide the window instead, using Command+H. Try and see the difference when you reactivate the hidden application via Command+Tab.

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iPhone Annoyances

As a seasoned Nokia (Symbian) and HTC (WinMo) smartphone user and -more recently- a quite satisfied iPhone 3GS (iOS4) owner, I’d like to share some of my annoyances with Apple’s smartphone, both hardware and software related. I believe all of the following applies to the iPhone 4 as well.

Notification LED

Why isn’t there a front LED indicating missed calls, new messages and upcoming appointments when the phone is in stand-by mode? I cannot recall having any phone before without. Coming back from a meeting, I’d like to see -without even touching the phone- if I have a missed call. Why isn’t there a LED or other visual notification?

Speaker

The speaker and in particular its position is not well thought of, resulting in too silent or even inaudible rings under certain conditions. For instance: if the phone is deep in your pocket, the speaker will touch the end of the pocket and will be silenced. Combine the weakness of the speaker with the poor vibrator and you’ll often end up with missed calls.

Cable

Why doesn’t Apple come up with a plain, standard USB cable (with mini or micro connector) instead of that horrible proprietary cable?

Multitasking

iOS4’s pseudo-multitasking (background apps are paused in the best case) is a welcome start but what’s missing is effective cooperative multitasking allowing background downloads and apps updating while running another in the foreground. Ideally true multitasking should come with a functional task manager which among other things visualizes allocated system resources and allows to terminate all apps at once to free up memory.

More advanced and granular settings

For the sake of simplicity some settings have been oversimplified. I want to fetch new mail every 30 minutes during work hours and every 4 hours outside work hours. I’d like to choose between more than 6 New Text Message sounds and upload custom ones. I would like to choose a New Mail (custom) sound. Sure, I could jailbreak my phone or perhaps there’s an app for that but in my humble opinion, such features are basic and should be available out-of-the-box.

E-mail attachments

The Mail app doesn’t support adding attachments to an e-mail. Say what? You can’t attach a picture, PDF or any file to an e-mail. Unbelievable.

iTunes

It’s unfortunate that iTunes (the perfect definition of a bloated application if you ask me) is required to be able to properly interface with the smartphone, even for trivial things such as read/write access to the phone’s internal storage. It is even more painful that only a single iTunes instance (PC or Mac) can be configured to do so. An ActiveSync-like approach would be the better choice for basic operations.

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