Settling in with my Powerbook

I'm pretty settled in with my powerbook now and so I thought I'd share my experiences using OSX from the point of view of being a windows and linux user. Even if you don't have a Mac now, if you think one day you might switch then bookmark this as some of these tips may save you some trouble.

The missing keys

  1. I had a little trouble finding the # key and then a quick google turned up that it was a combination keystroke of Alt+3
  2. The delete key is only accessed via Fn+Backspace
  3. The use of Ctrl is substituted with the command key. For example ctrl+c (copy) becomes command+c
  4. Screenshots can be taken with command+shift+3. Instead of the image being placed into the clipboard buffer a png file is created on the desktop.

Ctrl+alt+del equivalent?

I asked one of my friends who is a long-time mac user if he had any tips for me and one of his recommendations was that if I need to kill a rogue application then Command+alt+escape brings up the task manager equivalent. He also suggested that as I might miss the Blue screen of death I could set my desktop to blue, remove all the icons and up-plug the mouse to replicate that 'locked out' feeling!

Choosing a text editor and SFTP client

I had real trouble choosing a text editor. I tried out SKedit but it didn't really do it for me. On windows I use notepad++with WinSCP so I was looking for the closest match on the mac.

TextMate seemed like a good choice, it had the tabs I was used to and I liked the look of it, the only problem was when I was testing it I couldn't for the life of me find out how to activate the tabs. Unfortunately the tabs are only active when a project file is open. Using notepad++ with WinSCP on windows I used to live on the edge and edit files directly on the server. (Yes I know this is asking for trouble). As I couldn't get tabs without the project file I decided I would use this to get me into a better working practice. Using the excellent Transmit 3 (A great substitute for WinSCP) I was able to download the site files and then create a project file for each site.

One of the most amazing features of TextMate is it's ability to set up snippets. You set up a piece of code that you often use as a snippet and you can access it by typing a keyword and hitting tab. The code is inserted and the caret jumps to the predetermined point in the snippet. For example I set up a snippet (see below) for hrefs accessed through typing "href" and then tab. These snippets save a huge amount of time and I like this feature alot.

Example TextMate snippet for hrefs

<a href="$1">$2</a>

TextMate seems to be updated regularly and there are always new features being added; it's good to see something being so actively worked on. Overall I say it's well worth the €39.

Mail and web browsing

I really love the fact that Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird are available for Windows, Linux and Mac. It makes a big difference being able to use the same browser and mail client on all three platforms. However it's disappointing that that there's relatively little open-source software on the Mac, I miss the choice I have on Windows and Linux.

As I'm going to be using this machine on public wireless connections from time to time I followed Doug Bowman's in depth article on how to use SSH Tunnel manager to tunnel my IMAP and SMTP connections so that the passwords aren't sent in plain text across the public WIFI network. In addition I was going to use SSH Tunnel manager to tunnel a MySQL connection but it didn't work - I'd not been able to do it previously on Windows either, so maybe that's more of an issue relating to the SSH configuration at the server end.

If you've got any gems of Mac wisdom I should know, then please enlighten us all in the comments.

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