You've taken your requisite Apple product unboxing video and boasted about your brand new Mac on Facebook, but now it's time to get down to business. Whether you're new to the Mac or not, here's how to set up and get started.
Before you dive right into your new Mac, there are a few things you ought to do first:
- Run Software Update - Chances are your new Mac isn't as new as it could be. Since OS X was probably pre-installed on it quite awhile back, you're probably due for an update. To get things started, head on over to the Apple menu and choose Software Update. This will launch—you guessed it—Software Update and it will check for new updates. When it's done, install everything available. After you restart, repeat this process again to see if there are new updates. Some updates can't install until others have already been installed, so keep checking until Software Update reports that there are no new updates available
- Get to Know System Preferences - If you're new to the Mac, you should probably take a leisurely stroll through System Preferences (which you can access through the Apple menu and likely find in your dock). Take a look at each of the preference panels so you can become acquainted with your options. You'll eventually find yourself spending a fair amount of time in here so it helps to know where things are.
- Set Up Your Sharing Preferences - In System Preferences, there's a panel called Sharing. Open that up and you'll be presented with a long list of sharing services. Many of these services are very helpful if you need to share with another computer (whether it's your own or someone else's). Take a look at them all and enable the ones you'd find useful—just make sure to only allow your user or any future users created on the machine may end up with access to the enabled services.
- Repair Disk Permissions - Once you're all done, it's always good form to repair your disk permissions so nothing gets out of whack. To do this, go into your Hard Drive —> Applications —> Utilities and open Disk Utility. Choose your hard drive from the list on the left, select the First Aid tab, and click the Repair Permissions button. This will take a few minutes and may not end up repairing anything at all, but it's always good to run it on a regular basis and after you've made significant changes to your machine.
Tips for First-Timers
If this is your first time with a Mac, we've got you covered with a look at the latest version of Mac OS X (Snow Leopard), and a look at what's to come in Mac OS X Lion this year.
- Snow Leopard's Four Best Improvements (For Civilians):
Most of Mac OS 10.6's changes are deep in its underpinnings for developers to put to good use. But what do the rest of us get out of Snow Leopard? Modest, but nice, improvements to the everyday Mac workflow.
- What to Expect in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion - Apple didn't reveal too much about the next iteration of their operating system, but here's a sneak peek at what you can expect when Mac OS X Lion is released in Summer of 2011.
Install Some Killer Apps
Now that you've got a handle on your new machine, let's take a look at some great software just waiting to be downloaded.
- Lifehacker Pack for Mac: Our List of the Best Free Mac Downloads - Looking to beef up your Mac with a few great-and free-apps that cover a whole lot of your productivity and computing needs? Our annual Lifehacker Pack for Mac rounds up the best free downloads for OS X.
- Most Popular Free Mac Downloads of 2010 - Despite the high prices associated with Macs, some of the best Mac software costs you absolutely nothing. Here's a look at the most popular, free Mac downloads for 2010.
Adjust Settings and Tweak Your System
Got a grasp on OS X? Check. Installed some great software? Check. Now all you need to do is customise your machine to your liking. Here are some resources to help you out:
- Secrets Updates for Snow Leopard, Still Tweaks Every Dark Corner of OS X:
If you're not a big fan of using the Terminal but love hidden features in OS X, Secrets is the preference pane for you. Secrets provides a list of hidden features (and descriptions of each) that can be easily toggled on and off with a simple click of a checkbox.
- Automate Just About Anything on Your Mac, No Coding Required - Even if you're not a programmer, you can easily create tiny, time-saving applications that breeze through repetitive tasks-renaming large groups of files, executing terminal commands, and much more-with the simple, code-free, drag-and-drop interface of OS X's built-in tool, Automator.
- Customize Your Desktop - If you use a computer and read Lifehacker, it's probably safe to assume you've customised your desktop. But if you haven't, or you're looking for a fresh new look, here are some great options to explore this weekend.
- Simple Desktops Is a Hub for Attractive, Distraction-Free Wallpaper - There are plenty of great wallpaper resources, but it's hard to find a great image for your desktop that's both beautiful and distraction-free. Simple Desktops aims to do just that by collecting the best, simple wallpapers on the web.
- Master and Customise Column Widths in OS X Finder - Snow Leopard's Column view is often the smarter way to look at your files, but having to drag around your columns constantly to see long file names is a pain. Macworld offers a handy, tucked-away option for fixing Finder's widths.
- Disable Mac OS X's "Downloaded from Internet" Warnings - Macs try to be good and warn you about opening program files that just came off the internet. For those who download a lot, or for files that get stuck with the warning, here's how to disable that warning, per-item or permanently.
- Drop Thumbnails Onto One Another to Combine PDFs in Snow Leopard - Mac OS X 10.5, or Leopard, gave the Preview app some serious productivity powers, but at least one feature, PDF combining, works a bit differently in Snow Leopard (10.6). PC World explains the subtle but significant change.
- Permanently Disable the OS X Bouncing Dock Icon Effect - Have you ever been busy getting work done when a random Dock icon starts bouncing up and down, begging for your attention? The Switching To Mac blog writes up how to completely disable the often distracting effect.
- How to Clean Up Your Mac's "Open With" Contextual Menu - If you've made good use of your Mac's "Open With" contextual menu, you've probably noticed it can get a bit cluttered with duplicates. Fortunately, there's an easy trick to tidy things up.
We hope we've been able to help you get started with your new Mac, find some great software, and customise it the way you'd like. If you're a Mac veteran, perhaps you've got some ideas of your own. Let's hear 'em in the comments.