Mario Villalobos

To Tweak or Not to Tweak (Part 2)

Two years ago I bought my first Mac. It was the mid-2013 13” MacBook Air with 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB SSD hard drive, and a 1.7 GHz Intel Core i7. It was the most powerful computer I’ve ever owned, and it’s still going strong, even with its 3rd major OS update. After two years, I have not once had to reinstall the OS because everything is simply reliable. I have not had to tweak any setting to make it run “faster,” I haven’t downloaded any utility to maintain my computer, and I’ve stuck with the Mac’s stock apps for most of the time I’ve had it. That means no Chrome or Firefox, no alternative Mail client, no alternative Calendar client, no alternative Messages client, no alternative Music client, etc. My machine has been running great right out of the box, and the fact that I have not had to worry about finding the best app in whatever client I wanted because the Mac had a great one built-in or having to worry about maintaining my computer in any way has meant that I’ve had more time to simply enjoy the benefits a computer brings to modern life, stuff like writing a damn novel in 9 months in the best damn writing program known to man (Scrivener) or using Time Machine for stress-free and worry-free backups. It’s all there and it’s all amazing.

But I’m just scratching the surface. Here are a few other things I love about it.

Keyboard Shortcuts. This one feels weird to include at the top because I remember struggling with it in the beginning, but now I can’t go back to Windows. I learned the benefits of keyboard shortcuts while using Windows, so muscle memory became a huge part of my computing experience, but when I converted to my Mac, I had to retrain my muscles. In Windows, the Control key is the main instigator of keyboard shortcuts. Control+X, Control+C, Control+V being the major ones in Cut, Copy, Paste. The Alt key would be the main modifier, as in Control+Alt+Delete, for example. Then the Shift key would be thrown in to add that tertiary layer of keyboard shortcut modifiers. Control+Shift+Esc for the Task Manager. On the Mac, the Command key is the main key for shortcuts. If you look at a Mac keyboard versus a Windows keyboard, you’ll notice the discrepancy right away. On Windows, the Control key is in the bottom left and right corners of the keyboard. So if you wanted to Cut some text, you would move one hand over to the corner and use the other hand to press down the X key. If you had bigger hands or a bit more dexterity you could use one hand to do it, which I did. But on a Mac, the Command key is right next to the Space bar. You know what else is right next to the Space bar? Your thumbs. Your thumbs are almost always hovering over that long horizontal bar in charge of emptiness, and with a slight movement of one thumb to the edge of it, you can manipulate the keyboard faster and more efficiently. The corners of the keyboard are keys that aren’t used very often or aren’t used in combination with many other keys. This has sped up my quickness and efficiency on my Mac exponentially. Shortcuts like Command+Shift+Right (selecting a whole line of text) is much more comfortable and quick than the Windows equivalent (Control+Shift+Page Down). Try that on a Windows keyboard. It’s unpleasant.

Trackpad Gestures. This one’s almost unfair to include since Microsoft has not been in charge of the quality of the trackpads used in machines running Windows, but holy shit this is such a big deal. Apple is Apple because of how much of their attention is focused on details. They’re in charge of everything when it comes to their products, and that’s what makes them so incredible. Gestures provide another layer of interactivity that keyboard shortcuts can’t bring, or can but not as pleasantly. Where do I even begin with gestures? The one app I probably use the most on my Mac is Safari, and Safari has built-in support for so many gestures. I can pinch to zoom in on a page, like some text or a picture. I can use two fingers and double tap my cursor over a block of text to zoom in on just that text. I can do a two finger swipe from the left to the right to go back a page, from the right to the left to go forward a page, two finger swipe up or down to scroll the page like a boss, a three finger tap over a word to look it up on the dictionary, etc. It’s amazing. In the Photos app, I can pinch to zoom on a picture and I can twist two fingers around to rotate a picture in whatever direction I want. With four fingers, I can swipe up to activate Mission Control, which gives me a visual representation of all my active windows and desktops, swipe left or right to switch been full-screen apps, and a five finger pinch to bring up Launchpad, which shows me all my installed apps, like an iOS screen. The amount of gestures and the versatility this provides for my computing experience is mind-boggling and awe-inspiring.

In fact, there’s so much more to praise about the Mac that I’m going to have to continue this series tomorrow, in Part 3 of To tweak or not to tweak.