Life with OS X

So, I've finally taken the plunge and got one of the shiny new core duo iMacs, and on the whole I love it. There's a few things that annoy me, or that I've discovered that I'll try and keep noted down here. I'm hoping these will be useful for anyone else moving to OSX from windows or linux.

How Cool is THAT!?

There's a few features that I've noticed, and keep impressing me.


Installing Applications

Most are just a case of mounting the .dmg, drag icon to Applications folder. Some .dmg's even include a shortcut to Applications. How cool is that?

Drag and Drop Text

You can drag and drop almost anything. I find myself dragging text between applications all the time - this is made significantly easier with expose. You can also drag bits of text onto the desktop, where they'll be saved as text files...

Infinitely high menus

OS X follows a user interface design principle known as Fitts' Law, which basically says "the bigger it is, the easier you can aim for it". This means all items that touch the side of the screen - the menubar, the dock, and scrollbars on maximised windows really do sit at the very edge of the screen. This means you can aim your mouse pointer at them and not have to worry about stopping before the edge of the screen - you only need to worry about getting the pointer location correct in one dimension (hence infinitely high). Windows gets this horribly wrong, although at least the start button in XP now behaves like this.

Funky Keyboard Shortcuts

More keyboard shortcuts.


Backspace in terminal with Screen

This is fixable in 2 ways - the first is to run the following in a terminal:

defaults write TermCapString xterm

The second is to give up and install iTerm which seems much much better than the built in terminal.

URL handling in iTerm

Add the following characters to 'Characters considered part of words' in the iTerm preferences:


You should then be able to double click most URLs - and cmd-click will then open in a browser window if you've enabled that option in the iTerm prefs.

Remote Desktop

Backslash with a UK keyboard

Backslash simply doesn't work with a UK keyboard over remote desktop. The only way around this I've found so far is a little app called 'backslasher' which sits on the windows machine and remaps the ` key.

Single instance of RDP

The "Apple way" is to have a single instance of an application to handle multiple sessions. Unfortunately the RDP client doesn't natively support running multiple RDP sessions. Making copies of the application seems to work, but it's a bit messy. There might be a nice easy way to script this...

Screen Locking

It is possible to lock your screen on OS X (in the same way that win+L works on windows), but it's not obvious to find.

You should then get a padlock in the menu bar next to the clock, and you can use this to lock the screen. You can also use this menu to lock the keychain which protects your password list - this is especially useful if your keychain password is different to your login password.

Hash (#) key

The hash key is alt-3 on my UK apple keyboard. ### see?

OGG Vorbis in iTunes

To allow iTunes to play ogg vorbis files, grab the Xiph QuickTime Components. This also supports playback of FLAC files.

.DS_Store files

OSX leaves hidden .DS_Store files all over windows network shares to store its metadata in. These are annoying, and fortunately easily removed. Run the following in a terminal, then reboot.

defaults write DSDontWriteNetworkStores true

Fullscreen QuickTime

Open up the 'Script Editor' application, and enter the following:

tell application "QuickTime Player"
    present front movie scale screen
end tell

Save as an application, then run to make the current quicktime go fullscreen.

Other useful applications