apple-new-logo-lg1At a recent class I attended I happened to be counting the computers around the classroom. Of eleven computers in the classroom, eleven of them were Macbooks. The numbers don’t lie, a growing number of people are switching to Macs, especially among the younger generation. With all these converts, it’s a perfect time to make sure that everyone knows how to get the most out of their Macs, new or otherwise.

Even before I switched from the world of PC’s there were two functions so important to me that I ran third party apps just to get that functionality. Macs have built-in software that takes care of both problems. And frankly I now find it hard to compute without these two options. The first is the ability to launch programs and search from the keyboard. On a Mac the ability to do this is provided by a program called Spotlight that it is built into Leopard and succeeding versions of OS X. To launch Spotlight just hit CMD + Space, type in your search and away you go. It’s a huge timesaver.

The second computer essential is virtual desktop ability, provided on Macs by Spaces. You can set up Spaces to allow you to have a number of different desktops that you can select from when you’re working on multiple projects and don’t want things to get cluttered up on one screen.

To change settings on things like your Spaces, you should look at System Preferences, which is basically the Mac equivalent of the Windows control panel. Most of the settings you need to change will be right here.

A big freebie that very few people are aware of is the Mac program called iSync. It allows you to use your Mac’s bluetooth wireless capability to synchronize with a variety of devices. I use it to sync my address book with my Motorola Razr, which is not even close to a smartphone. If you have a smart phone there are even more things you can do like syncing a calendar and things of that nature. I’m quite happy with just being able to use iSync to make sure that I always have my phone contacts backed up on my computer in case I lose my phone or it completely dies some day.

One last thing that can be really puzzling when you first switch especially if you go to a Macbook, is the fact that there are no Home and End keys. If you want to get the same functionality you have on a PC, just use the FN key plus the right and left arrows to navigate backwards and forewards along a line of text.

Any other Mac tips that I’m forgetting? Share your thoughts in the comments.