Mac Beginner's Guide

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This article or section is based on a forum post written by diatribe.

This guide serves to provide information for users who are new to or want to know more about the Mac platform. If you are interested in learning about software, media players, shortcuts and would like to find out some useful tips, tricks and hints then this guide should prove valuable. It is by no means exhaustive, but is rather intended to give you a head start and a better insight into the world of Mac.


Mac 101

Getting to know OS X

Keyboard Shortcuts

Other nifty Mac OS X hints

  • How to use the built-in Dictionary
  • System-wide spell checker - in any app just control-click and go to spelling and mark check spelling as you type (Note: Only available in native OS X applications, sometimes referred to as Cocoa applications)
  • How to create a zip file - highlight the items you want to include, control-click, and choose "Create Archive" (or "Compress", if running on Leopard) from the menu
  • Drag files on Dock items - just drag files on Dock items to open these files with the app (pics to import on iPhoto, pics on mail to send, etc.)
  • How to install applications - read this guide to installing applications in OS X
  • How to uninstall applications - just drag the application to the Trash. There might be leftovers in a) the preference folder (just preferences that take up very little space) and b) the application support folder (may contain bigger files to support the app) If you want to get rid of all the traces of an app just search for it in Finder, or Spotlight if available, and delete everything. That's it. Simple as this.Or use uninstall tools like CleanGenius to remove unneeded applications.

Mac OS X guides

Apple software guides

3rd party software guides

Hardware guides

Troubleshooting - When something doesn't work

An exhaustive list of all kinds of problems and their solutions can be found on Apple's troubleshooting 101 page. Some general quick steps to solve problems are listed in the categories below.




See also List of Mac Software By no means is this meant to be an exhaustive list but it covers the basic apps that one might need. For all your app needs please check the following sites:

or see the Finding Mac Software article for more information.

If you want to see an example of what you might need, see what I have installed.

(f) free (s) shareware (c) commercial

Media players

  • QuickTime (included with Mac OS X) - should play most mpegs and mov formats (see QuickTime Fullscreen widget below)
  • QT WMV codec (c) - to play WMV in QuickTime
  • DivX codec(Direct download link) DivX labs (f) - to play DivX files in QuickTime
  • Xineplayer (f) - a lightweight QuickTime alternative that plays the files QT does, DivX and some WMVs
  • VLC (f) - plays pretty much all formats except WMV3 and Real media. See the VLC article.
  • mPlayer (f) - the same as VLC
  • WMP (f) - the Mac version of Windows Media Player (plays WMV3)
  • Real Player (f) - the Mac version of Real Player
  • Perian (f) - a component to Quicktime that adds native support for many popular video formats.

Web browsers

  • Safari (included with OS X) - the default Mac web browser, handles almost all sites and is the fastest in many cases
  • Firefox (f) - a popular cross-platform browser
  • Camino (f) - browser based on the popular Firefox/Mozilla engine but with a native Mac interface and tighter integration with OS X (Spotlight, Keychain, Bonjour, etc.)
  • OmniWeb (c) - another web browser with a lot of features
  • Shiira (f) based on the same underlying engine as Safari, but with extra features such as tab exposé
  • Opera (f) - An innovative internet suite with a web browser, mail client and BitTorrent support. It was the first to include features such as tabbed browsing and voice support.

System Utilities

  • CleanGenius - an all-in-one Mac system clean utility combined with app uninstaller, duplicate finder, big files finder, memory free, login items management, disk space monitor and disk ejector.
  • Growl (f) - a system-wide notification system that has all notifications in one place (it is also bundled with Adium, so if you get Adium you'll have Growl)
  • Quicksilver (f) - an application launcher that sports both a search window and customizable keyboard shortcuts
  • Butler (f) - another application launcher
  • Synergy (s) - an iTunes controller with menu controls, keyboard shortcuts and a very slick interface
  • OnyX (f) - maintenance, system optimization and personalization utility
  • CLIX - full system security and maintenance scripts in a GUI interface 1500 functions
  • Little Snitch (s) - an advanced firewall with manual application control for both inbound and outbound traffic

Instant Message Clients

  • iChat (included with OS X) - handles .mac, AIM and Jabber accounts, video and voice chat
  • Adium (f) - Commonly thought to be the best instant messaging client for OS X. Handles almost all clients but no voice or video yet, and it has limited support for file transfers (works for some but not for others). See the Adium article for more information.
  • Skype (f) - the Mac version of Skype, an instant message client for text, voice, video and VoIP chat. See the Skype article.
  • MSN (f) - the Mac version of MSN, with limited functionality compared to the Windows version
  • Mercury Messenger (f) - a highly customizable Java MSN client with webcam support
  • aMSN (f) - an open-source MSN client with webcam support

IRC clients

  • Xchat (f) - IRC client ported from Linux
  • Conversation (f) - another IRC client with a nice Aqua interface
  • Colloquy (f) - an IRC client with a tab-based webkit interface, so it's very customizable
  • MRChat (f) - the MacRumors client, automatically connects to the correct server, channel, etc.

RSS Readers

  • Safari (included with OS X) - the standard OS X browser has built-in RSS support
  • NetNewsWire (lite) (s) (f) - the shareware and free version of the most used RSS reader
  • NewsFire (s) - another RSS reader
  • Vienna - free, open source RSS reader

DVD/CD copying and burning

  • Finder, iTunes, Disk Utility (included with OS X) - burn CDs and DVDs from within OS X
  • DVD2OneX (c) - a tool to compress DVD rips to standard DVD size
  • MacTheRipper (f) - rips the movie from a DVD to store on your HD or burn on a DVD
  • Roxio Toast (c) - a very good app that burns CDs/VCDs/DVDs/etc. and compresses DVD rips to standard DVD size
  • Roxio Popcorn (c) - compresses DVD rips to standard DVD size, converts DVDs and other video files for iPod or PSP
  • Burn (f) - burning application for Mac OS X

FTP Applications

  • Cyberduck (f) - a full featured, yet free, FTP application
  • Transmit (s) - an advanced FTP client, with Spotlight integration and tabbed browsing


Text/Office apps

  • Textmate (f) (s) - Widely considered to be the best text editor out there for the Mac. Has support for many different programming/scripting languages, as well as functionality for blogging, source control, etc. The list goes on an on.
  • MacJournal (f) (s) - an awesome journal app with Wiki ability to write journals, texts, blog entries and more, export it to various locations
  • SubEthaEdit (f) - a great word processor that'll even let you write with more persons on the same document via Bonjour (formerly Rendezvous)
  • VoodooPad Lite and Pro (f) (s) - another great text app with Wiki ability
  • Smultron - one of the most full-featured free text editors available for Mac OS X
  • NeoOffice (f) - Open Office port for OS X (if you don't want to use MS Office)
  • iFlash (s) - Flash card app with a myriad of features
  • iWork (c) - iWork suite from Apple including a "text"-editor (not comparable to MS Word) and a presentation app (comparable to MS PowerPoint)
  • MS Office (c) - The original office software from Microsoft


  • Photoshop/Photoshop Elements (c) - the standard photo manipulation software for pros and for consumers
  • LiveQuartz (f) - lightweight QuartzExtreme image manipulation software
  • GIMP - GIMP is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring.

Other apps

  • Delicious Library (c) - a media catalog app for DVDs, CDs, books and games with a beautiful interface
  • DVDpedia/CDpedia/Bookpedia (c) - another media catalog app with a lot more features but not as beautiful as Delicious Library
  • Ultralingua (c) - a dictionary app that lets you choose which modules to get (great for translations)
  • Salling Clicker (s) - control your Mac via your Bluetooth phone
  • SuperDuper (s) - back up your stuff, you will be sorry if you don't. You can also use Time Machine.
  • Audacity (f) - Audio editor and recorder
  • ffmpegX (s) - an audio/video conversion tool which produces extremely high-quality files and allows for a large degree of customization over encoder settings
  • Handbrake (f) - a GPL'd multithreaded DVD to MPEG-4 ripper/converter
  • CandyBar (s) - easily change your app and system icons in one flush and save your changes to an iContainer for future use and backups
  • GoogleEarth (f) - mapping software that uses satellite images, similar to GoogleMaps, but more detailed and with more features

Scripts and other haxxies

These applications should be used with caution as system altering apps may crash your system or cause other problems.

App enhancements


For all your widget needs check the following pages:

Here are a few to get you started:

  • iCal events (f) - shows events from iCal for the next days, launches iCal
  • FlipClock (f) - a replacement world clock for the analog-ly challenged. Includes an alarm option and many designs.
  • Wikipedia (f) - an easy way to search the open source online encyclopedia Wikipedia from your Dashboard
  • GimmiAmazon (f) - an easy way to search Amazon from within the Dashboard
  • Countdown Calendar (f) - counts down the days to a specific date
  • LookingForward (f) - a countdown widget for multiple events
  • PearLyrics (f) - a lyric widget that gets almost all lyrics and let's you automatically copy them to iTunes (no longer available, if you need it send a private message to Diatribe)
  • Calculon (f) - a small calculator widget
  • Moments (f) - a widget to display your favorite pic in different sizes with different frame designs
  • Utility Button (f) - puts your utilities folder in your dashboard to be easily accessible
  • Airtraffic Control (f) - shows the networks around you, their signal strength and lets you connect to them
  • Sysstat / mini version of Sysstat(f) - shows the system stats in your Dashboard
  • Quicktime full screen (f) - click to see QuickTime movies in fullscreen
  • eBay (s) - keep track of your current sales and bids on eBay from your Dashboard

Useful Mac related websites

Apple's pages

Desktop Pictures and Icons

Hints and Scripts


  • iLounge - the number one iPod resource

Buying Advice

Buyer's Guide - Overview over all Apple hardware and when it has been updated last



Gadgets and Mac accessories




Other information

MacRumors (Please read before posting)


  • Free iTunes 2006 - a list of all free songs given away by Apple on the iTunes Music Store