Discovering At Least One Awesome Thing A Day On My Mac

I’m a week into using a Mac as my primary computer and loving it.  Every day I discover at least one little thing that makes me go “why the fuck didn’t my PC ever do that.”

Today’s was the time zone thing.  For two decades I’ve been bedeviled by time zones whenever I travel.  For a long time I had to manually set the time.  Eventually on the PC I got things into a state with my calendar where changing the time zone worked, but I still had to do it manually.

On the Mac, I simply check a box on the Time Zone screen that says “Set time zone automatically using current location.”  Voila – I’m in NY and the time zone is set correctly on my Mac.

While I know this is a trivial little thing, but I’ve spent N hours of my life changing the time zone manually on my Windows box.   I want those N hours back.

When I reflect on the week, I’ve started to master Quicksilver, found an automatic natural text widget that lets me type “lunch with dad from noon to 2pm on Saturday” and an item appears magically on my calendar, and I’m enjoying Ctrl-1, Ctrl-2, Ctrl-3, and Ctrl-4 to quickly switch between screen states (or “spaces”).

I’ve been stubborn for a while about this Windows / Mac thing but I’m starting to get it.

  • first time i used a mac literally felt sea sick – everything upside down and inside out.
    once you get over that hump everything is plain sailing.

    the mac will continue to impress you and reveal tiny gems of well thought through UI and functionality for ages and ages to come. is a great blog for cool mac apps and features

    • qka

      Actually the Mac is right-side up, it's Windows that's upside down and backwards, being a poor copy of the mac, the original.

  • It amazes me how complex calendaring remains to be in our connected world. The timezone thing is really frustrating – I want my N hours back too.

    But I have not found a solution to another problem… the meeting in a different time zone than either of the participants. This typically happens with trade shows. Sam and I who are in different time zones want to set a noon meeting in a third time zone we both plan to be in.

    I usually end up creating a show calendar in Excel or something.

    My cell phone understand the timezone where I am, but my PC doesn't.

    I wonder how the Mac knows the timezone and if gets confused with VPNs.

  • I'm making the switch after a decade of linux. So far my overall sentiment is "meh" but the careful design does shine through. Here's a bunch of cool cheat sheets including some nice OS X keyboard shortcuts:

  • Quicksilver totally rocks. I love it when I'm using my Mac and I've not quite found anything like it for the PC.

    What's the natural language widget you found? that sounds really useful…

  • I'm so glad, Brad. I could sense your PC "pain" via your blog posts. I bought my first Mac (Mac Book pro) about a year ago, and I'm NEVER going back to PC. Critically, it hasn't aged like PCs do. My Mac doesn't get slower with age (unlike its owner). When my wife's Dell needs to be replaced, I'm buying her a Mac. You can complain about closed systems if you want, but functionality wins all the time, IMHO.

  • ttt

    Yeah and I discover one ridiculous thing a day (on OS X). (MAC = PC)
    E.g. Why the hell can't I cut/past on a mac????????????? It's totally essential. My next pc will run Linux.

  • As you know I was a major Windows user and I converted a couple of years ago. I love my Macs – still have lots of Windows PC too….I use the Mac as a client PC for just about everything except some specialized software we sell…

  • The calendar is an app that you should use in the Cloud, not on your local machine. If you set your calendar on your Mac then you have to go through a process of "syncing" it your other devices. Why not use Google Calendar, including its natural language appointment setting, and open it in a web browser on all of your devices – no syncing required.

  • Dave G

    Brad, as your next cool thing try to pick up using hot corners. Using hot corners with expose really boosts your work speed. Flick of the wrist to the lower right and I can see all my windows and pick one, flick to the upper right and I can see all the windows of the current app, flick to upper left and I get to the desktop grab a file flick to upper right and choose an app for the file. It's great and so far (after 6 years on Mac) hasn't cause carpal tunnel 😉 If you haven't already, time machine is the next coolest why-hasn't-Windows-done-that-yet thing.

  • I stopped using Quicksilver a year or so ago when it was becoming increasingly unstable with later releases of the OS. I *always* loved the functionality, but have since switched over to Launchbar – – which has similar functionality. Admittedly, it's not quite as magical as quicksilver, but it's been working pretty well for my needs.

  • I have long had calendar time zone woes while accessing Exchange server on a Mac (or any computer).

    When I schedule meetings in a different time zone, I enter it onto an Exchange calendar (via Entourage) in the local time zone. E.g., I'm in SF, and have a 3 PM ET time meeting next week when I'm in NY, I will enter it as 3 PM. That way, when I look ahead to my week, I can see my schedule in the local time. When I get to the destination — fly to NY — if I switch my computer time zone to eastern time, all my local calendar times jump ahead three hours. The 3 PM meeting shows up as 6 PM. So I stay on pacific while in NY. (The only way the event would show up at 3 PM when I'm actually in NY is if I had entered it at 12 PM.)

    If you configure the event's time zone when creating the event, it will not show up at the right local time slot UNTIL you switch your computer time zone. E.g., if an "EST" calendar item (3 PM) gets entered while I'm on pacific time, it will show up on the calendar for 12 PM noon until I switch the time zone when I arrive in target destination. Then it will say 3 PM, correctly, but I was not able to look ahead in the week before.

    Bottom Line: What Exchange server needs is an ability to set an "absolute time" with calendar events, where the time of the event does not change no matter how many times the time zone on your computer changes.

    There's my rant of the day!

  • Congratulations Brad, for crossing over to the Mac side! So many people whine about their computing problems, and those "in the know" tell them: "JUST GET A MAC". But they rarely do.

    You DID! Way to go.

  • I loved Quicksilver, but was disappointed when development stopped on it. You might feel the same eventually…

    But the guy who wrote Quicksilver got hired by Google, and development has continued there. It's now an open-source project hosted on Google Code, called Quick Search Box for the Mac, and it works virtually identically to Quicksilver.

    I *highly* recommend it as it's more updated and more stable than Quicksilver. Links here: <-info <-to download

  • The mac is to easy, too clean.. it's like antibacterial soap. I don't deny the beauty of the product, but I'll take Linux and Windows over a Mac any day and twice on Sunday. I keep waiting for everyone to wake up and realize it's just a mac, it's just an ipad, it's just an iphone.. these things are changing things for the better but they're also just gadgets on the cusp of commoditization. For me, the smaller the interface, the more annoying the device.. I just don't want to waste time while my phone boots up or typing on a miniature keyboard.. the great think about Apple and Steve Jobs is that he can successfully talk everyone into thinking they have to have these devices. I for one was done with Apple when I sold my IIGS. 🙂

  • Idea for a future blog post: Why Apple gets it and why every other PC maker seems so clueless!

  • My two cents for something awesome today:

    get TextExpander:

    for everything from email signature lines, to… well, you'll see. It's my fav OS X time-saver and convenience app.

    Seattle entrepreneur-socialite-kingmaker:) Buzz Bruggerman does something kinda similar with ActiveWords… but TextExpander is for the MAC. It's a truly wonderful utility.

    • Awesome – getting it now!

      • my apologies if it sucks the life out of you for a month or so:) TextExpander is awesome!

        ok, here's my recommendation for something awesome for Monday, June 28:

        1password for osx from Agile Web Solutions:

        It remembers every login ID and password you ever use… and keeps it all neat and tidy in a secure database. Then it auto-fills whenever you need it.

        And there's an iPhone and iPad client, which of course keeps the data coherent. So, in a word… no more remembering or fidgeting around for login id's or passwords is required.

        • My password world is fine – handled by Xmarks and Chrome.

  • I've had a shiny new Macbook Pro sitting here for a couple of weeks now. Have been meaning to make the switch, but keep "regressing" back to my Thinkpad. You've now given me more motivation to try and go whole hog and just make the switch.

    • Dang, Dharmesh… you make it really tough. I LOVE the Thinkpads; i've had two x61's and one x300. I especially like using them in "digital ink" mode. The John Chambers interview that i mentioned on another of Brad's posts, i did with my x61 folded over into "digital ink mode", i was taking notes with my stylus. The only thing that I still lust for as a Mac user, is a high-resolution touch screen like the Thinkpad has.

      Of course, most garden-variety Thinkpads don't have that… so if you are just using a regular Thinkpad, jump over to OS X. The Mac is really a Linux/Unix machine…. so it is vastly more stable. Sure, Steve Jobs put a lot of fancy UI objects on it and dubbed it OS X… but it's really Linux. You might have to reboot once every ten months or so; and you'll never need anti-virus software. The apps are better, and you will spend zero time fighting your computer… you'll just be productive.

      Now, the Thinkpad has that awesome "click clack" IBM keyboard, which i do miss. But overall, even compared to Windows 7, doing your day to day work in the Mac/OS X environment compared to using Windows, is like driving a Mercedes Benz, versus driving a Ford Falcon.

      No exaggeration there. imho, of course:)

    • I'm 10 days in and loving it. You have to turn off your Thinkpad and put it out of your site and commit to the Mac for a chunk of time. I've been told that over and over again – I finally just did it.

  • David Cohen

    And my guess is that you’re waiting on the OS much less (updates, reboots, etc) right?

    • Yup. The difference is really noticeable now that I'm looking for it.

      • That's the best part…you don't realize how good it is until you've gone back to a PC. When I originally switched I didn't touch a PC for two weeks and didn't really see the big deal (5-6 years ago). When I went back I kept asking myself, "Why doesn't the PC do this?"

        If you're using an iPhone in conjunction be sure to download NetNewsWire for both devices. Syncs with Google Reader to keep all RSS feeds marked on both ends. Makes my life a "sync-ch" 😉

  • The command+shift+3 to screen grab is an oldie but a goodie!

    • yeah, benja… that's a REALLY good one – i use it at least 15 times a day. However, I prefer command+shift+4, which allows you to drag over an area on the screen, instead of the entire screen, and saves that image as a file on your desktop.

      The default is a .PNG file, but i prefer to save the screenshot as a jpeg file. You can open "Terminal", and (carefully) type in the following command to reset screenshot to save in jpeg format:

      defaults write type jpg
      killall SystemUIServer

      If you omit the second line, you will need to log out and in again for the change to take effect.

      Also, I have found that once you start using shift+command+4, you will quickly clutter up your desktop with past screenshots. And the desktop is active – it chews up RAM and will slow down your system. Better to make a folder in your username area, and reset the screenshot command to save there. Again, from Terminal:

      defaults write location /Full/Path/To/Folder

  • Surprised that you just starting using a Mac! A really useful app is AppFresh –

    It still amazes me that Mac has not made more inroads for the Enterprise desktop. That's a different story…