When I encounter someone brand new to the Mac, either a new client or someone who reaches out to me via email about switching or having recently done so, this is the text file I send. I thought it would be nice to share this with the world. Perhaps it will be useful to you or those you love.
Congratulations! You are now a proud owner of one of the most elegant and powerful tools on the planet. The very beginning of your experience is the essence of the idea of minimalism – everything you need and nothing that you don’t. Each item, icon, and even the desktop background chosen equally for its function and its beauty.
When you first turn it on and get past the welcome music and basic setup information, what you are presented with is a completely clean desktop, a dock filled with all the applications one might need to get started, and a basic set of important status items (time, wifi, etc.) in your menubar.
Contained herein, is everything you need to create and enjoy the creation of others. To engage in conversations across space and time. To be entertained and delighted to the point of laughter and moved to the point of tears. To make the next multi-million dollar movie or write the next great American novel. To make a lasting impact on millions of strangers or leave a legacy for our children. All of this done with unparalleled ease of use in a package that fits into your briefcase or on your desk.
Of course, we don’t think of a new computer this way. But perhaps we should. Because, right out of the box, with no additional software needed, the Mac includes all of the tools one needs to do any of these things. Let’s take inventory:
Safari – This is one of the fastest web browsers ever made. Built on web standards, with an open source core, it takes the task at hand seriously. It is chock full of features such as tabs, advanced security, private browsing, form and user/password autofill, and bookmark management. But mainly it keeps those out of the way so that you can get online and to work as quickly and easily as possible.
Mail – A fantastic and modern email client with support for POP, IMAP, and even Microsoft Exchange based email. It supports multiple accounts, junk mail filtering, rich HTML support, multiple signatures, and advanced rules. It’s a powerful tool that is easy to set up and use.
Text Edit – This is a surprisingly flexible word processor that even seasoned Mac users don’t know the full capabilities of. It has the ability to create lists and outlines, advanced spell checking, advanced text formatting, allows for embedded images, photos and hyperlinks, and it can open and save in Microsoft Word document format including the recent “docx” format.
Preview – Not only a powerful application for viewing and annotating PDFs but also a nice image viewer and editor. You can do fairly advanced color correction, crop and resize, and change file types (.jpg to .png for instance).
iCal – A pretty good calendar.
Address Book – a pretty good contact manager.
iChat – A really decent and fairly advanced IM client with support for voice, video, and screen sharing.
iLife – This is a suite of applications all built around the theme of digital organization and creation. It includes: iPhoto for organizing and editing your digital photos. iMovie for creating professional looking movies from your video. iDVD can be used to create professional looking DVDs from the movies. iWeb allows you to create nice looking WYSIWYG websites. Garage Band is for performing and recording music.
The items mentioned above only just begin to scratch the surface. Your new Mac comes preloaded with all the tools most people need to get their daily tasks done or even change the world. The only thing you need to bring to it is your motivation to do so.
That said, some people do have particular needs that require more software that does not come preinstalled. For instance, many require a more robust word processor or spreadsheet program for their jobs. Some require a more professional photo editing or design program. All of these things are available to you to install if you need them. They are just a search, purchase, and download away if you need them…
Wait! Don’t move so fast there. I said if you need them and that is a very important if. Don’t just assume you need them because you think you do or because someone who does not know what your needs are tells you you do. I would argue that the majority of computer users can get by just fine with a fresh out of the box Mac.
In fact, I would argue that that easiest way to find out what you really need is to use your Mac as it ships. Do everything you need to do. Go about your daily business. When you run into something that you need to do but can’t seem to find a way to do it with the applications that come preloaded on your Mac, here is the steps to take.
Search online to see if there is a way to achieve your results with the tools at your disposal. You may be surprised to find out the capabilities you don’t know exist in programs like TextEdit, Mail, or Preview. Even programs I have used for years sometimes still reveal surprises. Look through the menu choices in the programs you have. Study the preferences. You may be amazed at what you discover therein.
If number one does not turn up what you need, then do some searching for all of your options. Need to build an image from scratch? Think Adobe Photoshop is the only way to do that? Think again. There are a half-dozen programs I could tick off that can do the same thing just as well for far less cost and learning curve. Do some research. Look around. Find the tool that is right for you which often is not the one everyone talks about.
I could go on and on about the awesome programs that I use daily and could barely live without. The problem of course is that I found these mostly through the same methods I described above and just being engaged with the development surrounding the Mac platform. All of these are also under regular scrutiny and evaluation. Just because I needed something for a particular project or task does not mean I need to keep it installed forever. That said, at this moment and on most days, I’m pretty satisfied with my Mac. I’m certain you will be too.
The idea here is to slowly, methodically, and purposefully build the perfect computer. Perfect in this case is subjective. Perfect is what is exactly right and enough for you. Just as mine is for me. The Mac is a great foundation on which to build this exciting new future. Have fun!