Getting started with MacOS / an iMac in a day (for Linux and Windows users)

I just started a new job (as a postdoc in computational neuroimaging) and there I got an iMac. I never used MacOS before, my operating systems of choice have been Linux (whenever possible) or Windows (when required) for many years. So if you’re in a similar situation and want to get started with MacOS quickly, here are some tipps:

What’s maybe most confusing is input/output. The mouse and keyboard are really weird in the beginning, but they also have some cool features and you can adapt them to your needs:

  • keyboard shortcuts like CTRL + C for copy don’t work: you have to press the Apple key instead of CTRL
  • right-clicking with the mouse performs a left-click (i.e., does not open the context menu): right-click is disabled by default. Don’t ask me why. But you can easily enable it in the system settings (click Apple, then System Preferences, Mouse).
    • In some apps (like Firefox), right-clicking still does not work: Hold the CTRL key and left-click instead, this seems to work always.
  • there is no mouse scroll wheel (and scroll bars do not exist): you can just scroll on the mouse, even if there is no wheel. The mouse has touch support. Check more touch gestures in the mouse system settings! EDIT: After a few weeks, I found the Apple Magic Mouse too annoying, I replaced it with a standard mouse with 5 buttons and a scroll wheel.
  • I use an English keyboard but sometimes need to type German umlauts: checkout this keyboard layout:

Another confusing thing is accessing software and the file system:

  • How to see all installed software: from the bottom quick-start bar, open Finder. This tool is a combination of Explorer and the start menu. Click Applications to find all installed apps. You can drag the ones you use often to the lower bar from here.
  • How to access a terminal: in Finder, under Applications, search for Terminal. Hint: you can download better ones from the internet, maybe try iTerm2.
  • How to access the whole hard disk (not only the Documents folder displayed in the Finder app):
    • First: configure Finder to display a link to the hard drive on the desktop (Finder > preferences > General).
    • Second: Open that link, navigate in the file system tree, and drag any directory you want to show up in Finder (e.g., your home directory under /Users/) into the list of directories in Finder.
  • I need to open my .bashrc or another dot file. But they do not show up in the File open menu of applications: you can press the following keys in the open window to make dot files appear: CMD (=WINDOWS KEY if you use a non-Mac keyboard) + SHIFT + .
    • just to be sure: you have to press 3 keys, the last one is the dot key.
  • Installing standard Linux tools or ‘Where is the package manager?’:
    • Install the homebrew tool, you can then install most software you need with brew install packagename


Hope this helps somebody.


About dfspspirit

PhD student in bioinformatics, interested in photography, level design, digital image manipulation, architecture and, of course, bioinformatics.
This entry was posted in IT and computers, mac os, troubleshooting and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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