AMITIAE - Wednesday 28 January 2015

News for the Future; and Basic Key Commands in OS X (Bangkok Post, Life)

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


With the announcement of Apple's Q1 2015 figures just a few hours ago, I expect there are already several reports online explaining the numbers and telling us why Apple is succeeding. Or failing. It depends on whose words you read. One thing the negatives will suggest is that what goes up, must come down, so in the final analysis Apple will fail. Just not yet.

Also reporting financial results this week is Microsoft, who announced a couple of interesting new products last week: there were good words, especially for the Spartan browser project. Apple tends to release new ideas after the financial report. There may be updates (OS X 10.10.2 for example) and other releases: I expect the new Photos application soon. Hardware announcements are also possible.

Briefly: sales of iPhones were 74.5 million, Macs sold just over 5.5 million, and revenue was $57.6 billion for the quarter. OS X 10.10.2 has been released along with an update to iOS - 8.1.3.

With the rise in numbers of Macs being used, I expect there are several new users flexing their muscles with OS X. System Preferences provides ways to control many parts of OS X and I have a rundown of each of the main preference panels (28) online.

Thirty years ago, Ridley Scott's "1984" advertisement for Apple aired at the Superbowl and we heard that . . . 1984 won't be like "1984". The Mac is synonymous with the graphic user interface (GUI), now widely used by most operating systems, and the mouse.

The GUI was created by Xerox at Palo Alto and refined by Apple. Doug Englelbart from Stanford is credited with developing the mouse. Steve Jobs visited and recognised the potential. That first 3-button mouse was clunky and needed refining, so an industrial design expert was tasked with making it consumer-friendly. The solution was a ball from one of those underarm deodorant bottles.

trackpad trackpad

The MacBook series comes with a trackpad built in, while iMac comes with a mouse that has a touch surface. The trackpad and the touch surface allow users to input action with gestures. For example, if the cursor is above a word and I touch the trackpad with 3 fingers, a panel with dictionary, thesaurus and Wikipedia entries for that word appears.

Magic Mouse
Magic Mouse - Image from Apple

That original GUI was a refreshing change from the commands that had to be typed in at the command-line with MSDOS or UNIX. I used MSDOS up till version 6.2 when my last PC died and a friend offered me a used Mac Quadra, running System 6. The menu system that helps users work in each application, was far easier than command-line work, but it is not as fast as some users need, particularly if actions are nested.

Nested commands in Aperture
Nested commands in Aperture

Long-time users of Macs are more likely to use Key Commands for efficient working. Many users are familiar with basic key commands like Command + S for Save: a swift action; and far quicker than moving the cursor to the File menu, opening that with a click, then moving the cursor down to the Save item: three slower actions.

The menus show actions that can also be done with keys. Professionals who work with suites such as Final Cut or photography applications like Adobe Photoshop or Aperture (sadly to be replaced soon) may also have specially colour-coded keyboards: the commands are grouped for efficient working. Keyboards like this (or covers to go over the keys) can be found online.

Logic Keyboard The LogicKeyboard is one of the best known; while there is also the Bella series, which may not suit some; and B&H have a good selection for online purchase. The image I have is from the Logic Keyboard site.

I do not need such a keyboard, but I do to use several key commands while working. The most obvious are Copy, Cut and Paste (Command + X; C; and P, respectively). When working with images, I know now that the Sharpen panel in the application Graphic Converter is Shift + Command + E; but this is not universal. The same key command will Export an image in Aperture. Users learn the commands as they work, particularly if they use specific applications regularly.

While many menu items display the key command alongside, some do not. If a user has a specific command like this, it is fairly easy to add a key combination using the Shortcuts panel in Keyboards Preferences where all the active shortcuts are grouped and listed.

Keyboard - Shortcuts

Keyboards Preferences: Shortcuts

At the bottom of the Groups list is the item for Applications. When highlighted, commands are shown in the right side panel. A plus (+) below reveals a panel for entering a command to All Applications, or to a specific one.

An example is the File menu item in iTunes, "Page Setup" (not used often). Selecting iTunes from the Shortcuts panel menu and typing in "Page Setup..." (the exact menu wording must be used), will add a shortcut. This now appears in the File menu of my iTunes. If there are other user accounts on the Mac, that command will not be available: only in the user's account.

Keyboard - Shortcuts
Keyboards Preferences: Shortcuts

See also:

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



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