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  1-09-04 | This column originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle.


Dr. Mac’s Top Ten Tips For Mac Users


By Bob LeVitus

I presented an all-day class called, “How to Become a Panther Power User Without Really Trying,” last Tuesday at Macworld Expo in San Francisco. The first hour dealt with my personal top ten tips for Mac users:

10. R.T.F.M. (Read the Fine Manual!)

If you don't read the fine manual, you'll never know a lot of cool stuff about your hardware and software. If you won’t do that, at least read the Read Me file and/or the Help screens.

9. Read about the Mac.

If you want to master the Mac, you must never stop in your quest for greater knowledge. That means reading Mac magazines (Macworld, MacAddict), Mac Web sites (MacMinute, MacInTouch), and Mac books. I’d love for you to start with Mac OS for Dummies, Panther Edition from Wiley, but that’s optional.

8. Improve your typing skills.

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- the easiest way to do more work in less time is to improve your typing. Get a typing program or book, and teach yourself to touch-type at least 40 words per minute.

7. Shop the Web.

Mac users know that the best deals on Macs, Mac software, and peripherals, are often found on the Web, not in retail stores. I generally buy from (now part of Fry’s), MacWarehouse ( or MacConnection (, because one of the three almost always has what I need and can get it here overnight if necessary.

6. Experiment freely.

It's darn hard to break your Mac by choosing something from a menu. So when you get a new program, or are trying something new (after you read the fine manual, of course), be sure and poke around a bit. Hold down the Option, Command, and/or Control keys and click on stuff. Try all the menus. Hold down those keys while you try menu items. Click or double-click all the little icons in all the little toolbars or palettes. Every so often you'll discover something really worthwhile this way.

5. Get enough RAM.

How much? The Doctor prescribes at least 256MB of RAM to run Mac OS X. and that’s a bare minimum. To run more than a handful of programs simultaneously without degraded performance, get at least 512MB. If you have less than my prescriptions, consider getting more.

4. Perform disk maintenance regularly.

Stick in an OS X Install CD, restart while pressing the C key to boot from that CD. Use Apple’s Disk Utility to repair any damage that’s occurred, and to repair permissions. I recommend this at least a couple of times a year, whether you think you need it or not. If you prefer DiskWarrior, Norton Utilities, TechTool Pro 4, or other third-party utility, run it a couple of times a year.

3. Buy what you need to do the job.

You wouldn't try to drive a nail into a wall with a wrench, so don't try to create a newsletter using a 7 year-old copy of MacDraw running in Classic mode. You'll save time and effort in the long run if you buy the right tool to do the job right. If AppleWorks came with your Mac, it’s the appropriate tool for hundreds of different projects.

2. Back up your hard disk.

There are only two kinds of Mac users: Those who have lost data and those who are going to. Or, those who back up, and those who are going to wish they had backed up.

1. Back up your hard disk AGAIN!

Because one backup is never enough. Back up your valuable files or you will be very, very sorry.

Bob LeVitus is a leading authority on Mac OS and the author of 41 books, including The Little iTunes Book and Mac OS X for Dummies, 2nd Edition. E-mail comments to [email protected].

Copyright © 2003 Bob LeVitus

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