First Mac Orientation

Initiation. Ceremony. Celebration.

Brendan, creator of Automata and the X&Y Album Art Generator, will be in possession of his very first Mac within days. While I don't think he considers himself a full-blown switcher just yet, (he claims that he will now have two ways of doing things) it is a start. He went with one of the new iBooks that were announced last week:
• 12" screen
• 512 MB of RAM (plus another 512 we will install)
• 80 GB HD
• Combo Drive

He of course also took advantage of rebates on a printer and iPod mini.

I find the opening of a new Apple product to be an exhilarating experience. It is Christmas morning, every single time. I even get excited when it's not mine. I installed computers at a school for four years, and didn't even get tired of opening the boxes when we had a shipment of 50 iMacs. I was thrown for a bit when the first eMacs came in boxes which required eight steps to open (including one point where it was turned upside-down), but it was still fun.

Apple has the entire user experience designed well from the beginning. While most computers arrive in nondescript brown boxes, a Mac arrives in style, in a jet black or glistening white box, with a large photo of the product where everyone can see it. I can spot PowerMac boxes from a mile away when they're delivered on campus, and I saw a FedEx cart carrying one the other day in Philly. I scrambled to get my camera, just because I wanted a picture of it.

Once the box is opened, the real thrill begins. The iPod and iSight boxes are especially fun; someone once said that the box "tells a story." Of course turning on the Mac is the grand finale of a wonderful prelude to the real user experience, the Mac OS. The music and animation show that the Mac is alive, and the painless setup and optional registration procedure is complete before the song ends. The default desktop picture appears as the Dock and menu bar move into place, and then you're off and running, as the experience is no longer about the computer, it's about what you want to do with it.

I know that was a long and sentimental introduction, and don't worry, It's over. Well, sorta, I will mention and link to the intro music a bit later, but I promise I'm really here to ask for some practical advice. As with most Mac users, I have tried (and in some cases succeeded) in convincing Windows users to make the switch. If I know the person, I also offer to be there when they first open the computer, to help set it up and cover the basics, as well as any cool tricks I think they may be interested in. I'm pretty sure I'm going to make the time to be there when Brendan's iBook arrives. Even though he is perfectly capable of setting it up and using it alone, I really have a thing for that new intro music. What I want to know from you, experienced Mac users and Windows users with questions, is what I should cover during these first couple of hours to provide the best introduction to the Mac experience. Obviously I can't cover everything, and it is also fun to have the user discover things on his or her own, but this is what I have come up with so far:
1. Convince FedEx driver to deliver the package in a limousine, which I will be waiting in dressed in a tuxedo, à la 20th Anniversary Macintosh.
2. Stretch. Always remember to stretch.
3. Cleaning and disinfecting of the surface on which the iBook and any peripherals will touch.
4. At this point, I will probably request a cold Pepsi.
5. Opening of the box.
6. Dramatic reading of the license agreement performed by James Earl Jones, to be interrupted by The Breaking of the Seal.
7. Short discussion on why we think Mr. Jones agreed to travel to somebody's home just to read a license agreement.
8. Set the thing up, turn it on, register, get out of the numbered list, and get serious.

User Interface/OS X Basics
⁃ Basic key commands (app switching, window management, Dashboard)
⁃ Dock (add/remove items, size, location)
⁃ Views (icon, list, column, View menu)
⁃ Customization (menu bar, toolbars, sidebar)
⁃ Drag and drop (text clippings, drag to and from any app, drag onto app in Dock or Finder, drag from title bar)
⁃ "Get Info"
⁃ Connect to server (Finder or Terminal)
⁃ Font Book
⁃ Where stuff is (Home folder, plist files, why you should obey the Documents/Movies/Pictures/Music folders
⁃ Eject removable media and servers
⁃ Burn CD or DVD from Finder
⁃ Network and Sharing preferences
⁃ iLife, Safari, Mail, and iChat
⁃ Standard windows (Color picker, text, inspector)
⁃ Spotlight

⁃ Administrator, keychain, password on sleep and screensaver, FileVault, encrypted disk images

Maintenance and Utilities
⁃ Software Update
⁃ VersionTracker
⁃ Disk Utility
⁃ Force Quit (Dock, key command, or Activity Monitor)
⁃ How to boot from CD or DVD
⁃ How to get help (Help menu, Knowledge Base, Apple Discussions, MacFixIt, Google)
⁃ XCode (he's smart, he will write an app)

Download apps that aren't preinstalled
⁃ Firefox
⁃ Real Player
⁃ Windows Media Player
⁃ Stuffit Expander
⁃ NetNewsWire
⁃ 1001

That's where I am right now. Email any suggestions to If I get enough good ones, I will probably republish a list so others can use it as a reference for similar events.

Posted: Monday - August 01, 2005 at 10:45 PM