inessential by Brent Simmons

Two things I wish every Mac OS X user knew

We get enough support requests to have some idea of the things people often don’t know about Mac OS X.

So here are a couple things I wish every Mac OS X user knew.

Toolbars are (frequently) customizable

In many applications you can reorganize the toolbar and add and remove buttons.

Often there’s a Customize Toolbar command in the View menu. If not, often you can ctrl-click on the toolbar and choose Customize Toolbar.

If an application doesn’t have a toolbar button that you wish it had, it might actually have it—if you choose Customize Toolbar you can see all the buttons.

There is nothing magical about the default set of buttons for any given app. There’s every expectation (and hope!) that you’ll customize the toolbar to your liking.

Drag and drop is your friend

In theory, drag and drop is great because it’s an intuitive, easy way to do certain types of things. It makes sense to directly manipulate objects that appear on the screen.

In practice—at least in my experience—drag and drop is used mostly by power users. My provisional explanation for this is that drag and drop is outside the select-object/click-verb model which is the first thing you learn when you learn computers.

Me, I do drag and drop all the time: I tend to assume there will be support for it when I need it, and I’m usually right.

An example: the other day I was helping upgrade a family member’s Mac to OS X. We wanted to import his photos into iPhoto. I hadn’t used iPhoto myself—but I assumed you could drag a folder from the Finder into the albums list in the upper-left corner and it would create an album. It worked!

An important point about drag and drop—a point that people often miss—is that it often works between two different applications. If you use Mail, I think it’s fairly obvious that you can drag a message from your inbox to another mailbox. What is less obvious is that can drag a link to your desktop, drag text into a text editor, and so on.