i am extremely proud to inform you all that we’ve recently welcomed a new member of our family to the penthouse.
as many of you won’t know, about a month ago i completed an important piece of homework that i’d been working on for four years. to celebrate the fact that i managed to finish it before it finished me, and given that we needed a new desktop computer (what with my lovingly-built custom PC being six years old and in need of a rest), it was the last time i would be eligible for the generous student discount (and sweet free iPod promotion) Apple offers, and considering its impressive eco-credentials, we decided to take the plunge and buy an iMac.
it’s been with us for a few weeks now, and so i thought i’d share how things are going and talk a bit about some new software, hardware, usability tricks and joy that i’ve encountered.
after much consideration, i (given that the techy stuff is left up to me) went for the 21.5-inch model with the 3.6ghz i5 processor (the build you can’t buy in the shops). in terms of peripherals, i went for the numeric keyboard (it’s a bit annoying that it’s wired, but i don’t like the tiny wireless thing, and with the bigger one, as well as a proper layout, you get two extra usb ports that mean you don’t have to reach round the back every time you want to plug something in) and the Magic Trackpad.
basically, i’m very pleased to report that the experience so far has been great. the screen is crisp and clear and a nice size for the space we have, the machine runs fast (boots in c.15 secs) and handles multi-taking and the manipulation of large image, sound and video files well, and the trackpad is a thing of genius.
i used the Magic Mouse a bit in store whilst deciding what to go for, and I just couldn’t seem to get to grips with it. the shape felt wrong in my hand, and worse than that the gestures (which, via our Macbook Pro, have become such a big part of my OS X experience) felt clumsy and were imprecise
the trackpad, however, feels solid and sticks to the desk to make the gestures really easy and consistent to perform. although natively it works really well, i’ve found that when combined with a really great little preference pane called jitouch, things are unstoppably awesome.
jitouch adds a whole host of extra gestures which cranks things well and truly up to eleven. my favourite of the additional gestures it offers include:
1. hold down one finger and tap another to the left or right of it to cycle tabs in that direction.
2. hold down one finger and swipe two fingers down to close tab/window.
3. three finger tap to open link in new Safari tab.
4. three finger scroll down/up to jump to bottom/top of Safari page.
5. drum fingers from pointer to pinky or pinky to pointer to minimize/maximise window.
check this example video:
another excellent prefpane which i now find supremely useful is teleport, a really useful little app that allows you to dynamically switch between any number of macs on the same network while using the same keyboard and mouse. for example, if i want to quickly check out something on the machine i’m not using, or transfer something from the iMac to the Macbook or vice-versa, i just head up to the top right corner (which i have designated as a teleport hot corner) and the keyboard and mouse that i am currently using then takes control of the other machine, allowing me to navigate around or drag ‘n’ drop files.
the other neat little app i’ve recently stumbled across is HyperDock. while at the moment it’s still in beta, it already functions as a lightweight and powerful dock add-on which brings hover-over window previews, window switching, window closing, iCal info and iTunes miniplayer and lots more functionality to the dock. i don’t use it all the time, but it really nicely fills a little gap between Exposé and Application Switcher. the one thing it lacks for me at the moment is Safari tab previews, but they are promised in the full version.
last but not least, given that (unlike on the MacBook) at the bottom end the brightness controls don’t make the screen fully black, here’s a shortcut that comes in very handy on the iMac: ctrl+shift+eject turns the screen off (but without putting the machine to sleep).