There’s no doubt that a lot of Windows PC users are changing to Macs

I can’t find figures on these migrations – in either direction – but my own experience tells me that a lot more people are moving from PC to Mac than the other direction. Certainly, in general terms, the PC market is fairly stagnant whereas Mac sales are still increasing (click here for some heavy-duty statistics).

By and large, those of my own clients that make the switch from PCs to Macs are happy with the move. On the other hand, I do know of more than one person who has subsequently switched back because of the “lack of control, flexibility, and software” that Macs offer.

Despite these reservations (which I have always shared), I have promised myself that this year I will give myself the thorough grounding in Macs that I have always avoided on the grounds that Macs aren’t real computers – just style accessories for graphic designers.

One problem with learning one way of doing something and then switching to another is that you can’t help bringing assumptions with you. So I’m going to do a few blog posts for others who are migrating from PCs to Macs and who have the same mini-tantrums as I do when something “obvious” doesn’t work. I’ve also made a new year’s resolution to get out of the habit of saying things like “it’s easy enough on a proper computer” when my Mac confounds my expectations. So, here we go then:

Right-click doesn’t display a context-menu

Mac Magic Mouse

The rather nice Mac Magic Mouse

If you have a two-button mouse or a swish Apple Magic Mouse, it’s very annoying when you click the right button and nothing happens. The “context” menu displayed with a right-click is something it’s easy to take for granted until it’s not there. The answer on the Mac is that you have to enable it, as follows:

  • Click on the Apple, then System Preferences, then the mouse (as circled in figure 1)
  • Enable the right-click by ticking in the box that enables the “secondary click” (as circled in figure 2)

Screen grab of accessing the mouse options on a Mac

Figure1 – Accessing the mouse options

Screen grab - enabling the right-click on a Mac mouse

Figure 2 – tick the box to enable right-click

There is no “print screen” button on a Mac

True, but there are keyboard options that work if you’ve got 40 fingers to execute them and the memory of an elephant to remember them.

In each of the following options, the best way to execute the command is to press the first two or three keys at the same time (Command, Control, Shift), keep them depressed, and then type the appropriate number key.

Print the contents of the screen to a file on the desktop

A screenshot of the file of a screenshot displayed on the Mac desktop

Figure 3 – a screenshot of the file of a screenshot displayed on a Mac desktop (and I defy you to understand that explanation)

Command+Shift+3 – captures the whole screen and saves the image in a file on the desktop (that will be identified by the name of “Screen Shot” plus the date and time of the capture – see figure 3).

Command+Shift+4 – lets you select a part of the screen to capture and save as above.

Command+Shift+4 then tap the spacebar – you can then tap on any open window and the screenshot will be taken of that window alone.

Print the contents of the screen to the clipboard

This is useful, of course, if you wish to paste the results directly into another program.

Command+Control+Shift+3 – captures the whole screen and saves the image in the clipboard.

Command+Control+Shift+4 – lets you select a part of the screen to capture and save to the clipboard as above.

Command+Control+Shift+4 then tap the spacebar – you can then tap on any open window and the screenshot will be taken of that window alone.

I think I’d better finish by saying that I’m not abandoning support for PCs: just giving more consideration to Macs than I have before.

Do you regularly want to copy a file to a specific folder? I’ve often noticed during 1:1 computer training sessions that people have their own way of filing that could benefit from a simple tweak to Windows Explorer.

Here are a couple of examples from my own working habits:

  • I often want to make a file available to my other computers. Since I use Dropbox, all I need to do is place the file in my dropbox folder and it will be automatically synchronised to my other computers. So, I want a quick way of copying my file into my Dropbox folder. I’m still a big fan of Dropbox, by the way. Here are my first and second blogs on the subject.
  • I create and download a lot of pdf files. I may well have them filed “by function” (eg a pdf file relating to a specific computer support client might be in the folder dedicated to that client). But if the file has more general application then I might also want it in a folder containing nothing other than pdf files (since I can often remember that a file I’m looking for is in a pdf format even if I can’t remember its name or where else I’ve put it). So, I might want a quick way of copying a pdf file from a specific client folder to my “pdf file store” (which, as it happens, is a specific folder inside my Dropbox folder).

So, what we need to do is to personalise a Windows “context menu” so that when we’ve selected a file in Windows Explorer we can easily send a copy of that file to a folder that we’ve previously defined as a destination for a “send to” action. A “context menu”, by the way, is a menu whose contents are dependent on the current context – ie the sort of item it includes depends on what you were doing when you invoked it. The context menu is invoked by right-clicking on the selected item.

Personalising the “send to” option is quite easy. Just follow the instructions for your own operating system:

Windows XP

  • Click the Start button.
  • Click Run.
  • In the Open box, type “sendto” (without the quotes), and then click OK.
  • Right-click on a blank part of the window that has opened.
  • Left-click on the “new” option.
  • Left-click on the “shortcut” option.
  • Left-click on the “browse” button.
  • Navigate to the folder you wish to add to the “send to” menu.
  • Click “OK”, “Next” & “Finish”.
  • Close the “SendTo” window.


Vista and Windows 7

  • Click on the Start button.
  • Type “shell:sendto” (without the quotes) into the search box.
  • Click on the shell:sendto option that is now listed above the search box.
  • Right-click on a blank part of the window that has opened.
  • Left-click on the “new” option.
  • Left-click on the “shortcut” option.
  • Left-click on the “browse” button.
  • Navigate to the folder you wish to add to the “send to” menu.
  • Click “OK”, “Next” & “Finish”.
  • Close the “SendTo” window.

Now, whenever you want to copy a file to that chosen destination, just right-click on the file, left-click the “send to” option, and then left-click on the sub-option you have just created (as below):

SendTo Menu

Some purists might say that this is all wrong: that instead of copying files all over the place we should be creating shortcuts that point to the one and only original file. I would agree with this when the file in question is one that’s often changed/updated after its creation. There’s nothing worse than having multiple versions of files all over the place and never knowing which is the latest version. If you need to get quick access to such files then the easiest way is just to place a shortcut on the desktop and access it from there. The “sendto” technique is better kept for files that are unlikely to change often – in which case, the “sendto” technique is much quicker than creating shortcuts and saves precious space on the desktop. As for not creating copies of files because that’s a waste of hard disc space, that’s only really an issue if you are definitely short of space.

Just to come back to Dropbox, for a moment. If you click here to create a Dropbox account you will receive 2.25gb free space instead of the normal 2gb.

Remote Support may be suitable for this topic

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Computer Support in London
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