Are Smartphones Becoming Stale? The Rise of Wearable Technology

Many folks will say that smartphones are in their prime however, 2007, when Apple first introduced the iPhone that changed the smartphone world, seems like ages ago. Certainly, the battle to be the best in the smartphone industry is still going strong, but with new technologies like wearable electronics, the smartphone might be on its last legs as the “thing to have.”

It seems as if the innovation in the smartphone industry has nearly disappeared and with companies like Samsung and Apple fighting for basics like screen size and resolution, there really isn’t much left that excites consumers. Enter the wearable gear.

Samsung’s Galaxy Gear uses their Galaxy line of smartphones to interact with the user on an entirely different level. Samsung claims that it’s easier than ever to answer a hands-free phone call, take a quick snapshot, or even find your favorite local coffee shop – all without ever reaching for your phone.

Google has their own piece of wearable gear with Google Glass. Google says Glass helps integrate its technology into everyday life, switching the user’s focus back up to eye level, by removing the need to constantly look down at a hand-held phone.

Google Glass

Apple has plans to introduce their own wearable technology sometime this summer and I’m sure many others will follow suit.

android refrigeratorAndroid is also working its way into household appliances like refrigerators, coffee makers, dishwashers, and the latest breakthrough of having “Android in your Audi,” showing us that there are many areas of our lives that have yet to be infiltrated with technology, but I can guarantee you all of the major players in the industry will be trying to change that soon enough. Android Refrigerator Screen

I certainly consider myself an early adopter of new technology, mostly due to all of the testing I perform in my every day job here at Algonquin Studios. However, I can’t see myself being an early adopter to these new wearable technologies. I’ve never owned a watch, simply because I’m not comfortable wearing one, so I don’t see myself wearing a “Smart Watch” anytime soon.

samsung smart watch

And, while I know my wife would tell you I have too many tablets and smartphones lying around at any given time, I think I’ll also be hard-pressed to purchase an Android-powered refrigerator due to price point. This doesn’t, however, stop me from spending hours every day researching what’s next in the industry.

All of these new technologies might seem pretty silly now, but how many of us thought that having a small super computer in our back pockets would ever be a great idea? What do you think will be the next viral technology? I would love to hear everyone’s feedback!

You Should Be Using Two-Factor Authentication. Everywhere.

We’re not very good with passwords, although we think we are. According to a recent study by security company CSID, 89% of us think we practice safe password routines. Unfortunately, 1 in 5 of us have had an online account compromised and yet only about half of us change our passwords more frequently than once per year. The best passwords typically utilize a combination of letters, numbers, and punctuation, and the longer they are the better (at least 8 characters). Only 6% of users have passwords that meet these criteria. Even worse, 60% of us reuse the same password for multiple sites. This is a recipe for disaster.

Here’s a quick scenario: Tommy has a forum account on a fan-made music site. The music forum that he visits regularly doesn’t maintain their security patches regularly, and a random hacker manages to hack into the site and steal his password. A simple web search reveals that Tommy works for Company X. Company X uses the Outlook web app, and wouldn’t you know it, Tommy uses the same password everywhere. Through a little trial and error, the hacker discovers that tommy@companyx.com is his work email, and boom, the hacker now has access to Tommy’s work email.

So what is two-factor authentication, and how does it solve this problem? Well, two-factor authentication (2FA) is a multi-stage method of verifying that you are who you say you are. Typically it’s a combination of something you know (a password), and something you have access to (a phone). Most commonly, the second factor of authentication will be a code that you will be sent through a text message or an automated phone call, and it’s only valid for a short period of time. This code will be entered on a secondary screen before you can have access to your account.

Unfortunately a lot of people don’t know what 2FA is – roughly 75% of people surveyed didn’t have a clue. It has also garnered a reputation for being a hassle, which is simply not the case. Most two-factor implementations will allow you to “register” a device as a “trusted device” for a period of time (typically ranging from a day to a month). I know what you’re probably thinking – what if I lose my phone? Then what? Well, the answer to that is “it depends.” Every two-factor implementation has different ways to handle account recovery in the event of a lost device, but this shouldn’t deter you from using 2FA – the benefits outweigh the risks by far.

So where are some common places you should start using two-factor authentication to protect your online accounts? Here’s a list:

  1. Google: Sends a 6 digit text message when you attempt to login from a new device. They also provide a Google Authenticator app for Android, iOS, and BlackBerry that can be used to obtain the second factor authentication codes.
  2. Apple: Sends you a 4-digit code via text message or Find My iPhone notifications when you attempt to log in from a new machine.
  3. Facebook: Sends you a 6-digit code via text message when you attempt to log in from a new machine.
  4. Twitter: Sends you a 6-digit code via text message when you attempt to log in from a new machine.
  5. PayPal: Sends you a 6-digit code via text message when you attempt to log in from a new machine.
  6. Microsoft Accounts: Sends you a 7-digit code via text message or email when you attempt to log in from a new machine.
  7. Yahoo! Mail: Sends you a 6-digit code via text message when you attempt to log in from a new machine.
  8. LinkedIn: Sends you a 6-digit code via text message when you attempt to log in from a new machine.
  9. WordPress: Utilizes the Google 2FA app.

For a more complete list of companies and products that support two-factor authentication, please review Evan Hahn’s list. Ask your local security or IT professional if your organization could benefit from using 2FA for email or work accounts. There are also ways to implement two-factor authentication into your own custom applications and web sites.

Passwords are becoming less secure all the time, and hackers are getting better at cracking them (check out the strength of your password). Enabling two-factor authentication provides an extra layer of security at a negligible cost. Protect your financial accounts, identity, and your career by using it wherever you can.

My (Mostly) Unbiased Overview of Android and Apple’s iOS – Part 2

Feel free to check out part one of this post, in which I covered some pros and cons on Apple’s iOS.

On to Android, which now owns the majority of the mobile phone market share in the world due to the many manufacturers who choose this open-source, free operating system for their phones. Much like iOS, there are plenty of pros and cons to cover for this OS; I’ll touch on the ones I’ve found to be most important during my software testing experience.

Pro – The first thing that comes to mind is the customization of the system itself. Many carriers and manufacturers have adapted Android due to the “re-skinning” they can perform on this OS–they can essentially make it their own by adding a unique look and feel and pre-loaded software. Unlike Apple, which has its own developers working on the OS in-house, Android is open-source, allowing any developer to enhance, limit, or customize the software; there are literally millions of Android developers around the globe, allowing the OS to stay ahead of the curve.

Pro – Android allows for different layouts on user homepages. This includes folders, shortcuts, and, most importantly, widgets. Widgets allow a user to directly access a particular program right from the homepage itself, without having to launch the application. There are widgets available for media players, living calendars and task checklists, and live feeds for social networking, email, and current affairs from around the globe.

Pro – Other great features of the Android OS are the keyboard layouts and text prediction. These include “swipe” style keyboards, where the user literally swipes past each letter in a word and the keyboard chooses the word it assumes the user wants to use. This feature can make typing out long messages or emails a breeze and can help keep spelling errors to a minimum. Many keyboards also have voice-to-text options which are amazingly accurate, “learning” how the user talks. Use of features like these is obviously a personal preference, but the options available in Android really can be quite useful in many applications.

Pro –  The final pro on my list is the new implementation of Google Now, included in all newer versions of Android. Google Now gives you the ability to perform instant searches by speaking into the mic of your mobile device. You can search for the definitions of words, facts about well-known people, and a huge variety of other items instantly. Google Now also has the ability to learn information you either look up or have expressed interested in – things like weather, sports updates, popular tourism spots, commuter traffic, and flight reservations and itineraries. It will also reminder users about tasks and pending calendar items, placing all of this information front and center on the device for users to view quickly and easily.

Of course, Android has its setbacks as well.

Con – One of the biggest faults I can think of is Android Fragmentation. Fragmentation is caused by manufacturers and mobile carriers holding back new versions of software and thereby creating many different versions of Android out in the wild. The Fragmentation can causes issues while developing software for use on Android because, unlike Apple, Android developers have to understand that most devices are not updated to the latest version (currently 4.2.2 “Jellybean”) and have to worry about testing their software on different OS versions in order to fulfill the needs of customers. All this extra testing can, in turn, cause delays in software releases.

Con – Another Android con would have to be the lack of security and stability in the OS. Although developers have made great strides to limit the threats of viruses and other malware, the Android App eco-system is still filled with unwanted security holes and issues. Because, as I mentioned in my point above, there’s no guarantee that all Android devices are running the newest version of the operating system (over half of the devices currently running the Android OS globally are running on Version 2.3 “Gingerbread”, which is far inferior to Jellybean), users and their devices are very vulnerable to security issues.

I’ve learned a lot working with these two operating systems–both Android and Apple have their advantages and disadvantages, many of which depend on the goals of the user. Now that I’ve spent time working with both platforms, I have a better appreciation for the good in both and a better understanding about the bad but, when push comes to shove and people ask me why I prefer one over the other, my simple answer is personal preference. What works for me certainly won’t work for everyone; doing your own research will help determine which OS is right for you.

My (Mostly) Unbiased Overview of Android and Apple’s iOS – Part 1

People who know me might already be assuming that this blog post will be biased, based on my preference for Android, about which I’m not usually silent. However, while working at Algonquin Studios I’ve had the opportunity to test many new mobile platforms and devices including Windows Mobile, Apple, and Android and I’ve learned some new things that I like about both iOS (Apple’s proprietary operating system), and Android (an open source, Linux-based operating system).

The battle between Apple and Android has been both futile (for the companies) and fun for people who posses an interest in the forward momentum of technology. While testing our new mobile app for SWRemote, I’ve learned both the frustration and pleasures of having the ability to work with both operating systems. Below are my top pros and cons of both systems, given in the most unbiased way I can manage:

SWRemote’s Mobile Technician was coded for, and first applied to, Apple’s iOS platform using the iPad, so that’s where I’ll start my list as there are a lot of benefits to be found testing and navigating around this robust OS.

Pro – While it’s not iOS-specific, I’d be remiss without mentioning the battery life on both the iPad and the iPad Mini. The devices have exceptional battery life both in “stand-by” mode and “screen-on” mode. Coming from a mostly Android background, I’ve become accustomed to poor battery life and have gotten used to always needing to be near a charger. This has changed a bit with newer Android models, depending on hardware, but I haven’t seen anything that comes close to the staying power of Apple’s batteries.

Pro – A second iOS pro that must not be ignored is its ease of use for beginners. iOS takes all of the complicated and aggravating things out of the operating system and goes with the philosophy of “Just Keeping it Simple.” This works out very well for both timid users who don’t like change on a large scale and beginners who are getting ready to dive into the technology arena. And, with all forms of the OS (iPhone/iPad/iTouch), Apple keeps everything the same–from the looks of the screens to the settings options–achieving great consistency across devices and lessening the learning curve for newbies.

Pro – I also have to give credit to Apple for the stability and security of its operating system, including version upgrade releases which are only held back by the personal user based on when they want to actually upgrade their system. The free upgrades always include bug fixes and other significant advancements in the OS.

But, of course, with all the good comes a bit of the bad.

Con – Thanks to the simplicity of iOS, many customization options have been curbed including any options for tweaking things like keyboard layouts, power modes, processor speeds, and memory utilization.

Con – Apple has a closed operating system which essentially means that one cannot “tap-in” to many of the areas that might be necessary for both programming and/or adapting certain hardware into software like printers, third-party drivers, etc. For developers this can be frustrating and time-consuming as we try to find workarounds for these particular applications.

Con – Apple has also limited its iOS to only Apple products. Some may see this as a benefit and say that while Apple only does one thing really well, it does that one thing really well. This might be true but when you’re limiting your customer base to only one device brand/manufacturer it can be difficult to keep up with the “Next Best Thing.” Tech consumers get bored very quickly these days and people tend to want the latest and greatest right away. Apple’s insistence that iOS only run on Apple products automatically limits its market share, regardless of the fact that it has some of the best advertising in today’s marketplace.

App Store Meta Tags

Screen shot of Dominos home page on Nexus 7.
Why yes, Dominos, I’d love to tap again to get your real home page to order a pizza when I could have done it right here, below your over-sized app pitch that could be done in a tiny ribbon.

This is an adapted and updated version of a blog post on my site from last week. This post includes a real-world example of the feature.

This may be old news to some of you, but I haven’t found a place that collects this in one spot.

One of the most offensive experiences I have when surfing a site on my mobile devices is being forced to click through an advertisement for the site’s app in the iTunes store (even moreso when I am surfing on a non-iOS device). There is a fair number of sites I have tapped away from because of this (I also don’t expect to be served the page I came to see, but instead shunted to the mobile home page).

If yours is one of those sites, whether promoting your entire user experience or just a product, there is a less offensive way to present your pitch to users on iOS and Windows Phone.

Platforms

iOS 6

Safari on iOS 6 and later devices can promote your app with a standardized banner. Essentially you stuff a custom meta tag into your page that references your App Store ID. If the user already has the app installed, then the ad becomes a launcher instead.

The code is pretty simple:

<meta name="apple-itunes-app" content="app-id=myAppStoreID, affiliate-data=myAffiliateData, app-argument=myURL">

  • app-id is required and references your app’s identifier.
  • affiliate-data is optional and uses your iTunes affiliate string.
  • app-argument is also optional and can allow users who have your app installed to jump to a specific place in your app.

More details at Apple’s developer site: Promoting Apps with Smart App Banners

Windows 8

Microsoft offers a similar feature for users of Windows 8 in non-desktop mode who are also using Internet Explorer. I have not tried it, so I cannot explain how this works as the user changes modes nor how it works with the “charms” feature of Windows 8.

This code is relatively simple as well, though it requires two meta tags and supports up to five:

<meta name="msApplication-ID" content="microsoft.build.App"/>
<meta name="msApplication-PackageFamilyName" content="microsoft.build_8wekyb3d8bbwe"/>

  • msApplication-ID is required and references your app’s identifier.
  • msApplication-PackageFamilyName is required and contains the package family name created by Visual Studio.
  • msApplication-Arguments is optional and lets you pass arguments to your app.
  • msApplication-MinVersion is optional and can direct users with an old version to the Windows Store.
  • msApplication-OptOut

More details at Microsoft Developer Network: Connect your website to your Windows Store app (Windows)

Google Play, BlackBerry App World, Etc.

In addition to Google Play, BlackBerry App World, I looked for similar features for the Firefox OS and Ubuntu Mobile stores. I know there are other mobile platforms out there for which I did not look.

If you know of other app stores that offer similar features, please let me know so I can update this post.

Real-World Example

One of our spin-off companies, SWRemote, has an app available for iPads. There is value in promoting the app to visitors of the site but not in blocking their access to the site content with a splash page or an extra click, especially if they are not on iPads. The SWRemote web site is powered by QuantumCMS (yes, I am promoting our web content management system), which makes it about 30 seconds of effort to add the necessary meta tag to the site.

Screen shot of the QuantumCMS custom meta tag screen.
Screen shot of the QuantumCMS custom meta tag screen.

If you are already a client of ours on QuantumCMS, all you have to do is choose Site Configuration from the Settings menu and pop into the Marketing tab. This is the screen that allows you to add custom meta tags. Press the Advanced button and you are off to the races. In the Name field, for this example, I just entered “apple-itunes-app” and in the Content field I provided the custom ID for the app appended to “app-id=.” As soon as I hit Save the web site was showing the app bar to visitors:

Site on the iPad3 without the app installed. Site on the iPad3 with the app installed.
Screen shots of the SWRemote site on an iPad3 both with the app installed and without it installed, showing how the bar changes its message.

Oddly, even though the app runs on the iPad Mini, which is running iOS6, the app bar never appeared on the site when viewed on the iPad Mini. On an iPhone 5, the app bar started to appear and then disappeared — probably as the device recognized that there is no iPhone version of the app.

If/when there is an app available for Windows Phone, the process to add this feature will be the same, allowing the site to promote both apps dependent on the audience. QuantumCMS helps make the process easier, with no need to code any changes to your site templates.

Related

There are other places where custom meta tags are used to display targeted content. One example is used for Twitter Cards and another example is used with Google News. While you can build support for them, neither Twitter nor Google is going to use them unless you have been vetted in advance.

My Journey to Android After Five Years of iOS Loyalty

I’ve been an avid Apple supporter for years, and have owned iPhones in various incarnations since their launch on June 29th, 2007 (Yes, I was one of the unfortunate / foolish folks who shelled out $599 for the shiny new handset).  Over the past five years I have watched both iOS and Android grow, but my focus has always remained on Apple.  When I was due for a phone upgrade about two years ago I naturally gravitated towards a new iPhone 4 and likely would have purchased it solely based on my belief in Apple, regardless of the phones new features.

Until recently, my experience with Android devices had been quite limited.  What initially turned me off to them was that, despite having great specifications on paper, they couldn’t seem to accomplish even the most basic tasks smoothly. Things like scrolling through a list of contacts or zooming in on a web page made it seem like the hardware and software were fighting with each other.  The unification of software and hardware is an area that Apple has always prioritized, especially with its iOS platform.

I became eligible for a phone upgrade a short while ago and, up until quite recently, had decided that I was going to wait for the next iPhone.  However, after some coercing by some of my Android-loving coworkers, I decided to do something pretty scary – ditch my iPhone in favor of a device powered by an operating system that I’d been so against for so long.  I was hesitant to say the least, but after doing some research and weighing the pros and cons, I ultimately made the switch.  I ended up purchasing a Samsung Galaxy S3, and can say that after using this phone for about ten days, I don’t regret switching one bit and really couldn’t be happier with my decision.

One major plus Android has going for them, from a developer’s standpoint, is that you can develop Android apps for free.  Apple charges a yearly $99 subscription fee to be a part of their iOS Developer Program, and while that may not be a lot of money if you’re an established company, it’s a lot to ask from someone who just wants to be able to develop for mobile devices as a hobby, with the hopes of one day maybe submitting an app for sale.

Recently, Google has begun to roll out their new operating system –Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.  One of the core features of Jelly Bean, known as “Project Butter”, is meant to help the operating system run as smoothly as possible.  Using technologies like triple buffering and vertical sync, the OS is able to run silky smooth, which really hits Apple in an area that iOS has absolutely dominated until recently.

The future is looking very bright for Google, as they’ve resolved the vast majority of the issues that I’ve had with their Android platform and, in my opinion, have caught up to, or surpassed, iOS in nearly every way.  While the iPhone UI is still slightly more polished, the differences are becoming less and less significant and are easily outweighed by the additional capabilities, raw performance, and overall sense of freedom that the Android platform provides.  I can safely say that iOS will always hold a special place in my heart, but it definitely won’t be occupying a special place in my pocket anytime soon.

Apple vs. Windows? Actually, it’s Not a Simple Question.

Being knee-deep in the technical world, I get asked “Which do you use, Apple or Windows?” more times than I care to count. If I’m being asked by another technically-savvy person, I usually try to tiptoe around the topic because it seems almost everyone is married to one or the other. If I say I use Windows products, Apple advocates are surely going to point out the User Interface issues and abundant viruses housed on Windows. If I say I use Apple products, Windows (or Linux) advocates will be quick to complain about the lockdown of the development environment and the largely proprietary attitude of Apple. Unfortunately for both cult groups my answer isn’t as simple as saying I use one or the other.

I come from the school of thought that teaches that the tool that’s the best for the task at hand is the tool I want to use. I try not to become married to a company or product just because I like what they stand for or because I like their other products. I believe that, when you’re in technical field, it’s important to stay up to date with all technologies and to expand your skills as time goes on. I see so many legacy coders who refuse to move from Assembly, COBOL, and even C++ to newer languages just because they can do anything they want in those languages, but this refusal to adapt usually leads to a stagnant environment that’s incapable of evolution.

So why do people refuse to update their tools when it comes to technology? I don’t think there’s any one answer to this question; stubbornness, or even pride, can cause people to blindly follow a product they’ve always trusted before. But I’d be willing to bet that the lack of information, or even misinformation, from people who should know better is a leading cause.

For example, I was setting up a new printer for my neighbor the other day and we got into the Apple vs. Windows debate. Unlike most of the technical users I interact with, my neighbor was simply more curious about the advantages and disadvantages of each. After I explained the technical differences between the products and policies, she smiled and told me about a friend of hers who made the switch to Apple about two years ago and has never looked back. Her friend continues to tell her that Apple has the best products out there, and to tout their sales numbers, but fails to provide any solid reasoning as to why Apple is superior. In short, she was grateful that I gave her an objective breakdown of the two companies.

In the end, I’ve just accepted the fact that some people will have a positive experience with a company or product and that experience will be enough to encourage blind loyalty. Some people will choose Apple products and then they’ll stick with Apple products; others will choose Windows and stick with Windows. This system probably won’t ruin anyone and there’s always the benefit of familiarity with the product, but if we want to truly continue to progress and evolve, I think we have to be open to new and different products.

The question shouldn’t be “Apple or Windows”, but rather “What’s the best technology for this task?” After all, if we all refused to evolve we’d still be using AOL for our email and internet and Google would be an unknown name in the computing world!

Learn from my Mistakes: Switching to Mac

Originally posted by Algonquin Studios CEO, Steven Raines, on June 19, 2012, on his blog.

Last year, in order to work on a project targeted at the iPhone, I switched my primary computer to a Macbook Pro. At that point I hadn’t used a Mac in over 20 years, so it was a significant transition for me. After about 8 months, I am generally very pleased with the Mac so I thought I’d share some of the things that I have learned in the transition.

You still need Windows. The Mac comes with a lot of great software, but you are almost certainly going to need Windows. Because of Apple’s relatively small market share, lots of applications are not available for the Mac. Visio, Subversion, and numerous financial packages just aren’t available for Mac. If you use Exchange, support for Outlook on the Mac is severely diminished (see below.)

There are a number of solutions for running Windows as a VM on the Mac, and my personal recommendation is Parallels Dekstop for Mac. In Parallels, you can create a VM and run the software in what they call “Confluence” mode, which allows you to run Windows applications on the Mac desktop instead of having a separate Windows desktop (which you can also do.) It also allows you to merge your Windows and Mac Desktops, Documents, Pictures, etc. The best part about having the Windows VM is that its just a file so you can back it up. And Mac’s Time Machine is nice enough to let you restore an older version when an Windows Update goes awry.

Quick tip: Make sure for Mac has at least 8MB of RAM (sorry Air owners) to get good performance from both systems.

Another Quick Tip: The Mac Remote Desktop Client is also crash-prone. If you need to connect to another machine via Terminal Service, do so with a Windows Client.

Key Mapping is Key The Mac keyboard is greatly simplified compared to the Windows keyboard and the most notable omission is the Backspace key. When running a Windows VM this key acts as the Backspace and Option-Delete acts as Delete. Similarly, All your standard “Control” options (Cut, Copy, Paste) use the Command key on the Mac instead of the Control key (which is still there.) Fortunately, Windows reads both Control and Command as Control, so you can get into the habit of always using Command.

Quick tip: You can map keys between the VM and Mac. If you are using Parallels in Desktop mode, I recommend Mapping Control-Option-Command-Delete to Control-Alt-Delete in the VM. That way, you don’t have to use a mouse to unlock or log into your Windows desktop.

Email is Apparently a Deprecated Technology Email on iOS is WAY better than on the Mac. Don’t expect the iOS experience for mail if you use Exchange.

To connect to Exchange, you need to use Apple Mail or Outlook and neither is a great option. The Mac version of Outlook 2011 lacks many of the features of the software available on Windows and doesn’t use PST files, so you can’t just attach to old mail archives (all mail must be imported.) It can’t talk to Exchange 2003 so if you are n a split environment you won’t be able to view other users calendars or folders and Outlook for Mac only supports one server address, so if you use an internal work Exchange server and you at home you will have to connect to a VPN to access it.

Apple Mail / iCal / Address Book appear to connect easily and support internal / external addresses with auto resolution,  but I had problems getting them to reliably sync, which is not a problem I had on iOS. This caused issues with contact updates not coming through and periodically I’d have to Force Quit Apple Mail to get it to start syncing again. I can only hope the convergence in the newest release of MacOS will resolve this. Additionally, using Apple’s tools won’t allow you to see shared calendars, so if that is important to you, consider installing the Windows version of Outlook on your windows VM. I have tried both and have recently switched back from Apple Mail to using Outlook and when I am at home, using Outlook web access (or my iOS devices.) At this point, OWA is getting sophisticated enough that it may be all you need (though you’ll likely still need two separate URLs to connect at work and at home.)

If you use the Outlook for Windows solution, get used to Option-Delete to remove junk mail. Just hitting Delete is the same as the Backspace so it will navigate you to the previous screen instead of removing messages.

Turn on Single Touch clicks The Macbook track pad has a lot of resistance for clicks. In the Track Pad settings, you can turn on single touch clicking so you only have to tap the track pad to get it to respond.

Where’s my Menu? In Windows, the main application menu is always on the application window you are working in but on the Mac, the main menu always appears at the top of the screen. This takes a lot of getting used to… especially when working on multiple screens and having to go to the main window to access the “File” menu.

Closing Apps Doesn’t Close Them. Except when it Does On Windows, I expect the “X”  in the title bar to kill the application. On the Mac, some applications do close (Address Book) but some only close the window you are working with and leave the core application running (Safari, MS Word, etc.)

Add Windows Explorer to your Task Bar If you make a lot of use of tools that are integrated into the Windows Explorer and go the Confluence route with Parallels, Adding the Windows Explorer bar to your Dock makes things a lot easier. Finder integration is limited.

You probably don’t need Adobe (unless you are a designer) Preview does a great job of rendering PDFs, so there is no need for Acrobat Reader and you don’t need anything special to make PDFs. Mac has the built in ability to make PDFs right from the “Print” option in any program. At the bottom left of the Print dialog is a “PDF” option. You can also use the built in Preview application to merge multiple PDFs into one. Simply open a PDF, open the Sidebar view and drag additional PDF documents to the Sidebar. When you are done, Print using the PDF option outlined above and you’ll get a merged PDF.

If you just occasionally edit photos and  you don’t want to shell out a few hundred dollars for Adobe licenses, consider using Seashore. This is a great little program that does all the key features the casual user is likely to need for photo editing for free. Or check out the App Store.

Quick Tip: You are, of course, going to install Flash and Adobe has a nasty habit of putting its uninstallers in Launch Pad (which you can’t move to the Trash Can.) Instead, create a folder to hold the Adobe junk and put it in a Launch Pad window far off to the right of all of your other applications.

Up Up Down Down Left… Magic Key Combos. You can capture any screen with COMMAND-SHIFT-3. You can select an area of a screen to capture with COMMAND-SHIFT-4. In both cases, the results are saved to your desktop. Add CONTROL to the key stroke and get the images captured to your clipboard instead.

Like Windows, you can switch between apps with COMMAND-TAB. However, you can also switch between Windows within the current application by using COMMAND-~. This is super helpful if you have multiple windows open in Safari, word, etc.

Quick Tip: Apple provides an updated list of general and application specific short-cuts.