Mac Users:Getting Started

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Getting started

There are a set of things you'll want to your Mac right away. You should also sign up for the CSE Mac users mailing list here.

Initial config

Apple's initial configuration when you first start your Mac is pretty straightforward. The only issue is not configuring your Internet connection. During setup, you should select 'no internet connection', as otherwise the registration software will attempt to contact Apple, which won't work because you haven't yet registered your MAC address, and take a long time to time out.

Also note that you don't have to send any registration information to Apple, even though you need to fill it out in the initial setup form. If you claim that you don't have an internet connection, you never need to send it.

Register MAC address

You can do this here.

Immediately annoying problems

Apple populates its new machines with some bloated applications and annoying initial settings. Cheif among these is the i* applications, which take up a bunch of unnecessary disk space. You can remove the following:

  • GarageBand - A music creation program, takes up 2+ gigs. Remove /Applications/GarageBand and /Library/Application Support/Garage Band
  • iWeb - website creation targeted at home users, takes 630+ megs. Remove /Applications/iWeb
  • iMovie - movie editing software, takes 200+ megs. Remove /Applications/iMove HD and /Library/Application Support/iMovie

Feel free to add more cruft here. All of these can be easily reinstalled from the install DVDs that come with your machine. Also, these and other applications clutter your initial dock, which you can easily remove by simply dragging them out of the dock.

You can configure most global preference (mouse speed, key repeat rate, network config, etc.) in the System Preferences application, accessible by select 'System Preferences' from the Apple menu (it's at the top left, looks like a blue apple).

Installing X11 and the developer tools

By default, Apple does not include X11 or the GNU development toolchain. You need to install these yourself. From the installation DVD that came with your computer, you'll find these by double clicking on the DVD (which appears on the desktop after you insert it), and scrolling down until you see the 'Optional Installs'package. Double click that, go through the initial few steps, and then expand Applications and select X11 when you need to specify what to install. To install the developer tools, open the Xcode Tools folder on the root level of the installation DVD and install the XcodeTools package similarly. Keep in mind that Apple updates its developer tools often, and the latest version is always available free at their ADC website.

Services you probably want


Apple's Mail program is the default email reader for OS X, and supports IMAP reasonably well. Check Suggested Applications for other options.

Configuring Apple's Mail program is fairly easy, with the small caveat that you need to accept that your account won't work after you go through the initial config when you first start the program. Instead, once you've gotten past the initial setup, you can get to more advanced settings via the Mail->Preferences... menu wherein you can change things for your account like SSL settings and IMAP prefix path (in the Advanced tab).

Also, you may want to right click (hold control while clicking if you've got a single button mouse) on your folder list in Mail and select 'Use small mailbox icons' to make the icons a reasonable size.


The default web browser in OS X is Safari in /Applications/Safari. Common problems generally involve tabbed browsing and popup blocking, both of which are off by default, but can be enabled from Safari->Block popup windows and Safari->Preferences->Tabs, respectively. Check Suggested Applications for other options.

LaTeX, Gnuplot, and other UNIX stuff

Apple's terminal program is located in /Applications/Utilities/Terminal

There are basically three options here: Fink, DarwinPorts, or downloading source and installing yourself. The last option has recently become particularly feasible as OS X is now well supported by developers. However, a good package manager goes a long way towards manageability. I use Fink because, in my experience, it's been the best supported, but your mileage may vary. If you elect to download Fink, here are some packages I find useful. You can install these by typing the following in a new terminal after installing Fink:

fink install x

where x is one of:

All available packages are listed here. Keep in mind that you need a special version of Fink for Intel Macs. In the case of TeX, I recommend the excellent TeXShop editor, which you can configure to use your Fink installed version of TeX by changing its preferences (Under the 'Engine' tab) to point to /sw/bin