Pronto writing in six steps

I don’t like hand writing as much as typing simply because I’m a slow writer. The faster I write, the less legible my words become.

It’s incredibly easy to get going with a MacBook Air (Oct 2010), especially since it wakes up from sleep so quickly.

Mac OS X on my MacBook Air

  1. Open lid.
  2. Enter password.
  3. Press Command + Spacebar to activate Spotlight (or whichever keyboard shortcut used to activate Quicksilver , LaunchBar, or Alfred App), type “Bean” or whichever text editor/word processor you use, then press Enter.
  4. Frantically type whatever thoughts are spewing from your mind.
  5. Command + S to save your document, then Command + Q to quit your text editor program.
  6. Close lid.

Windows 7

You can type the program name after pressing the Windows key.

Once you’re done writing, Control + S to save your document, then Alt + F4 to close the program.

Software

Which programs do I use to write? The following are essentially free simple text editing programs, designed with minimal features so you can focus on writing. If you like any of them, please donate to the developers.

I save these small text files to a dedicated folder within Dropbox[1. Affiliate link to Dropbox. “For every friend who joins and installs Dropbox, we’ll give you 500 MB and your friend 250MB of bonus space (up to a limit of 16 GB)!”] only for text files, with a specific prefix to help me find it later. (e.g. BP means blog post in “BP – Pronto writing in six steps.txt”.)

Why not use Microsoft Word, Apple iWork Pages, or OpenOffice.org Writer? If you’re only working with plain text, you don’t need the extra features and bloat.

If you don’t know the HTML tags for post formatting, copy your text[2. Select All for: (Windows) Ctrl+A; (Mac OS X) Command+A], paste it[3. Paste for: (Windows) Ctrl+V; (Mac OS X) Command+V] into your blog post, then format and/or add links accordingly.

Hello, MacBook Air (and Mac OS X)

After much consideration, I finally bought a MacBook Air. It’s my first Mac.

I chose the 11-inch model with a 1.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4 GB of memory, and 64 GB of SSD flash storage.

PowerMax got my money, not MacMall

I almost bought my Mac from MacMall. But, when I got to the payment step, the math wasn’t correct. The MacBook Air, USB ethernet adapter[1. I bought the USB ethernet adapter just in case.], shipping, and tax didn’t add up to the estimated subtotal (which was six dollars more).

Next, I stumbled onto Oregon-based PowerMax. Their site was visually much more pleasant. After over an hour of reading through their company information about pages, warranty information, and plenty of good feedback, I made my purchase.

Another bonus: I saved on sales tax and opted for free shipping.

After two days of processing and six days in transit, it finally arrived. Thanks PowerMax!

By the way, I finally heard back from MacMall. It took four business days (six days total). While I explicitly stated I did not want to order over the phone, the MacMall Account Executive replied:

If you call my extension I will be able to place the order for you with the correct price.

Wow. No explanation about the math error. That’s a shame.

Setting it up

Opening the box was an elegant experience. I wasn’t rushing. I couldn’t help but snap a few photos.

I’ve been following the directions and suggestions from “How to Switch to the Mac” by Tao of Mac. To minimize any botched accounts, creating a standard user after creating the first Administrator user was stated several times in the article. Once I got that out of the way, and skimmed through the booklet, I was ready to get going.

I updated from Mac OS X 10.6.5 to 10.6.6, plus a slew of other updates, totaling 529 MB. That took about 40 minutes. After rebooting my Mac, an iDVD 7.1.1 Update (36 MB) also needed to be installed.

Another security measure for working at public WiFi hotspots is to configure PPTP VPN to connect to my DD-WRT router at home. (See DD-WRT PPTP Server Configuration for Mac OS X. I needed to force encryption on my router. I should probably update my router firmware, then use OpenVPN.)

Third-party Software

I’ve installed the following:

  • Bean – My current alternative to Q10, a freeware minimal text editor for Windows.
  • Dropbox (referral link) – Now I really need to keep my Dropbox folder tidy, especially since I have a smaller amount of space than my desktop PC
  • F.lux – “It makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.” I’m a long time user.
  • Google Chrome
  • OpenOffice.org – It’s been fine not using Microsoft Word, and I don’t see the need to try iWork at the moment.
  • Synergy and SynergyKM – Allows me to use my keyboard and mouse on my PC to control my MacBook Air.
  • Thunderbird – I didn’t want to try Mail, and I’m used to Thunderbird from Windows.
  • Tofu – Column-ize text to make reading on a widescreen easier. It might come in handy when I’m not reading from Instapaper or Google Reader.
  • VLC
  • StartupSound.prefPane – So I don’t annoy the class with the Mac startup sound if I have to power on or reboot my Mac.

Performance

The boot and wake speeds are ridiculously fast:

  • Cold boot to login screen: 15 seconds
  • Log in to desktop: 7-8 seconds
  • Go to sleep: 2-3 seconds
  • Wake from sleep: 3-5 seconds

With Google Chrome, OpenOffice.org, Bean, Stickies, iCal, and Activity Monitor open, my system is using 1.66 GB of memory, leaving 2.34 GB free. I would be usually running Thunderbird, too, and possibly iTunes. The best part: the system feels incredibly snappy. (I don’t think it’s just cool and new to me. Honest!)

Easter Egg: If you’re on Mac OS X Snow Leopard (10.6), try holding Shift while clicking a stack or folder in your Dock for some slow, smooth opening action.

Other odds and ends

  • Copy my address book from Thunderbird on my PC.
  • Setup printing to my USB-connected HP LaserJet 1020 that’s shared from Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.
  • Try MediaRover to sync my iTunes library. I’m not sure if I want to do this, but it depends on the size of my music library. I think it’s under 15 GB.

Why?

I wanted a MacBook Air since it was first released January 29, 2008. With the switch to SSD, it was even more tempting. I don’t need a lot of storage space this laptop won’t be my primary computer.

With a few textbooks, my messenger bag was already heavy. I didn’t want to carry a separate bag for my laptop, nor did I want to lug around one huge bag.

Furthermore, I’m not necessarily biased toward PC or Mac. I see strengths in both. While you can get a PC for much less than a MacBook Air with similar or better specs, it’s not all about specs. It’s a beautiful feeling to put my laptop to sleep in a couple seconds or less, then to jump back into my work much later without missing a beat.

The last six days

After reading Marco Arment’s thoughts on the 2010 MacBook Air, then trying the 11” MacBook Air at the Apple Store, I felt pretty confident that sacrificing screen size wouldn’t affect my usage. I love that it has a full-size keyboard.

So far, I’m extremely happy with it. I write, read (Google Reader or Instapaper), and check email. Speed isn’t a problem. Even right now, I’m typing this blog post from Bean while relaxing on my couch. The screen brightness is set at “4” and I can see everything on my screen pretty comfortably.

As I get accustomed to Mac OS X, you’ll probably start seeing related posts in the near future, so I’m stoked for another layer of diversity here.

If you have any articles for new Mac users, recommended software, or other usage tips, please leave them in the comments.