Archive for February, 2008

Why isn’t there a standard “full screen” keyboard shortcut?

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Full Screen iconOne reason I switched to the Mac was because Mac OS applications are supposed to have consistent user interfaces. This is mainly due to the much-lauded Apple Human Interface Guidelines.

On the whole, I’m impressed with the way Mac apps have consistent menus and keyboard shortcuts. For example, with a few notable exceptions – I’m looking at you, Photoshop – you can nearly always get to an app’s preferences by hitting Command+, (comma), and hide an app with Command+H.

But what’s the shortcut for switching an app to full screen mode? Good question. It changes from app to app; there’s no standard. And surely, if there’s one thing you need a consistent keypress for, it’s full screen mode – especially exiting full screen mode. Try getting out of DVD Player’s full screen mode without knowing the keyboard shortcut. (And no, Esc doesn’t work.)

“Full screen” shortcuts for various apps

Just to show how ridiculous the situation is – but also to provide a handy reference – here’s a list of the “full screen” shortcuts for the apps currently installed on my Mac:

  • DVD Player: Command+0 (zero). Obviously.
  • QuickTime Player: Command+F. (Even Apple’s own apps aren’t consistent with each other.)
  • VLC: Command+F.
  • Skype: Control+Command+F.
  • iChat AV: Control+Command+F. (Well at least those two are the same.)
  • RealPlayer: Command+4. (Huh?)
  • Parallels Desktop: Option+Return (my brain hurts).
  • iTunes: Command+F.

If Apple can come up with standard shortcuts for things like preferences, surely a standard full-screen shortcut isn’t out of the question?

(Here’s a handy related tip: If you ever need to decipher the strange characters used in menus to represent various special keys – such as Control and Option – switch to the Finder, choose Help > Mac Help, and search the help for “Symbols for special keys”.)

Why I’m glad I switched from Linux to Mac

Friday, February 8th, 2008

I still use Linux for one main task: my accounts. I love GnuCash, and installing the latest version on Mac OS X is a right pain. So I run Ubuntu in a Parallels VM just so I can use GnuCash.

I was getting a bit bored of my ancient Ubuntu version so I decided to download and install the latest and greatest – 7.10 – in a new Parallels VM. After waiting an hour and a half for the 700MB ISO to download, I went through the helpful Parallels setup tool to boot the new VM and begin the Ubuntu install.

I think it survived all of two minutes before randomly expanding and contracting the Parallels window, then coming up with this spectacular message:

The display server has been shut down about 6 times in the last 90 seconds. It is likely that something bad is going on. Waiting for 2 minutes before trying again on display :0.

“It is likely that something bad is going on.” Correct. What’s going on is another user is moving further away from Linux, and that’s baaad for Linux.

Now I know the Ubuntu team do an excellent job on the whole, and they’re really trying to make Linux successful on the desktop. But when a stock, stable release of Ubuntu can’t even install itself under a Parallels VM on a Mac – hardly an uncommon scenario – then desktop-ready it ain’t.

And yes, there probably are workarounds involving hacking xorg.conf files around – oh look, here’s one – but you know what? Life’s waayyyy too short.

Right, back to doing my accounts – in my old version of Ubuntu.

(No doubt I’ll eat my words when I finally attempt to upgrade my Mac from Tiger to Leopard, and watch it eat all my apps and data. Ha ha.)