Beginners start here: Mac sites

Sean McNamara
27 March, 2008
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If you’re new to Macs, it can be a bit daunting as you begin the exploration of your new OS. There are some great resources out there for getting used to the Mac and for when things go wrong — or when you just want to do some cool stuff. While I can’t hope to detail every single useful Mac web site "out there", I did want to cover some of the most useful sites I visit (pretty well every day) as a Mac user and troubleshooter.

First and foremost, is, of course, the Australian Macworld web site — a great place for local content and views. As a contributor and forum moderator, I’ve been extremely impressed with how quickly a true online community has sprung up around our favourite Aussie Mac magazine. Questions from newbies are always welcome, and tips are abounding in the Help and Tips forum.

One of the most useful Mac sites I’ve found over the years is Mac OS X Hints. Although it gets a bit geeky sometimes (especially if you’re not inclined to visit the Terminal command line interface), it often contains gems which any user can utilise straight away — like the recent tip that double-clicking in the unused portion of the tab bar in Safari 3.1 will create a new tab, à la the New Tab button in IE in Windows and Firefox. The nice thing about Mac OS X Hints is that it encourages Mac users to use their Macs in new and interesting ways. As users become more sophisticated in the use of the OS, they can begin to use some of the more esoteric hints on the site to further progress. (Note: OS X Hints is operated by Rob Griffiths, a Macworld contributor.)

While I primarily use MacRumors to keep up with the latest whisperings on what may or may not be happening in the Mac world, it’s also useful for information regarding on topics such as Mac OS updates, Macworld Expo keynotes (and other Apple announcements). It also has a Buyer’s Guide so you can see how long current models have been around (and perhaps are due for an update).

MacFixIt is the premier Mac troubleshooting web site in my book. It’s a great site to keep an eye on any issues surrounding releases from Apple and Mac product vendors, and its "special reports" provide a wealth of information on specific products and updates. If you join MacFixit Pro, you get access to years worth of troubleshooting tips and information.

MacBytes is a great aggregator of links relating to Macs — it doesn’t carry the content, it just links to it. It’s a great way to get a sense of Mac-related coverage around the world, and it reduces the need to bookmark numerous sites just to catch potentially interesting Mac information.

For those interested in the wider arena of general technology and science, Ars Technica has very good coverage on a wide range of topics, from technology and science policy, through the applications of new technology to reviews of software and hardware, and games coverage. Ars Technica has pretty in-depth Apple coverage, and its reviews of major Mac OS X releases (such as last year’s Leopard review) are the most comprehensive I’ve seen from a technology standpoint. I think they’re a must-read for those interested in some of the less-publicised aspects of such major releases. Once again, it can get a bit geeky in there, but the site’s a great read.

Come Macworld Expo Keynote time, I rely on three of the above sites for live coverage of the event — Australian Macworld, MacRumors and Ars Technica. Reading multiple accounts of the events will often ensure everything is picked up (each one can only type and pick up so much), and when there’s no live feed streamed to the web, it’s the next best thing to being there.

I’d be interested to hear what sites other Mac users consider to be "must-visits", especially for newer members of the "Mac Fellowship".

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