Mac 101: Part 3, The Apple Ecosystem

When you take the plunge and purchase a brand new Mac, you’re receiving far more than simply a beautiful computer wrapped in svelte packaging. The modern Apple computing experience is complemented by various online services, features and products which Apple offer exclusively to their customers, in the hope of compelling Mac users to stay within the cozy confines the Cupertino company’s ecosystem.

All that’s needed to delve right into this ecosystem is an Apple ID, so let’s get started on this third part of Mac 101, which will take a look at creating an Apple ID and using it to maximum effect.

Creating An Apple ID

Creating an Apple ID is easy, quick and free

Creating an Apple ID is easy, quick and free

Your Apple ID is like a digital passport into the world of Apple and it can be used for all kinds of things, such as purchasing songs from the iTunes Store, logging into iCloud or making a reservation at an Apple Retail Store and more.

It’s quite probable that unless you’re completely new to all things Apple, you’ve already got an Apple ID lying around somewhere, even if unused and long forgotten. That said, if you’ve somehow managed to avoid creating one, or would just like to start afresh with another, head over to Apple’s My Apple ID page, from which you can create your Apple ID. The same page on Apple’s website also has provisions to help you try and hunt down that old ID if you’re not sure whether you have one or not.

iTunes

iTunes is a premier outlet for your media needs

iTunes is a premier outlet for your media needs

Since its original launch as simple music player, iTunes has evolved into the premier digital location to both consume your existing media and purchase new media too, whether you’re looking for music, movies, audiobooks, TV shows or iOS apps.

The finer points of managing your iTunes media and the more advanced (and very cool!) aspects of the application, such as iTunes In The Cloud, should probably be revisited at some point in a subsequent Mac 101 article, but for now let’s just take a look at the very basics.

Before you dive in, be sure to take a glance at the various tutorials which welcome the new Mac user on first launching iTunes.

Adding Media

Adding your media to iTunes is as easy as File > Add To Library

Adding your media to iTunes is as easy as File > Add To Library

To add media to iTunes, we can follow the same basic process for whatever media it is that we wish to add. However, for the sake of simplicity, let’s assume its audio-based. Within iTunes, click on File > Add To Library and then navigate to the audio files in question. All being well, they’ll be imported into the correct place and still have their names, artwork and other assorted data. If not? Well, that’s what the following section is for.

Organizing Media

If your Post-Punk music collection is categorised as Pop, don't worry - your credibility is safe with a few tweaks

If your Post-Punk music collection is categorised as Pop, don't worry - your credibility is safe with a few tweaks

When importing audio media into iTunes that isn’t music, such as an audiobook for example, it’ll often show up in the wrong place, with iTunes mistaking it for music. Similarly, iTunes may import an album but not tell you who the artist is. To fix this, we can take manual control over the way which iTunes organizes our media.

To do this, let’s start by making sure that we’re on the same page, so to speak. Click on the ‘Music’ tab on the left pane of the iTunes window and then navigate to View > As List (don’t worry, you can bring back the far more attractive Grid view later by looking in the View menu again). This done, you can now easily highlight several files, whatever they are called and right-click to sort them and rename if required.

You can specify music as an audiobook, or tweak EQ options under the 'Other' preference pane

You can specify music as an audiobook, or tweak EQ options under the 'Other' preference pane

For further organizing, head to the ‘Options’ pane and from there you can choose the Media Kind, handy if you’re importing podcasts or audiobooks and want to ensure your iPhone remembers where you left off.

For advice on moving, restoring and syncing your iTunes media, check out this great article by Quintin

Purchasing Media

Music, Audiobooks, Movies and iOS Apps all reside in the iTunes Store

Music, Audiobooks, Movies and iOS Apps all reside in the iTunes Store

To begin spending some money in the iTunes Store, simply click on the tab of that name which is located on the left-hand pane of your iTunes window. Once there, you’ll be able to browse through several categories which include Movies, TV Shows, Music and the App Store – not to be confused with the Mac App Store, this particular App Store is for iOS software only.

iCloud

iCloud is Apple's latest attempt at making cloud-computing compelling

iCloud is Apple's latest attempt at making cloud-computing compelling

iCloud is the latest in a long line of attempts by Apple to provide a seamless online suite of tools to complement the Mac OS X computing experience, a quest which goes all the way back to the turn of this century and the company’s initial foray into the cloud, iTools. While iCloud only achieves its full usefulness when one owns multiple Apple devices or computers, the great thing about iCloud is that Apple offers the service free of charge and so there’s no real reason for Mac newcomers not to dip their toes in the future of Apple’s cloud-computing.

Providing your various devices are properly configured with iCloud, you can move iWork documents seamlessly between machines and sync bookmarks, contacts and calendars too. In addition, iCloud is accessible via a web browser so that your data is accessible even on non-Apple computers.

The Mac App Store

The Mac App Store has been a great success since its launch and contains thousands of essential Mac apps

The Mac App Store has been a great success since its launch and contains thousands of essential Mac apps

While you’re completely free to acquire your software the old fashioned way, the Mac App Store is a great place to find much of the latest and greatest Mac OS X apps at a great price, or even free, with the additional benefit that it’s easy to keep track of needed updates too.

To start doing some online shopping, just launch the Mac App Store application and you’ll be presented with something that looks a lot like the above screenshot. Depending on when and how you created your Apple ID, you may have to enter it in, along with your password. Your account can be managed from the main page (under the ‘Account’ tab) and newly downloaded apps will be added to Launchpad and they can also all be updated through the App Store’s interface.

iChat

iChat is a intuitive and very slick messaging solution

iChat is a intuitive and very slick messaging solution

iChat has been with Mac OS X users for a decade now and the popular instant messaging service can make use of text messaging, in addition to support for audio and video calls and screen-sharing. While iChat is exclusive to the Mac platform, it can be used with AIM, Yahoo and Google chat accounts, to talk with users on other operating systems.

To get started with iChat, launch the app and then add your Apple ID and any other accounts you’d like to use.

FaceTime

Unveiled alongside the launch of the iPhone 4, FaceTime has been subsequently rolled out to the other iOS devices and Macs too. Indeed, recently released Mac computers come with a newly upgraded high definition iSight camera to make the most of FaceTime.

While detractors may fairly point out that FaceTime offers basically the same functionality as the already existing and far more popular cross-platform app Skype, what FaceTime lacks in ubiquity, it undeniably offers a very special user experience. Getting started with FaceTime is easy, just enter your Apple ID!

Conclusion

That concludes our Mac 101 introduction to the Apple ecosystem, I hope that you’ve gained some additional knowledge about how each of Apple’s products are designed to work together and offer an additional functionality which goes beyond the hardware that Infinite Loop sell, or even the operating system which they design to run on it.

In the next Mac 101 article we’re going to be looking at the ten Mac apps that every new user should rush to get installed their new Apple computer as soon as possible.


  • Sonda

    Do you have Apple’s permission to publish posts with their logo, systems, products, screenshots, etc in a commercial website?

    I’m passing to their layers this url so they can check out.

    • David Ambler

      This guy for real?

    • http://khurtwilliams.com Khürt Williams

      Did you get permission to mention them when you posted your comment?

    • http://htrdesign.net Rodrigo

      lol………..

  • John

    wow that “layers” word sounds soooo scary!!

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