Mark L. Chambers has been an author, computer consultant, BBS sysop, programmer, and hardware technician for over 30 years. Mark has written more than thirty computer books including Macs For Seniors For Dummies, 3rd Edition, and iMac For Dummies, 9th Edition .
Hey, It Really Does Have Everything I Need
IN THIS CHAPTER
Identifying the important parts of your Mac laptop
Comparing the different MacBook models
Finding the best location for your computer
Unpacking, plugging in stuff, and getting hooked up
Playing with your bundled software
Buying additional stuff you might need
Most action films have one scene in common: I call it "gearing up," because the good guys strap on their equipment in preparation for battle. (The era doesn't matter: You see "gearing up" scenes in Gladiator, Aliens, and virtually every movie Arnold has made.) You're sure to see lots of clicking straps and equipping of offensive weapons (and sometimes even a dash of war paint). The process usually takes a minute or so, all told with whiplash camera work and stirring martial music in the background.
Well, fellow Mac road warrior, it takes only two seconds and one move - closing the lid - for you to gear up. That's because your MacBook is a self-contained world, providing virtually all the essentials you'll find on a desktop iMac or Mac mini. This is indeed the second "decade of the laptop," meshing nicely with your smartphone and that wireless connection at your local coffee shop. You have selected the right companion for the open road.
Unlike Apple's other designs, such as the Mac mini, the Mac Pro and the iMac, your MacBook looks like a PC laptop running Windows. (In fact, an Intel-based Mac laptop can run Windows if you absolutely must.) But your laptop holds a number of pleasant surprises that no PC laptop or tablet can offer - and, with the MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro, you'll lose pounds and inches from your chassis! In this chapter, I introduce you to the hardware and all the major parts of the machine. You even find out how to unpack and connect your computer. And, as frosting on the cake, I preview the software of which Apple is so proud, as well as the accessories you should buy now rather than later.
Welcome to your Mac laptop, good reader. Gear up!
An Overview of Your Mac Laptop
Sure, your MacBook Pro might be about half an inch thin (a MacBook is even more svelte than that - I get to that later in the chapter), but a lot of superb design lives inside. You encounter the same parts you'd find in a desktop machine. In the following sections, I discuss those important parts - both the stuff you can see and the stuff shoehorned within.
FEELING OUTDATED? NEVER!
Are you using an older MacBook? It seems that Apple's product line changes every time you tear a page from your 12-month calendar. In addition, every new generation of laptops includes new whiz-bang features. Sometimes you can add those features separately to your older machine, such as an external video camera, but you can't update some things, such as your MacBook's motherboard. Sigh.
Here's my take on this situation: If your older laptop does what you need at a pace you can accept, there's no need to upgrade it.
Skeptical? Here's the proof: Before my upgrade to a MacBook Air, yours truly was lugging around a pristine iBook G3, which booted macOS Tiger and did absolutely everything I demanded. (A little more patience was required, certainly, but technology authors are simply brimming with patience.) The moral: Avoid upgrade fever unless you really need a new companion.
If you're the proud owner of an older MacBook, as long as it can run macOSmacOS High Sierra you can still enjoy this book and discover new tips and tricks from it. Unless the current breed of Intel-based Mac laptops has a feature you absolutely can't use on your mature MacBook (such as Thunderbolt 3 support), you can sail on with your current computer, fiercely proud of The Bitten Apple that appears on the cover. (In fact, older MacBooks have features that no longer appear on some current models, such as Firewire ports, optical drives, and built-in Ethernet ports.) Although this book was written with the current MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air lines in mind, virtually everything you read here still applies to your older laptop. Unless it's steam-powered, of course.
The parts you probably recognize
Every laptop requires some of the same gizmos. Figure 1-1 helps you track them down. Of course, as you'd expect, a computer has a body of sorts in which all the innards and brains are stored, a display screen, a keyboard, a trackpad or other pointing device, and ports for powering and exchanging data with outside toys.
FIGURE 1-1: The charismatic form of a typical Mac laptop.
That magnificent screen
What a view you have! Today's Mac laptops feature a 12-, 13-, or 15-inch LED display. LED screens use far less electricity than their antique CRT ancestors, and they emit practically no radiation.
Apple's laptop screens offer a widescreen aspect ratio (the screen is considerably wider than it is tall), which augurs well for those who enjoy watching movies. (A favorite editor of mine loves it when I use the antique word augur, meaning to predict or foretell.)
That reminds me: Throw away your printed dictionary! You won't need it, because macOS High Sierra includes the fantastic Dictionary widget. It uses the Internet to retrieve definitions from the online Oxford American Dictionary site (and, yes, it does contain augur). More on widgets in general in Chapter 3.
The keyboard and trackpad
Hey, here's something novel for your laptop. Unlike the external input devices on a standard desktop computer, your MacBook has a built-in keyboard and trackpad (which does the job of a mouse). The illuminated keyboard is a particular favorite of mine, offering special keys for activing all sorts of features within macOS High Sierra (as well as keys for adjusting brightness and volume).
The latest crop of Mac laptops feature a great trackpad design as well. The Force Touch trackpad can sense the amount of pressure you apply with your fingers, activating features in macOS High Sierra that used to require a right-click (like displaying the definition of a word in a Pages document, or displaying a map of an address in Contacts). The Force Touch trackpad can even provide tactile feedback to your fingertips while you're using some applications!
The MacBook, MacBook Air, and the MacBook Pro do not have an internal optical drive (more on all three models later in this chapter). You can use the CD & DVD Sharing feature in High Sierra to read discs remotely (from another Mac or PC on your network), or you can pick up an external optical drive from Apple for about $80. (Such is the price you pay for super-thin and super-light.)
Food for your ears
A machine this nice had better have great sound, and the Mac doesn't disappoint. You have a couple of options for Mac laptop audio:
- All Mac laptops sport built-in stereo speakers and two microphones to boot (the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar even has three microphones).
- Use the built-in headphone jack to connect your Mac's audio to a pair of headphones, a more powerful (and expensive) external speaker system, or a home stereo system. (There are also portable USB and Bluetooth speaker systems that can provide better-quality audio.)
The power cable
Sorry, you can't get a wireless power system - yet. (Apple's working hard on this one.) However, the MacBook Pro was the first major release of a laptop with a magnetic power connector; the MacBook Air followed suit soon after. The MagSafe 2 connector on the MacBook Air reduces the chances of your pride and joy being yanked off a desk when someone trips over the power cord, because the magnetic closure pops off under significant strain. Now that's sassy.
When you connect your power cable, an amber light on the cable connector indicates that your battery is charging; a green light indicates that the battery is fully charged.
The MacBook Pro and MacBook use a different connector, called a USB-C, as a power cable. The USB-C cable also does double-duty as a port for Thunderbolt and USB-C compatible devices.
Many MacBook owners ask me whether they should disconnect the power after the battery is fully charged or leave it connected. I leave the cable connected. It won't cause any damage to your MacBook, and you can continue to use your laptop while it's charging. (Oh, and road warriors prefer a laptop battery that's always topped off when it's time to go mobile!)
The power button
The latest MacBook Pro with Touch Bar actually turns on whenever you open it - to turn this model off, you press and hold the Touch ID button at the far right side of the Touch Bar.
Owners of the MacBook and MacBook Air, you still have a power button. It's at the upper-right corner of the keyboard, bearing the familiar "circle with a vertical line" logo.
The FaceTime HD camera
Check out that tiny square lens above your screen. That's a built-in FaceTime HD camera, which allows you to chat with others in a videoconferencing environment by using the Messages and FaceTime applications...