I visited Jenni yesterday afternoon for a long session featuring backup and printing logs, new keyboard shortcuts, and lots of attention of iCloud and its syncing habits. First we attempted to figure out why her Time Capsule backup doesn’t always work and investigated a possible connection to print jobs not going through. While we didn’t get very far, I showed her how to interact with Console for browsing and searching logs. One error that logged when we sent a print job from Word has been reported many times in association with Outlook, so that was a dead end. She’ll continue to monitor her logs and let me know what she finds at times when one or the other fails.

Next we started to tackle the monster of managing her family’s contacts. Among the features lost by MobileMe’s death is the ability to share Address Books. So, we sought another way to allow them to have equal access to the bank of people connected to the family. I explained that sharing an Excel spreadsheet containing all this contact info or importing it into one’s Address Book would be a painful method because it would require each person to update his/her copy of the list and/or Address Book on one or more devices each time some moves or changes other information, etc.

The solution turned out to be to create a separate iCloud account for the family. Using a unique new Apple ID—an iCloud email address created on the spot—we started setting up this new account. However, we quickly ran into an odd snafu as the contacts we imported for this family account got associated with Jenni’s personal account and her personal contacts, numbering over 2,000, wound up in the family account. This mystified us for nearly half an hour as I tried to figure out how to switch them back.

It’s important to note, first, that Jenni’s iCloud contact syncing was turned off for both her iPhone and Mac Address Book before we started, and we only noticed this after we created the new account, so I think initially iCloud started syncing her personal contacts to the family account and then assumed contacts associated with any other account would go to her personal iCloud. But that wasn’t exactly true. The missing link was understanding the order of iCloud accounts listed in the Groups sidebar of Address Book. Unlike Mail, for example, app doesn’t allow the user to change the order of accounts, so the order shown in Address Book Preferences is the only one.

Once I realized that the family account wouldn’t budge from the top of the list in Address Book, I was able to get the personal contacts back in the personal account and finally reimport the family contacts into that account. My only other gripe with Address Book is that even though I renamed both iCloud accounts to make them easier to distinguish, Address Book doesn’t respect these descriptive changes. I’ll be submitting feedback to this effect.

But this was only part one of our iCloud extravaganza. Part two was with iCal and our failure to understand why events in some calendars were duplicating several times over. One calendar was shared from another iCloud user whose events weren’t duplicated at all. We deleted a bunch of the duplicates but came no closer to understanding why they were there. We also ran into an oddity with a subscribed calendar that complained about refreshing when it was stored on iCloud but not when it was stored locally. For the convenience of subscribing once and syncing a subscription to other devices, it seemed incredibly silly to have to subscribe separately on each device.

Finally, along the way, I helped Jenni start to learn a number of keyboard shortcuts. The first she noticed me using made a bunch of big icons appear on the screen, allowing me to switch to other applications.

Tip: Hold Command and tap Tab to activate. Continue pressing Tab until you reach the application to which you want to switch. If you tab too far, you can go back by pressing the tilde (~) key above tab. Release Command when you’re ready and the selected application and any open windows in it will come forward. You can also quit an application from the switcher by pressing Q when it’s selected. If you prefer to use the mouse or trackpad or always have a hand on it, you can click on the application you want to switch to.

I also introduced Jenni to Command-F3 to show the desktop. On Macs and Apple keyboards produced since 2008, F3 is the key associated with Exposé or Mission Control, the ability to see open workspaces, applications, and/or windows and switch to them. Holding Command when pressing this key pushes all windows out of the way to reveal the desktop. For users who keep files there, this is a convenient way to get to them without manually moving windows out of the way. I always frown and smirk when I watch users move a window partially off the screen in order to find another one. There are so many other ways to switch windows or applications without losing access to another one by pushing it away.

For more shortcuts, try searching Help in most applications for keyboard shortcuts. (Did you know there’s a search box in the Help menu?) Or, start by exploring the menus in an application. Find a shortcut you want to use? You don’t even need to escape the menu to try using it. Or, download Cheat Sheet to easily discover or remember shortcuts in an app. With practice, you’ll likely become more productive and keep your hands on the keyboard rather than repetitively switching back to the mouse.