What's the Tipping Point for Being a "Power User"?

I’ve been learning about and using computers for most of my life. I feel I qualify as a “Power User”, but I’d be hard pressed to say what the tipping point is for being a “Power User” for a device / platform / ecosystem.

For all you “Power Users” and aspiring “Power Users”, what is it that you think is the tipping point for the transition from ‘competent user’ (or equivalent term) to “Power User”?

I strongly suspect there will be many paths, but presumably some commonality in the destination.

Back when I was on PC, I’d have defined it as being self-sufficient in finding tools and solutions to computing needs. Since moving to the Apple ecosystem, I think I’d define it as an active interest in improving one’s computing experience (through picking the right apps, automation, or other means)

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My definition for a power user is as follows.

Someone who know their way around a system or device. Meaning they know generally where folders, settings etc. are located.

By no means do I think that a power user never needs help. No one can know everything. But can the power user understand and use the help found, or adapt old info to new systems (Taking changes in newer system into account, like a moved setting)

I also define a power user as someone who can do tasks, using technical know-how. Or find a way to do something they couldn’t do before. Someone who can adapt to the changing world.

Technical know-how has always been my strong suit, so therefore I believe in that, being a power user. And because if anyone asks me, how to do something or to help them solve a problem. I have the know-how to help them discover a way to solve their task and also know how to find a way to solve the problem, if it is new, or just flat out solve it, because I remember it from a previous encounter.

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  1. You confidently do more on the device than what it does straight from the package.
  2. You confidently tweak settings so as to maximize performance and usability.
  3. You (seek to) automate repetitive and/or time-consuming tasks.
  4. You anticipate (most of) the routine things technical support will initially tell you to do, and you (mostly) understand how to do the advanced things technical support eventually tells you to do.
  5. When it doesn’t do what you want, you don’t wave it around in the air at someone younger than you complaining about how it won’t work and then demand the younger person make it work. :wink:
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When I was in the PC world, I used to think of myself as a power user. Now that I’m fully on Mac/iOS; I also think of myself as a power user.

I don’t define being a power user by being fluent technically. To me, being a power user entails having developed deeper knowledge of whatever the subject matter is that goes beyond what is considered “normal use” for the average person.

Most people aren’t fussed about software tools and utilities. Most people aren’t fussed about automating every single action they can automate. Most people aren’t fussed about using their technology as a primary means for improving their productivity. Mac power users are!

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I feel like you could treat this like Jeff Foxworthy.

You may be a power user if you…

…Google the things to troubleshoot before reaching out to a support person

…Try to understand the “moving parts” that might cause a problem (whether you fully comprehend them all or not) software or hardware.

…Instinctively dig into the preferences pane of an app the first time you launch it.

…Read comparisons or reviews of consumer hardware or apps for entertainment.

…Want to learn a coding language for any reason other than “being able to find a job.”

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Writing scripts or macros.

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This is too real. The number of times where someone has asked me to help and I don’t know the answer, googled it and one of the first two results has the answer step-by-step is too many.

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“You might be a power-user if you know what control center is.”

I think being a power user means that you fall into a different culture, most users only bother to learn enough about a system to do the things they need to do then they stop learning.

A power user on the other hand is someone who strives to push their boundaries and learn nuts and bolts about the system.

A key distinction though is the practically of the knowledge. Do I consider myself a power user, no. I have a degree in computing and a day job as a developer, I know the system inside and out at a different level an almost theoretical level. But if I need to do something simple like increase the icon size in finder I have to google around.

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I agree with most of the above.

In my opinion, a Power User is one that doesn’t feel like one, and that is because is always curious about what’s next and how to make the best use of the machine/tools one has.

Curiosity is what definies a Power User (in any field really).

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Bit off topic, but some thoughts:

Whereas the days are mostly(?) gone now, one of my the biggest annoyances with those click-bait(?) articles on 'why would you buy [insert Apple desktop/laptop here] when you can get so much more specs for your buck if you rather buy [insert Windows/PC desktop/laptop here] – was that they all conveniently disregard the OS, and the applications that can run on them…

macOS is not perfect, by any stretch. And there certainly is merit to the arguments that it is less refined and stable than what it was 5(?) or more years ago – in other words, that the ‘it just works’ mantra is maybe a bit under pressure with all the annual updates, that some would argue were a bit underdone.
And yes, there are notable application/software packages available for Windows/PC, that simply do not exist on the Mac, unless you run them via Bootcamp/Wine/VM.

But whereas I was always warned that ‘when you go over to Mac, you will need to buy all these extra apps just to be able to do what is standard on the PC’, what I quickly realised is that built-in applications like Preview, saw me never need to worry about bloatware applications I had always needed on the PC…
And that’s not to mention how – in my experience – Mac applications are generally significantly cheaper than PC applications, and 9 times out of 10, work better AND look amazing!

That said, I moved over to Mac, very late, having spent easily most of my ‘computing’ life, on all forms of PCs.

One thing I noticed instantly when I started delving into the Apple Mac side, was the use of the term ‘workflow’.
It wasn’t in your face, but the moment you started digging a bit, in trying to become more efficient in using your Mac, one would inevitably bump into it.
I’m not suggesting this is purely a ‘Mac thing’, but just that it was far more noticeable to me, after jumping over, than it had ever been in the context of PC’s.

Over on the PC, it’s fairly easy to become more efficient inside a specific app (or maybe 1/2/3 closely related apps >> i.e. MS Office) – but it’s far more unusual constructing an efficient system that runs across a variety of different applications and the operating system.
The irony is that iOS is often knocked for being ‘sandboxed’ and straight-jacketed, and some even point a finger at the Mac – and hold this up in contrast to the PC/Android world, and how ‘open’ it is – but my experience of the extent to which Hazel/ Automator/ TE/ Alfred/ KM/ DFX etc. can ‘hook into’ the macOS, is simply unparalleled over on the PC.

Therefore, and my love for the Apple trackpad (both external and laptop version) aside, it doesn’t matter that I can get so much more value for less from ‘other’ laptops and desktops – because it’s less a case of hardware, in my mind, than software!
By this I mean that the Mac in ‘Power Users’ is there because the software allows it, makes it possible, to be a ‘Power-User’.

At least, that was my experience of it.

Whereas on the Mac, using all those tools that are littered across this forum, and spoken about on MPU, someone – with relatively very little or no programming knowledge – can build something that starts off with I do this and this and then this, all the time, each day – can I automate it? And chances are, one can.

In contrast to the Windows/PC world, macOS allows one to think about what the user does, and then think about the ways it can be automated.
Over on the PC, I always approached that from the perspective of ‘this is what the PC/Software offers me, how can I shape the things I do to fit in with this, to be utilise what is on offer’… And I did this, purely because I felt I had to.
It was completely normal to me, as a long-time PC user, that I had to ‘fit-in’ with what was possible – rather than taking things from the perspective of ‘the PC must fit in with what I want to do’.

Silly example - the first time I realised I could rename a file by clicking into the top-menubar of Preview, whilst scrolling up and down and seeing the contents of the PDF – my head exploded… I realised there-and-then, after 25-odd years of simply assuming that a filename could not be changed/edited, while an instance of that file was open – that everything I had assumed to be absolutes, was potentially wrong… This had a profound impact on how I started approaching my new habits on the Mac…

So, when I think of myself now, compared to my time on the PC - before, I was potentially more ‘efficient’ than most(?) other PC users. But on the Mac, I am far more focused on trying things, on getting the Mac to do things that makes my interaction with it, easier, and more automated.
To me, that’s the distinction.
A MPU tries to wrangle the Mac to suit their needs, rather than trying to adjust their approach, to match the ‘needs’ of the machine…

So the 'tipping point’ comes when its less a case of ‘I have to do things that way’, and more a case of ‘lets try and make things work this way, my way’…

TL:DR >
PC = fit in with what the PC offers = more efficiency VS Mac = make the machine fit in with what you want = more MPU.

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When @MacSparky and @katiefloyd invite you on the show of course.

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I’m not a power user. I don’t have the deep understanding of inner workings.

My goal is to be competent, a skillful user of the tools that get the job done.

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@RichardC I think that makes you a power-user! :wink:

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Thanks for all the posts. I specifically didn’t direct this as being a Mac focussed question as I think the term is global enough it should not be qualified by aspects of a particular platform. Likewise I think using specific categories of third party additions is also a divergence as in closed systems one could potentially still be considered a power user.

On Wikipedia, a power user is described in a way which, to me, seems somewhat erroneous. The first line “A power user or an experienced user is a computer user who uses advanced features of computer hardware, operating systems, programs, or web sites which are not used by the average user” actually read pretty well to me … but relies on defining an average user. Which to a large extent kicks the can down the road on describing what a power user is. It then goes on to talk about not being able to program or administer systems. I would say that a good portion of admins and developers I have known have been power users, but not all; plus I’m sure being able to write code does not exclude someone from being a power user, but might in fact be a common tool! It then goes on to draw comparisons to super users which is a term typically confined to individual systems whereas I’m 99% sure power user is globally used as a wider term covering more than a specific application … but admittedly, I can see that could be the influence of more formal business IT on my outlook.

I’ve seen numerous definitions from various IT sources online and it seems like computing and knowledge are the key aspects but there’s little consistency there. However, Urban Dictionary has an interesting definition - “A person who is familiar with the advanced, uncommon functions of a system.” It seems like a stripped down version of the first line from the Wikipedia article and something is resonant in that and yet it still feels a little too woolly to me, and it sounds quite passive to me. I think of power users as people who do stuff with the knowledge they have, rather than just being familiar with it.

Thoughts anyone?

When you start using the shell.

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Well except some OSes only have a shell and some have no shell. :man_shrugging:

macOS/BSD has. :wink: Linux has. Is there anything else out there? :smiley:

This is a great question. My confession is I don’t see myself as a power user in a lot of the senses above. I mess with my Macs a lot, especially with trying to have the same experience moving between my two iMacs and Macbook (and to a degree my iPad and iPhone).

What I am sure I am is a passionate user. I use Apple products pretty much all day every day, and, for the most part, either love them or find they disappear and let me see only my work. It probably why I complain whenever software is ugly or clunky. I find I experiment with apps until I find ones I like and then stick with them until they either don’t do the job anymore or until it’s overwhelmingly clear there is something significantly better.

Someone, a PC user, asked me a long time ago why how my computer looking mattered so much to me after I’d listed pleasing design as one of the reasons I was a Mac user. The question floored me. How, when I work all day on my computer, can it not be important that the hardware look inviting in my workspace and my software both do the job and please the eye?

My current user goal is to create better systems and workflows. :slight_smile:

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