This applies to compressor 3.5 and 4.
Compressor is a great program and fairly intuitive, but for the first time user it may be daunting.
Here are a few tips:
You can customize and save presets. Select a preset from the apple presets and "duplicate" by either clicking on the duplicate button on the top left of the settings window (it's the 3rd button from the left) or control clicking on the preset and choosing "duplicate." This will create a preset in the custom folder. Give this preset an appropriate name. By default, compressor will append the preset name to your output file name. To help organize your custom presetsm, you can also create folders in the custom folder and drag your customized presets to this folder.
Also, if the audio of your source file is anything but 48k 16 bit uncompressed, make sure the audio is enabled in the encoder panel and is set to 48k 16 bit linear pcm,
You can also apply an apple preset to a file already loaded in the batch window and then doubleclick on it in the batch window to load it into the inspector and then customize it. The advantage of working this way is that you can see your changes reflected in the preview window. Figuring out the options in the preview window can be a little tricky so ...
You can test your preset by only compressing a section of your source file by marking an in and out in the preview window.
Once you've finished customizing your preset, you're gonna want to save it. Save it with the desired name and then you may want to replace the preset in the batch window with this version so that the output file name reflects the custom preset name. You can do this by dragging your preset from the settings window ontop of the existing preset in the batch window.
By default, compressor will put your output file in the same folder as your source file (unless you are sending from within fcp in which case by default the output will go to your documents folder). You can change this by control clicking on the destination field in the batch window.
Quitting compressor does not stop the "compression." You must use the cancel button in either the history window or the cancel button in the batch monitor application to stop the process.
Among the great things compressor can do:
Remove pulldown without needing to know the pulldown cadence. Note: this usually works, but your mileage may vary. Also footage with non standard cadences will not work.
Remove interlacing to convert interlaced footage to progressive. Playing interlaced footage on a computer screen (and on the web) can be problematic particularly with fast movement. For best results set deinterlace to "best" in frame controls."
Add padding so a 16:9 image is letterboxed in a 4:3 quicktime
Crop a letterboxed 4:3 quicktime to just the active 16:9 area
If you are changing pixel dimensions or pixel aspect ratio, for best quality (but additional compression time) go the frame controls, turn them on and change resizing filter to "best." This can make a big difference in the quality of your compressed file. This is particularly important if you're converting a DV quicktime (with rectangular pixels) to a format with square pixels. You'll see a big difference in graphics and titles.
You can find some useful tools and info on compressor at www.digitalrebellion.com