Moving from Windows to Mac: 3 month review
non-techno people look away
I've had a request from one loyal Mumbler for a bit of feedback on how I've found the move from Windows to Mac, something which a year ago I never thought I'd do.
Well, here's the verdict. We'll start with the good points.
- Right from the word go it's a delightful experience! Open the box, turn on your Mac, and (if there's any wireless networks in range, or if plugged in via a LAN) it will instantly hook up to the net and download any updates. The setup process is painless. Even if you have never used a Mac before you will know your way around it in no time.
- The biggest plus for me is that I finally feel like the computer that I have bought is actually mine, in that I am in control of what it does; I was running Windowx XP on my old laptop, and began to feel increasingly like I was just a host for Microsoft software, with them pushing the keys at the other end of the tube. All those security updates, patches, and of course the legendary Genuine (dis)Advantage tool. All those restarts. It sounds like things are going to get even worse with their new OS, Window's Vista.
- I was frustrated by Windows' incredibly slow start up / shut down times - the Mac is incredible: if it's been asleep and you lift the lid, it's fully functional before you have time to make it to the vertical position.
- Installing / uninstalling Windows software is an absolute pain in the arse. Not only that, even if you do uninstall some software, you tend to end up with odd redundant files dotted all over the place. Not so with the Mac. You literally drag and drop the program into your Applications (Programs) folder to install, and drag them into the trash to uninstall them. Job done. No more restarts.
- The old problem connected with a lack of software for the Mac simply isn't an issue any more. For most decent Windows programs there is a Mac alterative, and if you get really stuck, you can run Windows on your Mac anyway - problem solved.
- The whole Mac experience is really very good. When you do have a problem, it is quickly fixed following a phone call to Apple, who, thanks to the fact that they have offices in all tone zones, are open 24 hours. Alternatively, you can just go to your local Mac Store. I have had one issue with the Mac suddenly powering off, but one call to Apple and I had a link to a firmware update that has sorted the issue.
- Damn sexy magnetic power cable.
The bad points
Erm. Yeah. Er. Let me think...
- Ok, so I don't like the way that Dreamweaver and Photoshop are displayed - palletes floating around in space and all.
- There are times when one has to look a little bit harder for software than one would for Windows. I must say though, three months down the line there is not a single peice of software that I really miss. The Mac equivilents are excellent.
- Could do with more than two USB ports. (I use an 8-port hub to support numerous external drives / printer etc).
- no right mouse button on trackpad, unless I'm very much mistaken. Don't really miss it though.
- Speakers on MacBook pretty pathetic. But liveable with.
Here's the software that I use:
Web browsing: Firefox. Of course. Safari is great, but Im familiar with Firefox, and they have some fantastic plugins).
eMail: Apple Mail. This is just fantastic. Streets ahead of the mail function in MS Outlook in my book. Outlook used to take up to five minutes to start up and fetch my mail. This is ultra fast and very clever, automatically grouping stuff and creating rules if you want it to. A big problem was transferring my old emails from Outlook to Apple Mail. In the end I opted for the IMAP solution, whereby I transferred all my mails directly from Outlook onto a remote IMAP server, and then downloaded them onto the Mac. It took a whole day (I had over 10,000 mails to transfer and could only do it in 30MB batches due to my mailbox limit), but the emails were transferred intact, with dates etc all coming out ok. If one has been using Thunderbird or Outlook Express I believe the transfer process is far less painful.
Image editing: Photoshop (I must admit I prefer the Windows version of this. I don't like the fragmented workspace in OSX). Mac's come with iPhoto, which is all very well and good for organising your photos, but I don't like the way it creates a huge cache (25GB in my case). I'm familiar with Photoshop, which is why I haven't considered buying any other Mac image software.
Website: I use the Blogger Beta (via Firefox) for The Daily Mumble and A Year in Japan; this saves me having to update the archive file, generate individual item pages, update the RSS feed etc manually. For the rest of Tame Goes Wild, and when working on the Template for The Daily Mumble, I use Dreamweaver 8. This is the second of the two programs that I prefer using in Windows, due to the scatty nature of the layout in OSX. Dreamweaver 8 is fantastic!
In order to use the Windows verisons of Photoshop and Dreamweaver, I bought Paralells, which enables you to run Windows on you Mac, just like it's a regular program. Although this is pretty demanding upon the CPU, the Mac does cope, and there's no noticable difference in performance between doing batch operations in Windows on the Mac and doing batch ops natively.
For the podcast I use the excellent Garageband, which came with the mac. That was actually the reason I first seriously considered buying a Mac. I also use Audio Hijack Pro (5 stars) to rip the sound off videos that I've shot (when using my camera as a dictaphone).
To back up my DVDs I use Mac the Ripper, and Pocorn 2. Popcorn 2 will compress dual-layer films onto a single layer disk, and convert films so they're suitable for iPods and PSPs etc. Great stuff, pretty cheap too.
Whilst talkin about backups, I use SuperDuper, which despite having rather a tragic name is a very good piece of backup software. I did prefer Nero, but this does the job. One advantage is that wheras Nero would compress files into its own format, SD just copies them as they are, meaning you don't have to faff about when recovering them. In the case of a major data loss, I use Stellar Phoenix, which is actually worth its (rather substantial) price tag.
Newsfire is a great RSS reader - very sexy.
I do still use MS Office (I bought the Mac version).
The Mac desktop is just beautiful. The way you can use "hot corners" to show/hide your active programs in different ways, very handy. Then of course there's the Dashboard, which is basically a place where you can pin loads of handy widgets (e.g weather forcast, search boxes, post it notes, short cuts, controls for iTunes...). I love the way the Dock (bit at bottom with program icons on) zooms in and out as you move your mouse over it, and also displays progress indicators if you are doing batch operations in Photoshop etc. Handy 'new mail' thing pops up when you have new mail (surprisingly), likewise with Skype, RSS readers etc.
Automator is a fantastic program. You can use it to create your own mini-programs without having any knowledge of coding. For example, I have one automator tool that, when I drop images into a certain folder, it automatically searches for *twinkle's* real name in file names, and replaces it with *Twinkle*; it then scales the images down to 320px, compresses them for the web, sends them to a folder within my website, and opens Dreamweaver and a Flickr tool ready for uploading.
I will never go back to Windows. I recall my Windows years as being full of frustration and restarts. Macs, I feel, are so much more flexible, in a kind of creative jelly type way. You are in control. You don't have some dinosaur of a company behind them that takes years to sort out security issues (what security issues?), and the whole computer experience becomes a lot more 'fun'.
I look forward to purchasing my next one!