I’m a switcher

I don’t know whether this is a record of any kind, but the last Apple computer I owned was an Apple ][+ in 1982. Here I am 26 years later, about to switch from my trusty ThinkPad to a MacBook Pro. This feels like a divorce – I love ThinkPads, have used them exclusively since 1999 – but my love of ThinkPads does not equate to a love of Windows.

Ultimately this switch comes as I’ve finally realized just how much time I spend grappling with Windows. Long reboots, inconsistent behavior resuming from standby, sluggish response times, I could go on.

Over the last two years, I’ve moved almost everything I do to the browser. I moved from Outlook to Gmail, from Word/Excel to Google Docs. Still, I ridiculed my co-workers. And I don’t mean teased, I mean ridiculed. I gave them endless amounts of shit for playing with a Mac. Serious computer users used ThinkPads.

When FeedBurner was acquired, we were given the choice: did we want a ThinkPad or a Mac. Like that was even a question! A ThinkPad, of course. (Making it my 10th ThinkPad in as many years.) But then a crazy thing dawned on me about a month ago: save a few apps that I used on my PC (TiVo Desktop, for instance), almost nothing that I use on a regular basis was PC-specific. After my office-mate switched, my defenses started crumbling.

The 11 minute reboot, increasingly sluggish resumes from standby, and overall slow system responsiveness convinced me that it was time to ditch Windows. (A few hours with Vista at the in-laws convinced me that I definitely didn’t want to stick with Windows any longer.) Yesterday I finally bit the bullet – and less than 24 hours, IT had a shiny new MacBook Pro waiting for me. It’s clear I have some learning to do – but already I can tell that this is a long-overdue switch. I will gladly put up with all the abuse that’s sure to follow from my co-workers who I’ve mercilessly teased over the years. Don, you have a standing invite to heap scorn in my direction… 😉

Now for some questions:

  • Why didn’t anyone tell me how pretty this OS is?
  • Am I the first to make the observation that the Mac just works? Because seriously, it just works.
  • Where’s the Registry on this thing? autoexec.bat?

  • It’s pretty here.

Consider this an open thread. What do you wish you knew when you switched? Any shortcuts? Which apps should I be installing? What cool stuff can I do with this OS that I couldn’t do on Windows?

Most importantly, if there’s a handy guide to how to show disdain for the poor, lost souls stuck on Windows, let me know. I promise, I’m a quick learner.

44 responses to “I’m a switcher”

  1. I sent over some tips via Twitter, which you can read by downloading Twitterific and seeing the Twitterverse the way it was meant to be seen. :)One thing I thought I didn't mention are utility programs. Talk to your IT guys and see if they have a copy of Disk Warrior. I keep a Disk Warrior CD/DVD with me at pretty much all times. On the rare occasion something does go wrong with the Mac, it can usually save the day.Also, one little utility I use a lot is Disk Inventory X. Make sure you download the Universal Binary beta version on a MacBook Pro. It gives you a graphical look at your hard drive space usage.Also, all those years on Windows means you're probably not a Unix command line guru. But it might be worth picking up a decent intro to Unix book or even O'Reilly's Learning Unix for MacOS X. It's a few years out of date now, but all the basics apply.Also, one tip I haven't seen mentioned in many places. If you do use the command line, lots of options have a -h flag that you can use to get human readable sizes, dates, etc. That makes things much nicer.

  2. I'd have switched too, if it wasn't for you and your thinkpad evangelism!!! (I kid, I rationalized it myself). Seriously, I'm right there with you, once I have money ready for the next one. The new thinkpad I bought (an obvious lemon) is the worst computer I've ever owned and I'll be MAC as soon as I can.

  3. Rick- I just switched 2.5 months ago. I had never owned an Apple computer in my life before (Commodore Vic 20 and C64 FTW!)The coolest thing about the mac is Terminal. A command line that's just bash.The second coolest thing is the way that sleep or hibernate Just Works. Its really nice to be able to open and close the laptop and get basically instant on/off. Spotlight (alt-space) also gets a very honorable mention – i used something that was inspired by it on the PC. I think the single most useful downlaod I've got on the computer is adium (unified IM client) with growl (unified desktop notifier). I also really like Omnigraffle Pro – from a guy who was a very heavy visio user. I'm still getting used to it, but it makes really nice clean looking diagrams much easier than Visio.Finally, iWork and iLife are *so* worth the money… Don't even think about it, just get 'em.

  4. Congratulations on a choice that I'm sure will give you a lot of pleasure in the future. Who else but Mac owners consider using computers to be a pleasure?BTW, your MacBook Pro comes with iLife '08 pre-installed, as well as apps such as photo booth and Safari. iWork is well worth the extra money.All the best.

  5. Rick – welcome to the fold!Learn the trackpad options, customize Expose to your liking, and then review the ProTips archive:http://www.apple.com/pro/tips/This will get you far, and fast!For more in-depth learning, Lynda.com, for $25/month, has overviews of the OS, and while I've not used those lessons, everything else on that site has been fantastic and well worth the time & money. Being a former PC “Power User” with Mac experience, I didn't initially take the time to go deep into the learning, but decided that when my Dad was showing me cool tricks, I ought to crack the manual, such as it is ;-)We made the switch when we decided we could no longer afford the downtime. Never looked back. Another tip: don't go looking under the hood. This is a bad habit that is hard for Windows users to break – the point is, you should never need to – things should just work, and if you find yourself going “PC Deep”, back up a few steps and rethink. Keep us up to date!Cheers,S

  6. Try this (I'm typing on a PC at work–blech, so my directions may be slightly off):Select a folder or disk in the Finder, Right-click and select Get Info, Turn on Calculate Folder Sizes, Open the folder in list view, and sort by size.Also, try using Drag and Drop all over. You are now in the world where drag & drop was perfected:Drag a file to an icon in the dock to open it with that app.Drag an image from a web page to your desktop or into an open Word document to download it.Drag a link from a web page to make a shortcut.Drag text from a document to the desktop to make a text clipping.

  7. Like you, the last Apple computer I bought was a ][+ (fall 1979). Unlike you, I probably won't be switching soon. The technology is fine. It is the people I have a problem with. Few individuals that are more annoying than someone who is well spoken, has a JD, is technically inclined, and does nothing else but use these skills to preach the greatness that is Apple Macintosh/Steve Jobs.DON'T BE A FANBOY.

  8. Hope you enjoy your new Mac. A few suggestions…• Apple's site has lots of useful info, such as their video guided tour of OS X Leopard and their “Switch 101” section • An excellent book for learning the basics is “Mac OS X Leopard: The Missing Manual” by David Pogue ($23 at Amazon).Several folks have mentioned using the Terminal. It's a great tool for advanced users, but my advice would be to get comfortable with the basics first before trying power-user tools like Terminal.James

  9. It's not so much that no one told you the MacOS is so pretty. Rather, it's that you weren't ready to see it and had deaf ears. I'm not trying to be rude but I think what is true for both Mac and PC fanatics is that they are sometimes overly hyped about their own products and fail to see that the other side does have something to offer.I've owned and used Macs exclusively but I do see areas where Windows performs better. In my experience of Windows XP, the help system is a lot better and more responsive. Sometimes OS X's GUI response is a tad slower than Windows.So, don't make fun of whatever computer platform other folks use. If it works for them, it works for them.

  10. Welcome aboard Captain. You set in motion my switch years ago when you got an iPod and raved about how transformational it was. I got an iPod and that was a prime reason why I quickly drifted to the Mac Oasis. There are some things I don't like about Mac OS, but not too many. I love that you just close the laptop lid and then reopen it later. Rebooting? Only when there is an OS update, and that's not that often.You should read David Pogue's “Switcher's Guide – Missing Manual” or maybe just jump up to his OS X Tiger Missing Manual. He uses PCs and is wonderful at explaining things. But, just to start you out, I suggest you read Chris Pirillo's 50 Reasons to Switch. I discovered a few new things in there that I hadn't known. You may know of Chris Pirillo from TechTV and Gnomedex. If you are going to use a virtualization system, I'd pick VMWare Fusion over Parallels. I used to use Parallels and I've tried Fusion and I like it better. Also check out Blacktree's Quicksilver. It's kind of like Activewords, but there's less configuring to do. You can tweak it up, but you don't need to.

  11. > Why didn’t anyone tell me how pretty this OS is?Because we didn't want to give you any more opportunities to say that Macs are toys :)A few tips off the top of my head:* Spotlight is really great in Leopard (you're using Leopard, right?). I keep an empty dock and use Spotlight as my app launcher. (Quicksilver is great, but overkill if you just want an app launcher and fast search.)* Get your Expose/Dashboard shortcuts set up, and learn to love them. I have: F12 for Dashboard, F11 to show desktop, F10 to show all windows, F9 to show windows in this app.* Apple-H (hide) is your best friend. You've got 2GB of RAM, so don't worry too much about quitting apps; just hide them.* Hide your dock, and trim the extraneous icons from the right side of the menu bar (by holding Apple key and dragging them off). One of the things I love about the Mac is how you can create a very clean, uncluttered workspace for yourself — one that allows you to concentrate on work.Let me know if you have any questions!

  12. My advice: Try out every app you can lay your hands on. There are some awesome apps for the mac that Windows can't even speak of. Sure the functionality is sometimes there, but Windows apps suck so bad, that the functionality is lost between Ctrl+alt+del. Within a month you will be a mac expert (there is nothing to it really).

  13. Since few actually answered your questions…There is no registry, thank GOD! (note that in my professional life I am a Windows computer support tech, but use Macs almost exclusively at home, do the math) But it is helpful to note that many application specific (and some o/s related) issues can be blamed on a borked preference file. These are in two places:/Users/[yourusername]/library/preferences/Library/preferencesStart with the former. If an app is acting up (crashing or just acting wonky, quit the app and look for that app's preference file.If they follow Apple's recommendation it will be (for example)com.apple.imovie.plistfor iMovie. Though some use just the name of the app or a folder with the name of their company (I'm looking at you Microsoft).Drag the file(s) to the desktop and re-launch the program.Some settings can also be found in/Users/[yourusername]/library/Application Support/Library/Application Supportthen in a folder named after either the company or the app. For example Apple keeps the GarageBand loops in Application Support.Also it is important to note that the root level library folder effects system wide (all users) preferences whereas the ones in your users folder only affects you. So tread lightly there.Also I ALWAYS move the preference file to the desktop rather than trashing it immediately. This is to avoid the rule of unintended consequences.Also, yes Macs DO just work, until they don't. they are not perfect and do crash and have problems. My experience is that there is less of the “Death by A Thousand Cuts” experience you get with Windows. But OSX does have it's warts. So beware of third party printer/scanner drivers, software from Microsoft and any program described as a “haxie.” All are potentially bad and can do unpleasant things to your o/s.Learn to use SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner and make an image backup of your boot disk on a drive that you then disconnect and put under that big pile of unused t-shirts in your closet.Bookmark macintouch.com and macosxhints.com they are your friends in times of difficulty.And enjoy the fun of telling someone to get a Mac when they complain about viruses.

  14. One important note for switchers who don't grok how Apple handles apps and windows: when you close an application's last open window, the application is still running! Get used to clicking on the Program Name menu (beside the Apple icon, top-left) and choosing “Quit”, or better yet, learn Command-Q (Quit) and Command-W (Close Window) shortcuts. I can't tell you how many switchers I've come across who wonder why their system is performing “so much worse” than their last Windows machine, only to discover that they have 15 or 20 apps running. A quick visual check of your dock will also clue you in (bright lights or black dots, depending on how it's configured, indicate a running app).Welcome aboard!

  15. Make sure you activate Spaces. It is a great implementation of having virtual desktops. There should be shortcut to it in the dock, otherwise find it in the system preferences. Getting used to Expose takes time, but well worth it when you need to quickly shrink the windows on your screen to find that one window hiding behind something. Again that is found in system preferences.

  16. Streaming music from your computer to your hifi using AirTunes (you need an apple gadget called AirportExpress, it just works). Rogue Amoeba's Airfoil is great for streaming anything (even if its not in iTunes). RA also make something called Audio Hijack Pro which allows you to record anything which plays audio on your mac. Bookit helps keep bookmarks the same between different browsers. Isolator throws a screen (black, grey, whatever) to hide the clutter of your desktop and other open windows. Very easy to on/off. Yojimbo from Bare Bones Software is a brilliant way of organising “stuff”. Spam Sieve is a brilliant spam filter though of course you must be using gmail? Highlight any word and right click to look up its meaning almost anywhere in the OS. Handbrake for copying video. Flip4mac lets you play windows media content through quicktime player.Paparazzi lets you grab web pages no matter how long they are in one sheet. Scrivner is awesome if you write and think. SuperDuper for automating backups. Ambrosia's snapzpro X for screen grabs or recording movies from actions. Screensteps for making documentation.all the best,Eric

  17. Hi Rick, Glad you're having such a good time in the Mac world. Two thoughts:1. The Web is full of stories like this, from the most basic users to the highest level of IT professionals. I have never seen a single article going in the other direction — “I finally actually used Windows and, boy, am I glad I did. I had NO idea what I was missing. This is so wonderful!”2. Given your experience, it might be interesting to write to other Windows users along the lines of;a. Detailing the reasons for your previous disdain and resistance – the beliefs, impressions, etc.b. Contrasting those with what you actually found.All the best.

  18. Congrats, Rick. I really don't think you're ever going to want to switch back until you assess the costs associated with Apple products. Apart from that, I've been extremely happy with my switch (including a move to the iPhone) — all in all, I'm perfectly satisifed as a tech nerd now.Pick up a book on some keyboard shortcuts or download some printouts, too — those will help and that was the hardest part…Office 2008 for Mac is leaps and bounds ahead of their last product, but the PC is still king when it comes to using Microsoft products. Here's to hoping you don't need pivot tables in your life anymore!

  19. I made the switch about 4 years ago and have never looked back. Why? “Because it just works.”And even when people say, “but Mac's crash too,” I say yes they do, but 1) not as often as PCs, and 2) they arent as catastrophic.'nuff said.

  20. Dont be a hater …and dont make a life choice based on some shrill … for either platform.GL with the switch. I wont be switching anytime soon… I work on PCs, but I own Macs.

  21. I've worked in a dual platform (Win/Mac) environment since 1986. I'm a graphics/video guy by profession. Guess what I use exclusively at home? Welcome aboard, the Mac is truly refreshing especially the OS X/Intel machines. The MacBook Pro is top class no matter which platform. The thing about Macs are the MANY little things that Apple puts into it's hardware and software design. Things are just more intuitive. I've helped MANY switchers and not one has ever gone back.Why not give us a list of all your 3 party apps that you regularly use on Windows so we might give you a list of Mac equivalents?One of the first things I have a switcher do is subscribe to MacLife (formerly MacAddict) magazine. It's a wealth of information given in fun way. Needless to say you ex-Windows users needed more fun in your life.

  22. The Mac is not a windows box. There is no registry (there is a fileset that manages those things but nobody worries about it). There is no autoexec.bat either.You really must read http://www.davidalison.com as he's asked the same questions you did and there's tons of good recommendations there. I think I started reading his blog on April 7 with http://www.davidalison.com/2008/04/mac-after-two-months-of-mac-heres-why-i.htmlIf you know Unix, you'll like the terminal. Just avoid doing admin things there until you learn what's different. 10.5 (Leo) made it far more unix like there. It used to be very weird to Unix people.Totally agree that windoze help is better. Apple's has improved a LOT though over the years.Mac's almost never crash. The APPS do. If the OS is crashing, suspect hardware (but do a reinstall with archive and preserve settings first to confirm).Commmand-shift-3 (whole) or c-s-4 for selective screen grabs are free. c-s-4 then space will give you a pic of the window (object) you click on. There's also a util called Grab but not sure if it works on ported apps (Carbonized). Add the control key to the magic finger incantation and it ends up on the clipboard.As a forced “reverse switcher” at work only, I can't tell you how much I enjoy using my Macs. I can't say it's without problems but usually can get them resolved with ease. (Apple did take a few playbook pages from Microsoft. The dotZero releases are never flawless anymore. 10.3.0 was the closest.)

  23. HUGE thanks to everyone for the comments so far… let me just clarify one point: the reference to a registry and autoexec.bat? Lame Windows humor. I know the Mac doesn't have them. :)Going to spend a bunch of time tonight digesting all this info, thanks again everyone!

  24. Rick, you might want to check out David Alison's blog at:http://www.davidalison.com/David switched February this year and his blog is gaining eyeballs. There are many useful articles to accelerate your switch and ease the pain. Some of the user comments have been invaluable. For example: a reader left a comment today regarding QuickLook. Now I can QuickLook my Illustrator files YAY!http://www.quicklookplugins.com/Welcome …. to the real worldMichaelBrisbane (Australia)

  25. When I came to my current job 8 years ago, they figured I would want a Mac (I was going to be doing video and their experience had been with a Windows-based editing system – $35K – that lost voice sync after about 2 minutes). The answer was yes!, of course, and it was the first Mac on an all Windows campus. (the first show was a 2 hour lecture compilation, all in sync and ready got use. Proved the choice with the first project). Every year more and more have come on (I have 4 in my shop now), we had one professor who made being supplied with a Mac a requirement before she would accept the position. About 7 years ago I got a PowerBook, and it finally died a month ago, was still my primary machine though it was getting slow and fussy. I suspect Google has a more frequent replacement cycle, but you will not need a new laptop in a year (imagine the time that could save if you can just keep working, and when you do get a new one, there's an app in the OS that lets you migrate to the new machine painlessly).Until I get a MacBook Pro, I'm using a 5 year old 12″ Powerbook of a colleague who is no longer here. And I live with my laptop, it's truly my portable office, but we have tight funding so my replacement is coming soon, but not here yet. I'm writing this on a G5 (3 year old) iMac that in the background is creating and printing DVDs and encoding a video file for uploading to Google Video – even 3 year old, non-Intel machines multitask well. These things just last and remain quite functional through their (longer) life cycle.I've been using Macs since the Mac SE30, use PCs too, but grudgingly, usually to test Web sites, run Windows only software or access (stupid) browser-accessed apps that require IE (yuck). Macs just run and run, are extremely dependable, can be put to sleep and wake up with no protest, don't need to be restarted for days, even weeks at a time, and since the Mac world is essentially devoid of viruses and experiences essentially no malware or spyware (the OS _REQUIRES_ approval for any software installation, if you aren't installing software, just say no). You'll save hours not having to deal with all the nonsense Windows requires, but you know that already.A good place to hang out with other Mac users is on the Ecunet Macintosh list – it's made up mostly of pastors and other church folk, some of whom are neophyte Mac users (though some with years of Windows experience) along with some pretty skilled ones and a couple of really amazing and knowledgeable users. Not a crazy busy list but a lot of good conversation and ideas. Let me know and I'll refer you to the moderator.Welcome to the Mac side, looking at Apple's recent year over year sales, you're joining a growing switchers trend. Not bad for a company that 11 years or so ago – when I bought a Mac that's still running as a server and answering phones in our home office and sometimes we use as an extra Web station – was declared dead by numerous experts. Only mistake I made then? Didn't buy Apple stock! – John

  26. I just bought a new MacbookPro myself about two weeks ago. The last Mac I had was a ][gs when I was about 8. I must say, it's been nice switching back.Don't have much else to add other than I've seemed to get the most use out of Quicksilver and Spaces thus far. Both are great helpers in simplifying things.

  27. Also, for your blog writing, I recommend Marsedit.A really nifty thing that makes posting a pleasure.

  28. Just a few lines of welcome.Try reading the MacIntouch site once in a while to keep informed on all things Apple.A couple of third part applications that you may like to try. TypeIt4Me, if you do a lot of repetitive typing.PopCopy gives you multiple clipboards that do not lose their content if you have to reboot, its a great productivity booster.WindowShade, allows you to have many windows available on your desktop, all minimised to a menu bar or to icon size. Warning here, WindowShade is a haxie and does use low level resources and the Leopard version is still in beta. I am using it without problems though.There are a rabid lot of “fanboys” on both sides of the fence, none of them are of any real benefit to the OS they so vehemently espouse. Just let your Mac do the talking and enjoy it.

  29. Learn Applescript. Automator. You will be blown away by those two things that can do so much, for free.I was an OS/2 fanboy for years. I used to dis Apple for falling behind, until OS X came along. I used Macs at work (being a photojournalist) and now can't imagine using anything else.OmniFocus is an amazing little program too. GTD-based, really has a clever interface and keeps me organized. OmniOutliner and OmniGraffle too. Wouldn't be without them.

  30. “What do you wish you knew when you switched?”Copy/Paste in Finder doesn't quite act like Copy/Paste in Explorer! Namely, when you overwrite a folder with another of the same name, Explorer will find/replace any files and folders within which are duplicated, while Finder will basically delete the old folder and put the other in its place.Being a lifelong DOS/Win guy, this one caused some trouble for me at work! At least my boss was forgiving when I lost 3 months' worth of data…

  31. You want the dumbest/coolest trick? :)As you may or may not know, F11 will get you immediately to your desktop and F12 will take you to the Dashboard.Now hold down Shift+F11 or Shift+F12. Nothing other than for showing off… :)Glad you're enjoying your new machine.

  32. Ever since Apple starting using Intel processors it just doesn't make much sense to buy anything else. Apple computers run the 2 major operating systems. Why else would you want/need anything else?

  33. When I first switched I spent a lot of time at Mac's site looking at all the cool things I could do and the programs I could download. I don't use a lot of those, but Google Desktop for Mac is my favorite new thing. It's so much better than Mac's search. Safari is starting to get out of date, and that's my biggest complaint.On most things, you're right. It just works. Have fun.

  34. Karma. We got our MBP's at more or less the exact same time as you. This baby rocks my world for all of the reasons stated so far. I keep a nice clean dock and use Quicksilver, install apps in seconds, and turn the dang thing off and on in a minute. I installed open source AbiWord and taught the law school folks how to recover ancient WordPerfect documents. Let's face it, the Mac is a pretty (OS) face on top of some serious industrial s**t, and I love it for that.Glad you are enjoying it.

  35. And, as I predicted in May, I've made the switch to MacBook Pro. Screw you Lenovo/Thinkpad! I'm free!

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