Do I still believe the hype?
As they say, time flies when you’re having fun. On one hand it’s hard to believe that I have had my iMac now for over 6 months. On the other, it’s hard for me to think of myself back in the days of Windows [he shudders as he types]. (I warn you that I might come across as a bit of a Mac fanboy in this post. However, I realize that most of my previous posts have been preaching to the choir of fellow Mac users, but now I’m going to try to speak to the unconverted, but even so I’ll be singing Mac’s praises. If that’s too much you can skip to the end where I talk about what I miss from Windows, but you’ll be disappointed.)
Am I able to find the right software?
Along with my switch to Mac, I also made the choice not to use any pirated software. I was concerned about that at first because I know folks who have switched to Mac and back (to Windows) when they couldn’t find compatible software. I’m happy to report that not only am I doing fine on the software front, but it’s actually part of the fun. No question about it, there is far more Windows XP software out there than there is Mac OS X. However, when I started this Mac adventure, part of the exercise was to narrow things down to what I really needed to use. We’re not talking about cutting to bare bones, but did I really need five different programs for audio editing, or a million different web chat clients? Just in case, there’s always virtualization, i.e. software that lets you run Windows on a Mac system. Six months in, I still have not found any software that I’m missing so much that requires me to get virtualization software such as Parallels. I’ve found that there is plenty of great Mac software out there.
One of the fun things about Mac software is the world of freeware and shareware. I never really got into that when I was using Windows, but now I have been regularly monitoring sites such as MacUpdate and VersionTracker to find out what the latest program releases are. Mac free/shareware developers seem to follow the Apple philosophy of making the computer experience as fun and easy to use as it is functional. One case in point is a disc-burning utilty called Disco. It’s famous among Mac fans for its graphics of smoke or fire while a disc is being burned, but besides those gimmicks it has a very simple, sleek, drag-and-drop interface that makes it super-simple to use (sorry, it’s not free, but it’s not too pricey either). Also, my previous posts have mentioned Widgets (little programs that run on the Mac Dashboard) and other efficiency applications that are usually free. As far as major software, MS Office is available for the Mac, but I have not yet purchased it (because I’m kind of off Microsoft these days), but I’ve downloaded a free alternative office suite called NeoOffice, which is pretty powerful and good to use. I don’t need to do huge reports or major spreadsheets at home so this program is more than enough, and I’ve saved a few hundred bucks. I use Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird for my browser and email needs, and I also have a whole list of great free (and very inexpensive) software that I use for everything from: managing fonts, editing audio, editing images/photos, cataloging media, checking TV listings, screen captures, burning discs, converting video, playing streaming media, designing web pages, not to mention system utilities for tagging, searching, clipping, and accessing files, and making all kinds of improvements to the system. Also the iMac came with so much stuff out-of-the-box that many of my needs were met. iDVD is great for making cool DVDs (though it doesn’t let you make custom menus), iCal is a very effective calendar program that will remind you of appointments even when it’s not running, and I haven’t even really tried some of the other programs like music editor GarageBand.
Is it truly better to use than Windows?
Mac OS X is definitely easier than Windows for several reasons. For me, the coolest thing is installing applications. Too often in Windows I used to go through the steps (usually there was an installation wizard) and hundreds of little files would be installed God-knows-where throughout my computer. For Macs, I just double-click the installer icon, and when the folder (actually called a disk image) is mounted, drag the new program icon into my Applications folder. The end. To uninstall, just delete the icon from the Applications folder. It’s that easy! That is one of my favourite aspects of Mac. Plus, if I move the application icon to a different subfolder or something, it still works!
File management is pretty much the same as Windows. I drag icons here and there. However, the built in file finder application (called Spotlight) is very good at finding stuff when you don’t know where you’ve put it. Some people don’t like Spotlight, but I think it runs rings around the silly dog that searches files in Windows.
The other thing that’s great in Mac OS X is that programs run independently. OK, I don’t know much about the tech, so I don’t actually know what the programs are doing. However, what I do know is that when a program freezes (yes, it does happen even on Macs), I can right click on the icon and choose Force Quit. The program shuts down and I don’t have to restart the system or anything like that (plus the rest of the system seemed uninterrupted). It’s similar to ctrl-alt-delete on Windows, but far less intrusive.
Are there really no viruses?
I keep an ear out for that stuff. Viruses really suck and they have caused me grief in the past. So far there still don’t seem to be any. No one bothers to write them. Recently there was a contest to hack into a MacBook and someone won it, and before that there was a project where hackers were challenged to present a month of Mac bugs. The great thing is that Apple patches those bugs pretty quickly when found. Even though someone hacked into the MacBook, I’m still not worried. FYI, I don’t run any anti-virus on my iMac. For a viro-phobe like myself, that’s saying a lot.
Do I miss Windows?
Not really. I still use Windows at work, so it’s not like it’s far from my mind. However, I miss certain things that are common complaints of Mac switchers (but they’re really minor). I’ve said these gripes before in other posts, but who doesn’t like to re-complain, eh?
Gripe one: On Mac windows there is a little green button at the top of the screen that is supposed to be like Maximize in Windows. It doesn’t work very well. I don’t know how it decides, but most of the time, the window expands to some arbitrary size, but it’s not the full screen.
Gripe two: Closing an window does not mean closing a program. Often after you’ve clicked the red button to close a window, the program is still running. I think this is kind of pointless. It’s not like programs need so much time to boot up that you want to keep it running in case you need to use it quickly for another file. As a memory freak, I don’t like wasting memory on pointlessly running programs.
Gripe three: I never thought I’d say this, but I miss Windows Explorer. I like having a tree structure on the left and file listing on the right. Mac OS X Finder has various different displays of files (one which displays panels of subdirectories) but none of them are very good to use, especially when moving files from one folder to the next. With all the file indexing and searching tools available for OS X, maybe I’m not supposed to get hung up on folders and old-style file management, but I just like to keep things organized that way.
Not at all. I love my iMac (though there are rumours of a new model coming soon. I guess that speaks to Apple’s ongoing innovativeness, but it’s sad when your computer is not the latest thing), and I encourage everyone, especially home users and people who don’t like to deal with a lot of headaches, to consider taking the plunge with a Mac.