After three weeks, what's really being used?

When I started writing about my MacBook three weeks ago I figured it would be a great way to capture what it's like for a total Windows snob to open up and add a Mac to his collection of computers. What I didn't expect was that I would actually make a small 5 pound laptop my primary machine when I have some serious Windows and Linux hardware sitting right next to me.

Okay, it's not really my primary machine just yet because I'm still doing all of my product development on my Windows XP system. I'm still searching for something that can even come close to replacing Microsoft Visual Studio and the .NET development environment but I can't. Since I'm also in the process of building up my next online product it would be too much of a wrench in the machinery to move everything over to Mac. Not that I haven't thought about it!

When I decided I would blog about my adoption of a Macintosh, I wanted to try and capture what it's like for a Windows guy to get a Mac. Many of the people I've spoken to about their Macs have been using them for a long time and they take for granted things that newbies like me would find helpful.

What that means is that some of the stuff I write about I will fall out of favor with - or I'll find new things to replace them. I'm always on the lookout for cool stuff that could make my system perform better or make me more productive. So here is my list of what I'm using regularly three weeks in:

I'm actually going to put together an entire post on Safari vs Firefox shortly. Suffice it to say right now I spend the vast majority of my time using Safari. There is a lot to talk about on this.

I'm on AIM all day and right now iChat is my client. Without question the greatest appeal with iChat is actually the fact that my MacBook has an iSight camera attached and that being able to visually chat with friends and my daughter at Virginia Tech has been way cool. At some point I want to look at Adium - I constantly hear good things about it - but right now iChat is working fine.

I've invested some time in iPhoto, importing my 19K + photo collection into it. So far it's serviceable - but I think I'm going to need something more. On the Windows side I'm still a huge fan of Picasa. If only Google made a Mac version of that...

I'm still working on the trial of iWork - but I really like Pages, the word processor. My trial of Microsoft Office has been... unimpressive. It runs really, really slow. Pages on the other hand is very fast and can open the new DOCX files I've been getting from some people.

This is my news reader of choice. NetNewsWire is simple and works nicely. I was originally playing with Google Reader - a pure online reader - but NNW makes queuing up articles that I want to read very easy.

As I mentioned before, I'm using it to pull down my Gmail accounts, though I tend to switch right into the Gmail web interface almost immediately. I'm really just keeping it going because it gives me notifications that new Gmail has arrived, it allows me to click Send To links on a web page and if I'm off-line and feel the urge to create a message and sent it later, I can do that.

Since I'm a software developer my most fundamental tool of the trade is a text editor. I've got a trial of TextMate right now, mainly because I needed it when I was evaluating doing my development work in Ruby on Rails. While ROR is out for now, I think I'll be buying that TextMate license - it's a great text editor.

So there you have it - my short list of every day applications. There are lots of others I use casually; I played with iMovie (cool but a bit underpowered - I want better timeline control). Carbon Copy Cloner is a must have tool and I'm looking forward to doing my HTML editing on my Mac using CSSEdit, though it's not an every day tool for me just yet. I also tried out VMWare Fusion and installed Windows XP on my Mac. Worked like a charm but I haven't tried putting Visual Studio inside that environment yet so I'm not really using it.

I'm a heavy iPod / iTunes user and while I have my music collection on my Mac as well, my Windows machine has the 5.1 surround sound, great speakers and ample local storage to hold my 200+ GB music collection so that's staying put for now.

So here is a list of the things I still need: a kick-ass photo management solution that's better than iPhoto, a great image editing solution (I'll likely have to just buckle down and pay for Adobe Photoshop CS3), a good general purpose HTML editing platform to complement CSSEdit and finally a nice replacement for Microsoft Visio, another critical application I use on my Windows machine.

A lightweight image editor for doing quick and dirty crops and scaling would also be nice! Photoshop will handle that once I get it but it's a bit heavy for the quick stuff.


Vito Traino said…
A few suggestions-

Photo Software:


free-many features-free-like a watered-down photoshop-FREE!


$60 (substantially cheaper than Ps)-cleaner than gimp-very nice for touching up- some features gimp lacks

Check out the websites and see which one caters to your needs/budget.

Of course Photoshop is the eventual ultimatum, but these programs should start you off on the right foot.

I also suggest Quicksilver found here:

It is a launcher at first glance, but in my opinion the best peice of software for OS X today. You have to try it to believe it.

(Sorry for such a long comment, and the fact that I cant embed hyperlinks)
Vito Traino said…
By the way-- Adium is a great client, but as of yet, it does not support A/V chat. So if you want text/audio/video all in one, I'd stick to iChat.
David Alison said…
Wow Vito! You read my mind! I had already downloaded Gimp. It's my graphical editor on Linux so I figured I'd give it a try on Mac. Then a buddy of mine pointed me towards Pixelmator. I installed that this morning. Really impressed! For my limited needs right now it may just be the answer.

I hadn't heard about Quicksilver - I'll check it out. Thanks man!
Vito Traino said…
Ha! I actually laughed out loud! Thats great.

On Quicksilver- I would try it for at least a week, I have a feeling you will really love it. It makes doing any task so much easier.

P.S.- While we're on the topic of great software, check this out!
Vito Traino said…
This post has been removed by the author.


David Alison said…
Sorry man - my note was that your URL is incorrect - a 404 came up. I figured out what it was though. Should be
Vito Traino said…
Oh okay. Link seems find to me, but no matter, the point is you got to the post!

I find it odd that Blogger leaves the comment with that dialogue, as opposed to just removing it completely....
Colin Bradburne said…
You may want to download (free from Apple) the previous version of iMovie.
Anonymous said…
If you want a text editor, definitely use BBEdit, it has tons of features for a text editor and does highlighting for like every different language.
Bryan said…
I'm in the same boat as you -- developer moving from Windows to Mac.

I've got to say, I've still yet to find an editor I like. Textmate just doesn't feel right to me for some reason. It's like I'm fighting it to get it to do what I want.

skEdit is OK for basic HTML.

TextWrangler seems to underpowered.

I used the GWD Editor or years on Windows, and it let me do so much that I've been hard pressed to find something in Mac that gives me the same flexibility.
David Alison said…
My text editor of choice continues to be UltraEdit on Windows. I've still got the eval version of TextMate and will likely buy it when it runs out though.
Devin said…
I'll second what the other guy said about the old version of iMovie. The newest version is, in fact, an entirely new program that has replaced the old iMovie. It's meant to be kinda dumbed down for the average person, but the old iMovie is much more powerful, and it's available free to anyone with iLife '08
Anonymous said…
For iChat/Adium, keep in mind you can set AIM to allow multiple connections from the same account, allowing both to be open and on the same login. It's a little weird how messages are delivered in duplicate, but what I tend to do is just run Adium normally. If someone messages me wanting to voice or video chat, I pop open iChat without shutting down Adium, keeping me connected to MSN and the others as well while video chatting.

For iTunes, try using the sharing feature. Pick one of the machines to be your master box where you save all your music, then just stream it over the network. It's pretty seamless, but editing of the music can only be done on the machine doing the sharing.

If you want to continue down the Apple hardware chain, buying an Airport Express will allow you to stream your music from iTunes to any speakers in the house. It also does synchronized playback, so you can have the same music playing on both your computer speakers, and the Airport Express speakers.
Ed Bortoni said…
I think you might want to look at Aperture 2 for your photo needs!
Riaz S. Mesbah said…
Ok, this is coming from a documentary photographer, get lightroom from adobe. It is a photo archiver, raw developer, global toner, slide show/print/web page creator, library browser, and import program all in one. It has become the first step in my work flow. Most images don't need anything other than global color and exposure correction, and the develop tab in lightroom does that stuff really really well. If you need localized corrections load the image into your photo-editor of choice using the in-program export functionality, and burn dodge and clone to your hearts content. All the while the changes you made to the image are tracked by lightroom and a copy of the image is left untouched just in case you want to come back and reedit.
Vic Wong said…
A few comments:

Take a look at the Omnigroup. Their Omnigraffle Pro reads/writes Visio files, and all their programs are first-rate.

I hear Google is working on a version of Picasa for the Mac, but I also recommend Adobe's Lightroom.

TextWrangler is a free version of BBEdit and doesn't have many of its features. I haven't used Text Mate enough, but I swear by BBEdit.
Unknown said…
For quick crops, Apple's works great!
Anonymous said…
Oh, random other apps you might want to look into:

This is what I use to unzip/rar/stuffit files. It's free, not annoying like Stuffit, and acts like the built in unzipper in 10.4/10.5.

This is about the only video codec you need. Handles divx/xvid and tons others. Between this and the Flip4Mac, my Mini can play everything I need.

Microsoft now provides Flip4Mac for WMV playback for free:

Awesome DVD encoding program. Want to shrink a DVD down to an mpeg4 file for the PSP? No problem. Simple and easy, much better then the chain of programs normally needed on Windows to do the same.
Lux said…
You mentioned that you're only using for new email notification and to use sendto: links? Try Google Notifier. It's lightweight and does exactly that, as well as pop up notifications from Google Calendar if you so choose. I used to use for the same things you are, but I made the switch and have been perfectly delighted-- it basically acts as if the gmail web interface is your default email client, and will pull open a new window/tab in your default browser to work with. (You did mention that you like for offline messaging, though, and that's the one thing Gmail Notifier can't do.)
blog said…
Hi David,

Really interesting reading - I converted quite a few years ago and have never looked back. My brother has now just decided to take the plunge so I'm sure this blog will be quite useful.

If you're creating CSS websites you maybe interested in Coda which is a very slick little app for editing HTML, CSS and all sorts of scripts within a single development environment with a stripped down version of their sister product Transmit built in to handle FTP. It's a real joy to use, especially for quick changes to a site.
David Alison said…
@austin: You read my mind man! As this blog started to go crazy from the Digg traffic I was writing a post about it! Should appear later today.

@chris: I downloaded and installed Coda but didn't care too much for it. Not sure why now - I've looked at so many applications over the last 2 months some are starting to run together. For many years I was a HomeSite user on Windows and lately I've been doing my HTML and CSS within my Visual Studio environment, though I'm not tuning my UI yet. When I reach that stage I'll need to find something else that is Mac based. Thanks for the comments Chris.
Toon said…

To burn CDs, you should take a look at LiquidCD here:

Donationware ... :o)
Dan said…
My guess from the date of your purchase is that you've got a trial of Microsoft Office 2004. If this is the case, I'd strongly recommend downloading the Office 2008 trial instead. Office 2004 is written in PowerPC code so there is constant translation (Rosetta) going on under the hood for running it on your Intel MacBook.

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