Why switching to Mac was the right move for me

I'm now at the four month mark in my move to Mac. It didn't start out as a switch; when I bought my MacBook in the beginning of February I was really looking for an excuse to play with some new technology. I was satisfied—not excited mind you but satisfied—to use Windows as my operating system. I had my development environment on Windows and was well versed in all the ins and outs of it. I custom built my PCs myself, mildly over-clocking them to get better performance and being very comfortable in trouble shooting virtually any class of problem. I was a pretty hardcore Windows guy.

What started as an addition to my little technology family evolved pretty rapidly though. Not only did I find the Mac intriguing and fun to use, I found myself enjoying my Windows machine that much less. The MacBook went from a curiosity to a cool toy to my preferred personal productivity tool in a very short period of time. After a couple of months I hadn't really switched though, my MacBook was really just my trusty sidekick and Windows continued to do the heavy lifting for me.

I would sit in front of my Windows machine and do my development work and then slide over to the MacBook for virtually everything else. Email, web browsing, news feeds, blogging – all of that became the domain of my MacBook. This worked great until I realized that I was simply not enjoying working on the Windows machine any longer. It's not that it suddenly became more difficult to use or my machine's performance was poor, I just didn't like using Windows. It became the older commuter car that I took to work every day while the Mac was an open top sports car that I couldn't wait to drive on weekends. 

I was fascinated by the Mac Pro and the power it had. OS X screamed on my little MacBook and I wondered what it would perform like on a Mac Pro. It met or exceeded my relatively high expectations.  Three days after I got the Mac Pro was the day I technically switched to Mac. Why? Because after transferring my files from my Windows machine to my Mac Pro I shut down the Windows XP machine. Turned it off. Stopped using it.

Yes, I do fire it up occasionally if I need to transfer something I didn't get the first time but I now use my two Macs throughout the day, occasionally use the Ubuntu machine and simply bang my knees into the powered down case that holds Windows. It is also much quieter in my office now.

I spent 17 years using Windows, a couple more if you count the experiments with the dreadful Windows/286 & Windows/386. Man real mode sucked. I was a heavy DOS user before that. On Windows I went through 3.0, 3.1, Workgroups, NT 4.0, 95, 98, ME, 2000, XP, 2003 Server and Vista. I had spent countless hours honing my skills with the platform, both as a power user and professional software developer. How would it be possible for someone with my background to switch to a completely new platform and walk away from all of that history?

I've been wondering about that lately and have come to a conclusion. I was just tired of Windows. There was nothing about it that really excited me. I waited 5 years for Vista to come around and when it did I was unimpressed. There was nothing that really stood out. The Aero interface had some cool visual effects but other than that Vista was more of a pain than anything else. It was really slow on a two year old machine I have (which had the Vista Capable logo), the security was oppressive and even though it had been building up for years the graphics driver situation was a mess for many months after its release.

When I started using computers back in the early 80s it was a passion of mine. I would immerse myself in the technology, staying up until the wee hours learning everything I could. I would lose track of time very easily, wondering why all of a sudden it was so dark (or light) outside. For many years now that passion has been gone. I could get a glimpse of it by purchasing a new machine and spending a few days optimizing it but within a week or so the excitement would wear off. 

It's now four months later and I'm still looking forward to the cool things I can do with my Macs. I have learned a lot in a relatively short period of time but I have so much that I'm looking forward to mastering. More than anything I'm glad I switched to Mac because it has rekindled that passion.

Computers are fun and exciting again to me.


Anonymous said…
Hi David,

An excellent essay. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Here's a quick note you might like. Mac OS allows you to enter "special" typographical characters very easily. I put quotation marks around "special," because what made them special was that other platform, on which it is not as easy to type them. I am talking about the em dash.

Just hit Option-Shift-Minus and you'll get the em dash. This will turn a sentence like

"I was satisfied - not excited mind you but satisfied - to use Windows as my operating system."


"I was satisfied—not excited mind you but satisfied—to use Windows as my operating system."

Note that in American English we don't use spaces around em dashes. People who type on computers that do not allow for an easy access to "special" characters tend to replace the em dash with the hyphen. Since the hyphen is so much shorter (and, indeed, is used for different purposes) people put spaces around it to make it stand out. No need to do this in Mac OS.

In case you're wondering, Typing Option-Minus (without the Shift key) will produce the en dash.

Hope this helps. Once again, thank you for a great post.

Ast A. Moore
Mark F said…
I got my first computer back in 1987 and along the way piddled with Win 3.0. When I got my second computer six years later it had Windows 3.1. Computers were fun you had to do some programming even if it were just batch files to get much done. I hated Win 3.1 and only the fact that certain useful programs were only available under it forced me to make much use of it.

Using a computer became work, not fun. By 2004 having a teenager using my win box of the day I was constantly fighting malware and started reading about Macs. My wife had wanted one for years after having used one a decade earlier in the newspaper biz.

I ended up order a G5 iMac after a family trip to an Apple store two hours away. Came home placed the order and a few days later got an email saying I'd be upped to the Rev B version.

I've never looked back and just get things done.
Anonymous said…
Interesting essay, though I'm still not entirely clear what about the OS X intrigued so much more than Windows. I do get the sense that it does but what specifically? I'm not Mac bashing since I actually use Macs exclusively and own the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.

That said, I remember back in the early 90s my friends who mostly used DOS/Windows would claim how much faster the text based interface was and that Macs with the GUI interface was just too slow. Well, now for the everyday person it's all GUI on all OS's. Back then, I couldn't understand why they would tout the text based interface of DOS was so much better. C'mon!
David Alison said…
@Ast: Thanks, I appreciate the tip! On rereading my post I realized that I also went a little dash happy and updated it a bit.

@Anon: That's a good question. If you look over to the left on my main page you'll see links to 4 months worth of posts on my experiences leading up to now. If I had to sum it up briefly it would be the UI, performance and flexibility. The UI is highly consistent throughout, including into most 3rd party applications. Features like Spotlight, Spaces, Time Machine, Expose and Quicklook are huge productivity boosters. My little $1,300 MacBook performs extremely well, even with a half-dozen applications running at the same time. From a flexibility standpoint I'm also really enjoying having powerful terminal access right below the covers.

That's just off the top of my head though - like I said, I've covered that pretty extensively in several places on this blog.
Anonymous said…
It seems that you don't have nothing more against windows than... it's boring and doesn't excite you anymore. Well, I had the same feeling that old, good times passed away with Amiga's death.

My first 3 months with Mac was just recalling these memories and passion I had when I first touched old Commodore +4.

Now I'm simple enjoying working with Mac and - occassionally - being pissed off by illogical things developed by Apple. Love & hate :) Till now - love wins....

Cheers, Jarek
Anonymous said…
As a new Mac convert you should know that your poll isn't necessary. OS X is pronounced as "ten".

OK. Carry on.....
Anonymous said…
I very much related to your evolution to Mac OS X!

I wasn't seeking to switch platforms, being a long term windows user. But I needed a laptop, and my wife had a Macbook she wasn't using, so I adopted that.

After using it a week and adjusting to Mac OS X, whenever I used my Windows computer it just seemed more and more clunky, unrefined, and well... irritating!

I found I could just glide through tasks with the Macbook that I used to grind through using Windows. Before long I became aware that I hadn't even turned on my Dell in over a month! At that point I decided to scrape the harddrives for files and stick the Dell in the basement, as it was just too loud and ugly, and was taking up way too much room in my smallish place.

Using Mac OS X has really become full circle for me because I used Unix in college, and it is really exciting to explore that again, especially with all the open source software that is out there.

OS X had make computing exciting again. I had no idea it would be so much fun.My wife thinks this is very funny, as I had anti-Mac for years. I guess she gets the last laugh :)
David Alison said…
@Cubert: Funny you mention that! That poll has been up for a few days now and has received nearly 700 responses yet a significant minority of people pronounce it "X". I am a bit sensitive to how things should be pronounced.

When DOS still ruled the roost I remember talking to a person that was relatively new to computers and she pronounced DOS as D-OH-S (Spanish 2) instead of D-AH-S. I didn't bother to correct her and before I knew it a rather large number of people in the office were taking her lead and calling it D-OH-S.

Maybe I should just call OS X "Leopard" and avoid the hassle. ;-)

@Anon: I hear you. I used to hate Macs back in the day too. And wives ALWAYS get the last laugh.
Anonymous said…
The typography advantages of Macs is a great point, and one that is rarely mentioned. In regards to "en" vs "em" dashes, the usage rule I learned is to use the "en" dash surrounded by spaces when the bracketed phrase is in the middle of the sentence (such as the example you provided). The "em" dash is used as a single object, with no spaces surrounding it, when a sentence clarifier is added to the end of a sentence.

Mini Coopers are selling like hotcakes this year—convertibles are most popular.

Mini Coopers – especially convertibles – are selling like hotcakes this year.

I wish I could to point to a specific page in a style guide, but I learned it too long ago. I do see this style of usage used in professionally set typography.
Anonymous said…
Gheez, it never occurred to me to pronounce it "Oh Es Ten"!
I guess because there are always so many versions of things these days using the number isn't really important anymore to me. OS9 is long gone, we've been living with OSX for some time now.
I always interpreted OSX as "Oh Es Ex" because of the underlying UNIX operating system and that just seemed a more right way to pronounce it.
In any case, nice to discover your blog (thanks to MDN) :-)
Anonymous said…
Hi David,

For me, while I'm pretty sure I wouldn't go back, the switch has been a lot more like moving from America to England, where there are minor inconveniences like learning to drive on the other side of the road and little terminology differences like "boot" vs "trunk." There's a gorgeousness over there and (to American ears anyway) just an intrinsic delight hearing anyone there say even the most mundane things.

But then there's the shift from brash, sometimes more slip-shod, but open-ended possibility here to the more class-bound, red-tape-y bureaucracy there, the romance of little fireplaces everywhere over there vs. central heat here, and an *unbelievable* amount of snobbery and class distinction.

I dunno. Years ago, back in the 1980s sometime, Hitchhiker's Guide author Douglas Adams wrote about how his Mac-based word processor did hundreds of things worse than Microsoft Word and only one thing better... correctly opening and closing quotes. Except that, as an author, that was the feature he used more than any other.

That's sort of how I feel about the Mac. It's certainly prettier (which you'd expect for the price premium) and one way or another you can do the same things. But perhaps because I was spoiled by really dinky stuff like the -d switch on xcopy, being able to run my (this is how old I am) beloved gvim editor on Windows, and Opera (with it's magnifying instead of font-bumping zoom), and (again maybe because I'm old) a touch-typeable, type-ahead keyboard interface (is it *really* more sophisticated to have to use the mouse to say "don't save" every flipping time instead of typing, say, "d?") and to be able to size and move a window with a single gesture, and to hear over, and over, and over that "it just works" when so much (Time Machine -- which I *really* wish worked? Parental Controls -- which has resulted in *even more* between-children strife? Sloppy fit and finish in iMovie and sloppy quality control in Garage Band internals?) doesn it's just hard to feel the same Walmart-greeter-grinning excitement Mac users get.

I've just always sort of assumed they get away with saying "It Just Works" because nobody bothers to enforce truth-in-advertising laws anymore. :-)

I pour out this giant lamentation (really? do we really have to use rsync because cp can't examine time-stamps before conditionally copying?) as preface to my deep appreciation for the generous, intelligent, and genuinely helpful work you've been doing on this blog. It's inspiring me to try and branch out a little. Hey, without your post on Time Machine failures I'd never have found that rsync, from Samba, is a resource-intensive but otherwise functional equivalent of xcopy. That's one more major irritation out of the way (and I really don't have that many.)

So many, many thanks! I hope this post isn't signalling the end of your blogging on this topic. References from around the net suggest I'm not the only one who's needed your help.


Anonymous said…
If you want to get even more productive, I have put together a list of free apps for Macs at


Just go to the free software page. It includes free development tools, utilities, apps and some games.

Anonymous said…
Glad you've become a Mac user. My 67-year-old mom just bought a MaBook after using Windows her whole computing life. I hope she finds it as exciting as you have. As for em dashes, I don't know what "in America" has to do with it, but I'm a magazine editor and we use the em dash with spaces on either side. There are many style guides out there which tout their correctness. You can slavishly adhere to them, but I'd recommend developing your own style. If used consistently, the style-guide police won't come looking for you — even in America.
jcw3rd said…
Take it from me, I worked at Apple for 9 years until I retired last January 25th, it's pronounced "Oh Es Ten", not "Oh Es Ex". There, that settles that.

-- jcw
Anonymous said…
Hi David,

I like the sharing of your mac experience. So far, I like many others stuck in XP and hate Vista, and highly considering to switch to Mac. But I still have one issue that I am not sure did you experience the same problem as me. My eyes are not good, and I find Mac's maximize/minimize button are pretty small, do you know how to adjust the size of those buttons? BTW, I also hate Vista because they make (a) the icons in task bar so small and (b) the problem list in Start menu won't expand like XP.

Any idea?

Anonymous said…
I find most people have some pretty weird illusions about what Macs are about, fear the unknown, so generally have remained with what they know-Windows. I have spurned a few to switch simply by setting up a Mac on their current network to pick up their mail when the Windows PC crashes, as an emergency resource. Once they start using the Mac they never go back and a few months later I get the call to help them offload all their files from the PC. It is hard to resist the urge to say "Oh, I thought you said Macs were for creative people (wink)".
Anonymous said…
I have just switched and, although I like the stability and the quick wake up (and Time Machine and Spaces and Finder and Application packaging), I am disappointed by:

Hitting the close button when I want to go back a page in Safari (because the buttons are so close together)

Difficulty managing large numbers of open windows (minimised ones are at the right of the dock, hidden ones are not, Expose has a different arrangement every time you open or close a window). Can't see at a glance which applications are running and what windows are open.

Having the program menu bar at the top of the screen is less convenient than having it right in the window I'm working in.

Safari address field doesn't highlight the URL when you click in it - need to click the icon or triple click in the field.

Black text on grey in all the window bars and menus is not easy to read at a glance.

After you've printed, the printer icon remains in the dock serving no purpose.

No Alt-tab to go between all open windows.

DVD drive is region encoded :(

Can't customise Safari search box.

Time Machine won't back up to a server.

Can't cut and paste in Finder.

A4 paper size shown as 20.99cm when it should be 21cm. Duh!

All in all I've been quite surprised at how many little things like this that Windows does better. Apple fans have been telling me for years that Apples are perfect and Windows is total rubbish. Don't believe them.
Anonymous said…
@ Julian Gall

Hitting the close button when I want to go back a page in Safari (because the buttons are so close together)

Use Command-[ and Command-].

Difficulty managing large numbers of open windows

Use Spaces

Having the program menu bar at the top of the screen is less convenient than having it right in the window I'm working in.

Personal preference, although hitting a target that's at the edge of the screen is infinitely easier than the one that's attached to a window and is rather small.

Safari address field doesn't highlight the URL when you click in it - need to click the icon or triple click in the field.

Click the very edge of the address field.

This is a feature, not a bug. It's consistent across the entire OS: single click places the insert point, double-click selects a word, triple-click selects a paragraph (or entire line).

After you've printed, the printer icon remains in the dock serving no purpose.

Click and hold (or Control-click) the printer icon in the Dock. Look at the available options.

No Alt-tab to go between all open windows.

Command-` to cycle through application windows.
Control-F4 to cycle through all open windows.
The same combinations with the Shift reverses the direction.

Can't cut and paste in Finder.

Familiarize yourself with the concept of spring-loaded folders.

Hope these tips will make using Mac Os a little easier for you.

Anonymous said…
Hi David,

Enjoyed your latest entry.
@ Richard

We are on Version 10 of Mac OS hence OS 'Ten'. Panther was 10.3, followed by Tiger which was 10.4 and Leopard is 10.5. Mind you, I've referred it to as OS 'X' once or twice myself. ;-)
Anonymous said…

Good Lord, people. O-S-X is pronounced Oh-SSS-Ten

X is the Roman Numeral 10. This is not really difficult as this OS version followed OS9.

A little Apple nod to classicism. Enjoy it.

classicism |ˈklasəˌsizəm|
the following of ancient Greek or Roman principles and style in art and literature, generally associated with harmony, restraint, and adherence to recognized standards of form and craftsmanship, esp. from the Renaissance to the 18th century.
Anonymous said…
Hey David,

Great article. But about the poll, osX is pronounced os Ten because it's the tenth version of the os. We had os8, os9 and then osX. All the old mac users understood this and never called it os 'X', but as more and more new users joined in these past few years, it slowly got confused. The 'x' is read as a roman numeral 10, not as an 'X".

If you still need more evidence, just listen to any Steve Jobs keynote (they're posted on Apple's web site) for the past 5 years and see if ANY of the Apple employees or Steve pronounce it as os 'X'. I don't think so.

And while we're talking about misconceptions, every Apple employees working in an Apple retail store is not called a 'Genius'. Only the employees at the Genius Bar are titled Geniuses.

There are 3 or 4 other categories of employees working the floor. Everything from specialists and personal trainers to sales associates. I frequently hear bloggers refer to the associate that helped them purchase their mac as a 'genius' which further confuses this issue, and misinforms the readers.

Each of these categories of employees have different expertise and training, thus it's best to understand this difference and get the correct employee to help you while in the store.

They're all knowledgeable and informative, but technically they're not all 'Geniuses'. Geniuses provide tech support in the stores. They don't provide training or handle sales.

Sorry for the long winded comment. Keep up the good work.
David Alison said…
@Cliff: If your eyesight is really bad then you should familiarize yourself with the accessibility options on OS X. Simply holding down the Control key and scrolling the mouse wheel will allow you to zoom in very quickly.

The other thing you will find with OS X over Windows is that you likely won't use the minimize and maximize buttons nearly as often; I know I rarely minimize applications now, though I did quite often in Windows. That's because I've become quite fond of Spaces and Expose, two features that can make working with multiple applications much easier. I have a recent post about that here that may be of help to you.

If you can get to an Apple store or a knowledgeable retailer they should be able to walk you through this before you buy to see if it will fit your needs.

@Julian Gall: Switching and enjoying the stay requires the right mindset. I've said it before but it bears repeating:

If you move to an entirely new place, perhaps even a different country, the success of that move is entirely dependent on the attitude you have going in. If you complain that there is no decent Thai food restaurant anywhere nearby, that the drive to work is along a miserable stretch of highway and that you don't have any of your friends around then perhaps you shouldn't have moved in the first place.

If however you decide to explore the local cuisine options and adjust to what's available, switch to taking a more scenic route to work and make new friendships with your neighbors then you stand a pretty good chance of living happily in your new local.

Ast has given you some keyboard shortcuts that will help and I've never had a lack of people giving me feedback when I've run into trouble. If you genuinely want to make your Mac experience successful then all you need to do is be a bit open minded about the experience and ask others for help.

Places like Mac-Forums are populated with many people that are more than happy to help you. I've been trying to share my experiences as I've gone along and hopefully they can be of some help to you as well.

One of the best parts about getting into Mac is the quality of the community. All you have to do is read the comments on some of my earlier posts to see how willing people are to help.

Good luck and I hope it does work out for you.
Unknown said…

My eyes are not good, and I find Mac's maximize/minimize button are pretty small, do you know how to adjust the size of those buttons?

I, also have mature eyes...

There is a very useful pane under System Preferences called Universal Access. It allows you to enable features that assist you with seeing, hearing, etc.

For example, you can set the size of the cursor so that it doesn't get lost on large or multiple screens.

For your specific request, there is a zoom feature that should work quite nicely. Check out the options to fine tune the feature to your needs.
MacGecko said…
I was never a big DOS or UNIX fan for that matter. However I totally understand your feelings about Windows. I was never into the endless hours of configuring Windows or building my own PC just for the fun of it. I enjoyed the Mac OS because over 90% of the time it just works.
Unknown said…
I switched years ago, but when Parallels came out I gradually began using it until I realized it was solid enough to handle my accounting and routing software. So i transferred them and shut down my Toshiba laptop. This was 6 months ago.

A few days ago I decided to fire the old Toshiba up and was met with the most depressing blizzard of message screens--updates were ready to download, an antivirus program was asking for money to renew itself and I realized that I would have to sit and ranch the whole process (and pay) if i wanted to do anything at all without getting nag screens. What a depressing prospect!

So I decided to wipe the drive, put in the restore CD and sell the thing on craigslist to someone else.

Anonymous said…
Great post. And congrats on your four-month anniversary. You've come a long way!
Anonymous said…
@julian gall said... "Hitting the close button when I want to go back a page in Safari (because the buttons are so close together)"

Right-click on the Back/Forward button and choose "Customize Toolbar." Drag a new Back/Forward button to anywhere on the toolbar you'd like to place it.
David Alison said…
@DTI: Thanks for the nice comments, I do appreciate it. I'm going to continue blogging about Mac as long as people find it useful and interesting and I still enjoy writing.

I just added to my now growing Mac book collection a book about Cocoa programming, another on Objective C and a guide to the Unix side of OS X. I'm building up lots to talk about.
Anonymous said…
Good to hear someone is in the same position as me :D I've (had) been using Windows for around 8-9 years now, which is nothing compared to you and I have only used 98 & XP in my short lifetime. Either way, back in August '07 I got my first MacBook Pro and have never looked back but did find the conversion timely (NTFS external HDD's etc...), although it was worth. I would now never go back :D
Amazing to hear that after the amount of time you used Windows for y've been able to convert... and I thought I had a hard time, imagine converting 17 years of Windows use to Mac. Daunting :P
I hope others follow yr footsteps and good luck learning it :)
Anonymous said…
I received a reference to your article from a Google alert I have on Shana Hiatt ???

So why did you mention her?

Secondly, I know nothing about the technical details of the different computers. What I do know is that my techie friends told me that if I wanted to learn to edit video the best thing for me was a Mac .. Final Cut Pro. So .. I bought a Mac solely for that purpose and that's solely what I use it for.

My PC does everything else.
Both make me happy.

AND ... having both made it possible for me to multi-task in a now "famous" way.

I play Poker with my right hand while editing with my left.

See http://www.ratherbelucky.com

Thanks !!!
David Alison said…
@Bob Kennedy: I've never mentioned the name Shana Hiatt until this comment. But I have a suspicion as to why Google Alerts picked it up. Take a look at the comments in the MacDailyNews article that someone wrote about my post. Therein lies the answer.

If it's any consolation apparently now people that have Google Alerts for Cindy Crawford will be directed here as well.
Ron said…
I made the switch over two years ago and while my own success and enjoyment has been worthwhile, nothing beats raving about my Macs at work so much, some of my employees have gone out and bought them.

One guy brought me his family PC and almost in tears asked me to get it working again. Apparently his teenage daughters are a little click happy when spending hours on Myspace and Facebook and ended up giving that poor machine so many diseases it should have been burned right then and there. After a few hours running countless virus scans and malware removal programs, not to mentions some creative registry-diving, I gave it back to him and said it should work for awhile but he needed to either

a) educate his kids on internet security and common-sense or
b) get a Mac

Two weeks later he was asking me questions like: "Why are the buttons on the left side of the window" and "So the Dock is like the Start button and task bar all in one".

Glad everything is going well for you Dave and you enjoy the Macs. Cheers!
Anonymous said…
David et al

I think I have an inkling as to why people develop a 'love' for the Mac.

Follow me on this. Start by reviewing the 54sec clip of an interview with Steve Jobs on YouTube which I think came from the Triumph of the Nerds documentary by Robert Cringley:


He is right, even today, about his point on taste. I invite you to set aside his subsequent remark about the lack of original ideas and focus more on what he says about 'culture' where he provides an example about proportionate fonts. This is a big hint as to what lies at the soul of the Mac experience.

In my view, he is talking about 'finesse' in the creation of an aesthetically superior but functionally advanced interface. It is about creating as near as possible, an interaction experience that is very tightly rendered between the hard human input devices (primarily the keyboard and mouse) and the direct effects these inputs have on screen, as well as the subsequent indirect effects as applications relying on these inputs to turn them into results. It is about obsessively dealing with the 'substance' as well as the 'form'.

Let me provide one acutely small but important example of this: take a look at the 'pointer' that is controlled by the mouse (or track pad) and let's play around with it. Open a window in Finder for a folder or a hard drive. Move the pointer using your mouse (or track pad) to the oval button at the top-right corner of the window. Clicking this button would toggle the toolbar for the window. Try it a couple of times. Now very carefully, play around with the actual positioning of the point ON the oval button and figure out when it will actually toggle the window and when it won't.

You will find that Apple have been very precise in creating just ONE active pixel in tip of the pointer icon that activates the toggling. This means that if the pointer is parked across the button and the tip of the pointer is not on the button itself, the window will not toggle. By the way, I used this button to illustrate my point – you can pick any icon, button or scroll bar to check for this active pixel.

Now lets think about this: one active pixel means you'd better have an excellent human interface device (e.g., mouse or track pad) that precisely and accurately converts movement at a fractional level to permit accuracy in using just one pixel to hit a target right first time. For the record, I run my mouse (iMac) and track pad (MBP) settings at the fastest levels for tracking and scrolling.

This is merely one example of attention to detail. There are many, many more examples of this not just in Finder, but through the toolbox that applications call on to render the interface, across into almost every application utility, system preference, widget or other feature on the Mac.

All this is can only work in favour of a user where the entire mechanism for the creation and delivery of the OS and the hardware it runs on are controlled by one entity - the underlying reason (in my view) why only Apple can deliver a Mac and why they won't licence the OS out in a big way again. And why any combination/permutation of MS with Dell, HP, NEC, Toshiba, Sony et al cannot deliver anything that can even consistently match or out-perform the Mac on this front. They can dress up their hardware (Sony) or turn up the power (Acer) any way they want but at heart, it's still a pig in a dress (or the hairy guy in a dress in the Get a Mac ad about home movies!). Apple has survived and will continue to succeed because it deeply understands humans, then designs, renders and delivers the whole computing experience with tightly fitting tactile/cyber interfaces.

Back in 1996, I led a project to move a 1300 strong business unit in a global consulting firm from being over 60% Mac based to Windows 95 when the firms CEO succumbed to the dark side following a trip to Redmond (talk about Kool-Aid administered by BG and SB!). Being a MacUser since 1984, I simply executed a project, laughed a lot in despair (remember the deadly blue screens? or the ridiculous MS mouse that came with a two yard cable for laptop users who could not adjust to track balls, track pads or even the funny nipples stuck in the middle of keyboards?) but more to the point, I learnt a lot.

For starters, I had to set up a 10 strong IT support unit in the business unit to deal with the failures of the new fangled system whereas previously, such support for the Mac based people was provided by just two staff in a central IT function that served a number of other business units as well.

It also convinced me that at home I needed to remain Mac based as otherwise I would need to find a 'hero' (aka a WinDOS geek) to help me sort out the mess created by the 'zeros' in Redmond and their buddies in the hardware companies. And that when I set up my own firm (which I have) it would be Mac based.

Today I am ambidextrous in my ability to use both platforms but I do confess, I did destroy a Totibha Tekra running WinDOS 2000 by throwing it against a wall in anger... one too many pop-ups, viruses etc got the better of me that sad day... ;-(

er... I actually mean ;-)

I guess I have ‘issues’ to address!

There! My tuppence worth.

ps was that a good use of 'em dashes'?
David Alison said…
@Ting: Really interesting comments. There's no question that Apple understands style better than Microsoft. All you need to do is listen to last year's All Things Digital session between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and you'll here Bill compliment Steve on that very topic.
Anonymous said…
Hello David,

I actually switched to a Mac on Wednesday. I think the reason why I switched is because frankly I was scared of going to Visa. I enjoyed XP, but when I had the opportunity to buy a brand new pc. I decided to buy what I really wanted, and it turned out to be an iMac. I like the fact that I am learning something new everyday. -- Nia
David Alison said…
If you watch the All Things Digital session I link to above make sure you watch all 7 parts. It is an excellent interview with both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and will give a great sense of both the early relationships the two companies had and the mutual respect they have for one another.
Anonymous said…
not a newbie but i refuse to call it 'os10'. when it was introduced phil schiller on a video called it 'osx' but someone got to him since then i think.

Anonymous said…
Hi David

I use PC and Mac since 1987 and enjoy both.

How can we be passioniate about computer during 17 years without trying a Mac? This is strange.
Anonymous said…
Love the essay, and subsequent posts.

I have been a Mac user for nearly 20 years. My first Mac was the color LC running OS 8.something or other. I KNOW OSX is "oh ess ten" but invariably say "oh ess ex". I guess my eyes go faster than my brain.:)

Welcome to Mac Shangri-La

Anonymous said…
Thanks Ast for your response to my comment and, yes, there are plenty of ways around the issues I have had since switching.

David said "If you genuinely want to make your Mac experience successful then all you need to do is be a bit open minded about the experience". I'm well aware that some things will be different and I've already adjusted to the different ways that OSX works in many respects. Many of these are just personal preference and I accept that. However, the point I was making was that I have been genuinely disappointed by the way that OSX is objectively less good than Windows in some regards. In small ways, many of them, certainly. But after years of reading articles and blog posts like yours, I had been conditioned to think that the switching experience was going to be 100% positive. You must admit your blog post mentions not one single thing that you miss from Windows or where you think OSX could be better. Maybe that's been your experience and that's ok, but I wanted to give the other side of the story, which you hear about very little indeed.

For example, for weeks I didn't mind that the window close buttons were on the left. I'm still not quite used to it but I was happy to accept that this was just down to what I was used to. Then I closed a browser full of open tabs by mistake when I wanted to go back a page in one of them. Not a big problem for sure but it just let me know that to put the window close button four or five pixels from a function button has design disadvantages compared with putting it a window width away.

Certainly anyone switching has to have the right mindset. But it isn't just the mindset to accept that some things will take getting used to because they're different. It's the mindset to accept that some things will actually not be as good in OSX as they are in Windows. It's the mindset to accept the shortcomings because you like the benefits. I know this is a heretical view to those who think Apples are axiomatically better than PCs in all regards. But you can only have a heresy where there is religion in the first place :)
Unknown said…
@Julian Gall

Another has posted how you can configure the Safari menu bar to relocate the buttons away from the close button,

If you inadvertently close a Safari window with lots of tabs, as you describe:

Menu-->History-->Reopen Last Closed Window

will do the job!
Anonymous said…
I'm a long time Mac user, and also a developer. For a long while I had to use Windows for my day job, but was Mac only at home. In recent years I've had the pleasure of being 100% Mac.

Funny, but that paragraph above sounds just like an alcoholic or drug addict saying how they've managed to stay clean :) That's how I feel though - clean.

I think, if it weren't for the Mac being around I probably wouldn't be working in IT at all. Windows just leaves me cold. Its drab and uninspiring. It feel like something that's just been thrown together - and I don't just mean the UI, I mean the whole system architecture. For instance, look at the beauty that is a Mac OS X application package. All the resources for the application, for multiple CPU architectures, are kept together in one place behind a single icon. You can literally drag an application from a PowerPC machine to an Intel one, and run it - and it just works.

You should have a look at developing for the Mac and iPhone too - the cleverness of the system design runs deep into the APIs too. Developing on the Mac is fun !
David Alison said…
@Julian Gall: I completely understand what you are saying - that all too often there is a blind faith that seems to be associated with hardcore Mac users. The Mac can do no wrong, right? Macs are imperfect machines, as is every other multi-purpose device used by different people. They are too complex to be truly perfect for everyone, perfection being highly subjective. I guess what we all look for is "perfect enough".

I don't think Apple is infallible and I do still struggle with certain aspects of my Macs; I don't like the single menu bar that is anchored to my left monitor - I'd rather it be available within each window so that it's in close proximity. I also don't like that I cannot size my windows with anything other than the little grab handle at the lower right.

These are just two fundamental complaints I have about using the machines that I've now completely adopted. I also do complain in my blog about problems I encounter that I think Apple should fix, whether it's poor UI designs, features that break down or even error messages that don't help me.

What I've been trying to do in this blog is relate my experiences as I have gone along. As I find solutions to the challenges I've faced as a recent switcher I record them in the hope that others will gain some value and maybe not trip up on things like I have. I occasionally summarize those tips into posts like this one.

But in the end I have simply learned to accept some things at face value and move on. I know that it's pretty unlikely that the single menu bar will change as the design implications for apps is extreme and would likely counter any benefit. Instead I used a reader recommendation and tried out Deja Menu. I also know that, even though it was supported in the past, the lack of a sizing border around the edges of each window is one of the reasons OS X's UI is so clean and uncluttered.

I know I can be perceived as Pollyanna-ish when it comes to Macs and that may well show through on many of my posts. Hopefully you'll read through some of my other blog entries (or search for a problem you are having) and get some answers that help you.
Anonymous said…
hey david.. this is ankit.
I have been a mac user for over a year now and I still find new things, many of which delightfully surprise me. I have to be honest, when I bought the macbook, I bought it for the way it looked and wanted to run XP on it. I had no idea what os x was. After a couple of hours of using it (10.4 at that time) only, I knew I would be making no such attempt.
Os x is really great. And now with 10.5, it is better. I really :can't: use windows anymore.
I had a question though. I have seen some of my friends in college highlighting text using vista (don't know which program though), like you would do with a highlighter on a textbook. And I have tried to search but am unable to find anything that would enable me to do so. Am i missing something? I really liked this feature and it would be helpful when I have to read large text files, mostly for studies.
Sorry for the long post, if it bored ya!!
Anonymous said…
David, your story it's very similar to my own. I switched last year after being a windows user since the mid 80's, right from Windows 2.0 through to a brief try of Vista.

I'd been thinking of trying a mac since seeing the launch of the Intel Mac Mini and after playing with Vista I knew it was time to try Mac. The switch to Intel processors took away some of the risk which meant it was still possible to run windows, so even if I hated the Mac OS I could still use the hardware for windows, but 12 months on Windows hasn't been near my Mac.

I also never turn on my Windows machine these days, in fact I stopped doing so within about a month or so of switching. When I do now its usually only to check some advice I'm about to give someone on how to fix their windows fault.

After buying my iMac I have since bought a Macbook Pro and a Macbook for my daughter. I absolutely love using the Mac.

I still have to use windows at work but its not an enjoyable experience, so I usually take my MacBook Pro in to work now and use that instead. I don't think you realise what you put up with running windows its all you know so you just get use to the problems. After a year of using Mac OS X getting lockups and slow downs and system crashes isn't something your use to, so windows suddenly looks a hell of a lot worse than you had remembered. I still have my son's PC's running windows, but I plan to replace them with Mac Mini's over the coming year.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on your switch.
Unknown said…

You can do highlighting, as you describe, in Preview.

Menu-->Tools-->Mark Up



Anonymous said…
Julian Gall: However, the point I was making was that I have been genuinely disappointed by the way that OSX is objectively less good than Windows in some regards.

Which ones would that be? Everything you've complained above is simply about you not knowing how to do certain things on a Mac, not the Mac being unable to do them.

Julian Gall: But after years of reading articles and blog posts like yours, I had been conditioned to think that the switching experience was going to be 100% positive.

That's not the point he made (see his earlier posts in the navigation menu).

The point that's consistently made is not that everything was totally effortless, it's that it feels worth the effort it takes!

Of course you'll need to learn new things and to un-learn some of your old habits. That's always necessary (and would be necessary under Vista as well).

The point is that learning new things is worthwile and actually not hard.

Keep asking and many others will gladly help you out. :-)

Julian Gall: For example, for weeks I didn't mind that the window close buttons were on the left. I'm still not quite used to it but I was happy to accept that this was just down to what I was used to. Then I closed a browser full of open tabs by mistake when I wanted to go back a page in one of them. Not a big problem for sure but it just let me know that to put the window close button four or five pixels from a function button has design disadvantages compared with putting it a window width away.


- Safari > Preferences… > Tabs > Confirm when closing multiple pages: simply switch it on (isn't it on by default anyway?)

- It is much more convenient to use the key commands anyway: [CMD]+W to close a tab or a window, [CMD]-[cursor left] and [CMD]+[cursor right] to go back and forwards.

Julian Gall: Certainly anyone switching has to have the right mindset. But it isn't just the mindset to accept that some things will take getting used to because they're different. It's the mindset to accept that some things will actually not be as good in OSX as they are in Windows. It's the mindset to accept the shortcomings because you like the benefits. I know this is a heretical view to those who think Apples are axiomatically better than PCs in all regards. But you can only have a heresy where there is religion in the first place :)

The flaw in your argument is that you equate your own personal ignorance (no judgment there - it's inevitable in the beginning) about how things work on the Mac with actual, objective deficiencies.

We can talk about those as well, of course, you just haven't mentioned any as far as I can see. You're just annoyed that your Windows habits don't work 1:1. And that can be remedied by using the Mac in its own way.
Update Bot said…
Some points:

Cliff, I think it was you who was having problems with the little close and minimize buttons. Command-W (Apple / cloverleaf key + W) to close a window, Command-M to minimize. You may also want to look through the developer tools. I don't remember the exact details, but there's a program in there that can increase the size of the buttons. Caution: I don't think it's supported, and it may be buggy.

Also, you can decrease your screen resolution to increase the size of the buttons.

Julian: I think it's like cultural differences in some respects. Things may be handled differently. Just because they're different doesn't necessarily make them worse or wrong. For example, it makes perfect sense to me to have an app switch keypress: Command-TAB and a window switcher shortcut: Command ~ (tilde). I might say that Windows can't do that at all, making it not as good in that respect as the Mac.
But really it's just different.

Also, a bit of history: Versions of Windows before Win 95 had the close button ONLY on the left of the window. Problem is, they messed it up by making it a menu instead of a simple button. So you had to double-click on it to close the window. And in a (to me) brain-dead move in Win 95, they added another close button on the right. Does that make any sense? Not to me.

Finally, for switching windows and for copying files Expose' has some neat tricks. In the mode that shows windows, you can hold an icon over one of the thumbnail windows and it will grow and become active. You can then drop the icon into the windows. For example, if you have a Finder window open somewhere that you want to copy a file to, grab the file with the mouse, activate Expose, hold the icon over the little window until it grows to full size, and drop it in. Spring-loaded folders are also very nice. Hold an icon over any folder and wait until the folder springs open under your mouse. Navigate and/or drop as needed.

Another window management tip: Command-H will hide all of an application's windows. Is there a Windows shortcut for hiding all windows of a single app? I never found one.

I've read many, many accounts of switchers and attempted switchers. Most complain about little things that are different. In many cases, they don't know how to accomplish a task and many assume it just can't be done on a Mac. That assumption is almost always wrong. Sometimes the Mac even has better ways to accomplish the task than Windows.

One more point, one of my favorite aspects of OS X is System Preferences. 31 "panes" and (I counted) about HALF the number of "screens" as Windows XP's Control Panels. With similar functionality.

Anonymous said…
Update Bot: I don't remember the exact details, but there's a program in there that can increase the size of the buttons. Caution: I don't think it's supported, and it may be buggy.

Beginning with 10.4 Tiger, Apple has begun to lay the foundations for user interface resolution independence, meaning that the UI elements can be scaled if desired. Microsoft is going a similar route.

This is important for screens of different resolutions (such as very high resolution laptop screens and regular desktop screens closer to the traditional 72dpi).

But the feature is not really operational yet, so enabling it now will cause other display problems.

So if you've got problems hitting the right buttons, simply use the key assignments. And enable the prompt for closing multiple tabs in the broser.
@Julian Gall,

Rather than try to address each of your comments within the context of David's blog, let me offer you some one–on–one assistance.

As a cross-platform user & network support analyst for over 20 years, I would be happy to help you find as many answers to your frustrations as possible.

Best wishes!

---Jeff (aka RASTERMAN)

Takena Technical Services



If you choose to accept my offer of assistance, please be aware that I have a spam blocker for this account. Simply follow the instructions for requesting access to my inbox.
Anonymous said…
Great Story.

I started with Mac 15 years ago and haven't looked back. That said, my office provides me a PC, which sits in its case while I merrily work away on my MacBook Pro.

There is nothing I can't do on my Mac that would warrant me digging out the PC.

This always makes me giggle:
My wife works for the government and has to use a PC fully loaded, updated and on the government network. Some days she has to send me emails, sent to her from another PC, that won't open. I open them on my MacBook Pro and send them back to her so she can read them.

Recently, I was doing some music recording in a professional studio running Pro Tools. They had a Mac Pro which I thought was running. No he was waiting for an update from Pro Tools. Instead we did the recording on a Mac Mini. Multi tracking on a mini. Blew me away.
Don said…
Another great post, thanks David.

It was as if it was my story. I too have been using computers since the early days of DOS and even CP/M. I would find myself building a new box just to get that thrill back.

My Mac has brought it back and I couldn't be happier.
Anonymous said…
Im a bit like David. Been using and supporting PC's since the XT and DOS 2.2. Right through all the various rev's of Windows. Throw a healthy dose of Linux into the mix (Debian Hamm, Redhat 4, Gentoo).

The only time I ever touched Mac's was pretty much when I had to make them work in Novell Netware networks. And to be honest I pretty much considered them to be toys from what I had seen, and that anything the mac's could do, the pc was as good as, and significantly cheaper.

About 7 years ago, Apple changed the goalposts significantly. Their new OS was Unix based, and had a GUI that was built as a cohesive environment, and lickable. A vast difference between what was available with Linux gui's in those days. But I kept putting it off. OS X wasnt ready for the prime-time yet, I kept reading, and Mac's were super expensive.

In the mean time, I fiddled with Linux and XP at home. Loving Linux and its stability, flexibility and real multi-tasking. But the time it took was just crazy to get it to do basic things I wanted to do at times. Like reading my dive computer. Having to dual-boot with Windows for the missus to use was a pain too. She struggled enough with Windows, let alone letting her loose in Linux.

Windows XP, on the other hand, was really starting to look like a half-dead horse in comparison. Having seen what computing COULD be like with Linux, and having to struggle with XP's multi-tasking, stability, and maintenance. Id had enough.

When Panther hit the shelves, i took another long look. The final tipping point for me was when I downloaded iTunes for Windows when I came out. I was captivated by it, if all Mac s/w was this elegant, then Id be in 7th heaven.

I kept thinking about getting an old iMac to play with. I couldnt bring myself to buy a lampshade iMac, no expandability, no option to use my own screen, too many downsides. I ended up buying a run-out Rev A G5 1.8 Single for home.

Now just in process of looking at an upgrade to a Macbook or more likely a Pro (better video card) so I can run some of the bits of s/w I miss in Parallels or VMware. Things like my dive computer s/w. Some of my work stuff (I work for a windows-orientated outsource / solution-provider ICT company) would be easier with access to a Windows XP VM, though I do a lot via Citrix now.

That was almost 5 years ago. Ive never looked back at home. Best thing I ever did in my opinion. My weekly maintenance of several hours has dropped to something like 16 hours total in the past 4.5 years, including an upgrade to Tiger. Havent gone Leopard yet. Need to do a hdd upgrade to get some more space first :) The whole 'just works' thing is pretty much the case. It goes to sleep after I use it, wakes up instantly when I go to use it. Rinse and repeat until it gets a restart after a s/w update. I think its crashed twice in total in 5 years.

The missus has gone from being a computer-hater to figuring out (by herself) how to make home movies and other stuff with iLife and sends stuff to her family around the world. The old PC got given the the brother-in-law a few years ago. And it was the missus that started asking about getting a laptop :)

Sure, switching had its pains. The fairly standard ones for Windows refugees. The illogical zoom button. Apps not quitting when you close the Window. The changes in how the cursor keys and home/end keys work. A few websites that wouldnt work in Safari (thank goodness for Firefox and the fact that the web is a far less MS oriented place these days).

The world on the Apple side of the fence is by no means perfect, but I think, overall, its better. The 'mac tax' here in New Zealand still makes it hard to do a good value equation for Macs here.

So does Apples limited hardware lineups. Having been a PC builder and seeing the prices that equivilent Dell and HP's sell for here (and with a LOT more choice in terms of configuration), Apples constricted options still drive me batty. A number of guys at work have gotten a Mac since the Intel switch, but a number of them still wont because of the limited upgradability, or that they already have decent displays.

I personally used to work on about a 3 yr rotation with my PC's. Year 1, new PC, year 2 upgraded graphics card and usually more RAM, year 3 was a new display.

Im still very unsure about the iMac's. I would rather a separate display that I can have flexibility with (eg plug the PS2 or PS3 into it) and a separate computer I can upgrade out of sync with my display. I anticipate a new 24" w/s display would last me for a good number of years. This 21" CRT I am on now has gone for about 8. The Mini doesnt have the omph (I use Aperture for photography). The Mac Pro is too expensive and overkill for what I need. You accept lack of upgradeability with laptops.

Apple's secrecy and lack of choice are my main grumbles. You can either assimilate or you can go jump ship. But to be honest, the 'just works' and 'whole widget' concepts, along with elegent & well written s/w are hard to go past, all on a base where I have a performance shell when I want it (and all my perl scripts work too!).

Bitterroot said…
From a lurking fan: please keep doing this blog. It's outstanding.
David Alison said…
@bitterroot: Thanks for the nice comments! I do intend to keep it up.
Anonymous said…
Nisus Writer is a very complete, easy-to use word processor. Its highlighter is in the toolbar at the top of the window. You can have your choice of colors. Saves natively (no export needed) to .RTF.
Text can also be highlighted in Scrivener. Think of it as a multi-chapter word processor. The highlighter icon is again in the toolbar at the top of the document window. Great program for many things other than its original purpose.

Unknown said…
I switched to Mac in April 2005 because similar to you, David, I was just so sick to death of staring at XP. Before that Windows 98. I just couldn't stand it anymore. So it was so refreshing to sit and stare at OS X.

Then of course there are all the other benefits of OS X.

The rare times now I sit at a Windows computer I literally can't use it for like 20 seconds. First I move the mouse to the hot corner I have set for Expose, then nothing happens. Then I think, I'll just search in Spotlight for an app, not there.

Windows is just so "un-dynamic." OS X moves all over the place, very dynamic.
Anonymous said…
I have recently switched to MAC Book Pro after running DOS and Windows since 1983. I enjoy reading your blog and have only been a MAC user for about two weeks. I am currently a Microsoft Exchange Administrator for a large health care company.

I have two questions: First, how can you sort bookmarks alphabetically and secondly which financial program do you use? I currently still run Microsoft Money in Windows XP VMware window.
David Alison said…
@Anon: Unfortunately Apple doesn't provide native sorting of bookmarks. There are some third party applications that can handle it. You can also work around it and sort the bookmarks by using Finder. Macworld has a great tip on how to do that.

As for the Money replacement I think you should take a look at iBank. I personally use my banks online management features so I don't have a local application but when I asked people for some advice in that area many recommended iBank. It does look pretty slick and if I end up going with a local Mac native application I would probably give it the first shot.
Anonymous said…
It's pronounced OS "X"...just for the records... OS X 10.5.

(P.S. I work for Apple)
Anonymous said…
Great post! Taking the words right out of my mouth. Check www.woosnix.com for my experiences with Apple.
Anonymous said…
I think you hit the nail on the head with this one. You use it because you like it.

I have an iMac and I do enjoy it. However, I still find myself using my old and slow laptop which runs Linux. Quite simply because I like it. Choice is a very nice thing and its nice to choose which OS you want.

As far as the pronunciation goes...
Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.
There are more important things to worry about than how to correctly pronunciate 'X'. Besides, calling it 'Ex' and not 'ten' sounds so much cooler and sleek. Its almost like Apple took some of the geekiness out of it.
Anonymous said…
I'm sitting here in my PC desktop, 4 month after you wrote this post, translating it for Korean mac users.

This is my 56th translation, and the first article I could really understand why you made transition to mac.

I couldn't agree with you more, David.

- Jangkyu,the translator -
David Alison said…
@Jangkyu: Thanks for the nice comment and most of all thanks for doing all of that translating!
Vivek said…
In your entire article you didnt mention about any of the mac features that you liked over Windows?

I personally like Ubuntu (since it is highly configurable)

As for Mac it is not at all configurable or extensible at all.
David Alison said…
@Vivek: You can browse through the blog index on the left and you'll see that I've written quite a bit on my switch, covering the features in depth. I also like Ubuntu; it's a great operating system and I use it for several different purposes. To say that Mac's are not configurable or extensible is naive enough for me to think that you are likely trolling—good luck with that.

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