Friday, July 28, 2006

Mac OS X: Another switcher in the bag

Well after a period of sustained resistence, I finally could cope no longer and am writing this particular entry on my new MacBook via safari. I've had it for a couple of days now and having no real prior experience with Macs besides playing with them in the Mac store it has been nothing short of a revelation.

Yes I had read Cedric's comments prior to my Mac experience and although he raises some valid points, I have to say after 3 days with the machine I'm not sure what took me so long to make this decision.

The experience starts when you get the package with the usual emaculate packaging, from then as soon as you turn on the machine yo notice the attention to detail. Yes some may call the welcome in a million languages cheesy, but you know that somebody out there has spent a lot of time making sure this is a great product. Then you go through the start-up phase and everything "just works". It hooked up to my wireless router with no problems, no fighting with networking settings and drivers like in Windows. Updates were then automatically installed and I was ready to go.

The interface is quite simply light years ahead of Windows and I'm not sure even Vista (yes I've tried the betas) comes anywhere near it. Video is extremely slick with QuickTime and looks simply stunning on the glossy screen and the amount of value you get with the included iLife suite (plus the super cool Front Row) is awesome. After adding the machine to my Windows workgroup it automatically saw the other windows machines on my network and I could start copying data onto it.. no problems.

I then started installed my beloved IDEA (which I had to abandon for Eclipse for a period on Windows because the Sun VM persistently crashed forcing me to fall back to JRocket which I couldn't get to work with IDEA) using the remarkable install process: Download dmg, it automatically (after showing a "are you sure" dialog) loads a window with an IDEA logo in it, Drag-and-drop the IDEA logo to your Applicaiton folder and you're done! No progress bars, no install wizards, amazing. And of course because jdk1.5 comes with Tiger, again all Java apps including Grails "just worked".

One of Cedric's concerns was task switching and I am also a former Task Switch Pro user on Windows, but I gotta say I don't miss it! Expose simply blows all other task switching systems out the window. I'm constantly using it and was quite amazed at one point when I had a QuickTime video playing which shrunk along with the others windows without the video jerking or getting confused. You could continue to watch the video whilst monitoring other processes (like your ant build ;-).

One of the first things I installed was the much vaunted QuickSilver. This application is amazing, I installed the Gmail plugins and can search for an image, resize it, and attach it to an email automatically addressed to somebody in Address book all with a few keystroke combinations. I find the combination of QS and SpotLight mean I very rarely open Finder (like Explorer on windows). No more browsing heirarchies of files looking for the right one, they're all accessible immediately via powerful search combined with expressive QS actions.

So, what don't I like or what do I miss from Windows? Well not a great deal actually. I kind of miss the Windows maximize button as the "zoom" in Mac OS X is just not the same thing and takes some getting used to. Other than that there is not much to miss from the Windows world, everything I need and use is available for the Mac and if I'm desperate I can run Windows via Parallels. I'm really happy with my decision to switch and there is no going back now, not that I would want to!

11 comments:

Cedric said...

Graeme, can you expand on why you think MacOS is "light years ahead" of Windows in terms of UI? It's certainly not been my experience.

Some things are cute, but others show that MacOS still has some catch up to do (resizing windows, changing the cursor when it can do something interesting, such as when hovering on a button or to resize a column) and in general, reactivity of the UI (affordances of widgets).

I enjoy MacOS, but I'm certainly not going to say "I will never go back to Windows", because I still enjoy using it quite a bit for all these reasons.

Graeme Rocher said...

Maybe i'm a sucker for pretty pictures but there are lots of things that are just awesome about the UI. Expose being one of them, fast user switching being another. On the user switching Mac OS X has proper profiles! Every tried to set user specific resolutions in XP? Good luck.

Do I miss the start menu? No not really I have the dock/QS/spotlight. Do I miss explorer? No way! I hardly every open finder anyway. And there are just loads of little things like how easy changing resolution is, how slick wifi and bluetooth are.

I've been really impressed by the third party productivity apps like QuickSilver. If you're having trouble with task switching like you say give QS a go it rocks. Then there is VirtueDesktops which is an incredible virtual desktop app which switches desktops automatically when you switch apps and has 4 desktops for code, browsing, mail and a main one.

I must say the resizing of windows thing hasn't really bothered me. I always know where i need to go (bottom right), and i'm not sure what your experience but the reactivity is very impressive. Admittedly I do have a new intel mac with plenty of RAM so I don't know what reactivity is like on older hardware.

Dmitriy Kopylenko said...

Graeme, welcome to the wonderful world of Macintosh!

Brajeshwar said...

A recent mac convert myself, I am loving my Mac.

Anonymous said...

I just got my MacBook with 1Gb ram, it IS light years ahead of Windows. Period. I am never going back. I have my unix console, fink to get what i need. It's best of all possible worlds, beauty and brains.

Marc Palmer said...

Congratuliations Graeme! As you know I switched back in December 2005 and I have rarely sworn at my computer or had to reboot it since!

As for task switching... you know that Apple-TAB works like ALT TAB in windows, but of course much cooler?

It amazes me that Windows die-hards write off the fantastic user experience apple users have - I know, I used to write it off too, I couldn't understand all the fuss. The point is that until you do it all yourself and go through the process for a few days, you can't appreciate the difference because it is very subtle, but massive in its effects.

The bottom line: Microsoft have no clue about aesthetics - visual or functional. People who don't think aesthetics are an important part of life are simply uncultured! (hey, my knuckles used to drag on the floor too but now I have been saved by Our Lord S.Jobs)

Cedric said...

Marc:

No, Alt-Tab on MacOS behaves differently from Alt-Tab on Windows: it only navigates from one application to the next, and sometimes, I just want to move from one window to the next.

Aesthetically, I find MacOS and Windows comparable. MacOS wins on the static parts (colors and themes), Windows wins on the reactiveness (affordances), the focus on speed (better keyboard support) and UI consistency overall.

--
Cedric

Graeme Rocher said...

Hi Cedric,

I understand your concern about keyboard shortcuts. They took a while of getting used to for me. Now that I know them however, I don't feel windows is keyboard control is better than OS X.

Possibly one of the reasons for this is that I installed QuickSilver quite early on which gives me a lot of keyboard control and task switching ability. Also APPLE+` lets you switch windows between the same app, APPLE+M is minimise (although I use APPLE+H for hide more).

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