Observations from a new Mac user

So, a few weeks ago, I bought my first Mac. It’s a 13″ retina MacBook Pro, and it is without a doubt the finest computer I’ve ever owned. But, given that I’m coming from the Windows world — with diversions to Chrome OS and Linux — a lot of things required just a bit of adjustment. Not nearly as much as I’d feared, though. So here are a few things I’ve noticed about switching to the Mac.

  • Retina matters. OMG the screen on this thing. This is the first laptop I’ve ever seen where I can’t see the screen door effect between the pixels. While I’m running at the equivalent zoom of 1280×800 on this 13″ screen, the text and icons are so crisp and clean that it makes going back to my iPad 2 feel like sandpaper on my eyes. I can see replacing the iPad and my iPhone 5S entirely with a larger iPhone 6 and just using that and my MacBook Pro going forward.
  • Thin and light. Speaking of which, the 13″ MacBook Pro is only 8 ounces heavier than the 13″ MacBook Air. And with the all day battery life in Mavericks/Yosemite, I can see taking this laptop with me almost everywhere. And the SSD is not only blisteringly fast, but the no-moving-parts thing means I can tote this around with impunity.
  • See above. Those two factors fundamentally change the way I approach personal computing. With this screen, light weight and no worries about battery life, this is the first laptop that I’ve felt can really be my primary computing device, a role previously filled by smartphones. For the first time I understand people like @ismh for whom the iPhone is a peripheral device secondary to their Mac.
  • ⌘Q is your friend. The biggest problem I’ve had adjusting to the Mac is getting that closing a window doesn’t necessarily close the app. Sometimes it does (Reminders, Calibre) and sometimes it doesn’t (Safari, iTunes), allowing the main app to keep running in the background with no visible windows. I’m having to get int the habit of closing apps with ⌘Q instead of clicking on the red X with my mouse.
  • Yosemite makes more sense to Windows users. The behavior of the green “traffic light” control in Mavericks baffled me. As I understand it, it toggled between the standard, developer-selected window size for a window and the user-selected size, which was often but not always maximized to take up as much of the screen as possible without overlapping the Menu Bar or Dock. That’s a little wishy-washy. In Yosemite, it toggles between full-screen view and windowed, which is not only more consistent, but is also closer to the maximize behavior from Windows, Linux and Chrome OS. And on a 13” screen, a find a lot of benefits to running big applications like Evernote and Omnifocus in full screen.
  • The Menu Bar is a great idea. I wasn’t sure how I’d like having a constantly mutating single menu bar at the top of the screen rather than each window having its own. #Turnsout this does work better, mostly because of Fitts’ Law. That, and the consistency Apple enforces in where certain universal menu items are going to be. “File, Edit, View” is always going to be “File, Edit, View.”
  • Apps are expensive, unless they’re not. A lot of the apps I use on my Mac are the same apps I used on my Windows laptop: Evernote, iTunes, Kindle, Calibre, Lord of the Rings Online, etc. And most of these are free. But when apps do cost money on the Mac, they’re often significantly more expensive than their Windows counterparts. Omnifocus was $40, and I still can’t create custom perspectives (that’s another $40 in-app purchase). Pixelmator was $30, but that’s still a hell of a lot cheaper than Photoshop. Tweetbot for Mac is $20, and doesn’t support many of the features found in the much cheaper iPhone version. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not opposed to paying for software I find useful or entertaining. And for-pay Mac software is wonderfully free of the nagware you often find in free Windows programs. But it’s an adjustment.
  • You need less software. Something else to consider is that you typically need less software on a Mac beyond what Apple gives you. I get Pages, Numbers and Keynote out of the box. Yes, I bought Scrivener for $45, but I could have used Pages if I wanted to. I’m still on the fence about Omnifocus versus iCloud reminders and Fantastical. And system utilities are much more rare. The only must-have icons in my Menu Bar are Evernote, BetterSnap Tool (which gives me Aero-like half and half tiling of app windows) and 1Password. Right now I have Alfred and Dropbox as well, but those will go away by the time Yosemite ships, replaced by Spotlight and iCloud Drive.
  • The stock apps are very good. In Mavericks, and even more in Yosemite, the stock Apple apps are pretty awesome if you’re already “all in” with Apple. Mail.app works great for me, but I’m using iCloud mail, not Gmail. Same for iCal, Reminders, Messages and Safari. In fact, I’ve found with the Reading List and synced tabs between my Mac and iOS devices, I don’t need Pocket or Pinboard anymore at all.
  • It just works. I know that’s a cliché, and sometimes it doesn’t just work. But most of the time, yeah, it does. There are so many little details, tiny touches in OS X that just work better than doing the same thing in Windows. Clicking ⌥Notification Center toggles Do Not Disturb. You can get to any special character right from the Edit menu in any app, or by typing ⌃⌘Space. And don’t get me started on Services, which are much better than monkeying with the “Send To” menu in Windows.

So far, enjoying the heck out of being a Mac owner, and I’m just getting started. Further updates as events warrant.

4 thoughts on “Observations from a new Mac user”

  1. Nice to see you like your new computer.

    I feel the same way about my new HP Spectre 13. It’s by far the best computer I have ever used.

    Moreover, I now curse myself for all the time and money I spent on palmpilots/smartphones. I should have shelled-out for a decent laptop 10 years earlier!!!

  2. have the same cpu. It’s great. Get parallels for it if you have to ever run Windows. You will love how Windows emulated crashes but your make never does.

  3. I use Omnifocus with Fantastical. Reminders go into Omnifocus from Siri via IOS reminders, Fantastical displays dated todo items. Scrivener’s great but I really wish it had a handoff capable IOS app. I tend to use Day One for everyday note taking, it’s got location and time stamping, which are important to me. It also saves to XML in Dropbox which I find reassuring – I find putting all my stuff in a third party controlled black box a bit creepy. Speaking of which I’m not sure about ditching Dropbox right at the moment, too many IOS apps rely on it for file transfer. In the light of its Condelisation I really don’t trust it any more, but can’t see any real alternative.
    Although I like a lot about the Apple ecosystem I must confess that I still much prefer my Mint Cinnamon system for ‘real’ work.

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