The Switch

posted on March 30th, 2007 by Anthony

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times I am now dabbling in the oh so shiny shiny world of Macdom.

MacBook Pro…hmmmmmmmm

Macs are a strange beast – almost mythical to a life long windows user like me.

You see them, they look gorgeous.

You hear people evangelising over them like they are a gift from a God… a God called Steve.

You might even know someone who has one.

Yet you still don’t know very much about them.

I suppose it’s a bit like a holiday. You see glowing write ups in the press, you read the glossy brochure and it looks lovely, you may even know a friend of a friend who says it’s paradise on earth…

but until you get to that promised land, you never really know.

The Promised Land?

Having been a fairly happy Windows bod for… well since forever really… I thought the switch could be a bit jarring. And at first it was…

cmd key

Having to use cmd instead of ctrl for all the good keyboard shortcuts just seems like it’s been done on purpose to annoy and confuse PC users… especially if you use an X11 based app and it all reverts back to ctrl!

Why the hell do I have to press alt-3 to get a bloody #! And why did I have to Google the answer?! For a platform like OS X that’s supposed to great for web design it’s a bit annoying…

There are a few other niggles too. Things seem a bit like a very cool closed membership club – There seems to be a lot of areas that assume you have lots of OS X experience and knowledge – occasionally a little pointer would be helpful.

A big pointer

Plus some of the very handy shortcuts are so hidden that there are whole sites devoted to pointing them out.

But then I’m learning a whole new OS… until a month or so ago I only vaguely knew about the cmd key, expose, dmgs, finder and other such exotic things.

To be honest most of the problems I’ve encountered are probably caused by Windows. I suppose Windows gets you to think like a Windows user… rather than a human. OS X, I have found, generally works best when you just do things as is most instinctive as person.

Installing apps is a good example of the whole switching thing. On a Mac it’s dead easy to do – unless you’ve never done it before… it assumes you know what to do… but it’s dead straight forward: you drag and drop… but using Windows means you expect something else to happen, and when it doesn’t you question yourself.

A window

Windows Windows and OS X Windows

I think one of the biggest shifts in thinking when using OS X is the whole window thing… and the not maximising of them. At first it feels very strange, it looks kind of messy, and in things like Photoshop and Fireworks it’s almost distracting.

Then you start to see the benefits of being able to see multiple apps at once, and the fact that usually you can drag objects freely between them. You can do this in Windows, but the environment isn’t so conducive.

It’s kind of ironic that Windows has that name…


Despite having used Window’s based boxes for most of my computing life it’s quite telling how quickly the MacBok Pro has made it’s mark on me.

Already I’m finding that when I’m back using Windows that I’m holding Alt thinking its the cmd key, and when using Claire’s laptop I instinctively go for the double fingered scroll every time.

I also miss the smoothness of everything… admittedly most of that will be down to the frightening power of the MacBook Pro… but still, I don’t thin I could ever describe XP as smooth… or my limited use of Vista for that matter.

Having said that I haven’t had time to fiddle about with the likes of Parallels and BootCamp to see how well Windows fares…

Well is it?

I’ve been lucky. Work have stumped up the cash for me to have exclusive use of this Macbook Pro. Had it been my own money it would have always been a huge gamble to make the switch… I mean what if it turned out to be wet weekend in Bognor?

Darkwood beach was nearly as nice as using a Mac…

As it happens now I’ve arrived I have to say that Macs are every bit as good as everybody says they are. (As long as you’re not expecting something magical – it’s still just a computer, just a bloody good one!)

After little over a months use I know that my next personal computer purchase will be a Mac. Maybe an iMac. I would find it hard to buy another PC… and from someone who has taken great pleasure from building PCs over the years that says a lot.

Well it says I’m a geek, but you know what I mean!

Now for a few tips for OS X noobs…

Useful Tips for Newcomers to OS X

# key on MacBook Pro

There is no # on the MacBooks, and the symbol does not appear anywhere on the layout. Madness.

Anyway the keystroke for # on a Macbook Pro is alt+3 – hooray!

Screenshots in OS X

There’s no print scrn button either… but thaere is is still a nice way to get screenies that works a whole lot better.

For a normal screendump press: shift + cmd (the apple one) + 3… you’ll here a camera sound and a file called ‘Picture 1.png’ will magically appear on your desktop.

For something a bit more focussed: shift + cmd + 4 will turn the mouse pointer into a cross hair thing which ou can drag to cover the area you wish to copy… or even better, if you press space in this mode you can select individual windows – click the mouse to take.



Oooh there are loads more, I suggest going to look at to find more, they’ve had a bit more experience than me!