Whenever I whinge about my PC experience, Lifehacker readers often suggest I should use a Mac instead. Next week, I’m going to give it a try and see just how easy it is to switch from one OS to the other by using a MacBook all week as my main machine.
Before everyone wearing an Apple T-shirt gets too excited, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I have no intention of permanently migrating to a Mac, for the simple reason that I travel constantly, so for me a subnotebook (or however you want to label it) is a core requirement for size and weight reasons. Apple don’t play in that space, so they’re not in the picture. Size, in this context, definitely matters. I’m mentioning this right up front and banging on about it a bit because when I last discussed why I wouldn’t buy a Mac, everyone ignored this detail, even though it is, from my own point of view, the single most relevant issue when picking a machine.
The purpose of the exercise (carried out with a 13-inch MacBook that Apple has loaned to me for the purpose) is to test just what’s involved in shifting from one platform to another, and document some of the less obvious details for people who want to make the shift. In an era where many applications run in browsers and only the seriously geeky launch a command line, it’s often argued that switching from one GUI-based platform (Windows) to another (Mac) is a fairly straightforward process. What’s ignored in that assumption is the myriad fiddly details a veteran Windows user has picked up over the years, which are likely to be resolved quite differently.
Sure, on one level, that comes down to hitting Google for the solution, and there might well be some things that simply aren’t an issue on a Mac, but I’d like first-hand experience of how often that happens. If nothing else, I hope to list some of those common answers in one place. If it turns out there are no issues to document, I’ll be the first to fess up, but it seems monumentally unlikely. As a fellow tech hack once remarked: “Macs are computers. Computers have problems.”
For the most part, I’ll be sticking with whatever’s supplied on the machine. I am going to install Firefox, since I rely on a fair raft of extensions that won’t be available if I just use Safari and that’s a needless source of frustration. I’m going to use web mail, which should be rather less of a transitional shock than trying to shift from Outlook to Entourage or Mail. As a dedicated mouse shunner, I will inevitably be spending a fair bit of time looking up keyboard shortcuts, but at this stage I don’t envisage installing Quicksilver or other helper apps — I want to see how far I can get going with what’s available in the native OS X environment. (For the same reason, I don’t intend to be using any virtualised solutions to run Windows.)
I realise that some people will argue “a week isn’t long enough”, but it’s the longest period I can fit into my schedule without going on the road. And to be honest, a week should be more than long enough to get a feel for what’s necessary to get a system up and running — getting comfortable might well take longer, but that’s a little outside the scope of what I’m looking to do.
Throughout the week, I’ll be posting about my experiences here, and seeking pointers from Lifehacker readers if there’s a particularly gnarly or annoying issue. I’ll also be commenting occasionally on Twitter with the tag #macbookmigrant. And I’ve organised a mid-week meeting with Apple guru and MacTheMag editor Matthew JC Powell to talk me through anything I’ve missed.
While I get ready to unpack the shiny new MacBook sitting on my desk for next week’s exercise, what do experienced Mac migrants suggest I bear in mind? Share your advice in the comments.