From Windows to Mac

In the move to New Relic, I’ve been looking forward to digging into a new OS. I’ve dabbled with Linux, but my spare tie for computers has been mostly devoted to languages (Ruby!) rather than operating systems.

The new job finally nudges me (who am I kidding, forcefully shoves!) to get used to something entirely different. Most of the company uses Macs–primarily Macbook Pro’s–and I am no exception.

In some ways, the shift to OS X is the least-familiar element of my changing environment. I’ve used Ruby before, and certainly have learned new languages plenty of times. I’ve tinkered with Vim for the past couple years, although never enough to use it day-to-day. But Macs? I hadn’t done much on them since college… the first time around.

Here’s what I’ve found awesome about OS X… and a few bits that bug the crap out of me.

Thunderbolt Display I’m a huge proponent of dual monitors. It’s amazing how the extra real-estate changed my workflows for the better. I was even campaigning (with little hope of success) for a third monitor so it would look like a mad scientist’s setup provide a more ergonomic central monitor. I wouldn’t have considered going back to a single monitor…

… except for the gorgeous Thunderbolt monitor from Apple that is. Apparently once past a certain size, I stop craving the dual experience. And at 27” is handily past that cutoff, with pixels enough to keep me happy. I haven’t felt a lack of space since making the switch. Partially, though, that’s aided by…

Spaces Years ago I tried a Windows app that gave the type of multi-desktop experience I’d seen in Linux. I fell in love immediately, but the software was too crashy to rely on. Sadly I relented, leaning eventually on the dual monitors for enough space. Every couple of years I’d browse in the vain for a suitable alternative.

OS X on the other hand, ships with Spaces built in. It’s just a Ctrl+Arrow key away. Heck, there’s even a gesture (a couple actually) on the trackpad. And with a setting in the System Preferences (check under Keyboard, on Mountain Lion at least), you can even move straight to a specific desktop pressing Ctrl+Number. This reminds me a lot of Window 7’s brilliant Win+Number feature for hopping between taskbar icons in all the best ways.

Spaces with the massive Thunderbolt has made task and window management a breeze, even without maximizing windows anymore.

Mighty Mouse I wouldn’t have thought I’d post about a mouse. I’ve often referred to reaching for the mouse as a moral failing. But if you’re going to use a mouse, the Mighty Mouse is a step above the rest.

I’d never realized until using one how awesome a touch surface on your mouse can be. All the swipes I’ve gotten used to with my iPhone just work on the mouse. I can switch between Spaces, back up in my browser, and “naturally” scroll without thinking about it. The changeover from a mouse-wheel to the touch surface actually made the change to OS X’s reversed scrolling almost a non-issue, which is awesome.

The scrollbars suck, and I miss my Page Up/Down keys, but there you go.

Spotlight While I haven’t used it for general searching, Spotlight is an adequate task launcher for my purposes. Command+Space and type the app name… after time on Windows 7, the pattern is entirely familiar. I’m just glad to be done with years of Win+R and memorizing Windows .exe names for quick launching.

Keys Which brings us to the area where not all is raves about the change… keyboard shortcuts. I knew this would be tough, as I am a keyboard driven creature. Using different software has helped make a clean break in some ways, but a few things still catch me off guard after a couple weeks.

In ascending order of annoyance:

  • Alt+D doesn’t go to the address bar like it does in almost any address-able Windows app. Command+L gets it done, but I still end up almost-bookmarking pages repeatedly in Chrome
  • Ctrl+Arrow doesn’t move by words, it’s Alt+Arrow
  • Home/End goes to top/bottom of the document. Line movement is Command+Arrow

I swear I flip between Spaces at least twice a day still when I just wanted to slip my cursor over a word.

Ah well, if that’s the roughest thing in this journey, I got off easy!