So this week this long time Windows/Linux developer was presented with his very first Mac. In this case, it’s the brand new MacBook Pro. Its a pretty sweet and sexy machine, sporting a quad-core 2.0 GHz processor, 4GB of RAM, 500 GB of disk space, an HD webcam, and one of those fancy new Thunderbolt ports. All this packaged in a sleek frame and accompanied by a 27″ cinema display, a Bluetooth keyboard, and a Magic Mouse. At first glance it’s easy to see why some people get so crazy about Apple products.
Then I turned it on.
OK, it wasn’t that bad, but there’s definitely some stuff I liked and some stuff I really hated. Some of it, of course, is the total tech shock of using a completely foreign OS. But that doesn’t explain away some of the “interesting” workflow decisions that one must become accustomed to with Mac OS X Snow Leopard. Here’s 9 things so far that I love and hate about my MacBook Pro and the Mac OS X operating system.
9 Things I Love
- Trackpad gestures – while it took a little getting used to, the multitouch trackpad gestures of the MacBook Pro are fantastic. Using 2, 3, or 4 touch gestures you can scroll, navigate in your browser, and access Expose and running applications respectively. This type of user input is truly what’s coming.
Expose – Expose is a great feature that let’s you reorganize, hide, and access all your running applications by using either trackpad gestures or hot zones on your desktop. It’s Windows “show desktop” and “task switcher/flip” on crack, and much cooler looking.
- Easy uninstalls – No more long waits, 3rd party uninstallers, or registry unpleasantness. All you have to do in Mac OS X is delete the application from the Applications folder. Its simple and quick. A very welcome change of pace.
- Easy setup – Apple sure got it right when it comes to getting you up and running fast. I had my Bluetooth mouse & keyboard, wireless connectivity, VPN access, Google Talk through iChat, and Gmail through Mail all working in probably less than 30 minutes. No driver downloads, 3rd party software, or updates. It just works well and fast.
- Documentation and how tos – almost every built in application or system tool has its own easy to read documentation, often times with a short video for clarity. It got this fish back in the water pretty quickly.
- iOS and Mac development tools – XCode: massive, robust, free. Why does Visual Studio cost so much again?
Terminal – I probably should hav ranked this higher. As a guy who spent 6 years developing Perl and C/C++ from no-GUI Linux, this is the perfect addition of power to Mac’s flair. I can’t tell you how many times I saw this at a Windows DOS prompt:
- Dock – it is great for accessing and viewing common applications, as well as your downloads and notifications. Quick, always-there access to your most used resources… why didn’t everyone think of that?
- Boot, restart, and sleep – All function fast and exactly how you think they should. Reboots, though far less common on my Mac so far, are extremely quick. I’m talking less than a minute for full shutdown and reboot, often even faster. Sleep is my favorite, though. Less than 5 seconds to sleep, near instant wake up. I love it.
9 Things I Hate
- Price – Damn these things are pricey! Let’s get one thing straight. For most intents and purposes, you are paying more for “different”, not “better”. Yes, Mac is superior in some aspects, but not “twice as expensive as a comparable device with a different OS” superior.
- Green pebble confusion – I know, I know, its designed to fit to the size of the contents. But guess what? That’s not always what it does. Sometimes it maximizes, sometimes it fits to content, sometimes it does something entirely different and specific to one application. It is confusing and unintuitive. SHIFT + green pebble for pure maximizing has been useful though.
- Most of the good dev tools cost money – While Mac is quite generous with XCode, the community of Mac developers doesn’t seem to share the same sentiment. It seems a lot of the quality free apps I came to love on Windows have no free Mac equivalents. For example, does anyone know a good, free Mac GUI client for MySQL that comes anywhere near the functionality of Toad, or DbForge? People suggested Sequel Pro, but it is sorely lacking in the features department. MySQL Workbench is next on the list, but I didn’t even like it for Windows.
Magic Mouse – I’m sorry, but beyond the gesture support for this mouse, its terrible. The tracking is very hard to get used to on any surface, regardless of mouse settings. The gestures accessible from the mouse surface are too sensitive and can occur accidentally. Its also a weird size and shape, which isn’t very appealing when your hand has become accustomed to a certain interface for 15+ years. One of the first things I did when starting with my Mac was replace this with my normal scroll wheel USB mouse.
- Copy, Cut, & Paste – Use CTRL + C,X,V like every other OS on the planet! Using CMD + C,X,V is freaking annoying. I know I’ll get used to it, but it seems like one of those things that is different for the sake of being different.
Dock – I know I mentioned it as a thing I love, but its also something I hate. Why? Because it is no substitute for the Windows taskbar. Its far less intuitive and obvious at a glance to determine what is running, how I maximize/minimize it, what’s going to stay there, etc.. I’m getting used to it, but I really think in the end I will still like the Windows taskbar over the Dock.
- Safari sucks – This site does a far better job documenting its shortcomings than I can: http://www.safarisucks.com/
- Installs can be confusing – Do I drag the icon to the applications folder? Then what? What if there is not instruction to drag it? What if I instead get a package, what does that do? How bout if I’m told to put the file in the Applications folder manually? Why is there an image open on my desktop? These are all things that make sense eventually but were crazy confusing right off the bat.
- Apple clearly hates Adobe – I have had almost no installation or usage errors or problems, except with Adobe related software. I couldn’t install Adobe Air via the auto installer when I pulled down Tweetdeck. I had to manually install and restart my system before it would work. Despite having the latest Flash installed, I can’t get the Flash uploaders for this blog to work. It just seems pretty coincidental that I’ve never had these problems on Windows, yet the Mac is littered with them.
So that’s my account so far of the world of the MacBook Pro. And in my whopping 3 days experience I’ve learned that there’s a lot to love and hate. This sentiment, though, is far from unique to this OS and device. If I was to write a “Things I Love/Hate” post about Windows or Linux, it would take a hell of a lot more than 9 points to fully cover the scope of their strengths and weaknesses.
In short, I’m embracing this entirely new workflow. I’m gritting my teeth at the unintuitive and smiling pleasantly at the simple and powerful. in the end, I hope only to come out an effective Mac OS X user with a stronger and deeper understanding of why it differs as it does from the others OSes with which I have experience. Its been a while since I’ve felt this out of place in front of a computer, and I’m enjoying every minute of it.