From Windows to Mac: 9 Things I Love & Hate

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. iOS and Mac development tools – XCode: massive, robust, free.  Why does Visual Studio cost so much again?
  7. 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:
  8. 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?
  9. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Safari sucks – This site does a far better job documenting its shortcomings than I can:
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

26 Responses to “From Windows to Mac: 9 Things I Love & Hate”

  1. JohnO says:

    Can’t help you on the price issue, but when it comes time to sell your mac, it does hold its resale value far better.

    re: mysql tools — Get Parallels or VMWare and run in their mac-like modes (forgot name) and run your windows software almost like it was mac software. I did that for quite a long time with FlashDevelop. Not ideal, but it will get you over the hump.

    Agree on magic mouse. Complete crap. I got the MagicPad, and then went back to my tried-n-true Logitech mouse. I still like the concept of the MagicPad, but it doesn’t work well with my extended Apple keyboard.

    re: installs – this has definitely gotten more confusing over time b/c different people package their apps differently. “Most” use the drag to applications folder technique and any good mac dev provides the background graphic with the alias to the applications folder. Then you get cross platform tools/installers and things change. I never thought about the drag and then what do you do question. I guess its always been that way. Good question though.

    re: dock — I rarely use it anymore. I’d highly recommend using Alfred ( or even Spotlight for launching and more.

  2. VMWare is next one my list, since I need to get Visual Studio up and running too. I might use some of my usual dev tools that way too. Thanks for the suggestion.

  3. ZagNut says:

    “Apple clearly hates Adobe”…Kinda sux re: the Away3D stuff you’re doing, eh? :)

    Will SQL Developer from Oracle work for your database stuff? I believe all you need is the Java connector and you’re good to go for MySql…

  4. Boydlee says:

    I don’t really think Mac’s are twice as expensive.. I think they are fairly reasonably priced for the hardware. Sure, you can get a PC laptop for half of a Macbook but the components and build quality of them are generally pretty shit. As John points out Mac resale value is also far superior – I sold my iMac 20″ after 2 years for half of what I paid for it on eBay, something that just doesn’t happen with a PC.

    Ditch Safari (which as you point out is not that great) and install Chrome instead… massive performance increase over any other browser I’ve used on the Mac.

    Instead of forking out for VMWare you can download VirtualBox for free from, I switched to it awhile ago and its just as good IMO.

    As for the Magic Mouse… my advice is stick with it. After a few days you will actually grow to like it. I hated it at first but then I received one for free so started using it on a daily basis and eventually grew quite fond of it.

  5. Jo says:

    After two days on Mac OS X I decided to hide the dock on the left side and let it show itself when i hover over it. (It take too much space anyway) For starting apps I use Quicksilver. It’s free, fast and has a lot of possibilites.
    Check it out:
    I really can’t understand why something like this isn’t build in.

  6. Simon,

    I’ll check that out, thanks!

  7. Jo & John,

    Looks like I’ll be playing with Alfred and Quicksilver today. :)


    Well, this MacBook Pro is (at least) twice as expensive as a computer running any other OS with comparable hardware. Referring to other hardware and components as “shit” seems a bit of a vague statement. I’ve purchased from a number of different vendors in my day and have had very little problems with the hardware and peripherals. That said, HP is one that really bugs me and I’ve had some misery with on a fairly consistent basis, but everyone has a different experience.

    First thing I did after booting was get Chrome. I’ve been using it for a while now on Windows and really like it. EVen if it does occasionally throw an inexplicable Flash error.

    VirtualBox is an interesting idea. I used to use it all the time on Windows for guest Windows/Linux systems. Haven’t used it in a while since we have VMWare licenses here at work. Perhaps I’ll revisit.

    As far as the magic mouse, I’m done with it. If it was the just the size and sensitive gestures I could get used to it, but the tracking kills me. I mean, 10 year old $15 wired mice I find in the bottom of my tech junk drawers have a more natural pointer tracking than this thing does. I’m not willing to sacrifice the core functionality and usability of a mouse for the sake of new features. Maybe on its next revision I’ll give it another whirl.

  8. Jonathan says:

    Regarding the magic mouse, do not forget how much it improves your workflow.
    The horizontal scrolling IS what enables the use of multiple, smaller windows on the same screen.
    You’ll just need a tiny bit more time to get used to it, then there’s no way back. :)
    I enjoyed your post, btw! :)

  9. Jonathan,

    I LOVE the workflow improvements provided by the MacBook Pro’s trackpad. I use the 2, 3, and 4 touch gestures all the time. I’m actually going to return the Magic Mouse and get the Magic Trackpad as a replacement so I can finally close the lid and use this massive 27″ cinema display as my primary view.

  10. Jim says:

    In System Preferences, under the Keyboard settings, swap the Command and Control keys. This way, I’m pressing the same physical keys to copy, cut and paste as on Windows.

  11. baboune says:

    For SQL, I would suggest Squirrel

  12. For anyone just tuning in, Alfred is awesome and MySQL Workbench for Mac is much better than how I remembered it from a few months ago on Windows. I’ve also added the following programs:


  13. Kevin says:

    Not sure what you love about Xcode so far. I have found it to be behind the times compared to other IDEs I have used. Not a huge fan of VS either as it is missing a lot of things that Eclipse and IntelliJ have. Yes, I am using Xcode 4, which is better than Xcode 3 in that interface builder is not separate and you have tabs if you want them. It crashes a lot though.

    You did point out the lack of free utilities on the Mac. I find that really causes daily suffering. Xcode kind of falls in there as it is free but there is no competition so they don’t really push themselves to improve it much either.

    I am used to a ton of free text editors on Windows, I ended up using JEdit on the Mac just to have something free to edit simple things when not in Xcode. Not a whole lot out there to choose from.

    Mac seems to be a great machine for an end user as long as the programs you want are there. For a developer it is much more frustrating. With a smaller set of folks who know and program in Objective C the market for utilities is really dry. Seem Objective C coders are spending time writing for the iPhone to make money, can’t blame them, and don’t have hours left over to support the developer community. I predict you will continue to be frustrated with lack of tools beyond the starter set of robust Unix tools included.

  14. Kevin,

    I started the hunt for more useful apps for the Mac. Not all are free, but they all seem well worth any associated cost:

  15. Darren Wang says:

    I hate Magic mouse too

  16. Hani Nadra says:

    Try TimeMachine and I think you might have a 10 favorite list.
    I personally hate not being able to turn off .DS_Store. Also, the annoying _MACOS files in archives.

  17. Ray says:

    Used to agree about Command-C and Command-V being weird, but trying to copy from the terminal with tail -f running on Ubuntu always killed the tail process. Ooooooops! Sure Ubuntu’s terminal has Ctrl+Shift+C to copy and Ctrl+Shift+V to paste but that’s not really right either. I’ve since learned to appreciate Command+C because it’s completely consistent. Ctrl+C sometimes breaks and sometimes copies. Apple decided to be different, yes, but they got this one right.

  18. Rudi Angela says:

    Apple was using ctrl-c, v, x and z long before Windows was conceived.
    You could consider keyboard mapping tools.

  19. Rudi Angela says:

    Sorry, I meant cmd-c, v, x, z, etc.

  20. Frederiko says:

    Definitely give the Magic Trackpad a try. I know its not for everyone but I can’t see myself ever using a mouse again.

    The combination of BetterTouchTool and the Trackpad really changes the way you interact with the UI.

    The other absolute must have is Totalfinder.

    The MacOS UI is actually significantly different in many subtle ways. It took me a good while to unlearn the windows ways and after that a lot of the initial frustrations went away. A lot of things on the Mac have several different ways of getting to them and it takes a while to discover the one which suits your workflow best

    On adobe: I use a lot of adobe products and the problem is that they dont use the cocoa framework so that nothing else interacts with them. Its very frustrating but as with the failure of flash to do hardware acceleration on the mac, it really is adobe’s fault

  21. @Hani: I plan to, I’ve heard good things about Time Machine. I think the boss is even gonna pick up a Time Capsule for the few of us that have Macs now.

    @Ray: Thats an awesome point and one I probably would have come to notice after a little more time. I spent A LOT of time at the Linux command line in my career and will likely do the same with Terminal. That consistency will help avoid those accidental program aborts you mentioned.

    @Rudi: I know, I just wish it was consistent across all desktop OSes. That said, @Ray is making more a fan of the consistency between GUI and terminal. I won’t be using any mapping tools as many have suggested. I’ll stick with it. I’m REALLY trying to avoid making this Mac feel like Windows. I’m trying to embrace the differences and use it as intended.

    @Frederiko: The Magic Trackpad was ordered before you even posted! I love the trackpad on this MacBook Pro. I’m trading the Magic Mouse in for the Magic TrackPad. Oh, and I also got TotalFInder already. ;)

  22. Abani says:

    This is a nice post. I just want to bring one thing from your observation. Its regarding the Adobe-Applce conflicts. You might have heard the news that Apple products will not support flash & they have given a strong reason for it. Haven’t you come across your browser crash due to flash. Just browse through the problems with flash, you will get the answer.

  23. @Abani: Flash and other Adobe products work great on all other OSes I have used, including Windows XP/Vista/7, Centos, Ubuntu, and Fedora. I have problems with Flash and Adobe products only on Mac and you think it’s an Adobe problem? Sounds like your logic is a bit skewed.

    What exactly is this “strong reason”? I hope you aren’t citing battery life and memory consumption since every other OS and mobile device that supports them seems to be doing just fine. Isn’t using Flash a choice that should be left up to the user, not the determined for them by the device maker?

  24. polyGeek says:

    Why on earth would you switch? Win7 machines are cheaper and have more options. What does OSX have over Win7?

    I’m getting a new laptop soon and I’ll almost certainly get one with Ubuntu. My hope is that within a year or so I’ll have the workflow and tools I need on Ubuntu to make the switch on my desktop. But it’s going to be hard to give up Win7.

  25. @polyGeek: This isn’t a permanent switch, at least not yet it isn’t. I need to use it for iOS dev and I decided that I would dive in head first and give a serious try as my primary OS. As with any OS there’s things I like and things I don’t. The verdict is far from rendered.

    What does OSX have over Win7? I won’t know until I try it out will I? ;)

  26. Shauna says:

    One thing I hated was the behavior of the “home” and “end” keys (I could get used to cmd+c/v/x). I ended up finding a tool called DoubleCommand. Now that was a sanity-saver!

    I agree with the others who disagree with you on the MagicMouse. I loved it when I had one (a previous job), if for no other reason than the horizontal scrolling capability. A coworker even found an app that allowed him to do all sorts of other things with it.

    As for the price, I found it’s actually not that much more when you actually get a machine that’s spec-for-spec comparable, and sometimes even cheaper when you consider the apps Macs come with. Often, the supposedly “comparable” Windows machine actually isn’t, and often has something like less RAM (or DDR2 while the Mac has DDR3), a lower-grade CPU or graphics card, b/g Wifi cards instead of b/g/n, or a SATA drive instead of SSD. When you actually get them as close as possible in spec, the price gap closes to within a couple hundred dollars on $2.5k rigs. The rest of the difference can be chalked up to quality differences in the parts (kind of like how extra virgin olive oil is more expensive than el cheapo olive oil; the average person might not realize it, but there is a quality difference; some are willing to pay for it, some aren’t).

    I agree with your sentiments on dev tools costing money. You should still be able to run Eclipse, though. It seems to me that almost everything on Mac costs money (probably doesn’t help that Apple charges for the “privilege” of developing for the Apple platforms)