Sunday 16 January 2005

Settling In

Although moving from Windows to the Macintosh is nowhere near as stressful as moving house, I now realize that it will take me much longer than I’d anticipated to settle in to my new environment.

Starting up the Mac was easy enough—it automatically found the DHCP address that my router assigned so I had Internet access immediately. Connecting to my Windows PC was just as straightforward. So far the most difficult (actually, time consuming) tasks have been configuring my primary applications:

  • Mail (account information from Eudora)
  • SpamSieve (whitelist from MailWasher)
  • Firefox (bookmarks and search engine extensions)
  • NetNewsWire (subscriptions from FeedDemon)
  • Address Book (contact information from Outlook).

A week later, I feel as though I’ve moved to a new house in another country, whilst leaving a lot of my belongings behind in the old house. I know I’ll eventually get everything shipped across but I didn’t have any idea how much stuff there would be to deal with. (One way to address this might be to use it as an opportunity to throw a bunch of stuff away.)

Another thing I didn’t understand—given the overwhelmingly negative response to Jeremy Zawodny’s announcement that he was switching back to Windows—is that I appear to have bought myself a one-way ticket. That’s OK, since I like Macland a lot. The citizens are friendly (unless you turn out to be a traitor), the language is relatively easy to learn, the landscape is pleasing to the eye, the architecture is well-engineered, the utilities and public transport are reliable… all-in-all it’s a pretty nice place to live.

In fact, I rather wish I’d done this a year ago, a few months after Panther was released. (I’m not an early adopter—I’m happy for more adventurous souls to blaze hardware and software trails on my behalf.)

I suppose it makes sense that my first priority was to get mail, RSS feeds, and a web browser working properly—since I rarely watch television, read newspapers, or listen to the radio, the Net has become my primary means of keeping abreast of what’s happening in the rest of the world.

Regarding the primary applications I’ve installed, Apple’s Mail together with SpamSieve seems—so far—to be superior to the Eudora/MailWasher combo I was using on the PC—even though I’ve already struck the Disappearing Links To Replied Email bug that Michael Bream reported to Macintouch:

I am running Mail.app v.1.3.9 (v619). When I reply to an email in my “inbox” and then file the email in a folder, it loses the link to the reply. In other words, after I reply to an email, I can’t change the location of the original or it will lose the correspondence thread. Is there a work around for this, or an upgrade that I’m not aware of?

As a general rule for myself, all email in the “inbox” needs to be replied to, and once I reply, I file it to stay organized. I thought this is how most people do it, but I lose my correspondence links…

I thought this was how most people did it too (though that might just be because it’s how I do it). My (hardly satisfactory) workaround is to file the email before I reply.

Anyway, after only a week’s training, SpamSieve is doing a demonstrably better job of identifying spam than MailWasher could manage after nearly two years of use.

Making the switch from FeedDemon to NetNewsWire was just as easy, particularly since Lisa, the Digital Medievalist, generously gave me a NetNewsWire license as a housewarming gift. (Lisa had purchased a number of licenses as a way of supporting Brent Simmons and Ranchero after NNW had been unfairly criticized by an inexperienced and unreasonable user.)

Although FeedDemon was one of my favorite Windows applications, I’m delighted with NetNewsWire (and looking forward to the release version, which will allow me to sync with Bloglines).

Getting my contact information from Outlook to Address Book looked like being the most difficult task since Address Book can import a batch of VCards but Outlook only exports them one at a time. But a little Googling turned up a product called You Perform, a set of Outlook add-ons from the people who do You Control for Mac OS X. You Perform includes a VCard Converter that allows you to convert all your contacts to VCards in a single operation.

Once I had these basic applications running, I turned my attention to the next item on my list: a text editor. But how I found the right one can be the subject of another post.

My overwhelming impression is exactly what I’d hoped for—visual elegance together with rock-solid stability (both of which are in short supply in the Windows environment).

What don’t I like, so far?

  • The standard Apple mouse and keyboard, which I immediately replaced with a Microsoft Natural Keyboard and IntelliMouse Explorer. How anyone can be productive with a one-button mouse is beyond my comprehension.
  • The Finder. I never imagined I’d miss Windows Explorer so much. Not being able to copy a file by right-clicking and dragging it to another folder, not being able to send a file to the trash by selecting it and pressing the delete key are real (albeit minor) annoyances. Macintosh Explorer didn’t feel quite right but I suspect that either Path Finder or Default Folder X (or both) might solve the problem.
  • The Firefox bug that doesn’t allow me to middle-click to open another browser tab.
  • That this (relatively high-end) Macintosh doesn’t feel as snappy as I’d expected.

While the general response to Jeremy Zawodny’s departure was “Don’t Let the Door Hit Your Arse on the Way Out,” I suspect this is what he meant when he wrote that his “Mac felt slow and awkward for daily ‘office’ use” while on Windows he feels like he’s “getting more out of the hardware.” I don’t feel my Macintosh is “slow and awkward” but I do keep wondering whether there’s a preference dialog that would allow me to turn off some of the eye candy.

Zawodny’s main criticism of the Macintosh—“the tab key being useless in most dialogs, the lack of hotkeys in most apps”—was ill-founded, he hadn’t turned on Full Keyboard Access (which allows you to use the tab key, arrow key, and other keys to select buttons, lists, and other items on the screen).

If Zawodny had read Dan Frakes’ Mac OS X Power Tools and installed Quicksilver, he might still be using a Macintosh.

In fact, applications like Quicksilver make the Macintosh so pleasurable to use and me so happy that I came back. (Liz Lawley has recently written an excellent introduction to Quicksilver, with some practical examples of how she uses the software. And Merlin Mann provides a constant stream of Quicksilver tips and tricks: check out his Quicksilver category at 43 Folders.)

Now I can think about doing some real work.

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Comments

I am glad to hear the move from one platform to another has gone so well, thus far anyway. I am not sure what the relative lack of snap-ness comes from, though I noticed it too on my Win2k box at my former job. But my Solaris box there occasionally felt glacial as well, so perhaps it is a *nix windows manager thing.

I hope the journey continues well...

Posted by Hal Rager on 16 January 2005 (Comment Permalink)

You said "Not being able to copy a file by right-clicking and dragging it to another folder." But you can--instead of right click, just alt-click + drag.

Posted by Noel Jackson on 16 January 2005 (Comment Permalink)

Glad to hear your transition is going well Jonathon.

My habit with new email has always been to set up filters to file email from known sources as soon as it arrives. I leave it marked as unread until I'm ready to respond/deal with it. Email from unknown sources stays in my inbox until I deal with it and if it is from a source I'm likely to continue receiving from I create a rule to drop it and future emails into an appropriate folder.

In a previous job where I was doing telecom researchI found this the most efficient way for me to handle the large volume of mail I was getting. Between inter-company mail, technical newsletters, and RFI/RFP projects I was managing there were too many different levels of importance for the various sources. By pre-sorting I could ignore those of little immediate importance, like newsletters, and go straight to those of high importance such as ones from my boss :) or RFP respondants. I had a fairly high volume of mail and found if I left all mail sitting in my inbox until dealt with then some would fall off the radar screen simply buried under the load.

Posted by Doug Alder on 16 January 2005 (Comment Permalink)

Moving stuff from the finder to the trash is just option-backspace

Posted by Euan Semple on 16 January 2005 (Comment Permalink)

I, of course, meant command- backspace!

Doh!

Posted by Euan Semple on 16 January 2005 (Comment Permalink)

I didn't - couldn't! - understand Jeremy Zawodny's complaints. I work on a Win2K machine each and every day, and it is faster in pure clock speed than any of my Macs, but my experience of responsiveness and personal productivity is the opposite of his. And it's not because I don't know my way around the apps I use in Windows. I just chalk it up to having to have something to talk about, and a masochistic desire for negative attention from Mac users. ;^)

Anyway, one of the little joys of using a Mac is exploring the Help files. Of course, the first obstacle to this is the fact that Help Viewer has to "phone home" every time you launch it, which takes a few seconds. But once you're in type "shortcuts" in the search field and you should get a list of topics covering keyboard commands. Check out the one for Finder, and you'll find all your keyboard magic right there, albeit you'll have to figure out what keys on your keyboard map to Apple's Command and Option keys.

There are also some substitutes for Finder, I think PathFinder is one that is highly regarded. For me, Finder does what I need it to do well enough, and I use LaunchBar for the things I don't need Finder to do for me. QuickSilver is probably the same thing, only more. I have QuickSilver on my iBook and haven't taken the time to really learn it yet.

Posted by Dave Rogers on 16 January 2005 (Comment Permalink)

Full Keyboard Access and Quicksilver are where it's at. Without those, the Mac is a chore to use for anyone who has ever relied on their keyboard.

Posted by Scott Johnson on 19 January 2005 (Comment Permalink)

That you ditched the mouse comes as no surprise, but I thought the Apple keyboards were supposed to be good? What made you switch to an MS kybd?

I'm also curious as to why this is a one-way affair: windows to mac is ok, but not the other way around. I always though that data interop between the two platforms was relatively high.

Posted by Ed Bilodeau on 19 January 2005 (Comment Permalink)

Thanks, everyone, for the hints and tips.

Hal, regarding the lack of snap, Kerim Friedman told me that Mac OS X gets progressively snappier with each release so perhaps I'll see an improvement when I (eventually) install Tiger.

Noel, I assume when you write "alt-click + drag" that you mean "cmd-click + drag" on the Mac. I'll give that a shot.

Therefore, Euan, your "cmd-backspace + drag" makes sense for deleting files.

Doug, thanks for suggesting an alternative method for handling incoming messages. I'm away from my Windows PC and I can't recall whether Eudora for Windows visually indicates that there are unread messages in each mailbox but Apple's Mail client does so there's no danger of my forgetting about messages I haven't processed. I'll give your system a try.

Dave, needless to say, I hadn't considered looking at the Help files. I hope you'll give Quicksilver a spin--it's unbelievably powerful (and it's free).

Scott, as you've probably figured out, I'm a keyboard kind of a guy and I'd be lost without Quicksilver.

Ed, the Apple keyboard felt mushy to me and I've been using Microsoft's Natural (semi-ergonomic) Keyboard for years so that's what I got. And it doesn't have to be a "one-way affair," as you say the data interop is pretty good. I'm just personally not all that interested in mac to windows. I'll still have a Windows PC, it's just that I only want to use it when it's absolutely necessary. (Hopefully that won't be more than once or twice a month.)

Posted by Jonathon on 19 January 2005 (Comment Permalink)

"Noel, I assume when you write "alt-click + drag" that you mean "cmd-click + drag" on the Mac. I'll give that a shot."

Oops, He really alt-click and drag. Or, as we cradle-Mac users say, Option-drag. It's actually a system-wide convention for copying in some graphic apps as well: alt-drag an item to duplicate it.

Good luck with the transition!

Posted by Susan Kitchens on 20 January 2005 (Comment Permalink)

er, he really *meant* alt-click and drag.
(the one time I think, "No, I don't need to click the preview button" ends up biting me in the youknowwhat)

Posted by Susan Kitchens on 20 January 2005 (Comment Permalink)

Alt-Command drag will copy and move a file, or, in most programs, an object.

You can also select a file icon and Command-C to copy the entire file and then Command-V to paste it to the new location (something copied from Windows).

Do take a look at the Shelf in QuickSilver. And see the kekboard shortcuts in the Help for the Finder, and in this knowledge Base article

http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=75459

and Dori Smith's list of Safari shortcuts here
http://www.dori.com/safariShortcuts.html

Posted by Lisa Spangenberg on 20 January 2005 (Comment Permalink)

"Zawodny’s main criticism of the Macintosh—“the tab key being useless in most dialogs, the lack of hotkeys in most apps”—was ill-founded, he hadn’t turned on Full Keyboard Access (which allows you to use the tab key, arrow key, and other keys to select buttons, lists, and other items on the screen)."

Actually, that setting doesn't affect the apps I most care about (Firefox, Thunderbird, etc) so the complaint still stands.

Posted by Jeremy Zawodny on 23 January 2005 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour