My new mac – some thoughts for other PC users

As some of you know, I recently shifted from a PC to a Mac. It’s a big transition for me… I’ve used a PC all my life, so it is easy to say that I’m having a little (but not a ton) of culture shock.

I’ll be honest about the single best selling feature of the mac: Spotlight.

I do very few things on my computer. Mostly I write, I surf, and I email. A LOT of email. So first and foremost, having a computer where I can find my emails and documents easily is critical. When you’ve got over 70,000 emails you want to be able to search, well, neither Microsoft Outlook, any Windows desktop search engine I’ve ever seen, or even Google desktop (which essentially requires you to load a browser each time) is going to cut it.

I NEED to be able to find stuff quickly. Google has bred me with an expectation of instant results (not a slow churning solution). Maybe Windows 7 will get there, but I’ve given up waiting. My 5 year old thinkpad wasn’t going to last long enough for me to see.

Am I happy? Absolutely. One thing our Apple friends do well is design. I love the keyboard, the screen and pretty much everything physical about the machine. Moreover, the convergence of Mac & Windows software has made the transition relatively easy – I’d be frightened to think of how much time on my computer I spend on the browser, but it is a lot… so moving from Firefox to Firefox is pretty sweet.

That said, the transition hasn’t been perfect. There are several features on the Mac that have been frustrating, and even disappointing. For those thinking of making the leap I thought I let you know the rough parts; it shouldn’t dissuade you, just set some expectations that not everything in Macworld is peaches and cream. Of course, if some veteran users have solutions to these issues, I’ll be eternally grateful.

So here’s my list of 4 things I’d change on the Mac – some of these are so petty I’m almost embarrassed…

1. No “send to” email client option. One thing Windows has that I’ve not found on the Mac is the “Send To” folder. Drop any application in the Send To folder and when you right-click on a document you have the option of opening the document with that application. What I loved was being was being able to right-click on a document, send it to my email client and bingo! A new email was created with the document attached. Very productive and easy. Alas, no such luck in the Mac.

2. No “open container” option in spotlight. Yes, I love Spotlight AND… when the drop down menu is showing me a list of found items, why can’t I right-click on it and open the containing folder? Sometimes, I don’t know what document I’m looking for, but I do know it is co-located with a document I do know the title of… Just saying.

3. In Mail, you can’t drag an email to iCal to create an event. Best feature Outlook (and I presume Entourage) has that Mail and iCal don’t is the ability to turn an email into an event. I know that Mail has the funky – click on the date and it will create an event – but it rarely brings in the relevant information. In Outlook I simply dragged an email to the calendar and presto! I had an event in which the email contents were in the notes. That way I could easily copy all the relevant details and, had a ton of context I could quickly reference within my calendar.

4. Okay, so this one seems REALLY petty… but it strikes at something deeper, something important for PC users to know. I’m feeling a little annoyed that, in Mail, when I delete an email in my inbox the cursor always moves to the newer email regardless how the mail is sorted. In Outlook it always moved “down” (Which I had arranged to mean that it went to an older email). Small, I know, but it is driving me crazy when I’m dealing with my email. Of course, this is all part of what I understand to be a larger philosophical problem with Macs (and why I’ve never been an owner before) which is that the company is centered on the idea that it knows how you should use your computer better than you do… so customizing is limited. This is the biggest culture shift for PC users. Owning a Mac is like being in a gated community… its pretty and manicured, but you have to adhere to the community bylaws, or else…! Yes the Windows world has got serious medical issues (viruses), a generic corporate feel (Windows Themes) and a approach to planning that seems modeled after Houston (I say this with some affection) but you also had a lot more freedom to create trouble or solve things your way. At the moment, I’m welcoming my new overlord because it’s like my computer has been taken over by the Swiss! It’s efficient, but if I try to complain… well you get the point.

Pretty much everything else that I’m wrestling with. The way Alt-Tab works on the Mac or the fact that I can’t open press “command+F” to open the “File” menu are things that I know, in time, I’ll adjust to.

14 thoughts on “My new mac – some thoughts for other PC users

  1. Jesse Helmer

    Hi David:A few tips that may be helpful:1. In the Mac OS there is a concept called Services, which is not well known but fairly useful. For instance, if you select a file in Finder and choose Finder–>Services–>Mail you will see three options: Send File, Send Selection, and Send To (which copies the file path) to a mail message. Services are generally accessible from a wide range of applications. Many applications provide their own system wide services. On my system, for example, I have submenus for TextWrangler, Skype, WriteRoom, OmniFocus. I presume that you are using Snow Leopard, so you have the advantage of being able to customize and configure services and assigning keyboard shortcuts: http://www.macworld.com/article/142419/2009/08/…2. I prefer Google Quick Search Box to Spotlight for both finding things and launching applications.3 & 4. I no longer use Mail or iCal and prefer Gmail/GCal.5. You can change what those keyboard shortcuts do in the Keyboard & Mouse section of System Preferences.Let me know if you run into any other issues. Macs are very customizable in my experience, although it takes some practice to get the most out of your Mac.Jesse

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  2. Frank

    The best thing to do in the Mac vs. PC battle is to have one of each. You can use your mac to surf the web (which looks better anyway), do graphic design and use interactive applications. Use your PC for writing word docs and downloading music, because you're bound to get a load of viruses on it anyway.

    Reply
  3. Paul Ramsey

    1. Drag and drop your file onto the Mail.app icon in the dock. Presto, new mail with file as attachment.2. Do a Command-Click instead of a Click on the spotlight results to open the containing folder.3 and 4 I dunno :)

    Reply
  4. David Eaves

    Jesse – Thank you for these! Going to dive deeper into the Services article. I did notice services in the finder (and even used it once to attach a doc to a new email) the problem is that it isn't convenient – the “attach to new email” function is three steps, not one click, away. Hopefully there is something there that changes that (although just dragging it to the Mail icon in the dock does seem the simplest way).I've met a lot of people who have migrated to Gmail/GCal. I totally understand where you are coming from and can't seem to do it for two reasons. One, I like have my data on my machine, data I can back up and do what I want with (plus I haven't figured out how to sync my BB with gcal). But more importantly, I find Gmail frustrating because I can't sort mail by subject line or sender. This is critical because I get a lot of false positives in my junkmail folder with Gmail and the easiest way to scan junk mail is to sort my subject and then quickly delete anything that references a sexual organ, drug or dating service. I'd never thought that feature was important until Gmail took it away – and it seems to simple, I don't know why they don't add it. It's like they feel you should HAVE to search for your mail… Anyway, again, thank you for that link and the advice… super helpful!

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  5. moose56

    After a quick play you can kind of create the “Send to” functionality if you have Snow Leopard.1. Open Automator2. Select “Service” template3. Set “Service receives selected” to “Files or folders” in “Finder”4. Drag the mail action “New Mail Message” into the area marked “Drag actions or files here to build your workflow.”5. Save it and call it “Send to”6. In finder select some files and right click. “Send to” should be there.This should give you a tough example to polish.

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  6. Jesse Helmer

    David — I kind of took the lazy way by just dropping the link about services in Snow Leopard. You may find the click-and-drag option to be the most efficient for you. It is a good idea. But I prefer keyboard shortcuts, so once I get Snow Leopard, I will assign the Finder Send File service a keyboard shortcut. Then all I will have to do is select the file(s) and press the keyboard shortcut to attach the files to a new message. I will also make the service show up on the right-click contextual menu in case I need it. In previous versions of the OS, customizations to the contextual menu were generally accessible in two clicks rather than one click, which rendered them rather useless.Regarding Mail, I do use it at work as my primary e-mail client. I use it at home to mirror my personal Gmail via IMAP because, like you, I want to have my data in several places. Since you are handling so much e-mail, I would recommend looking into 1) Smart Mailboxes and 2) Mail rules, especially those that use Applescript to interact with non-Mail apps. Similarly, you may find Smart Folders within Finder to be helpful (e.g, PDFs or Word documents that were modified in the last two days and are stored in your Documents or Downloads folders). Once created, you can then drag these Smart Folders to the sidebar in your Finder window. These are a few big timesavers for me.For example, at work I pipe all event invitations to a separate Gmail account using an a Mail rule & basic Applescript (which opens Gmail for me, so I can easily accept and modify the event). I use Calaboration to sync the Google Cal and my work iCal. Alternatively, one could use the CalDAV method described here (http://www.google.com/support/calendar/bin/answ…), which seems more elegant.

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  7. toddsieling

    For 1, Paul is quite right. Drag and drop is very versatile in Mac OS, for example you can drag an image out of safari and into a drawing application rather than saving it as a file.You can also do 2 from the keyboard with command-return on the result, which will open a finder window with the item selected. This also works in many applications that manage files, like itunes.For 3, if the email contains a date and/or time, you can hover over that to get a small drop-down. This is called a data detector, and the menu will contain items for creating ical events using that info. Not quite what you're talking about, but a half step away.For 4, I can't think of anything that would change that behaviour. I'd be a steak sandwich that in a few weeks you won't notice it anymore, though. The mind is way more fluid in habit forming and dropping than we expect.Getting to the menu bar using the keyboard is control-f2, (control-fn-f2 if you're on a macbook).Congrats on the mac.

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  8. cjottawa

    My girlfriend said the same thing: replace Spotlight with Quicksilver. The latter is like the former on steroids.

    Reply

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