After three weeks, what’s really being used?

When I started writing about my MacBook three weeks ago I figured it would be a great way to capture what it’s like for a total Windows snob to open up and add a Mac to his collection of computers. What I didn’t expect was that I would actually make a small 5 pound laptop my primary machine when I have some serious Windows and Linux hardware sitting right next to me.

Okay, it’s not really my primary machine just yet because I’m still doing all of my product development on my Windows XP system. I’m still searching for something that can even come close to replacing Microsoft Visual Studio and the .NET development environment but I can’t. Since I’m also in the process of building up my next online product it would be too much of a wrench in the machinery to move everything over to Mac. Not that I haven’t thought about it!

When I decided I would blog about my adoption of a Macintosh, I wanted to try and capture what it’s like for a Windows guy to get a Mac. Many of the people I’ve spoken to about their Macs have been using them for a long time and they take for granted things that newbies like me would find helpful.

What that means is that some of the stuff I write about I will fall out of favor with – or I’ll find new things to replace them. I’m always on the lookout for cool stuff that could make my system perform better or make me more productive. So here is my list of what I’m using regularly three weeks in:

I’m actually going to put together an entire post on Safari vs Firefox shortly. Suffice it to say right now I spend the vast majority of my time using Safari. There is a lot to talk about on this.

I’m on AIM all day and right now iChat is my client. Without question the greatest appeal with iChat is actually the fact that my MacBook has an iSight camera attached and that being able to visually chat with friends and my daughter at Virginia Tech has been way cool. At some point I want to look at Adium – I constantly hear good things about it – but right now iChat is working fine.

I’ve invested some time in iPhoto, importing my 19K + photo collection into it. So far it’s serviceable – but I think I’m going to need something more. On the Windows side I’m still a huge fan of Picasa. If only Google made a Mac version of that…

I’m still working on the trial of iWork – but I really like Pages, the word processor. My trial of Microsoft Office has been… unimpressive. It runs really, really slow. Pages on the other hand is very fast and can open the new DOCX files I’ve been getting from some people.

This is my news reader of choice. NetNewsWire is simple and works nicely. I was originally playing with Google Reader – a pure online reader – but NNW makes queuing up articles that I want to read very easy.

As I mentioned before, I’m using it to pull down my Gmail accounts, though I tend to switch right into the Gmail web interface almost immediately. I’m really just keeping it going because it gives me notifications that new Gmail has arrived, it allows me to click Send To links on a web page and if I’m off-line and feel the urge to create a message and sent it later, I can do that.

Since I’m a software developer my most fundamental tool of the trade is a text editor. I’ve got a trial of TextMate right now, mainly because I needed it when I was evaluating doing my development work in Ruby on Rails. While ROR is out for now, I think I’ll be buying that TextMate license – it’s a great text editor.

So there you have it – my short list of every day applications. There are lots of others I use casually; I played with iMovie (cool but a bit underpowered – I want better timeline control). Carbon Copy Cloner is a must have tool and I’m looking forward to doing my HTML editing on my Mac using CSSEdit, though it’s not an every day tool for me just yet. I also tried out VMWare Fusion and installed Windows XP on my Mac. Worked like a charm but I haven’t tried putting Visual Studio inside that environment yet so I’m not really using it.

I’m a heavy iPod / iTunes user and while I have my music collection on my Mac as well, my Windows machine has the 5.1 surround sound, great speakers and ample local storage to hold my 200+ GB music collection so that’s staying put for now.

So here is a list of the things I still need: a kick-ass photo management solution that’s better than iPhoto, a great image editing solution (I’ll likely have to just buckle down and pay for Adobe Photoshop CS3), a good general purpose HTML editing platform to complement CSSEdit and finally a nice replacement for Microsoft Visio, another critical application I use on my Windows machine.

A lightweight image editor for doing quick and dirty crops and scaling would also be nice! Photoshop will handle that once I get it but it’s a bit heavy for the quick stuff.


  1. Thanks for the offer Ed – e-mail sent!


  2. Ed Leighton-Dick says

    For the .Net development, have you thought about running Visual Studio in a Windows virtual machine on your Macbook? I’m a .Net/SQL Server developer during the day but enjoy my Macs at night, and I have that sort of environment set up on my Macbook. Windows really does run at nearly full speed on the new virtual machines – it’s a rather nice solution to the problem when you can’t find the native Mac software.

    Feel free to e-mail me if you want more information.



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