Switching to Mac takes the right mindset

Contrary to what some of my friends now think, I don’t actually recommend that everyone run out and get a Mac. Even though I’ve personally been delighted by my Mac experience I know there are others that simply cannot move to a Mac from Windows. If people aren’t willing to make changes to the way they do things chances are their switch will fail and you will likely hear no end of grief from the person that’s getting the machine based on your recommendation.

Changing an operating system is a fairly jarring event for most people because the tools they are used to working with are often in different places. Nothing seems "natural".

I equate it to driving one of the cars that my brother’s company imports from Japan. They are right hand drive high performance cars, yet I am able to operate them fairly well by simply jumping in and driving off. Acceleration, braking and steering work the same as any other car I’ve driven so that’s not a problem. Operating the gear shift on a manual right hand drive car is a little odd because I have to think about it – usually my right hand operates the gear shifter, not the left. Then there are the little details that always throw me off, like trying to make a lane change and turning on the windshield wipers since those controls are on opposite sides of the steering wheel from their American counterparts. My muscle memory is not trained well for it.
In much the same way, OS X and Windows are similar at fundamental levels but different on the surface. Here are a couple of the key differences that I’ve found between Macs and Windows that trip users up and frustrate them:
Keyboard Shortcuts in Text
Command vs Control is the biggest; Control-C is copy in Windows, Command-C is copy in OS X. It takes a little getting used to. More difficult to adjust to is Option-Right arrow in OS X to move a word to the right; it’s Control-Right in Windows. Since the Option/Alt key is sandwiched between the Control and Command keys I have a difficult time getting to it even now, three months in.
I think this is in part because the key in that location on a Windows keyboard is the Start key, the worst key in Windows. Why is it the worst? Try playing a full screen, high speed combat game in Windows and then accidentally hit the Start key. The application minimizes (which is usually a disaster), the game is running in the background and you’re watching your display adaptor try to figure out what to do as it switches graphics modes.
So here I am in BF2, piloting a Blackhawk full of my buddies – we’re ripping through a town at building level when I accidentally hit the dreaded key, the screen flickers and I’m staring at my Start menu. I can hear my buddies online in the background yelling out "WTF?!?" and "DUDE! WHERE ARE YOU GOING?!?" When I am finally able to get back into the game we are inevitably flying into the side of a building or mountain. Everyone dies. Yay Start Key.
Needless to say, experiences like that have made my finger’s muscle memory avoid the Start key region like an iPhone wants to avoid a Blendtec blender. I don’t want to go anywhere near it. I think that’s part of the reason I can’t seem to hit that key on my Mac’s keyboard.
There are two other keys that I’ve found difficult in the transition: Home and End. In Windows Home takes you to the beginning of the current line; in OS X that key scrolls the current window to the top. To get to the beginning of the current line in OS X I hit Command-Left Arrow. I’m still tripping up on that.
A Different Approach to Menus
Another area that Windows users will struggle with is the way the Macintosh handles menus. In Windows each application gets it’s own menu and it is physically attached to the window itself. On OS X there is only one menu and it is parked at the top of the screen; it changes as you change the focus of applications.
While this may seem like a trivial difference it starts to show up as an issue for me because I have dual monitors. If I have an application window parked in the right monitor I need to move the mouse cursor all the way over to the left monitor in order to access any menu options for it. Not everyone will be impacted by this because I think having multiple monitors is a bit rare, especially for recent switchers.
That’s All?
These are just two quick areas; in the past I’ve touched on others as well. There are also differences in window resizing, drag and drop support, quitting applications, file management (don’t assume that dragging folders in OS X has the same effect it has in Windows – it does not), installing and uninstalling applications, etc., etc. On top of this are different applications, peripheral support, etc. Thanks to Eric’s comment yesterday I stumbled across this site: Mac vs Windows. Lots of information in there on the differences and it appears pretty objective.
These changes all translate into challenges for new users. I believe that my switch to Mac has been successful in no small part to the attitude I had when approaching it. I was excited about trying out something new because as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I was pretty bored with Windows. I was ready for something new and fresh and the Macintosh provided that for me.
For this reason I’ve decided to stop pushing a Mac on my wife. It’s going to be a lot easier for her to make the transition if she really wants one. Something tells me that the next time her machine slows to a crawl or gets infected by a virus she will have a boost in her motivation.
In the meantime I’m going to enjoy using my Macs.