Wednesday Sep 24, 2008

Mac vs Vista

Over the last year I've gone from Windows XP to Mac to Vista in a weird series of events where I keep picking up other people's computers. I actually started out on a Mac back in the 80s. My mom had the Big Mac 512, the original series that has a plate on the inside with the signature of the whole development team. I logged many hours playing Dark Castle on that baby. But economics eventually drove us to the PC and I'd been using PCs since college.

So when I picked up a departed colleague's MacBook Pro last year, my excitement quickly turned to annoyance at having to learn another OS. And now that my fingers are finally doing the right things, my MacBook lease ran out and I inherited a Toshiba with Vista on it. Despite the pervasive presumption that Mac does all things right in the usability realm and Windoze is designed by a team of dyslexic monkeys, there are some things that each OS does better than the other. Here's some random thoughts:

Mac Wins

  • Stability Stability Stability You don't miss your water till your well runs dry. Well, one week back on Windows and man am I appreciating the stability of a Mac. I think I had to do a hard reboot maybe twice in the whole year I was on Mac, and although some programs would freeze up, they would never take the whole operating system with them. Windows, well, you know...
  • Performance Performance Performance Same as above. Startup, general responsiveness of the entire system, it's just so much more solid on the Mac. The most annoying example is just putting the computer to sleep and waking it up. Mac - just close the lid and open it again, it never chokes. Windows (or just my Toshiba) - try just closing the lid and it will not be happy when you open it again. Kind of like trying to put my kid to bed when he's not ready. I have to manually put it to sleep first, and on this Vista that takes something like 20 seconds. Royal pain.
  • Expose I know, not very original, but I really got used to it. Windows is I guess trying to copy it with their Start-Tab view, but that's just eye candy over the regular Alt-Tab view. Kind of like lipstick on a hockey mom.
  • QuickSilver Again, has turned into a must-have. Everyone's getting on the built-in search bandwagon. Vista has it in their Start menu now, but it really doesn't work as well as QuickSilver, especially since it just gives you programs and folders and not recent URLs and that kind of stuff. Even NetBeans now has it with the quick search toolbar, which lets you quickly search for commands and files. They're going to put us docs writers out of business! But I digress...
  • Screen-grabs I know, not high on everyone's list but as a former docs writer the ability to grab a screenshot of a certain area and have it come out in a ready-to-use PNG is key. On windows I get a useless full-screen bitmap that I then have to crop and convert in another tool.

Windows Wins

  • Alt-tab Maybe one reason why I like Expose on the Mac so much is because Alt-tab is so totally dysfunctional on the Mac. I just want to Alt-tab between all open windows, please. If I'm writing an email and I want to go back to my inbox, it's ridiculously difficult to do on Mac. I guess they just expect that all Mac users are artists who constantly have one hand on the mouse.
  • Keyboard Shortcuts While we're on the topic, could we please have a common group of keyboard shortcuts for all Mac programs. I'm just talking about simple things, like moving the cursor to the end of a line. Alt-Left Arrow on one program, Command-Left Arrow on another, etc. I love just being able to hit the Alt key and navigate menus in Windows. My default working position is the couch, not the desk, so please don't make me use that track-pad.
  • Surely there must be others...

Actually there are none I can think of right now. But add your comments and I'll add more to this post as it comes to me, I've only had Vista a week so it's all still pretty fresh.




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