5 Months-ish with the MacBook Pro

It’s been just about 5 months now that I’ve been  using the MacBook Pro as my work computer.  It’s not my primary computer at home, but when I don’t feel like being tied to my desk or I am away from home, it is my computer.  I am quite familiar with it, though not an Apple expert, by any means.

I have gotten used to everything as best I can and there are still a few things that annoy me – some related to Apple, some not.  I’ll start with the stuff that’s related to Apple.

First, I should preface this with the fact that I use an external keyboard at work.  It’s easier on the hands and I have the full number pad.  I don’t like the command+c and command+v  key combinations for copy/paste.  It’s a much more cramped position than CTRL+C and CTRL+V in Windows, though I am glad there is a key combo for that, I use it all the time.   The other issue I have is with deleting files.  Everything goes to the trash can automatically, which is nice because I can recover stuff from network and removable drives without having it automatically delete and gone forever.  However, I can’t delete a file using the “forward” delete key.  I have to use the “backspace” delete key.  That’s just weird and confusing.

This one is something I’ve complained about many times before and the comments left were “Expose rocks, it’s so much better than Alt-Tab”.  Wrong… well, at least in my case.  I Alt-Tab quite a bit.  I use it to get between programs and windows.  I still am not 100% used to Command-Tabbing to the program and then Command-Tilda-ing to the window.  That’s not intuitive and not easy.  Expose is cool and all, but I have to grab the mouse, drag it to the hot corner, and then drag it to the window I want, and if I’m not on the correct virtual desktop (yes I use Spaces), then I still need to Command-Tab.  Perhaps I should stop using Spaces?  I don’t think so.

The last thing that annoys me is the lack of a “Start Menu” (I know the Start Menu is something that Windows haters love to hate).  The thing I like about the Start Menu is easy access to all my applications without having to open Finder, choose Applications and then go to the one I want.  With the Start Menu, it’s all in a nice easy menu.  Personally, I think Applications should be a sub-menu of the Apple menu.  I like the Dock, it’s nice and easy to access all my more frequently used applications.  I generally use Spotlight to find the applications I don’t use as frequently, but sometimes I like to look through the whole list of them.  For some reason, I remember this being part of MacOS at some point (might have been pre-OS X).

Print Screen… Why the heck is there no Print Screen button on the keyboard?  Instead, there are some crazy key combinations that do, admittedly, perform some nice functions (taking a snapshot of an active window or the menu bar or something like that, or taking a snippet of a window, or doing the whole damn screen).  But when I want to quickly take a screenshot, I have to remember what those keys are (and I don’t, so I have Apple’s OS X keyboard shortcut page bookmarked).

Now onto the non-Apple stuff…

Entourage… The new version (2008) is better than the previous.  It looks better and fits in better.  That’s all fine and well, but it’s still not Outlook.  I know it was never meant to be Outlook, but I don’t understand why.  So if someone from Microsoft or who knows someone (or knows someone who knows someone who knows someone) at Microsoft, find out for me.  It’s really annoying and really pointless.  Just face the facts… not everyone is or has the option of using Windows, yet they are in an Exchange shop (like me).  I do like everything else in the new Office 2008, but Entourage still annoys me.  The biggest issue I have with it is that it will not sync my distribution lists on Exchange with Entourage, but it did grab all my other contacts from Exchange.  I had to sit and re-build all the distribution lists I had because of that.  The next version of Office for MacOS should have Outlook, not Entourage (which is really some crazy combination of Outlook and Outlook Express).  Still somewhat on the topic of Entourage is My Day.  I was originally under the impression that it was part of Entourage, yet it runs as it’s own application.  That surprised me the first time I ran it.  I do use it and refer to it often, but it should be part of Entourage, like the “To-Do” panel in Outlook 2007.

Firefox… I’m still on Firefox 2, mainly because I am not willing to play with beta software.  I know Firefox 3 should fix some of my issues, but I doubt it’ll fix all of them.  My biggest issue is the looks.  It looks like a Windows app.  That’s going to be fixed.  That’s good.  I don’t know why it wasn’t originally themed to look like an OS X app to begin with.  I hate that it doesn’t use the Apple widgets.  That should also be fixed.  My next biggest issue is that I use Firefox in it’s own virtual Desktop to avoid clutter.  When I Command-Tab to it or click on it’s Dock icon, it brings me to Firefox, but doesn’t give the window focus.  That’s stupid and really annoying.  Every other app I use works normally with that.  I have gotten used to having to click on an app before I can click a link or something, but when I click on an app’s icon or Command-Tab to it, it should have focus, that’s why I did that to begin with.  Finally, the Home and End keys do not work in web forms in Firefox (like the one I’m using to write this).  Instead, I have to hit Command-Left or Right Arrow, and even that doesn’t work all the time depending on the page.

So those are all my issues so far… now here’s what I like.  The keyboards (external and laptop) are really nice, though I wish the external one had extra plastic as I find myself leaning and accidentally pressing the Control key.  They have nice feedback and have a great feel to them.  I have finally gotten used to the ambient light sensor and I love it.  The battery life is awesome.  The wireless easily (more easily than Windows) connects to the enterprise Wi-Fi connection at work.  Fast user switching is nice and slick (I like the box rotating and wish that’s how Spaces worked).

However, I still stand by my notion that this is neither better nor worse than Windows.  They are both simply different tools to perform the same tasks.  If I knew nothing about computers, maybe the Apple would be more intuitive, but I know plenty of people who switched from Windows and had a very hard time figuring out the Apple way (one with an iMac even said that she needed an external optical drive, not realizing it was a slot fed drive on the side of the thing).

Someday, I’ll switch my primary home PC to Ubuntu Linux and I’ll write a review on that.  That will be a big project, though, and I am not sure when I’ll have the time for it (I need first backup Susan’s data onto my computer, reformat hers for XP Pro, then backup my computer to hers, and do the switch… hers needs to be done first so that she’s not without a computer).

23 thoughts on “5 Months-ish with the MacBook Pro”

  1. Drag any folder to the trashcan area of the dock and it will be an alias to the original folder. a click opens it. waaaaaalllllaaaaaaaa!!!! start menu

  2. Couple of quick comments…
    You don’t have to use the mouse for expose. Use the keyboard. You can, for example, set one of the keys to show all open windowss (navigate with arrow keys). Set another key to show open windows in the front-most application (again, navigate to the one you want with the arrow keys). The preference for Alt tab over command tab is probably just the result of habit. You may or may not ever come to like using the Mac way for this. For an Application submenu, just create your own in the right side of the Dock.

  3. That forward-delete thing gets a lot of Windows expatriates. What I really hate is that, if you’re using a full keyboard, some apps support the forward delete key and others don’t (same thing with “Home” and “End”). The other thing that trips up Windows users is hitting “Enter” (or “Return”) on a highlighted icon in the Finder expecting it to open the item. It’s one of the things that gets me when I switch between Windows and Mac. That and switching between Command and Control as key modifiers.

    I too prefer Command-Tabbing over Exposé, but I think it’s just a force of habit – I’ve been doing that so long it’s hard to learn a different action. Another reason I CMD-Tab is that I tend to “hide” applications when they’re not in use, which makes Exposé pointless. The one thing I do love Exposé for is when I want to quickly grab something that’s on the desktop – just whoosh any open windows out of the way.

    And, with the tip about putting a folder in the dock, if you right-click (or control-click, if you’re using the trackpad or one button mouse), it opens as a menu. This is a little different in 10.5 with “Stacks”, but you can set it up the same way (and I think you don’t have to right- or control-click, just a regular click).

  4. Like Tim says, if you’re using Mac OSX v10.5 you don’t need to go to the finder and click the applications folder to open it. You can access all your applications by clicking the applications folder icon in the dock, on the end closest to the trash can (if it’s not already there, just drag the applications folder from the finder into the dock in the section by the trash can). When you click it, all the apps in the folder immediately pop out into a grid display, from which you can select any program. The same principle applies to any folder you place in the dock. I would argue that it’s slightly faster than using the start menu in Windows.

    If you’d rather use CTRL than Command for keyboard shortcuts, you can.

  5. I think many of the issues people switching have is that in the macos it really is often too simple to figure out – like dragging any folder to your dock and then using that as a hierarchical menu (start menu) for anything in the folder. Your expose issue could probably be solved by simply assigning key combinations for expose and using the arrow keys to navigate. I’ve found with my windows friends who’ve moved over that the real problem is that they haven’t taken the time to learn all the little tricks and ins and outs of the system. When I show them how to do something, they usually respond with: “Oh, it’s that easy. I see….”

    Apple should really include a good switcher manual – or just a regular manual!

  6. My two cents:

    • From the finder, Command Shift A takes you right to your applications folder.

    • Screen captures – http://jingproject.com/ – this little program lets you take screen captures, but also lets you record your computer’s actions and then it makes a handy little flash video. The program installs a menu bar item which allows for easy access. There is also built in “send to flickr” and “send to screencast.com” features, making it easy to upload your screenshots to the web.

  7. For tabbing between open windows in all apps, a la windows, use the excellent “witch” System Preference
    For really great screen options, including quicker ability to do a print screen, use the excellent “skitch”

    And don’t ask me why both end with “ch”

  8. Amazing. The things that get you all hot an bothered are things that don’t function like Windows. If you wanted Windows, just get it. If you want a Mac, use a Mac.

    Whatever you do…just grow up and quit whining like a small child: “This hamburger doesn’t taste the same as the one I’m used to so I’m gonna throw a fit. Waaaaa! Waaaa!”

  9. @Don

    Amazing, most everyone else posted helpful comments. You’re the only one who had to be an ass. I’m using a Mac because I come from a Windows background and now have to support Macs. I’ve had very limited experience with them in the past, and it was all MacOS 7-9, quite different than OS X. I am simply pointing out usability things that make using Windows easier for me and trying to find ways to make using the Mac just as easy. At no point have I said I am anti-Mac. I am just not a fanboy of any OS. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.

  10. The fact that Macs have different keyboard combinations than Windows machines is not a weakness of the Mac, but you imply that it is. Microsoft’s keyboard commands are just as arbitrary, but you have long since forgotten the frustration and effort spent to burn them into your brain, so you dump on the Mac for not being “intuitive” (as if the Windows way was inherently intuitive. Apparently one of Windows greatest strengths is being exactly like Windows. 🙂

    Anyway, here are a few Mac tips:

    For screenshots, check out the Grab.app program in the Utilities folder. It has some very nice features.

    To open the Applications window in the Finder, the keyboard shortcut is command-shift-A.

  11. @Brett

    I am not implying anything. I am speaking in general. Being a way above average computer user, I have had no problem figuring most things out, but the stuff I mentioned here is the least intuitive of it all.

    I am actually curious about the history of the Apple keyboard. I imagine the 101 key keyboard (Windows keyboard without the 3 windows keys) came first. Why did Apple use something different?

    As for the key combinations, the weakness is where the keys are located. It’s not as easy to hit Command C/V as it is Control C/V. Command-Tab/Tilda is a weakness. To me, it’s more intuitive to switch between all open windows rather than open applications and then windows within that specific app. But that’s just me.

    Yes, these are complaints coming from a Windows user, but that doesn’t mean that I think the Mac is inferior in any way. It does some things better (like startup time… for the most part). As I said before, I am not a zealot of any single operating system. I look at them all as tools to get similar tasks done. Some are better at some things than others, but none are superior to the other.

  12. It sounds like most of the annoyances you list are transitional ones, and that’s to be expected. Although if it’s been 5 months, and you still haven’t gotten into the groove of the new key commands and whatnot, maybe it’ll just take a bit more practice. If you have an Apple store nearby, they offer a training/consulting service called ‘One to One’ that may help you get over some hurdles. Ask about it if you can.

    I would argue the ‘weird and confusing’ and ‘not intuitive and not easy’ statements could easily be used by someone making a transition from Mac to Windows, as well. After all, you were used to using a cut-rate knockoff of the Mac OS in the form of Windows, and it did things a bit differently. That’s a complaint I see a lot of, though, and it comes from being conditioned to do things a certain way over the course of many years. (And you do say as much later in the post). Bravo to you for being bold enough to try something new!

    As far as the Entourage / Outlook / Exchange issue…I used to support Macs in an Exchange environment. All I can say is: hey — look who publishes the software. Does it surprise you? The only guess I have as to why the name is different is that since some of the core Exchange/Windows stuff isn’t integrated into the application, they changed it’s name to Entourage to avoid any confusion (it used to be called Outlook circa 2001 and earlier). That may also explain why the formats are incompatible with one another (although if they stuck with standard .mbox files across the board, there wouldn’t be any issues).

  13. I think some of the Apple shortcuts are MUCH more intuitive. How about Command-Q to quit. That makes much more sense than ALT-F4. To close a window? Command-W instead of CTRL-F4.

    If I recall correctly, Microsoft changed its cut, copy, paste to be more similar the Mac’s key combos. Remember in DOS it was something like delete to cut and insert to paste? It’s been so long that my memory is clouded and I’m too lazy to Google it. But I remember the keys were different. INS and DEL would make sense, but then Microsoft changed them (AFTER the Mac came out).

    How about Command-H to hide applications? The Windows equivalent is, um. Is there one?

    I’m a Windows convert (since 2001) and I haven’t had many problems adjusting to Command-XCV. I’m trying to figure out what fingers I use. I guess I use my thumb to press the command and then pointer to press one of the others. It’s never been a problem, except when I go back to Windows and hit Command/Windows key by accident.

    And Expose’ ROCKS!


  14. By the way, Sebhelyesfarku must be the typical Windowstard. They are the overgeneralizing, prejudicial ignoramuses of computing.

    Now, I’m not calling all Windows users Windowstards. Just making a point about Sebhelyesfarku’s post.

    cyborg Mac fanatic

  15. I use a dirrefent approach to app launching/switching. Apps that I use frequently at all are on the dock – one click launch, quicker than the start menu. I do have the Applications folder on my dock, but I rarely use it. Other apps, I launch using Spotlight – type a few chararters and hit enter.

    I don’t use either Cmd-Tab or Expose. I just run each app in its own space, then navigate by clicking on the appicons in the dock or using Ctrl-arrow or Ctrl-number (or the Spaces icon). Since you can assign each app to a particular space, it is easy to remember that browsers are always space 1, cirtual machines are space 3, etc.

    I do think you invited some of the criticism by complaining about Cmd-V rather than Ctrl-V, etc. because 1)the Mac keys are better thought out and more consistent, 2)this is about as trivial an issue as could be imagined, and 3)you can always remap the keys.

  16. @ex2bot

    Even if MS copied Apple with the copy/paste shortcuts, it’s still a whole lot easier on the fingers (and @Bob, maybe I did, but it’s a valid complaint as someone who uses those shortcuts quite frequently).

    As for the Command Q, that makes sense… but I HATE that I can’t close an application with the close window button, as I can in Windows. That’s something that I am just starting to get used to, but still find myself forgetting. I do plan on following some of the suggestions, like the Applications folder on the Dock (and I do put the more commonly used apps, and some others, on the Dock).

    And yes, a lot of what I’m complaining about is stuff that would change after time, but these are the most common things I use just about all day every day.

  17. At the risk of sounding like a fanboy, Exposé is something that I flat out cannot live without, and I miss it severely when having to use Windows XP at work.

    Suppose you have a document open in Word, and you want to save it as an attachment in a Mail message. Save the file in Word and click and drag the little word document icon right next to the document’s filename in the window title. Press the Exposé function key and mouse over to Mail (all the while dragging the icon). Wait a second and Exposé selects the Mail application and closes down. Finally, let go of the mouse button to drop the Word document icon in your compose window. Voilà, you have attached a Word document into your mail message, without having to use the Finder, or the little “Attach” toolbar button and wading through your filesystem.

    My recommendation is try a little experimentation – you may discover ways to perform certain activities much faster than you would have thought possible. Hope this helps.

  18. It’s interesting to read the differences in the way a person who has used Windows for a long time perceives the Mac OS. As a long-time Mac user, I perceive the Windows OS as difficult. I don’t like the way Windows handles, well, windows. For example, I can be in Outlook and have 3 messages open. I can also have Word and a web browser window open. When I hit alt-tab, I see 6 choices, 3 of which are just different emails, all with exactly the same icon. On the mac, I’d see 3 choices, and when within the mail program, I can command-` to switch windows, or use an expose hotkey to view the windows. Also, in Windows I go to close out my main outlook reader window, and it wants to quit the program, even though I’ve got an email I’m still working on. Also, you get these issues where it says “you can’t close this because there’s a dialog box open” but you have to sift through 4 open outlook windows to find it. To me, closing a window shouldn’t quit an application unless it’s a simple one-window application such as calculator. And I don’t like the “window-within-a-window” thing in Word and the Adobe apps. You try to close the window you’re working on and miss by 3 pixels and you’ve now quit the whole app. Very annoying. Perhaps it’s because I’m used to the Mac way, but using Windows at work for years (and for hours each day) and Mac at home, I have to say the Mac is far more efficient and effective at managing the GUI.

  19. Um, well the Mac keyboard certainly predates the “Windows” keyboard by six years… Since the Mac came out in 1984 and the first widely used version of Windows in 1990.

    When Apple designed its keyboard in the early 80s, they were trying to simplify the DOS keyboard… that’s why there aren’t DOS-related buttons like Print Screen (PrntSc), which was used in DOS for literally printing the contents of the screen to your text-only printer. (It would be a while before the IBM PC would support Dot Matrix printing.)

    I used DOS back in the day, pre-Windows, and the Crtl key wasn’t for menu shortcuts. Remember, there were no such thing as menus in DOS! (The Ctrl key was intended solely for entering control characters in the terminal.) When Apple invented what we know as the desktop GUI (yes, borrowing many ideas from Xerox but adding plenty), they added “keyboard shortcuts” for common pulldown menu commands – Quit, Copy, Open, Save, etc, and the Command key was designed exclusively for this use. Only later, when the Mac became used for UNIX terminal operations, did Apple add a “Control” key for this rare use.

    Of course Windows started to copy Apple’s features in the ensuing years. (I remember how jarring it was to see Quit, Save, Copy, Paste, etc. on a PC for the first time, since the language and placement was identical.) Since they didn’t control the hardware specifications for the IBM PC clones, they couldn’t add a special command key for keyboard shortcuts, so they borrowed a key meant for another purpose.

  20. Best app switcher of all is so simple, and so often missed. If your mouse has a scroll wheel button function (i.e. you can depress the scroll wheel as well as roll it, as most including the mighty mouse do), then in system preferences under “keyboard and mouse”, choose mouse form the options, and change the scroll wheel option to “application switcher”. A simple depression of the scroll wheel brings up a mid-screen horizontal list of all open applications, and you use the wheel (while still depressed to scroll and switch between them. So simple! You can even quit applications by scrolling to them, and hitting “Q” with the scroll wheel still depressed, without switching from your current open app. Apple should make this really useful feature more obvious.

  21. You may hate that you can’t close an application by closing its window, but I LOVE IT.

    Mac OS X allows you to keep all your useful programs on and available at al times. There isn’t a burden on the system for doing this. This makes it easy to spontaneously open up documents you want to work with. The whole program doesn’t have to be reloaded into memory like Windows. It also isn’t like Windows, where the program that is running becomes unclear as its button gets squished so you can’t see the names as more and more windows are opened.

    It’s OK to forget that a program is running. If it is (and generally is) a well behaved program (unlike Firefox which has a huge memory leak), then it takes up little or no system resources in Mac OS X. Having multiple programs running simultaneously is one of the great abilities on the Mac.

    I find it funny that Windows pushes people into using one program at a time. Programs, for example, can take up the entire screen, blocking out other programs. In the default, each application’s windows are all referenced by individual windows on the task bar – which becomes unreadable as more windows are opened.

    On a Mac, it is very natural to multitask by having numerous applications on at the same time. For many programs, I prefer to open them without a default window so that they are ready to go when I am ready to go, not vice versa.

  22. @James Katt

    Thanks for the info. I assumed all programs were using up a lot of resources when I kept them open. Now I’ll just leave them open until I shutdown at the end of the day.

    You do have a little mis-information about Windows though. Since WinXP, they combine the taskbar buttons for windows spawned from the same process after the taskbar gets full. The button then becomes a menu for that particular application (all Outlook windows under 1, all IE under another, etc). They also don’t force you to view the window at full screen, though I do for most things because I like as much visible area as possible on webpages and documents that I’m viewing/editing. I have the windows maximized on the Mac as well for the same reason. I hate scrolling all the time. But you can change the size of the windows in Windows just as you can on the Mac. The difference is that the Maximize button in Windows fills the screen (which I actually like).

    I’m hoping Firefox 3 fixes the memory leak (which it supposedly does). I prefer it to Safari, but depend on too many extensions to use the beta version.

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