From Windows to Mac: Another Convert

Mac OS X FinderI’ve been using, playing and struggling with Windows since version 3.0.  Before that, I used pretty much every version of MS-DOS.  I’ve poured a lot of my money into Microsoft.  I’ve watched them go from enthusiastic techno geeks, to arrogant robber barons.

When Vista was announced, I vowed not to donate another dime to the mighty Microsoft marketing machine.  I was planning on going to Linux.  But when push came to shove, I didn’t want to spend days struggling with obscure arcana.  So I decided to go with an OS hailed as a paragon of ease of use: OS X.

By and large, I’m happy with my decision.  But the fact is, I’m still struggling with how to get things done under this new (to me) OS.  Thankfully, I have a number of friends and colleagues who have already made the transition, and are happy to light the way for me.

In addition to the Mac, I also support a couple of Linux machines, both Ubuntu, at home.  So, when I seek out a software solution, I try to locate one which is open source, and cross platform (meaning I can run the same software on Linux, OS X and Windows).  Yes, this restricts my choices, and yes it sometimes makes things more complicated than they would otherwise be.  But I have to tell you, there’s great satisfaction in supporting and participating in one of the most powerful movements of our time.

In spite of my commitment to open source, and my dread of Microsoft, there’s no getting away from Windows for me: as a software developer, and sometimes system administrator to friends and family, I have to support all modern versions of Windows.

But back to the Mac: it’s not all peaches and cream.  Contrary to what the fanboys might have you believe, there are some warts on the OS, and I’m here to expose them.  (These issues are taken from my experiences with the MacBook Pro.  Some of these may not be relevant to other models.)

Edit Navigation

As you type text on the MBP, you’ll inevitably want to move back a couple of words to fix a typo.  Then you’ll need to move forward to the end of the line and resume your sentence.  Sadly, using the keyboard for moving back and forth among the words you’ve just typed isn’t terribly standardized in the OS X universe.  You can usually count on alt-arrow (aka option-arrow) to move one word at a time.  Sometimes you can use command-arrow to move to the beginning or end of the current line, but not all the time.  Depending on the application, it may decide what you really want to do is switch spaces (this allows you to have multiple desktops).

In any case, it’s frustrating and stupid, and whoever screwed this up needs to be soundly horesewhipped.

But wait, it gets better.  When you use alt-arrow to go from word to word, when you’re going to the left the cursor sits at the beginning of the word it’s just passed.  When going to the right, it sits at the end of the word it’s just passed.

OK, that’s not stupid, it’s just something you need to be aware of, and get used to.

Window Manipulation

You know how in Windows (yes, the MS kind), you can grab just about any side or corner of a window and stretch or shrink?  Well you can’t do that in OS X.

In OS X you have two controls for manipulating the window: the titlebar, which lets you drag the window around, and the lower right corner, which lets you resize the window.  Which means if you want to stretch the left side of the window, you first have to move it to the left using the titlebar, then grab the lower right corner and stretch to the right.

What’s even more annoying than this tomfoolery, is that Apple-oids will try to defend this indefensible stupidity.

One-Way Delete

I’m pretty certain this is an MBP-only issue.  In Windows, and Ubuntu, and just about every OS I’ve ever played with, you have backspace and delete: two ways to delete characters.  Backspace kills characters to the left of the cursor, and delete kills them on the right.

On the MBP you only get Delete, and it deletes to the left.  This is frustrating and counter-productive.

Fanboys will tell you it’s because the MBP keyboard was laid out just so.  This is a crock: there’s plenty of room to add a couple more keys.

Conclusions

I’m delighted to be weaning myself off Windows; but Apple is making an already difficult transition more complicated by insisting on decidedly poor UX elements.  (UX: User Experience)  Ironically, the Mac is lauded specificly for its terrific UX.  I think they’ve got a ways more to go.

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