It’s no secret that I’m a Mac fan; after all, on a website with the tagline Macs and more you’d think it’s pretty obvious. That doesn’t mean that I don’t use Windows at all, or that I despise it completely. For some jobs, I need to use Windows, often because of software requirements. Mostly this involves work with my engineering class, but sometimes it’s smaller programs that just aren’t available anywhere else.
After using Windows for a while, then returning to OS X, I have found a number of things that I truly miss when using software from Redmond.
Conversations with hardware
When I plug something like a flash drive into my MacBook, this is what usually happens:
5 second pause and the disk mounts on the desktop.
On Windows, it’s more like a conversation with a hyper child.
“You’ve inserted something into a port.”
“Drivers have been found for this item.”
“You may now use this item, but only after going to My Computer.”
If the operation is successful, just mount the disk. Don’t share any technical information unless something is wrong.
Application switcher is a two way street
In both operating systems, application switcher works in much the same way. Using either Command + tab (Mac) or Alt + tab (Windows), you can switch between open applications very easily. When working between two programs, this can be a huge timesaver.
The problem when I use Windows is Alt + tab only lets you move in one direction. Countless times I have tried in vain to use the arrow keys to return to a program that I have passed, but instead I have to go past all the other open applications.
Not only is the Mac application switcher convenient, it is also droppable. Dragging a file onto an open program icon will open it in that program; something that is not available in Windows.
Introduced as a part of Mac OS X Panther, Exposé has become a vital part of my computer usage. When there are multiple documents and windows open, Exposé is far more efficient for navigating than ALT + tab or using the taskbar. Even the new Flip 3D interface from Vista does not enable the quick window transition that Exposé has.
PDFs were developed by Adobe as a way to share documents without worrying about fonts, or layout problems. In the process, it has become one of the few, if not the only truly universal file type for using computers. In OS X, making a PDF is as simple as opening the Print dialog box and pressing a button, after which the PDF can be emailed, split apart, joined with additional documents, or saved permanently. When using programs that not every computer user has, this is incredibly useful. Sadly, the only way to create PDFs using Windows is to purchase Adobe’s Acrobat.
In the early days of OS X, the Dock was met with some resistance as a method for launching and monitoring applications. After 5 iterations of the system, I now find the Dock to be a much easier and better organized method for applications than a task bar or Start menu. Over the course of a work day, I may only use a few applications, but these are often open all the time. It is entirely possible to have a program running without cluttering up the screen with a program window. By comparison, most Windows applications need to be visible when they are opened, leaving a small amount of screen space for other jobs.
As you may notice, these features are from the computer’s “out of the box” state. Many are available as 3rd party add-ons, but that is beyond the scope of the post.
[tags]Mac OS X, Windows, Dock, Expose, Microsoft, Apple[/tags]