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Switching to OS X from Windows 7 ?
on February 23, 2012
Please note that this is a review for the February 2011 model but I am posting it here since the configuration is almost the same. (also because more people could read this before buying a MBP)
I have been a Windows user since I started using a computer and I never used a Mac OS X till I actually bought a MBP in May 2011. So, this review would really help someone who is considering a Mac for the first time and wants to use it either at school or to remotely connect to work. This article summarizes what you would love and what you could be missing.
I previously owned a desktop, a HP laptop and a Compaq laptop before I bought a MBP. Also, I still use Windows machine at work. One of the major reasons I bought the MBP was because it was available on a eBay deal from Macmall for $950. I assumed that if I did not like it, I could always sell it for at least $850 on eBay or Craigslist.
Before reading the next part, please do understand that MBP and OS X come together. Things you need to know --
Switching between applications - This is one of my biggest quirks with OS X. Windows 7 does an awesome job in switching between applications. When you want to switch between the applications, you use ALT+TAB in Windows 7 and this would shift the focus to the next application. In OS X, you can switch between applications by using CMD+TAB but it does not automatically bring up the other application, it just changes the active application in menu bar (if the application was minimized). I never understood the reasoning behind this, why would I just want to see the menu bar of the other application, I cannot imagine doing anything just with a menu bar.
After some search on the internet I found the work around to do this in OS X. The answer is to press CMD+TAB followed by the option key (just before releasing the CMD key) to switch between the applications perfectly. You can also scroll your four fingers on the track pad to bring up all the applications and then highlight the application you want to choose to change the active application window. It is simply irritating to switch between keyboard and the track pad when you are typing some document or email. You can also use one of the function key buttons instead of using the four fingers but at the end of the day Windows 7 does a great job here.
Please do note that you can only switch directly between applications but not directly to the active window of an application when you used CMD+TAB, for example you cannot switch directly to a second excel workbook, you have to bring up the application first and only then switch to the second workbook. I am aware that there is software available (namely Witch for $14) to do this but I already paid for the machine and why should I go through all this trouble and change the system registry entries to simply switch between applications.
-->UPDATE We can also use spaces and assign some shortcuts to spaces(like option+arrow) to make the switch between applications easier but you need to assign a different space to every application and this could be tedious after some time. Also the animations could make you dizzy after a while.
Switching within an application - To switch between the various windows of the same application, the answer is to press CMD+~, it works but what if I have 3 open excel workbooks. Same answer as above, scroll the four fingers or press the function key to see all active windows.
Taskbar could be a big deal - It is irritating not to have a task bar in OS X. You can never actually know that you had two open excel workbooks or two separate browser windows at a glance. To put this into context, try working in Windows 7 grouping all your applications together all the time, in Windows 7 the users have the option to ungroup individual windows by selecting "Combine only when taskbar is full" in the taskbar properties. The problem with this approach in OS X is that you will never know all the application windows unless you display all the active windows or highlight the application in the docking bar.
Also, the docking bar still occupies a substantial amount of screen space even in its minimal size , in Windows 7 the taskbar is comparively small. Due to the screen size and resolution constraints we usually tend to hide this docking bar on the 13" MBP so that we can see the applications in the maximum available screen space. So either compromise on seeing the active applications in docking bar or full screen mode for applications.
Again, the app Witch is the answer for taskbar but it will display these active windows only when we press CMD+TAB.
Full Screen - I am addicted to see everything in maximized window mode in Windows 7 machines, I could never be satisfied with the default resized small windows, so I installed a free application RightZoom to address this issue. So far, so good.
Microsoft Office - The experience of using Microsoft Office on OS X is pretty subpar in comparison to Windows 7, may be it the fault of Microsoft but it is simply pretty hard for someone to transition from Office 2010 in Windows 7 to Office 2011 in OS X. For example, I am used to zooming in and out of Microsoft Word using Ctrl+Scroll Up(on trackpad) and Ctrl+Scroll Down but this option is not available as shortcut in the OS X version of Office. I wanted to type a formula for a cell in Excel and cannot find the formula bar. May be someone can help me if they know a way around enhancing this experience.
Quick Links - The docking bar essentially acts likes the quick link shortcuts in Windows 7. CMD+W closes the application and CMD+Q quits the application, you have to be careful enough not to press Q instead of W.
Delete button - There is no substitute to Shift+Delete in OS X(CMD+del). Deletion followed by emptying trash is the only way to do it, if you are someone who is addicted to deleting the file at once there is no shortcut.
Cut + Paste - There is no such option as 'Cut+Paste' in OS X. If you want to move something to a different folder, you have to copy and paste the file into the target folder and then delete the original from the source folder. Or select the file and carefully drag the file from the source into the target folder.
Preview - Preview can be used to view PDF files and image files. Preview can also be used to make some markings in a PDF file, that is pretty cool. But what if I want to see all the pictures in a folder at once using preview, the only option is to select all the images and then right click to open with preview to see the files (In certain situations we can select all images and press space bar and the photos come in a stream slideshow, I learned this recently. Also, every time you open a PDF or an image file the preview application becomes active, I would have preferred the application to quit automatically when I close the image). In summary, it is easier and cooler in Windows 7 to view images.
Software Installation - There is no control panel in OS X. Just drag the file into the trash bin and it is gone. It has traces in your system but essentially it is gone for all practical purposes. I like this easy deletion aspect in OS X.
VPN Connection - Certain (or many?) VPN connection softwares like Juniper cannot be installed on OS X because some of these VPN connections connect using some plugins that are designed specifically for Internet Explorer, which is not available on OS X. I wanted to connect to work using the Microsoft Office remote desktop client but could not do it due to this restriction .
External Applications - All the applications cannot be installed in OS X. There are lots of companies out there that make products just for Windows machines. I had to install StatTools for my course work and the tool could not be installed on OS X, so I had to work from another Windows machine at work on the weekends for my course work. I could have also installed Bootcamp and that comes up next.
Bootcamp - I installed Windows 7 using bootcamp on MBP. I observed that Windows 7 is slow and the hard disk makes squeaky noises when you are trying to open an application in bootcamp, also the track pad experience is not the same despite the various drivers and the keyboard layout is obviously different. You can overcome these problems by connecting the MBP to a HDTV or any monitor and then using a wireless Windows keyboard + mouse but then the whole setup is too much hassle and defeats the purpose of a laptop.
Wakeup time - The MBP is pretty fast on this aspect
OS X Lion - I am still on Snow Leopard and do not see any reason to upgrade to Lion. In fact I observe that a lot of people want to downgrade to Snow Leopard from Lion due to stability issues. The fixes are on their way but do check for performance before the upgrade.
Track pad - This is something you would love to use and a big selling point, you can never think of going back to other laptops after using this. I always used a mouse on the Windows laptops but never even felt the need for a mouse on the MBP. The two finger swipe to scroll and three finger swipe that replace the 'Home' and 'End' buttons, pinch and zoom for PDF document and images are pretty cool options. I was pretty amazed at the track pad when I started learning more about the OS X.
Keyboard - Keys are located spaciously. My previous two laptops frequently had dirt stuck in between the keys which used to drive me crazy.
Heat - HP and Compaq laptops generate so much heat that you can use them as a personal heater (I used to do it). The whirring sound made by my Compaq laptop's heat fan used to be pretty embarrassing for me in my class or in the meetings, I hated opening the laptop. In a contrast, the MBP is very calm, the fan does go up occasionally when you run some intensive applications such as office (along with some other intensive applications) or play graphic video games but you will hardly notice it.
Build - Unibody aluminum build with just 10 screws at the back is something you would appreciate only when you have used other laptops made of plastic material that make creaky sounds every time you lift them. The upper lid of these other plastic material laptops tend to wobble a lot over time but the MBP's lid is pretty stiff even after 7 months of daily use (at least 3 hours a day).
Screen - I personally like the fact there is no slight gap between the glossy screen and border of the lid. In other laptops dust gets stuck between the screen and the plastic and it could be really irritating when you cannot remove the dust. Screen quality, there are different manufacturers for the LCD screen, please search for 9CC3, 9CC5 and 9CC7 to know more about this. I have a 9CC3 (luckily) and it is supposed to be the best one available for a 13" MBP.
Ports - HDMI port is not available directly but you can buy a 10 feet long HDMI output cable for less than $20.
DVD Drive - Other laptops tend to have DVD drive as an attachment but in a MBP it is inseparable (at least by the looks of it). The DVD drives on the two other laptops I owned before MBP used to make a quirky sound when I used to wake them up from sleep or do a restart, no such sounds on the MBP.
Battery - The longest battery life out I could extract from MBP was about 6 hours with browsing. That is pretty good considering that other cheaper laptops can only last for 2.5 hours. Of course you can upgrade your battery on the other laptops but you need to compromise on the weight.
Power Chord and Charger - One of my friends accidentally tripped over a $1000 Sony Vaio's power chord and the machine fell on the floor with brute force. I still remember how anxious he was till the machine powered up. This would not happen with a MBP, the chord attaches to the MBP with magnet, in case of an accident the power chord would detach itself and nothing would still happen to the MBP. The adapter is light weight and you can carry it in a backpack (no big bundles like the ones you see for HP and Dell).
Function Keys - I use the function keys in Windows 7 machines to close application, essentially which means that I am going to just use F4 for pressing Ctrl+F4 or Alt+F4. I like the Apple's way of function keys, pretty easy to use and only contains what we exactly need. Ctrl+F4 and Alt+F4 are replaced by CMD+W in OS X.
Webcam - 720p & perfect for Skype.
Backlit Keyboard - If you have not used one before you will love this option.
Resale Value - Based on the eBay listings I can say that you could expect to recover 75% of the actual value of a MBP if you maintain it well (if sold within a year of purchase).
Apple Warranty - International warranty for 1 year + easy replacement within 3 months + Apple protection for 3 years for $200 (warranty is international again) is really worth it. I felt that my battery was losing its power quickly and Apple Store promptly replaced the battery for me.
Cons (the only one)
Speakers Sound - Sound is kind of low for me, I really wish that it was louder.
So to summarize I am impressed with the hardware by every bit and I really do not have any complaints about the hardware design.
In conclusion, if you are going to use your laptop for Microsoft Office and want to connect to Windows machine through Remote Desktop or VPN, I would recommend not to jump the boat to OS X and instead consider other alternatives listed below. The experience of Microsoft Office, switching between applications and productivity is much better on Windows 7. I am going to still try to adapt to Office 2011 in OS X and if that does not work out I would consider the other Ultrabooks.
I would still recommend a MBP if you want to buy a laptop for casual browsing and simple applications at home, the hardware design is pretty awesome.
Alternatives to consider - Similar hardware design with Windows 7 would be a very good combination and that brings me to Windows Ultrabooks. Ultrabooks are about the same price (or in most of the cases cheaper than MBP), faster with a SSD and are very appealing with Windows 8 soon on the cards. I read on tech websites that HP Envy Spectre 14, Lenovo U300S, Asus Zenbook, HP Folio 13, Dell XPS and Samsung Series 9 are pretty well built like a MBP but run on Windows 7. Currently, HP Envy Spectre 14 has got the best reviews of all the ultrabooks as of now and Asus is about to release their second iteration of zenbooks soon, so thats some good news if you are a Windows fan.