Switch to a Mac and You’ll Never Go Back
So. You’re thinking about buying a Mac, eh? Good decision. Of course, you have some reservations. You’ve been a Windows user for years. Can you really let go and embrace the upheaval the Mac brings? You’ve been reading Apple Matters for a while and the writers there have made the Mac sound so appealing, but you have a few more questions.
Will I cut myself off from the rest of civilization?
Despite Apple’s latest advertising campaign for Macs, gently titled “Get a Mac”, you might still be a little reticent. Sure the ads point out things you already knew, and sure they don’t shout it in your face unlike some of your Mac wielding friends, but you’re still saying, “Whoa. A Mac? Won’t it cut me off from the rest of civilization?”
The short answer is yes. But that’s a good thing. You cut yourself off from a plethora of viruses, spyware and other malware. The longer answer is no, no you won’t cut yourself off from the rest of civilization. (Some Mac enthusiasts will argue you will actually be joining the civilized world. And who am I to argue?). And the reasons are to do with compatibilty and usabilty.
What about compatibility?
Compatibility covers three areas. The one that is most important to you as a potential switcher, is not hardware, not software but data. Will my existing files be compatible? Partly that is linked to software, because if the same application is available on both platforms, there’s no compatibility issue.
Do you use Microsoft Office? Good news –- it’s available on the Mac.
Do you use Adobe Photoshop Elements? Good news it’s on the Mac
Do you use iTunes? Good news –- it’s on the Mac.
Do you use MSN Messenger? Yahoo Messenger? Skype? Good news -– they’re on the Mac.
And that’s just the beginning. There is a plethora of applications available that run both on PCs and Macs – including many top line games. Check out CrossOSS which specializes in listing applications that run on both platforms. Otherwise search MacUpdate or Version Tracker for applications that are the same or similar. Mac Game Files is a good starting point for games.
Files or data that don’t have an application available on a Mac, can usually be exported to a common format and then imported into a Mac application.
But what if you are using some rogue application (like MS Publisher) whose files you can’t convert to the Mac? Good news –- the new Intel based Macs can boot up Windows. Consequently you can make a steady transition to a similar Mac application (such as Pages or The Print Shop)
There is not anywhere near the amount of software available for Macs as for Windows. But does that matter? No. Not at all. Windows might have hundreds of thousands of applications, as opposed to the Macs tens of thousands, but how many applications do you need to do a certain task? One. One word processor, one photo editor, one email application, and so on.
Hardware-wise, virtually all digital cameras and video cameras talk to Macs. Likewise most modern printers. USB memory sticks and other portable storage are also no problem. In almost all cases (except printers) you don’t even have to install a driver. And that covers the majority of peripherals most people use nowadays.
How easy is the Mac to learn?
Another question you’ll be thinking is: “Ok, will I have to re-learn everything?” Reasonable question. And the truth is there is a learning curve but at least 80% is the same or very similar.
Buying a Mac is like moving to another country that speaks the same language as you do. Like moving from USA to Australia. We all speak the same basic language but if you move here from the USA, you are going to have to learn the art of swearing; to drive on the right side of the road, which is the left here (yep, left is right here); to write your dates the the right way around; to eat a cold Christmas lunch; to learn to spell all those “z” words with an “s”; and put a “u” between “o” and “r”. And the hardest thing—you have to learn to walk upside down.
It doesn’t take long to familiarize yourself though.
And so it is switching from Windows to Mac. There are some programs you will be familiar with, such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint, iTunes and Photoshop Elements, others that will be familiar enough, like Safari, Mail and Address Book; others that might take some a little time to learn, like iMovie, Garageband; and others that will make you glad you switched like iPhoto and iCal. And the operating system itself, OS X, is even easier to learn.
As an example of how easy learning to use the Mac can be, my brother switched 18 months ago. I’ve had two calls for help since then. Previously, when he had a PC, he’d ring me probably once a month for help (I used to work in PC support roles and therefore I am the family’s support guy). So the platform he’d been using for years he needed significantly more assistance with than the one he was new to. And neither of those calls were about security.
Is the Mac really more secure?
Okay. So Mac users brag about the security record of the Mac’s operating system, OS X. Some debate it’s a case of its small market-share not attracting the miscreants. If large market-share means more problems, where are all the viruses attacking iPods? And why were there so many more viruses for Apple’s previous operating system (Mac OS) when Apple’s market-share wasn’t significantly higher?
The Mac is inherently more secure, and that cannot be argued. As a result, the chances of a virus infection (which is a fully automatic infection, no or absolutely minimal user-assistance required) is quite low. There are possibly security holes in OS X that could be exploited by a virus or a trojan (trojans require some help from the user to infiltrate a computer, and so are usually disguised as friendly programs), but these would be few and so much easier to address and patch. Windows on the other hand, is like a sieve – there seems to be too many holes to patch. As soon as one is, another is found.
Security could be more of an issue in the future for Macs, but you can bet your booty that you won’t be siting around the tearoom discussing all the types of security measures you’ve had to implement, and how really, you’ve got no idea and are living more in hope than anything.
Come on in, the water’s fine
Most people at home use their computers for word processing, email, browsing the web, playing games and storing their digital pictures. Macs do all this with no effort at all. Most of what you do on a PC, you’ll be happily doing less than an hour after plugging your Mac in.
The Mac is a legitimate option nowadays and with its ability to run Windows, you can always go back if you need to.
On my blog QwertyRash, I have started a page with links to articles to assist people in switching. There’s articles on software, getting to know OS X, tips and tricks, and more. It will grow over time, so keep an eye on it.
So why should you switch? Because Macs require less maintenance? Because you don’t have to have a guru on speed-dial? Because they have infinitely less security issues? Yes, all those reasons and more, but most of all:
Because you can.
(Image courtesy Michael Mahoney.)
This article is the fourth part in a series for switchers:
Three Ways to Run Windows on Your Mac
Top 4 Ways to Keep Your Mac Humming
Finding Cross Platform Software for Mac OS X and Windows