Friday, April 25, 2008

Help, I got a Mac! - Frustrations moving from Vista to a Mac

First off, Help I Got a Mac! is the name of a podcast for people who have switched from MS Windows to a Mac, which you can find here. I bought my MacBook Pro last December, and have been using it for the past six months. I have yet to "drink the kool-aid" (i.e., I have not yet become a Mac fanboy). I sent a list of my initial frustrations to the Help I Got a Mac! podcast last January, which became the basis of their 14 January 2008 podcast (listen here - mp3 file).

Note that some of my questions to the Help I Got a Mac guys were misunderstood - mostly my own fault as a newby. The list of Pet Peeves that I sent them is below, along with comments on how I have learned to overcome them in the past few months.

Hi Cliff -

I got a Macbook Pro about a month ago, which I also run XP through VMWare Fusion. This is not the first Mac in my house, but it is the first that I have used regularly as my primary computer, prompted by Vista problems this past year on an under-powered laptop. Here is my current list of pet peeves in using the Mac. I would like to know if there are utilities or other ways to do these tasks. - Thanks, Alan


- Move files from one folder to another – finder only copies files, which I then need to move to trash.
[To address this pet peeve, I recently broke down and purchased Path Finder from which now runs in place of Finder most of the time on my Mac - cost: $34.95. Path Finder is a very powerful file manager that not only matches what I could do on my PC, but well surpasses those capabilities.]

- Moving or Copying a file into a folder where another file with the same name already exists – does not tell me which of the two copies is newer or larger - I need to open both folders and compare the files -- what a hassle!
[Clarification: This is when copying a file to a folder where a file with the same filename is present. They might be the same file, or one might be newer than the other. Windows gives me this information so I can decide which file to keep and which to delete. The Mac give no information other than the file names. I still have no resolution to this -- Any Suggestions?.]

- the Finder Window sometimes gets too long below the bottom of the screen – I cannot grab the lower right corner to resize because it is below the screen – in general, I keep wishing I could grab other corners or the sides [Clicking the green (+) button fixes this. However, if the top bar is hidden behind a menu or is off the top of the screen I am stuck as there is no way to access it at all. There is a shareware program that allows you to grab anywhere on a Mac app window/box and drag it, but I believe that it currently only works on Tiger, not Leopard.]

- Can not change File Names, Delete Files, Copy or Move files when in an "Open File" screen – can not access non-openable files from an Open File screen - I often see files that need fixing while in an Open Files menu, which I can easily address in Windows. [I have been using the trial version of Default Folder X from St. Clair Software for this. I am not yet convinced that it is worth the $35 they charge for it.] [UPDATE 7May08: I used Default Folder X several times today so I decided to go ahead and pay for it.]


- Cannot Zoom photos and images to full size in Preview - can zoom larger, but cannot tell if I am zoomed to full size - because of this, I still use Windows Preview on XP in VMWare to browse and delete my recently taken photos.
[I have three comments related to this:
(1) The reason for this pet peeve is that I take many hundreds of photos when I travel, which I use for teaching. I need to skim through these as fast as possible to decide which to keep and which to toss.

(2) This question was a new user mistake on my part. I confused Cover Flow for Preview. Yes, what I want to do can be done in Preview, but not in Cover Flow, which I was using. I have since learned about Preview and it works well for previewing photos. I was also quite excited to learn that Preview had basic photo editing tools, like crop, color correction, and sharpen - which I use regularly on my many photos - available on flickr.

(3) HOWEVER, I was shocked to find Preview destroying some of my photos when I saved them after editing them. So far, I have been able to crop and save without a problem. But when I color correct and then save, occasionally Preview will save a mostly, but not entirely, black image. Because the image overwrites the original upon saving, the photo is destroyed! This happened about six time before I figured out what was going on. I now only edit color in Photoshop, which I have in Windows XP - and which really works much better than Preview anyway.
Update: I installed Gimp, a free photo editing program from, using the Wilber loves Apple website and my initial reaction is very positive. I can see myself using this instead of Photoshop.]

- Preview - can not "Move to Trash" when a photo is enlarged to almost full screen – photo covers edit icon where the Trash command is found – Again I use XP's Preview instead because of this. [Again, this is a Cover Flow problem, not a Preview problem - my mistake. Cocoatech's Path Finder has scalable thumbnails, which work much faster for quick previews than the more flashy Cover Flow, which I no longer use.]

- Can not Flip a photo in iPhoto; Can not show a photo Full Size in iPhoto [I use Photoshop Elements in Windows XP, instead]


- After sleeping a couple of times the keyboard stops working, requiring a restart [I only sleep my Mac if there are only a couple of programs running - this seems to resolve the problem.]

- Can not view images in MS Word – need to open/edit the images to see them - these are probably on files that were created on a Windows computer [There is probably a fix for this out there somewhere, but I have not yet looked for it.]

- One feature that I loved and used often in Vista was the clock. The new Vista clock allowed you to create 2 or 3 different clocks for different time zone. All I had to do was click on the clock on the task bar and I would see these different clocks -- it was great for skyping with friends around the world! [As the podcast guys said, the Widgets Screen can do this by pressing on the + button in the lower left. I did not know was there prior to the Help I Got a Mac podcast. I have since highly customized my widget screen with additional utilities.]

BTW - I agree with you on iPhoto encapsuation – I hate it – I want to be able to access to my photos from a variety of different programs – I want to know where the files are so I can move them, copy them, edit them, upload them, and download them. [I use Photoshop Elements for Windows -- someday I will probably breakdown and get a Mac version of Photoshop.]

Thanks, Alan

Some additional comments:

I like the speed of my MacBook Pro (15 inch). It is the most powerful and capable laptop I have ever owned -- comparable to my desktop PC at home. Unlike that PC, however, my Mac starts up and shuts down almost instantly -- which is very cool.

I push my Mac to the limit though, with all the program I often have running at the same time -- and yes, programs do crash and I do need to reboot the Mac from time to time. I will upgrade to 4gb ram soon, which I expect to help with this. A new Vista computer with appropriate hardware probably runs just as well as my Mac. I think, though, that a Vista computer would slow down over time much sooner than the Mac will -- we'll see. I wish MS Office 7 was available for the Mac, as I use it at work and absolutely love it!

Occasionally I think about just running in XP all the time, mostly because of three programs that I currently have only in Windows versions: Photoshop [though Gimp on the Mac may allow me to uninstall Photoshop], Dreamweaver [I may be able to get a Mac version from my workplace] and Roboform [unfortunately there is no Mac version of Roboform].

I also wish my MBPro had an SD card reader, though that will be fixable with an Expresscard adapter that I hope to buy soon.

I may be a bit of a ludite, as I still miss features in Wordperfect that I loved, but was forced to leave behind many years ago as MS Word overwhelmed my workplace. I will update this blog post as I continue to sip the kool-aid in the coming months.



Cliff J. Ravenscraft said...


Thanks for the update and clarification on your experience.

I continue to be a primarily PC user myself. However, I'm slowly getting to the point where I can do pretty much most everything I want on either PC or MAC.

The exception being some financial software for my business that doesn't have a good version that I'd like to use on the mac.

Nice this is that I do have Windows XP running on my mac at times!


Alan A. Lew said...

I would not mind switching completely to the Mac side. But because I also live in a mostly Windows world at work and at home, I would need cross-platform or web-based applications that I can access on any computer. That is currently my biggest frustration.