My Big Mac

image So after much teasing by friends and in a vain attempt to solidify my geek creds, I finally took the plunge and ordered a MacBook Pro. I’m dumping my Microsoft infrastructure and am going to switch over cold turkey once I get the thing set up. I’m anticipating a difficult few weeks transitioning.

And here’s where I need your help. For readers that have made the switch, what advice do you have to make it go smoothly? For all Mac users, what programs, add-ons, short-cuts, Mac resources (particularly a directory of short-cut codes) do I need? Also, very specifically, I’m looking for something that will let me sync a network share locally so that all files are available off-line. This needs to then sync up the changes when I’m connected back up to the network. And the catch is that this needs to happen against a Windows server.

Thoughts welcome and encouraged in comments and by email.

[late breaking update – as I was writing this my new Mac showed up in the office!]

  • check out omnifocus, iwork, fluid (allows you to make apps out of browser windows), but truthfully, most of the default apps work just fine.

    Are you switching to gmail?

  • John Minnihan

    Just ask Brad – he'll likely have the best insight into how to make this go smoothly for you, since he had to deal w/ all the same office-related infrastructure issues.

    I switched 5 years ago – here's my story:

  • This is what I am using: Microsoft Office Mac, Entourage, Chrome with autosync turned on. ChonoSync is the tool that allows me to synchronize my files with my Windows server. It is not as sophisticated as Windows 7 Sync Center, but it allows me to have my entire "world" available on my Mac and my W7 laptop.

    Call if you need help ;-P.

    • sethlevine

      awesome! thanks jeff.

    • sethlevine

      awesome! thanks jeff.

    • sethlevine

      awesome! thanks jeff.

  • Stuff I use:
    Dropbox for file sync to the cloud and locally. Haven't tried to map it to a network share at the same time however.
    Quicksilver for keyboard shortcuts and app links – super helpful
    Install both iWork and Office 2008 – some stuff just does't translate right (mostly PPTX files) and its good to have both. I still prefer working in Pages and Keynote but sometimes you just need the MS stuff.
    Apple Mail & iCal – its a love hate thing but it does work reasonably well with Exchange which I know you are on. Some folks use Entourage for calendaring and native apps for everything else.
    MobileMe – yes, sign up for this so you can have the 3 way push-based sync between the native apps, the cloud, and your iPhone. Great insurance policy and backup solution for address books, calendars, etc.

    • sethlevine

      cool ari. i may swing by for a tutorial…

  • Lance Weber

    First – setup Time Machine. Best backup solution ever.

    Second – To ease your transition, I'd recommend buying Parallels and using the Parallels Transporter to turn your old Win laptop into a Win virtual machine on your MBP. I've done this for at least a half-dozen switchers and they've all found it very useful.

    • sethlevine

      great suggestions.

  • Lance Weber

    Oh and I can't recommend Transmit from Panic software highly enough. It should easily handle any file sync needs you have

    • Cyberduck FTP is also a quality application. I've used Transmit for years but recently switched to free Cyberduck.

  • Matt Galligan

    1Password – Keeps all of my passwords very secure and leaves me from having to remember them
    Adium – The best chat app out there. Works with AIM, MSN, Gtalk, etc.
    AppZapper – This is the "uninstaller that Apple forgot" – Pretty awesome. When you take a screenshot, it auto-uploads and auto-copies the link to your clipboard. Makes for super easy screenshot sharing. Tips on doing screenshots down below
    Dropbox – I would die without this
    Facebook Notifications – Very nice for keeping up with Facebook
    Flip4Mac – This allows you to play WMV files using Quicktime
    Google Chrome – Duh
    Growl – This is awesome for on-screen notifications
    iWork – Keynote is WAY better than PowerPoint
    Perian – Adds more movie compatability
    Pulsar – Not sure if you have Sirius but this is a great way to listen
    The Unarchiver – Allows you to unzip more than just ZIP files.
    Transmission – Great torrent downloader
    Transmit – Excellent FTP client

    Command (⌘) instead of Control – This is true for most things. For instance:
    ⌘+Q – Quit app
    ⌘+W – Close window
    ⌘+TAB – Tab through open apps
    ⌘+C – Copy
    ⌘+V – Paste
    ⌘+Space – Activate Spotlight (this search is your friend)

    Screenshot –
    ⌘ + Shift + 3 – Screenshots the entire screen
    ⌘ + Shift + 4 – Select an area to screenshot
    ⌘ + Shift + 4 then Spacebar – Allows you to screenshot any window you click on

    Exposé is your FRIEND
    * If you have tons of windows open hit F3, it will show you all open windows. This can also be done by putting four fingers on the trackpad and scrolling down.
    * I use Hot Corners religiously. Basically whenever I hit a corner with my mouse, it does an action. These can be configured in System Preferences -> Exposé & Spaces

    Keyboard Shortcuts
    If you don't like a keyboard shortcut in an app you can change it. Go to System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Keyboard Shortcuts. Hit the "+" icon and then choose the app you want. Tell it what the menu calls the function (like "Select Next Tab") and then assign a key combination.

    Hope this helps!

    • sethlevine

      wow – thanks for the detailed list!

    • Thanks. Great tips. I made the switch this past spring after my Sony laptop died. My first Mac since the Mac 128K I had in college (What happened to Load Runner?). Still not 100% used to Mac but so far so good. Keeping my PC laptops to heat my home this winter.

  • Matt hits some great highlights, esp. getting you going on shortcuts. Here are a few other apps (and seconds of recommendations):

    I second 1Password – also on iPhone, must have, both for keeping track and for good random generation

    Typinator – fast expansion macros wherever you type…e.g. type "TFYE" and expands to "Thanks for your e-mail" (but even better than just that simple example)

    MsgFiler by Adam Tow – if you use Apple Mail, this is completely indespensible

    I'm surprised no one has already mentioned how awesome Keynote is, too.

    MindNode is a nice mind map generator, but also be sure to check out OmniGraffle for serious diagramming

    ScreenFlow is amazing for creating screencasts

    And I'm sure there's a ton more I'm overlooking, especially if you have an iPhone or a particular interest in music, etc. And of course this overlooks stuff like Dropbox and Evernote that you presumably already know.

    Hope that helps!


    PS – Time Machine is mandatory not only for the crucial frequent backups, but also in the event you want to switch machines and simply "carry over" your user.

    • sethlevine

      sweet. thanks Joe! i thought you’d be proud of me…

  • A couple of others people haven't added yet:

    if there's an airport express in your office, you should get AirFoil ( ) which streams music to the airport express from any program.

    AppFresh ( ) keeps your apps up to date

    Coda ( ) because Transmit only does FTP whereas CODA does FTP, terminal and is a great web page and CSS editor.

    Remote Buddy ( ) is great for when you're doing presentations.

    Snagit for Mac ( ) for screen captures

    Spanning Sync ( ) syncs google contacts, calendar, and docs.

    And I second the previous recommendations around the following:
    MS Office

    • sethlevine

      awesome tristan. thanks very much!

  • sethlevine

    thanks micah. helpful suggestions. and we’ll see on gmail – we’re working on it!

  • Hey Seth,

    Love your blog – subscribed on my Google Reader.

    I switched a few years back to Mac and haven’t looked back since. Here are my suggestions:

    1. Time Machine – this will save you.

    2. Save as PDF – you can turn any document into a PDF easily by going to print in the file menu, and selecting the PDF drop down menu. Such a great feature.

    3. DropBox works beautifully. Dropbox serves as a secondary backup in case my computer dies – i can retrieve the documents from Time Machine, Drop Box, or my secondary computer/iPad. It’s really useful.

    4. If you use google calendar, mail, contacts, you can sync your iCal, AddressBook and Mail really easily. All changes sync instantly like mobile me, except its free.

    5. I love Keynote and Pages. I prefer to use them than word/powerpoint. you can create more attractive presentations with them. They also export as Office files or PDF if you like. If you have an iPad, you can continue working on them on the go.

    6. one thing i miss though is a dedicated google chat client. but you can use iChat really easily to do this.

    You’re going to love your mac!


    • sethlevine

      Thanks Roman. All good suggestions. I’m furiously downloading software (and suspect I’ll be doing that much of the night!).

    • sethlevine

      Thanks Roman. All good suggestions. I’m furiously downloading software (and suspect I’ll be doing that much of the night!).

    • sethlevine

      Thanks Roman. All good suggestions. I’m furiously downloading software (and suspect I’ll be doing that much of the night!).

    • sethlevine

      Thanks Roman. All good suggestions. I’m furiously downloading software (and suspect I’ll be doing that much of the night!).

    • sethlevine

      Thanks Roman. All good suggestions. I’m furiously downloading software (and suspect I’ll be doing that much of the night!).

  • Seth, most of the big ones have been covered adequately in comments (I echo the Time machine, Dropbox, iWork, Spotlight suggestions). Quicksilver is cool but on the geeky side – Spotlight has evolved to the point where it does most of what you need unless you're doing some sophisticated multi-step shortcuts. is a neat little gem that lets you turn any webpage into a standalone app (useful for situations where you want to run say Gmail in its own environment and not have to restart your browser if it crashes). is s useful tool that lets you do visual diff on docs – equivalent to BeyondCompare on the PC.

    If you want to invest the time in reading a tutorial "The Missing Manual" is a good primer for learning "the mac way" and getting your head around things. Highly recommend setting up Expose so it's triggered by mouse corners (couldn't live w/o this). You'll be surprised how much stuff "just works" – your quality of life is about to improve. FWIW here are my observations from a few yrs ago when I first made the switch:

    good luck

  • I recommend going back to MS. Long live the empire.

    I'm going to get SO many thumbs down….

    • sethlevine

      what tipped you to go back? so far my only mac complaint is that the front of edge of the computer bites into my wrists! other than that it’s running great!

  • QuickSilver is awesome, but apparently they've stopped supporting it. Alfred is a very similar app and is currently in beta.

    +1 for Omnifocus

    I like Sktich for screen shots. You can mark them up, share them online and even start a discussion thread in which others can mark up the original too.

  • Seconds on Coda and Skitch. Also, the “Save as PDF” feature Roman mentioned is almost certainly the most common thing I do on the Mac. Typical workflow is open a Windows-generated Word .doc file in Pages, participate in changes/redlines (with full support when you send it back as an exported .doc file), then finally “Print” > “Save to PDF” on the final. Also useful for things like OmniGraffle, where you create a great diagram there and then do the same PDF exporting to share the diagram with non-Graffle users.

  • Nothing in particular. I just hated trying to learn the Mac system (very impatient), despite the fact I know its a better computer and has more capabilities and looks cooler and blah blah blah. Just not useful to me.

    I have a ton of friends that use them and swear by the Apple. I say go for whatever system makes you efficient and happy!

  • Just got a Mac today also! I feel like I am part of a cult now…lol.

    The first thing I learned today was the mouse…checkout this video to learn all of the mouse tricks:

  • marybaum

    Just found your blog, and this post, on Alltop. How's it going?