I'm a mac designer who may have to work on Windows...Help!
July 7, 2007 3:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm a Graphic Designer and I'm interviewing for a job that may mean I'll have to work on a Windows PC. What do I need to watch out for?

I'm a Graphic Designer and I'm interviewing for a job that may mean I'll have to work on a Windows PC. Like most designers, I'm pretty Mac-centric, but this company uses PCs in its design department, and I've never worked on a PC. I know all the basic stuff with windows, but I'm more interested in design and production based issues that might arise. Can anyone point out any pitfalls I need to watch out for?

If those issues actually helped you sell converting to a Mac to your department head, it's especially useful.
posted by Mcable to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Save more often. Then save again.
posted by pg at 4:09 PM on July 7, 2007

As a former PC-based designer now working with Macs, I can tell you that not a whole lot changes if you're using the same applications you're used to. Photoshop, Illustrator, Quark, etc, all work effectively identically.

If you know "the basics" of Windows, then I can't imagine you having a problem. What sort of issues are you imagining?

And yeah... remember to use file extensions.
posted by chudmonkey at 4:12 PM on July 7, 2007

Save more often. Then save again.

1996 called. It wants it's inaccurate-even-then joke back.

One thing to watch out for is fonts. There are a lot of fonts Mac designers love that you probably won't be able to find for PC. When you get psds and such it will constantly be asking you about font substitution.

This is especially annoying when it comes to Flash, since it embeds fonts and thus allows people to use freak-fonts on the web. You'll have to send it to a Mac to publish.

But then again if everyone's on a PC, I guess that's kind of moot. Just don't be surprised when you don't see your old friend "helvetica."
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:32 PM on July 7, 2007

Well, I guess Optimus had a bad experience at some point. :)

I use Macs for all my freelance work, and I use Windows all day long at work, Adobe products on both.

The PC will automatically save files with the appropriate extension, exactly as the Mac does by default.

For the most part you will find the programs work the same from platform to platform. If you can reply with what software you will be using, that would be helpful. Some random thoughts (based on Adobe products):

If you have an old Mac mouse and are used to Control-clicking for the context-menu, in Windows you right click (just like in the newer Mac mice.)

The Command (Apple) key is replaced by the Control key. (Copy is Control-C, instead of Command-C).

The Windows color picker is NOT as good as on the Mac, but it does allow you to choose any color on-screen, so that can be a work-around that makes it less painful.

Unless they have a color calibration system in use, you will find that on-screen colors do match printed colors as automatically as on the Mac. Also, you will find that images may look darker on Windows than on the Mac (at default monitor settings.)

Save often! Windows has a deserved reputation of flaking out more often than the Mac, depending on what version you are running, what hardware you have, etc etc. (In fairness: my Windows computer at work is pretty bulletproof! Your experience may vary.)

Creation of PDF documents is not built in to Windows. They should have Adobe Acrobat Professional installed, which allows you make PDFs from teh print dialog. Unlike the Mac, which has a "Make PDF" button, you will select Adobe PDF from the Printer List.

I have found that on Windows, PhotoShop is picky about the order in which I do Page Setup. Choose it FIRST, then choose your printer from the Page Setup Dialog, then all your settings. Save the settings THEN go to the Print dialog. When I choose Page Setup from the Print Dialog, the results don't stick. (Not sure if this is unusual, but it's how it is for me.)

Pray that the IT department is on the ball with virus software. You can't afford to be lax in opening files, even from trusted sources. On the Mac, you don't worry about viruses, but on Windows it has to be taken seriously. Twice, even with vigilant nationwide IT folks on the case, our computers were disabled by an email virus. This was for the Defense Department.

The file system is pretty similar to Mac, so a little poking around will get you up to speed. Check out the View menu for options in viewing files in Windows Explorer. (Not to be confused with Internet Explorer. Windows Explorer is like the Finder.) Windows explorer has a better way to view images than the Mac. A folder of images can be viewed in a Slideshow mode, which gives you a BIG thumbnail to view without opening any other software. (If this option is not available in the View menu, you need to enable it for that folder. Google that, I won't get into it here.)

The fastest way to open Windows Explorer is WindowsKey-E.

The "refresh" command is your friend. (F5) Folder contents may not automatically update like the Mac. If something is not there, and you think it should be, hit F5. Ditto for CDs or other media. If you have the CD drive folder open, then put a CD in, you may have to hit F5 to show the contents. Also, keep in mind that every drive shows up in "My Computer" whether media is in the drive or not, where on the Mac the disk icon only shows when a disk is in. And of course, you can eject the CD in Windows by pushing the button on the CD drive itself. Which means you can pop out the disk before the system is done with it. Make all your copying is done from the disk before ejecting.

Keep in mind that in Windows, closing the last window of an application quits the app. Unlike the Mac, which keeps the app running even with all documents closed until you tell it to quit.

Over all, if you are using the same programs, you should acclimate pretty quickly. Take some time to get used to how things work and you will be fine. I also suggest you bring in a CD with some files from your Mac. The same programs on Windows should open the files seamlessly, and since its something you created, you can play around with it and see how it works for you

Also F1, the help key, is your friend. Most Windows programs have pretty good built-in help.

Good luck!
posted by The Deej at 4:32 PM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Save more often. Then save again.

1996 called. It wants it's inaccurate-even-then joke back.

Ouch. You did NOT just use George Costanza's joke.

Saving often is not a joke. It's important on any platform. But, because of the endless number of possible hardware and software combinations on Windows, there is no telling how stable or unstable your specific setup will be at your new office. Save often.

Here's the most important time to save: right before a crash.
posted by The Deej at 4:41 PM on July 7, 2007

You don't say what version of Windows it is. Note that XP has nothing like Expose.

Windows doesn't auto activate fonts, even if you're using Suitcase. You have to manually turn some on, especially if you're working with a team of designers and passing files around.

Windows updates itself a lot and when doing that it wants to reset some settings. For instance, after an update, tiff files are set to open with some Microsoft program as opposed to Photoshop.

PCs seem to get tired. After an intensive half day of being in Indesign, Photoshop, Illustrater, Bridge and Acrobat, things sometimes slow to a crawl that requires a reboot. This is under XP.

Be aware that even if an application is open, but has no open documents, you will still see a blank grey screen, NOT your desktop, as you would on your Mac. Depending on your work habits, then can drive you insane.

Just a reminder that Windows has a window like approach to application documents. If you have 2 documents open in Indesign, they'll be bound to Indesign program window, so placing these two documents side by side can be difficult. Photoshop does not have this problem.

The overall philosophy of Windows seems to be that you're an idiot and it's going help you not do idiotic things. This is maddening.

One thing Windows does well is the open and save dialog boxes, which enable you to rename, move or delete files other than the one you're currently trying to save or open. Example: Say I wanna save an Indesign document to a certain folder with other Indesign docs. But once the save dialog window is open and I've navigated to the folder, I realize that some of the other files in the folder are named wrong. I can just click on them and rename them. On the mac, I'd have cancel the save and then navigate to the folder in the Finder to change the names.

You can not drag documents to an application's button on the toolbar to open the document.

Selecting several documents to open all at once does not work. Windows will only open the file you click on and ignore the others.

Windows sucks.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:07 PM on July 7, 2007

1996 called. It wants it's inaccurate-even-then joke back.

Well the jerk store called... nevermind.

I'm a graphic/web designer who has worked extensively on both, and it is a cold hard fact that PC's are more prone to crashing than Macs. Old "joke" or not.
posted by pg at 5:17 PM on July 7, 2007

Oh, and the best font management software on the PC is Bitstream Font Navigator, included with the CorelDraw X3 suite. I think it's also available for sale separately for like thirty bucks, but I don't remember where. Font management (and typography in general) on the Mac is a billion times better than on PC, but BFN makes it a lot easier to deal with.

And I preview I see that my orginal comment was inexplicably deleted, but you should know that you will see many source files from Macs that are extensionless, so you need to nip that in the bud ASAP/use Notepad to figure out the headers/invest in filetype identification software.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:46 PM on July 7, 2007

Windows color management stinks. What you print will not match your screen. You will need to adapt to this by screwing with your color settings.

Adobe has done well with keeping their user interface consistent. You should have no trouble with accommodating to the differences.
Save often - ctrl-s, shift-ctrl-s is "save as".

Reboot your PC at lunch and again around 3 PM. This is usually due to Acrobat, in my experience, hogging the CPU.

Acrobat 8 sucks. There are free PDF creators out there if all you're doing is generating a PDF. You don't need that hawg of an app if you have something like this.

Drag a file to a button on the taskbar, wait for the app to come to the front, then drop the document into the window to open it, i.e. Dock-like behavior. However, you can't just hover a document over a folder to pop the folder open.

Windows opens multiple documents at a time just fine, however this doesn't work in Adobe applications.

Microsoft has a powertoy called "alt-tab replacement" that does a very good job of thumbnailing open windows, a-la Expose. You'll need to download it, it's free.
There is also a color control panel applet on that page, but I have no experience with it.

To put two documents or document windows on screen at the same time side by side, ctrl-click their start menu tabs.

Unlike a Mac, a Windows machine remembers its network connections consistently, but if you see a red x on a network drive, just click it anyway and about 9 times out of ten it will open.
Windows Explorer is much better than the Finder at allowing you to choose how you view files (FTFF fanboy here). Play around with the views, then shift-click the X in the corner to make Windows remember the view for that window.

Windows has strange anti-aliasing behavior for fonts, especially on LCD's. Use the Display control panel/Effects area to see the options. It's been my experience that Mac pros have trouble with the sharpness of fonts on Windows displays, the ClearType option may help you.

I play bridge. When I play bridge consistently for more than a few hours, and then play Euchre, it ruins my game. When I play Euchre for a while, I need to reacquaint myself with proper Bridge play. Your experience with working between the two platforms will be similar.
posted by disclaimer at 6:49 PM on July 7, 2007

Selecting several documents to open all at once does not work. Windows will only open the file you click on and ignore the others.

shift or control select the files you want to open, right-click (yeah, it's what that 'other' button is for), select "open". you can even get an "Open in", just in case you don't want them to open in photoshop, or whatever.

my version of photoshop also allows me to select multiple documents from the File Open dialog (again, using shift, control, or hell, i'm sure even a 'box' select). There are some applications that refuse to open multiple files at once (i can't think of any offhand -- maybe Paint?), but I'm sure this is the case for the macintosh too.

You can not drag documents to an application's button on the toolbar to open the document.

windows doesn't really do "drag" or "hot area" stuff often (although it is starting to creep into applications, fortunately it's not forced on anyone) . Get used to double-clicking. Personally, I find it much faster.

Be aware that even if an application is open, but has no open documents, you will still see a blank grey screen, NOT your desktop, as you would on your Mac. Depending on your work habits, then can drive you insane.

this is true. however, it is the exact opposite behavior drives me crazy -- it's why I can't use The Gimp. ah, potato, potahtoe.

posted by fishfucker at 7:11 PM on July 7, 2007

"and it is a cold hard fact that PC's are more prone to crashing than Macs. Old "joke" or not."

No. No its not. (a "cold hard fact")...

If your Windows systems are crashing (or needing a reboot) THAT OFTEN.. then something is wrong with them. (and that "wrong thing" is not simply that they are Windows)

I've worked as an IT / Sysadmin in the Windows arena for 15+ years now.. and one thing I've learned over and over again is that Windows can be as solid and reliable as anything else,..... IF.... the person maintaining it knows what they are doing.

Windows XP is fine... at home my "uptime" average is counted in months (and only then due to scheduled reboots, not "downtime") and I cant even remember the time I ever had a virus or spyware.

Your results may very depending on your IT dept.
posted by jmnugent at 7:11 PM on July 7, 2007

When i worked in design, both jobs I had were very prone to including 'Mr PC Fix-It' type activities. I'd watch for possibly having to fill that role if this isn't a very large place with dedicated IT staff.
posted by tremspeed at 9:22 PM on July 7, 2007

Response by poster: Wow! You guys are great. Thanks for the advice.

In answer to questions, I don't know what version of windows but I think it's XP. The software is Adobe CS and it seems to be a largely a print job right now, (i.e. I'll be working mostly in InDesign which I know well) but their web presence is terrible and I think I would be growing toward the web side.

I'm OK with the whole right click/left click because I use a five button mouse on my home mac. The issue I've heard most is fonts, and I am a typography freak so I want to make sure I'm not working at a disadvantage here. Not seeing Helvetica would be an issue, because the IS a differece between it and Arial.

I would like to bring work home to my Mac. Any issues there?
posted by Mcable at 9:40 PM on July 7, 2007

1996 called. It wants it's inaccurate-even-then joke back.

what world are you living in? that's pretty good advise - even for these days, regardless of OS used. I have lost my fair share of unsaved work.

CS2 on intel-based macs, anyone?
posted by krautland at 10:00 PM on July 7, 2007

I have never had a problem bringing work from Windows to Mac or vice-versa. Other than the font issues, of course, but if you MUST, you can move a font from Windows to Mac, by using a freeware font converter tool.

In fact, I only have Photoshop Elements version 4 on my Mac, and I have the full featured Photoshop 7 on my Windows machine. I swap files all the time, and have never had a problem. Same goes for MS Office files, if you need to do that.
posted by The Deej at 10:44 PM on July 7, 2007

My pc has Helvetica, though I have no idea where it came from.
posted by ryanissuper at 12:02 AM on July 8, 2007

I would like to bring work home to my Mac. Any issues there?

Fonts of course. Even if you have Open Type, the names seem to be different under both OSes.

Also, version numbers. If they have CS3 at work and you only have CS at home that may be a problem. But you might be able to save as an Adobe Exchange document, which is what I do for going from CS2 to CS and that works fine for Indesign and Illustrater.

Also, if you have Mac version before 10.4, be aware that Mac files include extra info, so if you happen to take some files in folder homeand then bring that folder back, once you're on the PC, you'll see a bunch of similar named files with a "." in front of them. Example, a document titled "Issue 22.indd" while have a another file in the folder named ".Issue 22.indd". Just ignore these files, they're used by the Mac to storing info. Don't delete them though.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:52 AM on July 8, 2007

A couple of things that haven't been mentioned yet, specifically to do with cross-platform interoperability: the only typeface file format that works on both Macs and PCs is OpenType. Type 1 typefaces are different on Macs and on PCs (mainly due to info being stored in the resource fork on Macs, which doesn't translate in Windows) and Truetype might theoretically be cross-platform, I don't remember, but in practice it doesn't always work out very well. If you're using Truetype for production stuff, though, you probably get what you deserve. If you're shuttling work between your home and work computers, OpenType typefaces will be a life-saver.

Also, for whatever reason a lot of Mac people are very enamoured of Stuffit files (.sit files) for compressed archives, whereas Windows people rely on ZIPs and RARs. The only program that opens .sit files on Windows is the Stuffit suite, and just getting a plain ol' extractor without big nag screens or extraneous software or simply Stuffit trying to steal all your file associations is a pain in the ass, which is why most Windows users have never heard of Stuffit, and the few who have immediately curse the program under their breath. ZIPs, on the other hand, are handled natively in OS X. In short: always use ZIP when compiling a bunch of design files.

Regarding font managers: Linotype has finally released a Windows version of the free FontExplorer X package, but it's still a beta and it shooooows. It might still be worth checking out, though, if you use FontExplorer X on OS X.
posted by chrominance at 1:27 AM on July 8, 2007

Reboot your PC at lunch and again around 3 PM. This is usually due to Acrobat, in my experience, hogging the CPU.

If Acrobat is hogging your CPU, kill the Acrobat process. No need to reboot. I use a Windows XP computer at work (engineering, not graphic design), and I usually hibernate it overnight and shut it down for the weekend. A properly maintained XP install that doesn't have crappy software on it is actually pretty stable for desktop use... and that's coming from a Linux user.
posted by musicinmybrain at 5:41 PM on July 8, 2007

The very same fonts can look differently on a PC screen and on a Mac's, even if the lettershapes look the same once printed. Apparently, in Windows the WYSYWYG principle is broken in the name of legibility.

The best explanation I have found is Joel Spolsy's
Font smoothing, anti-aliasing, and sub-pixel rendering
: Mac OS font smoothing preserves font shape at the cost of some blurriness, Windows font smoothing aligns lines to pixel boundaries for less blurriness at the cost of less accurate shapes.

I don't know whether design applications use Windows anti-aliasing or they do their own rendering, but you might want to test your setup's outputs carefully before making decisions based on what you see on the screen.
posted by kandinski at 6:56 AM on July 9, 2007

If Acrobat is hogging your CPU, kill the Acrobat process
Yeah, but it usually fills up RAM with memory leaks anyway. Killing the process works to release the CPU but doesn't reallocate the memory. Acrobat gets its hooks into Outlook, Word, IE, etc. such that if you want to truly kill the Acrobat app from RAM, you really need to do a reboot.
If I weren't using Acrobat and the other resource-intensive Adobe apps regularly, I agree that a reboot isn't necessary. But from a memory/resource standpoint, Adobe software IS crappy software. :)
posted by disclaimer at 8:24 AM on July 9, 2007

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