Mac Migration
October 6, 2007 7:18 AM   Subscribe

Windows to Mac: I can't stand Vista another minute. Should I go or should I stay?

Vista hangs and drives me to distraction. I plan to get an imac. I only really do word-processing (novels, articles and so on), and internet stuff. Will I be sorry?

Should I run Windows (not Vista) on the mac? Can a non-tech person do that without having a breakdown? Will Mac infantilise me?
posted by jennydiski to Computers & Internet (33 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If truly all you do is word processing and internet, you'll have zero problem switching to a mac, other than having to buy a new copy of microsoft office (or save money and get the much less expensive and completely compatible iWork 08). Someone could give you a 30 minute tutorial on "the differences" and you'd be off and doing just fine.

And you won't need a copy of windows on your mac either, if that's all you do.
posted by visual mechanic at 7:24 AM on October 6, 2007

Mac OS X is worth the price of admission alone.

The fact that you'll get some really nice hardware that's very well-integrated is a bonus.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 7:31 AM on October 6, 2007

Best answer: What visual mechanic said. Do you have any deal-breaker Windows software loyalties that make switching platforms a problem? If not, go for it and don't even worry about putting XP on the mac. Word processors and web browsers are so homogenized at this point that you don't need to worry about the cross-platform issues unless you have hardcore feature dependencies.

OS X won't infantilize you. It's a little slicker and a little friendlier than Windows, but they're more alike than they are different at this point, and if you for some reason really want to display some OS chutzpah, OS X has good old UNIX under the hood to sink your teeth into.
posted by cortex at 7:31 AM on October 6, 2007

Best answer: First, with all the information on this board, the internet, and in real life, I can't for the life of me understand why anyone can remain to be so vexed by the thought of using a Mac - to the point of thinking word processing will be infantilising.

OK, with that out of the way...

You'll be fine if you switch to a Mac. It presents, for many, a better work flow for tasks such as word processing, browsing, and other light tasks. It also does heavy tasks really well.

You will need a day to get used to the change, but it's not that big a deal and with each hour you become more and more an expert.

If you are really anxious about the prospect, go to a store that sells them and play for 15 minutes. If you don't "get" it by then, you won't get it. And here's the great thing - you will get it in 15 minutes.

Now, with that out of the way...

If you really are just doing word processing, you should just install Ubuntu and you'll have a robust, quick, and slick platform to write and browse the internet. And the good news is you don't have to buy another computer. Yours (yes the one you have right there) will do the trick.

If you're really just looking for an excuse to get a Mac, get it already. You don't have to have anyone else's approval.
posted by qwip at 7:32 AM on October 6, 2007

Buy a Mac and run MacOS X. And then sit around and enjoy how much better your life is. Running Windows on a Mac is cool if you want to play Half-Life 2. That's about it. Oh, and for running Autocad or GIS. Pretty much everything else you would want to do can be done in MacOS X, and the experience will be so much better.

Will Mac infantilise me?

posted by chunking express at 7:37 AM on October 6, 2007

Best answer: I don't think you'll be sorry. I work in IT, so I'm not a non-tech person, but it's not uncommon for us to transition a person from a Mac to a PC or a PC to a Mac. Sometimes it's at their request, sometimes it's because of departmental mandates... but that's neither here nor there.

So what have I learned that I might share with you? Well, I think you'll be fine if you switch over to a Mac. I certainly find it to be less irritating than Vista. The applications you need (for word-processing and 'internet stuff') will not be the issue in the end. All that stuff is there. I think what usually bothers most people when they transition is that all the peripheral stuff isn't in the same spot. Explorer and Finder both browse files, but they do it in different ways. All your options and control panel settings are not where you know them to be. You have to learn a whole new set of system shortcut commands...

But that's all minor stuff. You stick with it for a month or two and I think you may very well never want to go back.

As for running Windows on your new Mac.. yes, I can say Apple has made this process pretty simple. I don't know that I would undertake it if I'd never installed Windows before, but I think you might be able to slide. My only concern would be specifying the appropriate amount of space for XP (think 15 - 20 GB+) and going through the XP installation options (particularly the partitioning section) - but you could do it! I have faith.

Another concern is that Boot Camp (the OS X software that Apple put out there to enable you to do this) is in Beta. It'll go live in the next revision of OS X, which is apparently going to be released at the end of this month... so depending on when you get your iMac, this may or may not matter.

Also, there are some great tools like VMWare Fusion and Parallels that can run Windows (and hence, Windows applications), straight from OS X. I've personally used Parallels and I love it.

If you have any specific questions please feel free to drop me a mail.
posted by kbanas at 7:41 AM on October 6, 2007


Reading through this thread you could almost be convinced that OS X will do your work for you, pay your taxes, give you a massage and give your life deep and compelling meaning.

Vista and OS X both have their problems. It's not like everyone who used a Mac threw their PC in the trash pile and never went back.

OS X has its little infuriating 'things' too. OS X crashes. OS X drags its feet. Applications hang and die. In fact, there are some times when I'm using my MBP that I long for Windows XP. This stuff will never go away, it's just the nature of the beast.

I just want to caution you, as you could easily get the wrong perception from this thread.
posted by kbanas at 7:46 AM on October 6, 2007

Go for it, and don't look back.

Ms Office and iWork trials will be installed on the machine (don't worry, it's not like Norton Antivirus trials on new Windows pc's. If you don't like it, just drop it to the trash or run the uninstaller. It'll be gone.), so you can compare the two. You can also try for Mac OS X, if you're feeling a bit more adventurous.
posted by lodev at 7:48 AM on October 6, 2007

One warning - Word for OS X is pretty bad. It's slow, cranky, unreliable, and is missing a handful of features from the windows version that drive me nuts. I use it for academic-ish writing, though, so I'm doing a fair amount of fussing with styles and figures. You may find that the things you need it to do avoid its biggest issues.

iWork is also probably not what you want. It's oriented much more towards layout than word processing. So while you can definitely write with it, its power is in easily adding figures, making multi column layouts, and so forth, and I don't think it's so good at managing large documents.

It totally depends on your writing process, but I've found that since I don't like the word processing options on the Mac much, I tend to write in a plain text editor first (eg TextMate or Writeroom) and then copy it over to Word when I need to make a nice looking document from the words.

Good luck with the transfer! I've watched a couple of friends make the switch recently and it's pretty painless. It's especially easy if you can identify a mac-guru friend around to recommend specific applications to use and help you out when you get stuck looking for how to do something.
posted by heresiarch at 8:06 AM on October 6, 2007

They're both fine. But make sure you compare apples to apples. A new laptop with Vista wil work much better than a crummy upgraded one. The comparision should be a new Vista computer vs. a new OS X computer.
posted by smackfu at 8:15 AM on October 6, 2007

You sound like me except I also use Adobe products also. I had zero trouble switching and I am never buying a PC again, I love it.

It's true that if you just spend 10 minutes clicking you'll "get it". Then the next month you spend going "Aha!" as you figure out the (more elegant) Mac counterparts to common PC tasks.

Also one thing no one ever mentions about switching is that the quality of small, shareware apps on the Mac is amazing. Sure, there's MS Office, Firefox, Photoshop, and all that but I don't know how I lived life before I found things like Yep, Adium, or Spanning Sync.
posted by bradbane at 8:23 AM on October 6, 2007

kbanas is right. It's not going to change your life for the better, but it's not a problem to switch either.

If you are like me, the biggest problem you have will be keyboard navigation. If you love your windows hot keys you may have a tough time adapting. Cursor movement keystroke combos take some getting used to.

One big problem for me on my iBook was the lack of a windows style forward delete key. The delete key on the Mac is the equivalent of backspace in Windows. There is a key chord combo that is the equivalent of a Windows delete, but that's annoying to someone who has spent years word processing in Windows.
posted by dzot at 8:30 AM on October 6, 2007

Best answer: The hardest part about switching, for me at least, was the instinct to try to force OS X to do things like Windows. You can often do that, as it's reasonably configurable, but I ended up sort of struggling against the operating system instead of using it.

In general, the more of a geek you are and the more you're used to using Windows, the more annoying you will find the transition at first, because things aren't where you expect them to be. If you're less geeky and don't have much muscle memory of the operating system, it'll be easier.

I think word processing on the Mac is a little on the weak side, from what I've seen. If you're writing novels, hmm. The idea of writing it in a text editor and then dumping it into Word or iWork for final massage isn't too bad. You don't generally need too much complexity for that kind of writing, so you'd probably be okay.

Web browsing is generally fine with the built-in Safari, but if doesn't work, you can always run Firefox, which works with absolutely everything these days. If you're using Firefox now in Windows, you can even move your profile across without pain.

I haven't worked with Bootcamp since the recent update, but in earlier versions, I wasn't terribly impressed with the quality of the Apple-provided hardware drivers. I tend to be of the opinion that if you buy a Mac, you should run OSX -- you CAN run Windows natively, but Apple doesn't seem to support it as religiously as the other hardware makers do. That may be changing with the new version of OSX, Leopard, that's supposed to ship this month -- at that point, Bootcamp will officially be out of beta, and may be better than I found it to be. My experience with Bootcamp is about six months out of date, so don't take it as seriously as people who have used more current releases.

You can also run XP as a virtual machine on your desktop, using Parallels or VMWare, which will let you run essentially anything except games.

If you're able, I'd hold off a little longer, until Leopard is officially announced; you'll possibly save $130 by doing so.

Switching OSes is not painless. You will have to pay attention and retrain yourself. It's not difficult, but I think the 'one day!' claims are hopelessly optimistic. It took me about a month to be really comfortable, although I could use the machine to get things done right away.
posted by Malor at 8:30 AM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also one thing no one ever mentions about switching is that the quality of small, shareware apps on the Mac is amazing.

Well, it does come with the downside that nearly all small apps are shareware, where Windows has a lot more free choices.
posted by smackfu at 8:35 AM on October 6, 2007

MSWord for Mac is OK, and necessary if you really want to collaborate with people who use MSWord for Windows. In addition to Pages, there are also a couple very good Mac-centric word processing choices with Nissus and Mellel. Although how good they are depends on whether you feel MSWord is "feature-rich" or "bloated."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:46 AM on October 6, 2007

Best answer: I switched to a Mac and haven't looked back, particularly on the word processing side. Drafting gets done in the fantastic program Scrivener, which, once you get past the goofy corkboard metaphor, is a superb bit of kit. And for manuscript formatting, I use NeoOffice a Mac specific fork of OpenOffice.Org.

Don't worry about being 'infantilised' - Mac OS X isn't the Fisher Price 'computing for the simple and the style-obsessed' that it's sometimes made out to be. Overall I find it way more stable than I find Windows, which I still use at work, and the interface is generally much more intuitive, once you figure out the little oddities that make it differ from Windows. I can leave my laptop on overnight - in fact, I think the longest it's gone between reboots has been about a month, and I only rebooted because of a Mac software update. Under the bonnet it's built on a solid Unix system that performs maintenance overnight, so you get in the habit of just closing the lid and letting it do its thing. If I did that with my Dell laptop, it'd be a gibbering wreck by the next morning. Overall, the mac just gets out of my way when I'm trying to do things - I spend maybe 5% of the time I used to spend fiddling with Windows just to make it work. No defragging, little or no tweaking, and it's crashed on me precisely once in a year - my Windows laptop crashed daily.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:56 AM on October 6, 2007

Well, it does come with the downside that nearly all small apps are shareware, where Windows has a lot more free choices.

I beg to differ.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:58 AM on October 6, 2007 [3 favorites]

In general, the more of a geek you are and the more you're used to using Windows, the more annoying you will find the transition at first, because things aren't where you expect them to be. If you're less geeky and don't have much muscle memory of the operating system, it'll be easier.
Please try one out before you buy one, if you don't have working experience on a Mac.

I have tried to use friends' Macs. I have tried to use the ones in my university's computer labs. Within three minutes I am ready to punch the screen with frustration every single time. IME, after having used Windows since 1992 a Mac is like trying to use chopsticks with my toes. Everyone laughs at me unbelievingly when I say that, but it is true.

It's great that people can switch over easily. I am just not ever going to be one of them. Make sure that you aren't like me or your new machine will go flying out a window after thirty minutes.
posted by winna at 9:02 AM on October 6, 2007

And I disagree with the assessment that word processing on the mac is a bit on the weak side, primarily because I think that word processing on MSWin is a really muddled mess of software that is designed badly for the task domain. MSWord tries to be both word processor and desktop publishing system. With the end result that its inconsistent and sloppy handling of styles drives me up the wall when I'm forced to use it. The alternatives to MSWord on MSWin seem to be imitating MSWord to greater and lesser extent. In contrast, the commercial mac-centric word processing software has taken the position that they JUST do word processing, and focus their feature development efforts on text manipulation.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:05 AM on October 6, 2007

If the transition from XP to Vista is driving you crazy then the transition from Windows habits to OS X will drive you to suicide. If you just want get back to the habits of XP then buy an XP disc and install it on your current hardware. That's 1000 dollars in your pocket compared to buying a mac.

If money is no object and you are prepared to put in more effort in patience in learning OS X than you are doing in Vista then go for it. Nothing wrong with OS X for the tasks you are using. I'm not trying to be condescending but Ive found the Apple philosophy of "one window to rule them all" and "we decide your maximum window size, different UI, and especially the mouse take a lot of time to get used to. Much more than getting used to the UAC in vista. I got used to vista in 10 minutes. It takes me a week of daily OSX usage to feel like I'm not trying to drive stick-shift. On the plus side I've memorized the apple-key shortcuts and can use the command line, so my week is probably your 2-3 months.

Lastly, no Vista install I've had a hand in hangs. You are experiencing a technical problem. Apple is far from free from technical problems. Be prepared to deal with a smaller community of people who can help you. Not to mention being told by Apple that they wont accept shipped iMacs and paying for a cab to take me to the downtown Apple store, after making an appointment with a genius and waiting 30+ minutes of top of that. Dell sends a guy over in less than 24 hours.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:19 AM on October 6, 2007

Best answer: Let me recommend Switching to Mac: The Missing Manual by David Pogue. I've sold this one to dozens of people who are switching to Mac, and I've only gotten good feedback on it. The "Where'd it Go?" section in the back is worth the price alone.

If you're waiting for OS 10.5 before you buy, wait to buy the book too -- there will be a new edition for 10.5 not too long after. 10.5 ("Leopard") comes out sometime this month and many of my customers are waiting for it to drop before they buy their new computers.

If you're worried that an OS without all of the constant, unnecessary hurdles will infantilize you, take a class in UNIX. It's empowering; a little like learning how to fix your own car.
posted by churl at 11:11 AM on October 6, 2007

Why not install XP? It has more mature drivers than Vista, will not hang, and for you has a lower learning curve than Apple.

If you want to avoid infantilisation, install Ubuntu or another Linux variant. Then install OpenOffice or similar free alternative word processor.
posted by meehawl at 11:27 AM on October 6, 2007

I've been a windows user at work since windows 3.0, and haven't really used a mac since I replaced my Quadra 610 with a PC 9 years ago. However, this past week, we have a mac in the house. It's running 10.4, but it's just a slow 800MHz G3. Still, I love it.

It has its problems, but it just feels so much better than XP. It has a pleasant physicality that I've missed now that I spend most of my waking hours in front of a computer. Last weekend I was depressed at the thought of having to go back to work and use XP for 8 hours a day.

I realize that some of my enthusiasm is the novelty, and that my irritation with XP is the result of years of negative conditioning, but I'm still thinking I'll never buy another windows machine, and that I need a modern mac ASAP.

You should give it a shot.
posted by Good Brain at 12:00 PM on October 6, 2007

Well, it does come with the downside that nearly all small apps are shareware, where Windows has a lot more free choices.

Not sure about that. Nearly every time I search around for some small utility to do a task, the Windows application costs some less-than-nominal fee ($29-49), whereas there have been a number of free UNIX apps recompiled and packaged for Mac OS X. YMMV.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:15 PM on October 6, 2007

Why not install XP? It has more mature drivers than Vista, will not hang, and for you has a lower learning curve than Apple

XP and Vista are about as different as Mac OS X and Vista. I can't say how much time I've wasted trying to figure out where some control panel or applet was moved or renamed.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:17 PM on October 6, 2007

For heavy-duty word processing, you might also want to take a look at Nisus Writer Pro. It bills itself as "the writer's word processor" and I've known a few people over the years who absolutely swear (like, from-my-cold-dead-hands kind of swear) by it. There was a major rewrite of the program to make it compatible with OS X (and from what I understand, some people still like the old version). Its strength is supposedly in academic writing, particularly writing that requires the integration of multiple character sets or scripts.

Personally I use a separate text editor and typesetter when I write, but if you're not looking to abandon the 'word processor' completely, it's out there.

Lyx, which is designed for structured "what you see is what you mean" (as opposed to word-processor-style WYSIWYG) writing, also looks intriguing.

At any rate, there's no shortage of options for slinging text on a Mac. If you're changing platforms anyway, you might as well consider whether you want to ditch MS Word, too.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:23 PM on October 6, 2007

Note that the new Intel-compiled version of MS Office comes out in early 08.
posted by raf at 12:43 PM on October 6, 2007

Seconding the Ubuntu recommendation. I've got a Mac, a laptop running Ubuntu 7.10 and a PC running XP. I would choose the laptop if the house were burning down...

Seriously, though, download the live cd and boot it up. You'll have a working version (albeit a little slower than it would be on your hard drive) in a few seconds to try out.

I've got everything I need -, Abiword, Firefox, etc at my fingertips! Email me if you need some assistance. I'll be glad to help! My username here at
posted by cdmwebs at 1:56 PM on October 6, 2007

I'm a tech "professional", I guess; I'm pretty familiar with what goes on under the hood of an OS, and I've had to deal with pretty much every major OS out there in one way or another.

I now use a MacBook Pro. OS X is not going to infantilise you. There's more access to the internals, more clearly, and more effectively than in any Windows OS, it's just way easier to mess with those internals in an intuitive way without causing things to go hideously wrong.

It's nice. It's easy. It's slick. Things still do occasionally go wrong, of course, but they seem to be much less cataclysmic than on Windows. The thing I have the most trouble with is remembering to plug the damn thing in when the battery's low.

I used Windows for years and years and years. I got used to its idiosyncrasies, its crashes, its senseless code. I ended up using a girlfriend's Apple laptop for a while a few years ago and I thought, "yeah, this is nice and all, but I'd never use it for a real computer..." Last year I ended up using an Apple desktop at a place I was contracting at... and it's been downhill ever since.

XP just pisses me off now. I still know what's going on, it's just so fucking frustrating. I think that's only infantile if you think that it would be infantile to curse about shovelling coal into a furnace for electricity when there are perfectly good wind turbines and solar panels down the street. The end product is the same, but the other way is so much nicer. And you don't end up feeling like you just put your mouth over a smokestack afterward.

And I'm not even going to dignify Vista with a metaphor.
posted by blacklite at 1:57 PM on October 6, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you all very much. I think I'm sold on the shiny new toy - though I'll wait until Leopard (Leopard?) arrives. Really like the look of Scrivener. Want it. But my new scanning pen won't work on Mac, so I guess I'll have to have xp on as well for getting book notes on to screen.

So much helpfulness. Thanks again.
posted by jennydiski at 2:18 PM on October 6, 2007

Just a PS to your decision: OS X is not instantly intuitive for all people, despite some users' claims. If you switch (as I did a few years ago), I highly recommend getting one of the above books and also having a Mac-using friend or three handy on IM (Adium!) or something. It can be annoying to not be able to find something simple and basic just because it's part of the different organizational approach of OS X and can't be easily guessed. An actual human being is a life-saver in that situation. Have fun!

(P. S. Try the scanning pen anyway--it probably won't work but it just might!)
posted by wintersweet at 4:03 PM on October 6, 2007

Go for it, and don't look back.

I think the rest has been said, so this is really just a 'me to'!
posted by ranglin at 6:40 PM on October 7, 2007

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