Switching *to* Windows
November 13, 2007 6:49 AM   Subscribe

Advice/recommendations for a Mac to Windows switcher please

For a number of odd reasons I find myself with a Windows laptop, and at a loss. Apart from a passing acquaintance with locked-down uni PCs, I haven't used Windows since 1995, and that was only till I could get the cash for a Mac.

So, I'm looking for advice on things that are second-nature to Windows people, but that I won't know. You know the stuff, basically just the reverse of all those "I have a Mac, what now?" questions.

In particular, though, are there equivalents for:
* Quicksilver (basically just the type-to-launch-apps bit)
* Spotlight (fast full-text searching)
* Textmate (mdi text editor with highlighting, autocomplete and SVN integration)
* BibDesk (and are there any recommend LaTeX editors?)
* Devonthink
* Mail.app -- I hear good things about The Bat! Is it all that?

Finally: how big a deal is the virus thing? If I'm just sitting on cafe WiFi, not actively browsing, can web-wandering exploits pwn me? And if so, what sort of virus-cum-filter software should I be running?

Thanks in advance!
posted by bonaldi to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
TextPad is my preferred editor on Windows. I think it's actually better than TextMate.
posted by mkb at 6:56 AM on November 13, 2007

Launchy is a substitute for Quicksilver, but I find it uglier and less intuitive.
posted by daviss at 7:12 AM on November 13, 2007

* For Quicksilver, try Colibri
* If you're using Vista, Instant Search is nearly as good as Spotlight in Leopard. For XP, though, try Microsoft's own Windows Desktop Search
* Can't tell you much about Textmate or Bibdesk as I don't use them on a Mac
* I haven't found anything quite like DEVONthink on Windows. EverNote kind of works, but I really don't think there's anything out there on Windows with all the features of DEVONthink on the Mac
*Give Thunderbird. It's pretty nice on Windows. I haven't used The Bat, so I can't say much about it.

As far as viruses go, the important thing is not to be dumb about the things that you look at and/or download on the web. You get a pop-up window that tells you that your registry needs cleaning? Don't click on it. You go to a sleazy website and it asks you to download a codec? Don't. There are some OS exploits and holes in Windows which leave you vulnerable to some attacks if you're not covered by any type of firewall at all, though.

The bottom line if you're smart about what you're doing on the 'net is to turn on the Windows Firewall with default settings and run behind a router when you can. Download the free version of AVG and run a quick scan weekly if you're concerned, but you don't need to run it in the background if you're worried about taking a performance hit.
posted by joshrholloway at 7:15 AM on November 13, 2007

Quicksilver - closest you'll get at the moment is Launchy
Spotlight - Google Desktop is alright, but it eats RAM
Textmate - Notepad ++ is pretty good.
Bibdesk - No idea, sorry
DevonThink - there are a bunch of information organisers out there, things like Treepad, Wikidpad and so on. Nothing like DevonThink though.
Mail.app - probably Thunderbird?

Virus-wise, yeah, get protected. AVG free is a good option.

If you're pining for the Dashboard, use Konfabulator.

I switch between windows and mac at work and home, so any other q's MefiMail me.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:16 AM on November 13, 2007

Response by poster: zadcat: since this thing is both smaller than the smallest Mac laptop Apple's ever made *and* gets considerably battery life than my MacBook, in some respects there *isn't* a Mac of equal value.

Thanks very much so far guys. I should have mentioned, it's running XP, and I've just whapped on the two virus/spyware scanners that come with Google Desktop (which also has quite a nice launcher thing).

Am downloading Evernote now, joshrholloway, thanks. BibDesk is a real shame not to have, however.
posted by bonaldi at 7:32 AM on November 13, 2007

Mod note: a few comments removed. stop being 'get a mac' 'get ubuntu' dorks please.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:17 AM on November 13, 2007

Haven't tried it, but E is trying to be TextMate for Windows.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:28 AM on November 13, 2007

I like WinEdt for editing LaTeX. It's reasonably cheap and has a free trial. I use it with the MikTex distribution.
posted by teleskiving at 8:34 AM on November 13, 2007

Oh, and try JabRef for managing your BibTex files - it's free, cross-platform, and has been around for a while.
posted by teleskiving at 8:37 AM on November 13, 2007

Right-clicking for context menus can be very handy in windows. May be something you're not used to.
posted by yarrow at 9:15 AM on November 13, 2007

My advice for moving to Windows is simple, if you don't know how to do something, try right-clicking it.
posted by advicepig at 10:11 AM on November 13, 2007

You may want to download Spybot Search and Destroy. And there was a neat little thing I downloaded yesterday that's useful for cutting down programs quicker than using the task manager. I believe it's called Task Killer.

If you're using any programs you also use on the Mac, figure out a way to get yourself actively using the control key for PC keyboard shortcuts. Otherwise you may do something you didn't intend to do when you hit the ALT key (where the open apple key is on a Mac keyboard).
posted by drezdn at 10:49 AM on November 13, 2007

Re: browsing viruses... Firefox (or opera). Dump IE post haste.
posted by toomuchpete at 11:52 AM on November 13, 2007

There's all kinds of Alt-click, Shift-click combos you can explore, but overall the basic idea is that there may be multiple ways to do any one thing, so you have to find the one you like.

You're expected to customize your interface and set your own options how you want them, so programs tend to come with a plethora of configuration/rendering/skinning options.

Things aren't generally tightly integrated, but because there's such a large variety of available programs, you can generally find something that fits into a given workflow.

Because there's a lot of shareware/freeware out there, much of which is not so good, some of which is fantastic, be parsimonious with the programs you install.

Crimson Edit is a decent text editor, Komodo Edit is kinda fancy, PuTTY and WinSCP are decent clients and work together well.

Office isn't a bad set of programs for an XP system, and Outlook is particularly nice.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 12:12 PM on November 13, 2007

If you have any doubts what a particular Windows application or download is going to do, install it into something like a Sandboxie container and see what happens. You can also use a program like RegMon or FileMon to see what is going on outside the sandbox.
posted by meehawl at 1:45 PM on November 13, 2007

Apparently, FileMon and RegMon have been deprecated in favour of Process Monitor.
posted by meehawl at 1:50 PM on November 13, 2007

I like Copernic desktop search, takes a while to run the first time but good.
posted by hardcode at 2:29 PM on November 13, 2007

Skylight looks like the closest thing to Quicksilver on a PC yet. I used the predecessor of this program, AppRocket, for few months, and it worked pretty well. There's no real replacement for Quicksilver on Windows, though; most of the similar programs you're going to find are just program/file launchers.
posted by phaded at 10:33 AM on November 17, 2007

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