Since migrating completely away from Microsoft Windows about two years ago (after being a loyal user and advocate since Windows Version 1.0), it’s been an interesting, sometimes challenging, but mostly rewarding experience learning both new (and honestly more efficient ways to work) and locating equivalent applications to run on OS X that I use to run on Windows.
Given I no longer invest (or have) as much time as I did in the past to play around with operating systems etc, being able to migrate my work practices as painlessly, efficiently and as seamlessly as possible from Windows to OS X, was a big consideration for me to make “the switch”.
As I seem to have encouraged a lot of friends, family and colleagues to migrate from Windows to the OS X, including over 99% of the team that produces Oracle Coherence, I’ve decided to document the process (over a series of blogs) for anyone that is also considering the move.
Once you’ve had enough of Windows (topic of another blog), the first question and corresponding research you need to conduct is this; “are all of the applications I use on Windows available (in some form or another) on OS X?”
NOTE: As I rarely played games on my Windows machine, gaming wasn’t really part of my consideration – but you can do so using Boot Camp.
For me this meant observing the software I use on a daily basis and especially the software I require to do my job (as Data Grid Solutions Architect at Oracle). After about a month of observing my own behavior, making notes etc (you need to do this over a month or so just in case you miss something), the inventory of applications that I required on OS X included;
- Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Powerpoint and Excel)
- Microsoft Visio
- Email and Calendar management
- A Web Browser
- Chat Client (supporting MSN, Yahoo, AIM)
- Java Development Environment (Eclipse – I’ve beening using this since version 1.0 and have no time to switch to something else)
- Perforce and Subversion
- My SQL (I had some legacy apps that required this)
- Cisco VPN Client
- Windows, Linux and Solaris Virtualization
I was pleasantly surprised almost all of my requirements were met by off-the-shelf or open-source solutions. I was also surprised that some of the alternatives (like Pages, KeyNote and Numbers) where much cheaper, often way better, had better stability, faster and completely compatible with my old Microsoft applications, hence reducing my software outlay (on top of a new system).
In the end, the biggest challenge for me was the lack of a version of Microsoft Visio for OS X. That was until I discovered Omni Graffle. While the earlier version (4.x) was not completely compatible with Visio, the efficiency gains using Omni Graffle were outstanding – and I think the resulting diagrams looked better too! Even more surprising was the Omni Graffle community (called Graffletopia) that offers a library of 100’s of shared templates. Brilliant… more time saving.
The unexpected discovery for me was that the people who use, design and write software for the Mac have a clear focus on elegance, simplication and productivity, things I rarely encountered in the Windows “world”. Rather than requiring a computer science degree to operate some software, things just seemed to be more obvious (or were included in-the-box).
So on top of my list of core applications, I also discovered (with help from some other Mac-heads) a few very cool productivity tools, stuff that I never really saw for Windows.
The three applications / OS X features that I now consider mandatory for any system, and are a central part of my every day-to-day life, are;
- Dashboard: For me this includes; time-zone conversions (I work in a global team), currency converter (useful for calculating expenses), sticky notes (jotting stuff down in a hurry), London Tube and National Rail Status (essential for living in London) and city weather (essential for trip planning)
- MailTags: If you receive or send more than 50 emails a day or work on multiple projects, this is a mandatory piece of software. For around $30 USD, it’s priceless. Return on investment is with in hours! For a dramatic improvement in email productivity, this is the tool. To understand the benefits of this, you need to read this.
- OmniFocus: From the same group that creates OmniGraffle, this is a nice tool for keeping things organized. Needs more integration with email and iCal, but it’s still very useful.
So… here is the list of applications and tools that use on a daily basis.
- OS X 10.5.3 (Leopard)
- Dashboard Widgets: Timescroller, AccuWeather, Tube, Unit Converter, Wikipedia
- Remote Desktop 3.2
- Microsoft Office 2008 (for the Mac)
- OmniGraffle 5.0
- OmniFocus 1.0.2
- MailTags 2.2
- Safari 3.1.1
- Adium 1.2.5
- Eclipse 3.2.2
- Subversion (svnx)
- VMWare Fusion (for running Windows XP, Vista when I really must, usually for corporate or customer provided software… which is rare)
- Cisco VPN 4.9
- Araxis Merge (essential for anyone doing any software development – also available on Windows)
- and of course iTunes 😉