Making the switch from Windows to Apple OS X : Mandatory software for your Mac

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;

  1. 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)
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  • Mail
  • iCal
  • iWork
  • iLife
  • Safari 3.1.1
  • Adium 1.2.5
  • Eclipse 3.2.2
  • Perforce
  • 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 😉 



19 responses to “Making the switch from Windows to Apple OS X : Mandatory software for your Mac

  1. Most people can find equivalent software for all their needs on the Mac. However, sometimes there is that one program that just doesn’t have an adequate equivalent for the Mac yet. For those few exceptions there is always emulation software to run both Windows and that must have app on the Mac. I use Parallels emulation software to run an industry standard app on my Mac with Windows XP running invisibly in the background. I couldn’t be happier with the way Parallels integrates Windows with the Mac OS and keeps Windows completely sandboxed and safe from harm.

  2. Thomas Lingenfelter

    If you want to run all that windows software on your mac why not use parallels

  3. SvnX is OK, but check out ‘Versions’, a new SVN client from the same people who did the ‘Checkout’ POS application. It’s very nice.

    Eclipse – meh. Each to his own, but I prefer to use a fast, native editor like TextMate. I find the Finder and/or the Unix shell is as good for project management as any IDE, and there’s always PathFinder if you want a real power user tool.

  4. I prefer TSclientX over MS RDC, not least because it is built upon rdesktop. Check it at

  5. Hi Mike,

    I actually use Apple’s Remote Desktop for managing my other Mac’s (because I have four of them). I agree about MS RDC, not the best tool, but a haven’t connected to a Windows machine in over 18 months as I’ve eliminated all of them from my life.

    — Brian

  6. I’m a more casual computer user than yourself, but am on it a lot for personal and small home business reasons. I switched from Windows to Apple a year ago, with my purchase of a MacBook Pro. I have no regrets and have found ways to do everything I did before, and then some. The ease of use is noticeable over Windows and I’m a creative type, so I appreciate how much “prettier” everything is in Mac World. Thanks for your article.
    Take care ~Erika

  7. If you do any amount of text work, you will find TypeIt4Me quite invaluable. I have made my own “shorthand” with this that puts my typing speed pretty much the same as speech. It works anywhere in the system, so that if, for example, you want to type today’s date, you just type “ddd” and a comma, period, space, etc., will turn it into “2008-06-29.”

    John Davis

  8. CurmudgeonGeographer

    Thomas Lingenfelter: Why Parallels Desktop? He’s using VMWare Fusion for his Windows needs.

  9. One app to look at is Tex-Edit Plus. This is a very nice text editor which has a number of great tools for quick clean up of text, for searching text (including grep) and is completely scriptable with AppleScript. In addition to being completely controlled by Applescript it is recordable which means that if you’re not sure how to script something you simply turn on the recorder in the AS editor, manipulate TE+ manually, stop the recording and TE+ generates the script encoding what you did. This makes it a great tool for cleaning up snippets of text people send you or that you copy off the web.

  10. You may want to look at ConceptDraw from to replace Visio.

  11. Pingback: Pages tagged "windows"

  12. To continue John’s comment about text editors, I recently purchased TextMate and am finding it to be indispensible. I’m not a programmer, but I do a lot of writing, much of which is in LaTeX, and TextMate has some awesome built-in tools for LaTeX “coding”. I also use TextMate to compose all of my text before importing it into Word or Pages or whatever the case may be. It’s a little pricey ($70; $55 for education) but it’s worth it.

  13. That should have been \LaTeX.

  14. msn for mac, is rubbish, it doesnt support web cam. and is crap.

    but it is a necessary!

  15. I agree. MSN is rubbish. That’s why I use Adium. If video is needed I use skype or iChat (though I’ve found skype to be a bit unstable)

  16. ConceptDraw can be found at —

  17. @Andy – Thank you for leading me toward Versions.

  18. Parallels or VMWare Fusion, which is better and why? Or is this a case of it depends what it is that you want to do, which in my case is run things like Office and Photoshop without having to buy all this expensive software again.

  19. I know I’m running a bit late here, but I’ve just installed OmniGraffle Pro on my MacBook Pro after reading about it here. After a couple of quick clicks to install the extra stencil set I needed, this is absolutely fantastic! It does just what I need and is so great to use. Thanks for the tip!!

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