Moving to Mac: Software Choices


Mac KeyboardWhen evaluating if a move to Mac (s aapl) was possible, I created a list of the software tools that I used on a day-to-day basis, and then looked for replacements on the Mac side of the fence. I knew that the hardware- and OS-specific differences between PC and Mac would be important, but it’s really the software that I use to do my work that determines my productivity.

Thankfully, in many instances, I found I was able to start with a direct Mac version of the Windows (s msft) software I was already comfortable with and using productively. For browsing purposes I’ve been using Google Chrome (s goog) on the PC for months, so I jumped on to the Mac version and got to business as usual. I’ve installed Firefox and have briefly tested Safari, but I’m quite happy with Chrome, even if it still retains its beta status on the Mac.

With the browser comes access to all of the web-based services I use that make up the bulk of my tools, including CRM, GmailGoogle CalendarGoogle Docs, as well as the help desk/ticketing systems that I use for my job. I use Thymer for task management, but Things and OmniFocus will probably get some evaluation time as I’ve always been quite curious about them.

There are also quite a few programs where it was just a matter of installing the Mac version of my existing tools. I use Jing for screen grabs for blogging, tech support, jokes and even short screencasts for training or support. Functionally and visually it’s identical on the Mac. I know that Skitch and LittleSnapper are popular alternatives but I’ve always been quite pleased with Jing.

Skype is a staple for IM and video chats for both work and personal use, so a switch to the Mac client was a requirement. Functionally it’s virtually identical but the interface is different enough that it required a bit of an adjustment period.

I’ve long been a fan of Dropbox for syncing all sorts of things between my computers as well as quick file transfers between friends and clients. Again, the availability of a Mac client was a requirement and I’ve found it to work equally as well. I do miss the ability to just double-click on the Dropbox icon in my status bar but rather now needing to explicitly choose to open the folder. Once I settle on a program launcher though that will cease to be an issue.

I spend a lot of time on Twitter and have been using TweetDeck for a long time to manage that service. I like the ability to create the custom searches I need to track as well as being able to post to Facebook as well as to some of the client accounts to which I contribute. I knew that the cross-platform nature of the Adobe AIR (s adbe) meant that a Mac version of TweetDeck was available. I briefly experimented with Tweetie as it’s one of those programs that Mac users have always raved about but quickly moved back to TweetDeck — if for no other reason than I was more comfortable with it.

The nature of what I do, along with my natural curiosity, means I’ll probably continue to look for alternatives and to explore the Mac-only options that exist in these categories. But the availability of Mac versions of my favorite tools meant I was able to get myself up and running quickly.

How much of what you use could be easily transferred to another platform?

Image by stock.xchng user mab_design



Some programs I do use on my new Mac, some not. I would also recommend Rohos Logon Key to keep your Mac secure from prying eyes. I use this program on both my Windows 7 and Mac and worry not about anyone using them without my permission.


Thanks for the information you have provided in your articles about switching to a Mac. I am a long-time Windows user who just purchased a 13″ MacBook Pro yesterday so I am starting the same transition that you have been experiencing! Keep up the good work!

Scott Blitstein

Thanks Todd. How are you doing so far? I still find myself struggling with a few issues that are causing some tremendous frustration (accessing multiple windows per application anyone..)

Would be interesting to hear how you are doing to see if my results are typical.



Don’t forget to go to Apple’s site and run the numerous tutorials. Most are only about 2 minutes long but they are all fantastic! I learned more by running 2 or 3 of these per day for the first month that I had my Mac than via any other means. They get you into the swing of things which then carries over to the rest of your Mac experience. Very soon you find yourself being a bit of a power user.

Scott Blitstein

Thanks – I’ve done quite a few of them and they are helpful. I’m not using Mail, I don’t use iTunes and don’t really do the photos (my wife handles those) so a lot of the tutorials aren’t really relevant but there are quite a few that have been helpful indeed.

Thanks for the tip,


John Davis

There are a few apps I would suggest you take a look at:

Alfred – great and blazingly fast launcher (free).
FinderPop – Access frequently used folders and move stuff around easily from the keyboard (pintware).
TypeIt4Me – The granddaddy, often imitated, but this was the first of its kind on any platform. Type an abbreviation and it expands with a space, punctuation mark, etc., to whatever you want. Not free but cheap and well worth the time it saves.
Pages – Does 90% of what Word does and a lot that Word doesn’t without being a poor imitation of what was crap to begin with. I hope I don’t offend any Word, OpenOffice or NeoOffice fans.
Things – a lifesaver! Brilliant software.

There are many more, but these will do to start with.

John Davis

Scott Blitstein

Thanks John – Alfred reminds me quite a bit of Launchy which I used to use on the PC. Will check out the others.



Having been an MS user since the DOS days, I recently bought an iMac. I have been able to replace most MS applications with something usable and freindly. However I have not been able to find a good application to take the place of MS Streets and Trips. I use it for a touring business as well as for pleasure. I don’t really care for virtual machines and I’m currently running Boot Camp to boot to Windows 7. I’d much prefer to work entirely on the Mac and delete the NTFS partition.

Scott Blitstein


None of the Google Maps or other location based services are a viable option as a replacement? I’m not familiar with Streets and Trips but with location services all the rage I’m surprised there isn’t a web based option. Perhaps they just aren’t as advanced as they make us think.



Snow Leopard itself is quite location aware but Apple seems to have leaned on Google Maps to get most things done in that regard.

Route planning and map making in Streets and Trips was, in a word, simple. It isn’t in Google Maps. It isn’t hard, it just isn’t simple or automatic.


Sadly, this is one weakness on the Mac. Google maps can get you there with some effort, but Streets & Trips really is quite fine software and has no direct Mac equivalent.

We do use Google maps for our itineraries now though and have learned to enjoy it and even use it in ways that we couldn’t use Streets & Trips. It just seems to require a bit more elbow grease to get to the finish line.


With the transition from Windows to Linux I chose Firefox as browser. I switched from Dropbox to 4shared, so tested it as well. Works. Have chosen Linux for the same reason as Andy. The software I use is supported by Linux. So, sorry Mac..

Scott Blitstein

I tried to use Linux on the desktop for a while and it just didn’t work for me. Where I was able to make the leap and feel confident with software and support for Mac, I just didn’t feel that way with Linux.

Maybe some day.


João Dias

I have just moved to Mac, not intirely because i have more than 10 years of windows and only 2 of Linux.

I use to edit movies in windows “Sony Vegas Pro” and then moved to Linux “Openshot” both on the same computer, with Linux (Ubuntu) with a better perfomanse.

Now that i have my first Mac (iMac coreduo) i use iMovie. Will never go back again.
I use Socialite to Twiter and Facebook.

Image quality screen brightness men i love mac. I use Bootcamp with WinXP just for my wife and windows Live Messenger.

The only downside of mac is Messenger support. (for my wife of course)

As i could find alternative apps for linux i can find even better alternative apps for MAC. Once you start using mac you will never go back again. (so they say)

You should do a post on Mac x Linux x Windows alternatives.
If you need help just send me an e-mail.

Mac = Love at first site.

Scott Blitstein

I’m not quite that sold. I like a lot of what I am finding but am still quite frustrated by some of the changes. It might just work – but it doesn’t always just work like I want it to I guess.



Messenger for Mac is available from Microsoft. Just search for Messenger for Mac on Google and it will come right up. Microsoft has a section of their site dedicated to Mac software that they create, found at

I switched just over a year ago and can’t go back to Windows now. Being in Windows is like being in one of those needy, one-way relationships that just tire you out. Mac just works and has brought the fun back into computing for me, something I lost many, many years ago.


You can do a lot of stuff with a Mac and there are a lot of applications, particularly if you don’t do anything too esoteric. Of course if you do you might struggle a little.

David Whelan

I went through the same process recently, making the switch to Ubuntu from Windows. Chrome and Dropbox were also mandatory, but I was surprised at how many applications (TrueCrypt, Thunderbird, etc.) were at least in beta on multiple platforms if not fully operational. My experience was that everything I used either had a Linux-based version or I could run it through an emulator (Microsoft products) until I can transition to Linux equivalents (like Open Office). Nice article and good luck with the transition!


@SUFIAN, same happened to me and I agree with your recommendation.
As far as the article goes, excellent quality as usual.
Thanks for sharing.


i use little snitch to monitor network usage/-i/o,if your mac is prone to heat or you live in an hot environment,then smc fan control is the goods,gimp is a good open source photo editor,[free]
onyx for system repair/service,quicksilver for streamlining searches/app launch and more,


For migrating between systems i’ve always found that looking for a program that does the same thing is easier than looking for a “mac” version of that same program you’re using. The same goes for linux. Or maybe even moreso on linux since functionally it is similar but makers of programs for win or mac almost never do a linux app.
Not that i mind. I switched to linux a couple of years back and at work i use an iMac. Have never looked back.


Good call Bjorn… this also give us the opportunity to change things for the better while we are there. If we are just going to use the Mac equivalent of your Windows software, we’d be missing out on a great deal of high-quality alternatives that change how we do things.

My billing software comes to mind immediately. Billings and it’s iPhone companion have made things so easy for me that I manage to bill as much as 2.5 hours more per day than I used to when I was in the Windows world.

Pages can free your creativity so much that you can take your documents into the realm of desktop publishing with very little effort and you can do things that are only a pipe dream in Word. No point in buying Office for Mac until you have given Pages a good try. Even Numbers does beautiful things with 3D piecharts, grids, etc that are either impossible or very difficult in Excel.

Switching to a Mac is a good chance to open your mind to new ideas, new ways of doing things and a wonderful world of creativity.

Scott Blitstein

Initially I wanted to be sure that I could jump right in with something so a mac version was a good starting point – but I certainly intend to look at other options (actually – am already doing so)

For my simple needs Google Docs suits me just fine, I haven’t used Word in ages. Numbers does look good but I honestly find it useless for real data manipulation compared to what I do with Excel. I just don’t feel comfortable and until someone can show me how to do a pivot table I’m going to need to keep Excel running.

In other areas though there are some great options I’ll be writing about in some overview posts.

appreciate your comments, thanks


I found it easy to switch to Linux from Windows for all but a select few specialized apps. As “Andy” suggests, software supporting general tasks is available for all platforms, but the barrier is greater to a switch if a specific purpose is only well supported by a proprietary software provider that chooses to support only one platform (or you have established lock-in due to previous file formats). Often there are alternatives (preferably open and available on all platforms) that could be adopted without great difficulty. Avoiding the potential for lock-in from the outset is always advisable.

Scott Blitstein

Thanks Bob – there were no lock in issues which is what made this a perfect time to see if I could make the switch.


Manoj Kumar Pal

Very Well written.I am a mac user since last year and your post help me to use these software on mac.
there lots of software for mac OS .

Tim J

THINGS for the Mac with the iPhone and iPad versions is an AWESOME combination with launch-time Wifi synch between all three provided the app is open on each device and you are on the same LAN. Once they have multiple Mac synching and realtime synch (Wifi and 3G) it will be the best To Do List out there on any platform.

Scott Blitstein

No ianything here so not concerned too much w/ that but Things is one of those – well – things that gets so many raves I’ve just got to try it.



In fact, most of the software that I work is
not supported on Mac, it is supported on Linux
(not all, but most).

A lot of stuff that runs on Linux runs on Mac because Mac OS includes a full Unix environment, including X-Windows, which runs inside Mac windows so you are still in the Mac GUI.

You can also run Windows on a Mac via VMWare Fusion, Parallels, or VirtualBox. Fusion and Parallels (about $50 each) can run each Windows app in its own window so they basically appear to be Mac apps, with Dock icons and file associations and everything. Fusion can import your existing Windows environment from you PC. Getting your Web browsing and email and so on out of your Windows environment and just using Windows productivity apps can protect Windows from viruses and make it more reliable for when you really do need a Windows app. VirtualBox is free and is great if you just have a few Windows apps you can’t replace.

So there isn’t anything stopping you from moving to a Mac if you want to. The Mac runs Unix and Windows in addition to native Mac Cocoa apps.

Scott Blitstein

Thanks – the availability of the VM is a nice fall back. So far I’ve tried to avoid it but think there are instances where it is just going to be necessary. I like having the flexibility to really run just about anything now.



So, you could just work with a iPad, or even a netbook… you do not really need a PC, until you do, I will not consider this article as even valid.

In fact, most of the software that I work is not supported on Mac, it is supported on Linux (not all, but most).

I am not sold.

Scott Blitstein


This is just a small subset of the software I use, specifically the things I could easily transfer across platforms. It is by no means a complete listing of what I need. I’ll be discussing more in future articles.

I did consider a netbook as an option but the small keyboard for long term use made it not really a viable option. I don’t consider the iPad a viable alternative in any fashion.

thanks for the comments,


Nice write-up. I went through the same process when I switched to Mac a few years ago.

I’d recommend ScreenFlow for screen capturing (I use Jing too, but I’ve switched to ScreenFlow lately).

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