Moving to Mac: 6 Months In


It’s been about six months since I took the plunge and moved from PC (s msft) to Mac (s aapl). ?I’ve outlined the thought process behind my move, my concerns, software choices and more in past posts. I thought it would be interesting to check in and see where I am now, how I am faring and what ?software I’m using.

As I originally anticipated, because so much of my work is done via cloud services, a good portion of my work process hasn’t changed significantly. ?I’m starting to think about supplementing these services with or Postbox and iCal but am generally pleased with the way that things revolve around my online services. I’ve added Yojimbo to my arsenal and still find it invaluable for overall organization and avoiding information overload. I’m also currently evaluating a move to OmniFocus for task management due to a change in the nature of the types of tasks I am managing.

The MacBook Pro remains a joy to use. I still marvel at its performance and enjoy the brightness and clarity of the display. Using the touchpad has become second nature. I had a scare recently when my machine failed to charge, but it was just a problem with the adapter and Apple replaced it with no hassles. I’ve even become accustomed to the different keyboard shortcuts so I do feel quite at home when working on it.

There are a couple of nagging issues I have, though. The first is the freestyle nature of the application windows in relation to the menubar, especially when working with multiple displays. For example, if I move an Excel (s msft) worksheet to a second display it feels wrong to have to move my mouse pointer to a different display to access menu options. I imagine I am still retraining myself to work this way, but it feels unintuitive to me.

I also really miss the ease of Alt+Tab-ing between applications on Windows machines. The Cmd+Tab cycle works well enough between applications, and I’ve discovered that Cmd+` cycles through windows within an application but those options only seem to work when the windows themselves haven’t been minimized. A minimized window seems to fall in to a black hole of sorts, and I’ve yet to figure out how to easily restore them.

?I’ve done a good share of tweaking of system settings and keyboard shortcuts (like disabling that peskily huge Caps Lock key) and with the addition of some useful utilities I’ve been able to personalize my system so that it works just as I want it to. I have found that generally OS X is very configurable, but resolving the couple of issues I outlined above still eludes me.

After six months I think I have reached a plateau of sorts in terms of productivity. I am feeling very comfortable with my current setup and am ready to move onto scripting, adding more utilities for file processing, and my personal goal of mastering the Services menu.

In addition to getting those last couple of pesky issues cleared up, I’m looking for recommendations on your favorite tips, tweaks, utilities and personalization options that take your productivity up a notch. Please leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to check them out and share them in future articles.

I’m trying to get the most out of my Mac. How do you tweak out every last bit of productivity?

Photo by Flickr user neys, licensed under CC 2.0

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Please… For the Command+Tab issue: DON’T minimize with Command + m just use Command + h to hide the windows. Then try Command + Tab. Just try it… See what I mean? You will never need to minimize a window again… and so you don’t need Witch or whatever…

Scott Blitstein

Very nice, I do see. Hiding the windows never occurred to me.

So many ways to do things, finding the right mix of techniques that work best can be overwhelming.




I find my self in a somewhat similar boat. I was a Mac user more than ten years ago and have been in a PC world ever since. Now I am back to Mac with my new 27″ iMac (that I really like).

It would be helpful to me to hear what you have to say about any new utilities/applications you try. I hate to install and then uninstall numerous apps so as long as you are going through the process, please share!

Best wishes – [ Jeff ]

Scott Blitstein

Hi Jeff,

Thanks – I hope to get some more details on the recommendations here posted in future articles. At least a roundup with what I ended up using if not some more detailed reviews.


Steve W, Indialantic FL

“…am ready to move onto scripting…”


Get to know what Mac is.

Scott Blitstein

Thanks – will take a look. Finder could use some sprucing. I miss being able to see full paths easily – although there is probably a way to display that.



Yes, in Finder, open a folder, go to the View Menu… then… “Show Path Bar”.


You can also CMD-Click the folder title (or file title in any application) to see the folder hierarchy to that item. You can even scroll down the list to open the relevant folder.

And don’t forget my two favorite file-navigation tricks:

– The icon in the title bar of any file or folder can be picked up and dragged, and it is just as if you are moving the file.

– In open and save dialogues you can drag files (or icons of files) to the window to instantly navigate to that location.

Michael Elliott

One of the most frustrating things when I switched to Mac was the menubar at the top of the screen, not in the application’s window. A friend of mine pointed out that this way you always know where the menu is…just flick the mouse to the top. It took a while to understand that the menubar itself changed with each application.

Now that I’m used to it, I really prefer it to the menu-per-application-window method in Windows. I don’t have to “aim” for the menu if I have multiple apps open (and if they are not maximized with their menu at the top of the screen, of course).

John Davis

One of the things I don’t like about Windows is the “clutter.” The Mac GUI simplifies things enormously and gives you the information you need at the time – or at least tries to. Microsoft’s solution seems to give you ALL the information ALL the time. I know that you can customize Word, but there always seem to be these rows and rows of icons and a tiny writing space. Similarly, Windows users almost always plaster their desktops with aliases.

Another free app to suggest is Finderpop. It gives you another way to navigate folders and find stuff.


@Steve – Don’t forget that you can make text selections on a Mac while also using Shift, Option, etc, whether you use the mouse/trackpad or just the arrow keys. Besides that, it’s just another thing to get used to. I never liked the pencil eraser pointer myself because I felt it required too much pressure.

Scott Blitstein, take a look at CapSee. It’s one of the only UI tweaks I’ve added. It puts up a transparent icon when you engage & disengage Caps Lock, looking like when you change the system volume or screen brightness from the keyboard. It won’t help you avoid hitting the key, but at least it’ll notify you quickly.

Scott Blitstein

I just disabled the caps key entirely – I’m not sure I’ve ever used it so this way it just becomes a non-issue entirely.

The text selection keys have been a bit of a challenge to learn and remember but I’m getting there.

thanks for the comment,

Andy Lee

One of the very first things I do with a new install is to map the Caps key to Control, which I find tremendously useful because I use Emacs text navigation keys all over the place, many, many times every day. It takes a while to learn them, but they are *much* more efficient than using arrow keys because you can keep your hands over the main keyboard area. I now find them second nature, and it would drive me nuts to use an OS that doesn’t support them.

Scott, you’ve mentioned the distinction between Delete and Backspace. There’s an Emacs keystroke for forward-Delete: ^D, which is much easier to hit (using the remapped Caps key, which is nice and big and convenient to the pinky) than fn-Delete.

The Home and End key behavior on Macs can be annoying. Using emacs keystrokes: ^A goes to beginning of line (the mnemonic is “A is the first letter of the alphabet”), and ^E goes to end of line (“E as in ‘End'”). Again, I think this is even better than Home and End because you don’t have to reach over to the special keys area. Your left hand is usually positioned well already to hit these keys.

Here’s a nifty shortcut: ^T transposes the characters on either side of the caret, which is handy for fixing typos like “teh” instead of “the”.

Other keys I use:

^F — forward one character
^B — back one character
^P — up to previous line
^N — down to next line
^K — delete (kill) to end of line

There are probably more but these get me a long, long way.

Not all apps support Emacs keys, a notable exception being the MS apps, but the vast majority do.

Arrow keys do come in handy for some things. Command-UpArrow goes to the top of the document, and Command-DownArrow to the bottom. Alternatively, you could use Command-A to select all, then use the Emacs ^A or ^F keys, if you prefer to keep your hands over the main keyboard area.

Andy Lee

P.S. I just realized I might not have been clear about this: Emacs keystrokes are built into the OS. You don’t have to install or configure anything — they work right now.


While I enjoy reading all the great tips in your notes… I was disappointed that you don’t really comment on whether you prefer the mac system now that you have switched or whether you will switch back to windows after this experiment is over. And the one comment that asks you to compare, you ignored. Or are the two platforms so similar now that it really does boil down to what you are used to? Which still seems to be Windows.

Scott Blitstein

Hi Rick,

Am still working my way through the comments – there have been a lot of them and I’m jumping in on my breaks today to try to get to everyone.

I can’t really say that I prefer it but I have reached a comfortable level of productivity and don’t feel hindered by the differences any longer.

I do find the platforms very similar at a high level – I mean the basic functionality to navigate, click, double click, etc along with the hierarchical folder structure really are comparable to a great extent. The individual differences are a mix of things that just take getting used to (min, max, close on left rather than right for example) and some that lead to differences in efficiency. I think as I get in to the more advanced customization options I’ll be better able to decide how well I’ve adjusted overall.

Hopefully this machine will last me a good couple of years before I need to decide again. The change does negate a significant software investment in the other platform that I am not sure I want to go through again. Maybe in another 20 years I’ll think about moving back.



Hi Rick,
I am in a similar situation. I bought a mac 2 years ago and have never looked back. Prior to that I was a full time Windows user since the good old dos days. Here is what makes the Mac so great: Sure it has a nice design, but at the end of the day what really makes it worth it is that it still boots and runs like the day I got it. I used to format my windows computers once a year as they tend to get slower with the installation of new programs etc, despite the programs being deleted after.I have yet to experience a full system crash! Sure programs have crashed, but I have never had a system freeze! And i use my computer for everything, from programming and office work to gaming . I know the price can seem stiff at first, but you do get a very complete unit, no extra hardware is required (like bluetooth, webcam etc..) and there are very many good free software options available for almost everything.

Personally I hope that Linux will prevail at some point. I love the OS as much as the Mac OS, but with its limitations in available software as well as it not being as stable as I would like, the MacOS remains my #1 by a mile atm..

Simon Mackie

Hey Rick — Just thought I would chime in here as someone who moved to Mac about 18 months ago. I love my MacBook Pro, it’s a lovely piece of hardware, and think that OS X is a great operating system. that said, however, I wouldn’t say that I definitely prefer it to Windows.

I recently had to install Windows 7 on my MacBook Pro to test out IE 9, and actually it works really well; I was quite impressed.

So it’s a question of choice; the combination of Mac hardware and software works well for me but I wouldn’t say that it’s infinitely superior to Windows, and I wouldn’t say that I would never go back.


Happy six months!

Yojimbo is excellent, but you might also like Evernote. Personally, I use Notational Velocity for fast, searchable plaintext notes (now with SimpleNote syncing!), and save Evernote for ‘scrapbook’ things, like PDFs, receipts, webarchives.

Dropbox is a very good (web/multiple computer/sharing) syncing tool, capable of some advanced tricks that fit into various workflows.

I don’t know if you even need iTunes controls, but someone mentioned Bowtie. It is very good, but I’ve been more happy with the simple and effective TunesArt.

RescueTime is a free and interesting automatic time tracker, with a good web interface.

Scott Blitstein

Thanks! It’s been a good six months.

Evernote has never clicked for me. I liked Notational Velocity but Yojimbo is a good balance for me and lets me put everything together.

I love Dropbox, that was an easy migration from Windows.



Have you tried Spaces (Like having multiple desktops)? you can CMD + ARROW through them. I find that much easier when using multiple applications and switching between them. Activate it in preferences.


I found my productivity went way up when I stopped minimizing windows. I just keep everything I am using in a big stack and us CMD + TAB to move around. I never need to minimize what I’m done with and I never need to do any extra commands/mouse movements to restore when I need it again.

Scott Weidig

@Steve I felt the same way when I stitched from a PC laptop with a trackstick. It is as you said, simply a get used to it. That said, the benefits that you receive using the trackpad are simply amazing. I find that after about 10 months on my MBP I struggle switching back to a regular mouse or trackpad if I have to use a PC. Scrolling is simply moving 2 fingers, not moving the cursor to an arrow then clicking and holding the mouse button, or spinning a “scroll wheel”… You will really like the switch. That said, I converted over to the Apple equivalent of most all Microsoft products… Most perform as well if not better once you get used to them. They just make sense (except for the “inspector” function… that is still annoying…

For screen capture love you cannot beat skitch

Scott Blitstein

I agree, the touchpad here is the best of any of the touch surfaces I’ve used. I’ve pretty much hated all of them compared to my trackpoint but I have grown quite fond of the swipe shortcuts that are available – well except for the zoom – that got shut off right away…



If you aren’t using Spaces, I suggest you give it a try. I work on multiple projects and must switch between them several times over the course of the day. I put all open windows associated with each project in its own space. It is freakin’ awesome. A huge productivity boost over Windows. I also have a 27″ screen. To me, big screen + spaces is way better than multiple little screens.

Scott Blitstein

I will have to try it to get the Mac take on it. I’ve tried in the past to work with various multiple desktop programs and they’ve just never clicked with me – perhaps Spaces will win me over.

I’ll take one of those 27″ screens for sure though!



Other than spaces, the only virtual desktop system I used was on a sun workstation in the 90s, which I didn’t particularly like. But my “workflow” back then was more single-task focused, so I probably didn’t give it a fair shot or really even need it.

You really do need to have the need to juggle massive amounts of open windows in order for spaces to really shine.

Also I should probably point out that spaces is not perfect. There are behaviors that I would like to see changed or at least user-configurable. But there is no doubt that at least for me, it is tremendously useful to have a virtual desktop system, particularly one that isn’t some third part add on or unsupported “toy” from the os vendor. Having it integrated into the os and supported by apple is definitely a plus in my book.


I am thinking of moving to a MacBook Pro from a PC but am concerned about using the Trackpad during word processing. Now, I use a Lenovo laptop with a TrackPoint (“pencil eraser”). (I don’t want to use a mouse.)

Now, on the Lenovo, when typing my hands stay close to the TrackPoint. I have tried the MacBook Pro in an Apple store. It feels unnatural to move my hands back and forth between the keyboard and Trackpad to, say, cut and paste text. Also, the Trackpad seems to require much higher pressure to “click” compared to the TrackPoint buttons.

I wonder if I am missing something or if perhaps this is just a matter of getting used to a new way of navigation.


Use keyboard shortcuts for cutting and pasting (CMD+C/X and CMD+V) then simply use the arrow keys to move. CMD+Up = Top of work, down=bottom, right=home left=end and alt goes between words, CTRL+Up/Down moves between pages (at least in Pages it does, seems to in web browsers too).


@Steve The trackpad can be configured so that you don’t have to push it so hard that it ‘clicks’. I think by default it is not configured this way but I’m sure most people quickly configure it so that just a touch on the glass is a ‘click’.

Scott Blitstein

I don’t remember which was the default but I’ve wavered on the tap to click/ click to click options before finally settling on the full click. It’s pretty tactile so you know when you’ve done it and not too much pressure is required once you’re accustomed. I found with the tap I was selecting too often when I didn’t intend to.



Also, on the topic of click pressure, you can change the trackpad settings so that you can just tap the pad, rather than having to physically push it down.

Scott Blitstein


I was in the exact same situation – I loved the TrackPoint on my ThinkPad.

I do agree that moving to the TouchPad isn’t as efficient a motion as the navigation I got on the TrackPoint but the other shortcuts and swiping options overall make for a very enjoyable and efficient experience. Seriously, 2 finger swipe to scroll is just tremendous for navigating within a document.

The shortcut keys are different but you can generally do everything without moving to the touchpad. The lack of the distinct backspace / delete key, home and end keys which I relied on was a bit of a challenge but you’ll pick up the new combinations quickly if you’re inclined to be a keyboard sort of person. It was a huge concern of mine really but that has been among the easiest parts of the transition.



have you tried “Things” yet? It’s a GREAT task manager!!! It’s very inexpensive too and you can also sync it with your iphone.

Scott Blitstein

no iPhone here but Things does look great. I am leaning more towards OmniFocus in my evaluation currently – it just seems to fit my style a little bit more – but haven’t made a decision yet.


Roger Mercer

Do you find that you accomplish more in less time, or is it about the same? Do you spend less time “fixing” your computer or more?

Scott Blitstein

I never really felt that I spent a lot of time ‘fixing’ my computer before so I don’t see much difference there. Perhaps it’s just because it’s new but I think I spend a lot more time getting things right now than before (cough, services menu, cough)

I would say that I am generally as productive as I was – I think I am enjoying the process of working with new programs and learning new things so there is that sense of accomplishment that just comes with working in general that I had probably gotten over in the past.


Fraser Smith

Glad you are enjoying the switch! I myself found the experience of moving to a mac very liberating!

I find that for any problem you run into, there seems to be 3rd party applications available that have you covered and all integrate brilliantly with the native OS. For your application switching issue I would recommend witch – this allows switching between all applications, minimised included.

Hope you continue to enjoy your mac experience!

Scott Blitstein

Thanks Fraser – it really has been a lot of fun if nothing else. Getting the chance to learn and use something different has been quite rewarding. It’s not quite starting over from scratch but being able to look at things as a beginner of sorts is really enjoyable.

Witch seems to be just the ticket – testing now!

thanks so much,


You should try Hyper Dock it allows you to see little windows of whatever you have minimized when you hover over the application with your pointer.

Neil Demjay

When holding Cmd + Tab to cycle through apps. select the app you want with minimized windows and hold the Option key. This will auto maximize the front window again.

Quiff Boy

+1 for Witch.

Plenty of great little apps out there to boost productivity:

Quicksilver – legendary app launcher (+ so much more)
Instantshot! – simple but powerful screenshots
Growl – discreet notifications about all manner of useful stuff
Bowtie – iTunes controller with discreet desktop integration
Mail Unread Menu – adds a ‘new mail’ icon to your menubar
iStatMenus – better menubar displays for time & date, power, cpu usage etc
unRarX – seemless un-rar’ing of files
YemuZip – quickly create pc-friendly zip files without all the Mac meta-gruft
Cinch – snap windows to screen edges, like Windows 7
1Password – securely manage your passwords (& so much more) – with great browser & Dropbox integration

And that’s just a starter for 10 :)


Seconding TwisterMc’s suggestion. I had a much older version of Witch and it did a fantastic job of rescuing minimized windows. I’m sure the latest version is no less brilliant, as ManyTricks is a long-time stalwart of OS X development and truly a class act.

Scott Blitstein

Yeah – Witch looks like just what I needed / wanted – and full of a ton of tweaky options (I love options – you know, once I figure out what they do!)


Matthew Schultz

If you are running Snow Leopard, you can restore minimized windows by selecting the app you want via CMD+Tab, continuing to hold down CMD, and then either arrow up or down (so, CMD+DOWN-ARROW. You’ll be able to select from the app’s open windows, including any minimized ones.


WOW… I’ve been using a Mac for years and never knew the CMD+Up/Down Arrow thing. You just rocked my world.


Oh and interestingly if you CMD+Tab afterwards, it’ll bring up expose for each app you tab to, without further intervention. Very nice.

Shashi Prabhakar

Hey guys- I wrote a free app called “FlyingWindows” that keeps you in Single Application mode by minimizing and unminimizing application windows. You can find it on Macupdate.

I wrote it because I found it frustrating that any minimized windows that I had placed out of the way, when switching back to the application would force me to click the dock icon.

Andy Lee

On a related note, I recently discovered that Option-clicking an app in the Dock hides the current app before switching to the one you selected.

Also, when I start having window overload, I sometimes like to use Command-Option-H, which in most apps hides all other apps. The one app this doesn’t help with much is Safari, where I typically have dozens of windows open, so hitting Command-Option-H doesn’t change the appearance of the screen much.

There’s a utility — a couple of them, actually, that make your current app’s front window stand out by slightly graying out everything else. They work by putting a screen-sized translucent gray window behind your current window. Another alternative for managing window overload. I don’t remember any names; perhaps someone can remind me?

Knute5 makes some very cool haxies to modify MacOS. I’ve always been addicted to WindowShade (an old MacOS9 feature) and popped for that.


Consider using a 4 finger gesture on the trackpad to do Expose application/window switching instead of command-tab. It includes minimized windows and you can switch between windows and apps in a single click. I find Expose more efficient than cmd-tab.

Scott Blitstein

I guess this is one of the things that after 20 years of PC use I haven’t been able to change. I like Expose, and it’s not that it’s a long distance to move to do the sweep but I am so used to being able to just zip between windows quickly without moving away from the keyboard.

With a lot of stuff open it’s also sort of a hassle to try to identify what I need in Expose, especially if they windows are minimized as I only get the smaller preview.


Scott Blitstein

Thanks – downloaded Witch and will check it out. I think I’ve seen it mentioned in the past but hadn’t ever installed it.

And SecondBar looks great as well.


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