Switchers Perspective: Software

switchersperspective.jpgIt is amazing how often people say that Mac’s just work. I found that to be true for the initial things, but once I went beyond the software that was included on my machine, I found myself lost and confused, and feeling very limited in what I could produce.

What was a dock, and how do I switch applications? Why aren’t applications closing when I click the red dot?

I was lucky, as my transition into the world of OS X was met with much community and friend support. Everyone wanted to share a tip with me. It was a fun feeling, but really not all that different than the world of Linux.

The big difference between my experience of Linux and OS X is that everything I wanted to do on my Mac seemed to need more paid software. Nothing good was free on the Mac. While I don’t mind paying for a few things, it seemed like everything I wanted to do other than browse the web needed another piece of software that set me back a few dollars. This made me want to go back to the free and open source world of Linux.

After some poking and prodding, I was able to find all the applications I needed. Installing them was a breeze, and my dock quickly filled up. I had to resize it, and only keep the applications I use on a daily basis on there. Sometimes I would remove a file and the next time I clicked on the icon in my dock or desktop, it would put a question mark. What had I done? Seems like I removed the application. Oops…

Navigating the administration panel called System Preferences, was relatively simple, but it didn’t feel like it was giving me all the “power user options”.

Disorganization is killing me. Despite having some great ready made folders for music, documents, pictures and the like, I found my desktop getting cluttered, and made a “stuff” folder on my desktop to clear off my desktop. I should put a better organization system in place, but I haven’t yet, and like Linux, I feel that the directory structure isn’t as easily understood as it should and could maybe be.

Don’t get me wrong though it is not all bad news here as the included applications are amazing. Photobooth is especially fun. It actually is the most social application included with OS X. It allowed for hundreds of hilarious pictures of friends and family, and became one of those things that people were actually interested in buying a similar machine just for the fun of using Photobooth.

When I first tried playing one of my xvid files, it tried to play it in Quicktime, and of course that didn’t work. I tried adding the codec, and still wouldn’t run. Thankfully VLC was easy to install, and worked great.

Another piece of software that has taken over my life is iTunes. Something I almost never used on my Windows machine. I am a huge Democracy fan, but iTunes on OS X just works well, and it’s included. I have since switched to iTunes, and don’t think I could go back to using any other piece of software to manage my video and audio podcasts.

Overall the software on the Mac is very nice looking, but it could use more free and open source software. I also think that there should be a better system for finding great software for OS X.

While OS X works well, it doesn’t “just work” like some believe. I had issues, and many stumbling points, but thankfully the community makes up for it in spades.

I think if Windows had such a bright, focused and friendly group of people helping with every issue, then maybe there would be enough of a reason to use Windows, but with OS X and Linux having such strong communities, I wouldn’t be surprised if they continue to gain market share faster than Windows can fix its mistakes.

David Peralty is the Director of Communications at Bloggy Network, a full time blogger of two years, writing on Blogging Pro, and Forever Geek as well as managing a few things behind the scenes.

Comments

  1. Funny, I haven’t bought a single extra software package since I got my Mac Mini, as everything I use is open source. I switched 6 months ago, and the sheer amount of stuff you get with OS X compared to Windows amazed me, especially considering just how much cheaper OS X is.

    I agree on iTunes – I hated it on the PC, but now I use it to organise my whole music collection, and highly successfully. When I hear my PC-owning friends criticising iTunes, it makes me smile. What little do they know!

  2. Geekboy, you have to remember I come from the Linux open source world… it is way bigger than either the Windows or Mac world it seems. Guess that’s what happens when the operating system is built on open source.

  3. Strange perspective… it seems like most of the decent open source programs for *nix will run on the Mac, too. There are also a lot of Mac-specific open source applications with a nice Mac-like look and feel. I do tend to buy more shareware for the Mac (unlike with PCs, most Mac shareware isn’t junk), but I’m constantly surprised at how much free software there is for the Mac.

    Have you checked out versiontracker.com?

  4. Same here, I hardly ever pay for software. There is always a free alternative. And the big guys like Photoshop, etc can always be had for a discount on eBay.

    Check out osx.iusethis.com for some amazing software. Some with a fee, but mostly free.

  5. I’ve found hundreds of great pieces of software for OS X, the vast majority free or cheap. Unlike Windows, I’m not paranoid about if this $5 piece of shareware is actually a spyware application or virus laden.

    In my dock right now, I have all free software (Firefox, Adium, X-Chat Aqua, Skype, iChat, NetNewsWire Lite, Twitter and Seashore), minus two — TextMate and Toast. All of them I’d consider high quality applications. Others I like and use regularly are Joost, MacPar deLuxe, The Unarchiver, SimplyRAR, Transmission, VLC, and iSquint.

    I’m surprised you had trouble installing XviD codecs. The “official” XviD worked fine for me for quite some time, and with Perian and Flip4Mac, I have access to almost all major video formats from within Quicktime.

    I’m a huge fan of Macupdate.com, and their sorting/searching, as you can choose a specific category, and only show free or shareware titles to display. Then you can find something you want to try, test it out, and delete it if you don’t like it, or keep it if you do.

  6. Q U I C K S I L V E R

  7. I also come from the open source world – I’ve been a Linux user since 1999. I have to admit that the “package repository” system that Linux distributions use for distributing software is well ahead of anything on Windows or the Mac.

  8. ClunkClunk – glad to meet another satisfied Seashore user. It’s one of the best image editing packages I’ve ever used, with a great balance between usability and features. I wouldn’t use half the stuff in Photoshop!

  9. Joe – Never seen versiontracker before. Very cool site. Could use some more features (like being able to search for freeware easily)

    I did check to see how much freeware there was and it doesn’t seem like much to me… I tried Audio Editors, and its one and a half pages. Not very much compared to my wonderful world of Linux.

    Kyre – Thanks, I will check out that site.

    Again, I am not saying there is zero free apps out there, but I am saying its very much a pay for software world when it comes to Mac. You might not be doing the same things that I am, or have found some great resources for free and open source applications, but until you’ve lived in the world of Linux, you don’t know the difference. I will give you this though.. Mac is a bit better than Windows on the FOSS movement.

    ClunkClunk – Thanks for the resource. Who knows…maybe in a few months I will have a different story for you all.

    It goes to show the community that surrounds all things Mac, and how it is not always easy to get what you need without community help.

  10. Geekboy – Thanks for backing me up. Seems like I have blasphemed in the Cult of Mac. :)

  11. I tried posting a couple of websites in here but got your blog spam message. Anyhow there is a Fink project going on which wants to bring all open source software to OS X.

  12. I’ve checked out linux quite a bit. I think there’s much more freeware in the linux realm, but a lot of it is junk. When I switched to OS X, I found that there isn’t an overwhelming amount of freeware, but for each category of software that you might need, there is often at least one really spectacular free solution that suits my needs, often moreso than any paid solution that I could find. I would point to Journler as an example, which is a breathtakingly wonderful app for writing, better than any I’ve ever used. Quicksilver is another great example, if you can get into it, an app that I can’t do without.

    And as far as paid apps go, the vast majority of them range between $5-$40 for the best of the best, many of them not exceeding $15.

    Whether free or paid, I have to say that, for the vast majority of software solutions on the Mac, the apps are much slicker, much easier, and much more fun to use than almost anything I’ve ever seen on the Linux platform, or Windows for what it’s worth.

  13. Viviana Wong says:

    There is a nice Office suite that you can download to your mac called NeoOffice suite which is compatible with MS Office and it costs nothing. It is free and I have been testing it for the past two weeks. Go and get it at http://www.neooffice.org and the developers are doing it free and relying on contributions from users. You can donate from $2 upward and that is very reasonable.

  14. Viviana, thanks for the resource. I am an OpenOffice user… nothing will ever change me from that. :) Thanks though.

  15. Pecos Bill says:

    Then there’s Fink and MacPorts package/ports managers…

  16. Neurotic Nomad says:

    Try http://www.freemacware.com

    Already mentioned, but worth repeating: Perian (from perian.org), Flip4Mac, Quicksilver, and VLC

    Also, NeoOffice is a Mac-specific port of OpenOffice and is currently “ahead” of the official Mac port of OO.o in its “Macness”.

    What kinds of apps are you looking for? What Windows or Linux apps are you replacing?

    My can’t-live-without-them apps: Safari Enhancer and Saft. (only one is free)

  17. David,

    I don’t think we’re trying to slam you, certainly I’m not, but check out a few points here:

    You’re familiar with Linux, so check out the Mac’s package management systems (as have already been mentioned): MacPorts is based on Debian apt-get, I believe. Also check out Fink, which definitely is Debian apt-get based. There are even GUI interfaces if you want. Quite mature. Fink’s been around since the early days of OS X. OS X is BSD, after all. About anything on Linux can be ported to OS X with a minimum of fuss. Years of this work has already been done.

    Also, you say nothing can lead you away from OpenOffice, not even NeoOffice. But NeoOffice is an OpenOffice Port! It’s a Mac’ified OpenOffice, so to speak. No need for X Window–if you find you like it. If you don’t, have you’ve checked out the X11 OpenOffice port for OS X? Apple’s X11 is the best, it’s a modified XFree86, and you’ll find it on your system DVD. It’s the best because the windows are 3D hardware accelerated.

    Here’s the filesystem organization: In the root directory anything lowercase is BSD, anything uppercase is Mac (derived from OpenStep).

    Volumes is where disks such as secondary and external hard drives and optical drives are mounted in case you want to use the CLI. You can use Terminal, located in /Applications/Utilities or check out free replacements such as iTerm.

    “Users” is roughly similar to “Documents and Settings” on Windows. Where are user directories found on Linux, usr? The user directories have organizational folders for your convenience: documents, pictures, movies, music.

    All applications should go in /Applications for the most part. I ignore ~/Applications (in the user directory, that is).

    System Preferences: System Preferences provide roughly the same functions as the Control Panels in Windows (or the old Mac OS), just on fewer “screens”. In my opinion, System Preferences is MUCH better organized than Control Panels on Windows 95/98/2k/XP. Except, you need to look for the firewall under “Sharing”. Also look in /Applications/Utilities and with your CLI look in /sbin, /bin, etc. Read about BSD file structures if you’re a CLI person. There are some amazingly powerful commands down there.

    Some ideas about finding Mac software, and most of these have been mentioned: versiontracker, macupdate, download.com, heck Google anything + “os x” and you’ll likely find it.

    Finally, the “just work” thing. . . Macs are computers like anything else. They’re tremendously complex. OS X is Mach + BSD kernels, BSD support software, OS X open-source OpenStep stuff + OS X proprietary + everything else you’d expect to find on a modern computer.

    Nevertheless, Apple has done an astonishing job overall making it all work. Most of the time, Mac users don’t have to drop to the terminal to get things done, for example, although it’s always there and fully functional if you want the power. Generally, things work. Not always. As with any computer, you must learn appropriate troubleshooting techniques for the platform.

    If you like to read computer books, I highly recommend Mac OS X: The Missing Manual by David Pogue. It’s an O’Reilly book. They also have a book aimed at switchers. In fact, O’Reilly has several Mac books, some super geeky stuff. Linux GUIs tend to be based on Windows. Don’t get me wrong, the work the Linux community has done has eclipsed anything coming out of Redmond in many ways. Still, Linux GUIs usually have a toolbar at the bottom, a start menu of some kind, etc. The Mac has a much-enhanced version of the original Macintosh operating system which is different in some ways from Windows. Microsoft copied the Mac interface but changed several aspects–surely to reduce the danger of litigation. Some of these differences remain in OS X. These differences are not “wrong” or “limited,” just different. BTW, you probably will want to learn the many, many, many keyboard shortcuts such as Apple key + Q to quit an app, Apple-W to close a window, Ctrl-Option-Eject to sleep, Ctrl-Option-Apple-Eject to shut down, etc.

    I went from DOS to Amiga (when I was a young bot) to Windows and finally switched to Macs in 2001 when I decided Apple was no longer in danger of falling off the face of the earth. And I’m hooked. I haven’t experienced a lack of software at all (except commercial games). Just the opposite. Usually my Macs are a joy to use. Lots of cool stuff to play with. I can get work done when I need to. I don’t really have to worry about viruses or spyware.

    Good luck and have fun. Check out the Mac forums all over the place. My personal fav. is MacOSX.com. There are many Mac users who will NOT throw the book at you, so to speak. We’ll be glad to help.

    Bot

  18. PERIAN!! it will help quicktime play almost anything even .mkv files for that HD content….

  19. And as usual, you guys put tears in my eyes with the level of help and support. ex2bot, that goes above and beyond. With that kind of information, I, a Linux user, can really understand what’s going on under the hood of OS X. I knew it was based on BSD… but wow… thanks a lot!

  20. Having switched to a Mac recently myself I would have to agree with David as far as paying for apps. Most of the top apps I have seen recommended require a purchase. In the Windows world it seems to be the exact opposite – many of the top apps recommended are free. With that said I am currently enjoying my new MacBook.

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