Using a Mac: A Beginner Speaks

Woo. I’m a Mac.

Since it’s (legally) impossible to write Mac or iPhone software on anything other than a Mac while Apple really knows how to stick it in your vein, I’ve bogarted an old MacBook at work and started setting it up as a developer machine. It only has OSX Leopard, not Snow Shrimp or Ocelot or LOLcat or whatever the next one is, but I understand the interface isn’t a whole lot different, just *waves hands* better somehow. I’ll upgrade when I have to, I guess.

I’ve been a Windows user for 17 years, so there’s a bit of a learning curve. For instance, on Windows machines, we tend to tuck most of our programs away in the Start menu, leaving only the most vital icons on the desktop while still having all of our programs neatly categorized in some throwout menus if we really need them. Also, when we have more than one program running, everything is right there on the taskbar and we can swap active programs with a single click.

Now on the Mac, there’s this “app bar” with merry little bouncing things across the bottom of the screen. Great. But, um, where are all my other programs? If I put everything I intend to use regularly on that bar, every inscrutable shifting pulsating icon on it will be two microns wide, and if I take some of the icons off, I’m afraid I’ll never find the program again. Also, you’re supposed to be able to tell which programs you currently have running by a little point of light appearing beneath its icon. You know, lost in the glossy reflections. I try not to leave programs hanging open for performance reasons, so this is kind of a pain. I hope there’s a setting to make open programs more obvious, because the points of light ain’t doing it for me.

The Finder is a little odd, though of course that’s just because it’s new to me. So far I’ve figured out that I can type in a program’s name, bring up a dorky looking list of all the programs I have installed and scroll through it, or create what appears to be a window into a much larger desktop chock full of icons. All three of these methods seem rather inelegant, clunky even. Hopefully I can grok what exactly makes this better than a flyout menu. Meanwhile, if you have several programs running, you can only see one taskbar at a time up in the Finder area. So that’s supposed to be “nice and uncluttered,” is it. Hmm.

Also this MacBook Pro has the worst damn trackpad in the history of trackpads, which I admit is coloring my view of the whole shebang. It’s the frustration of going back to the absolute beginning with a new OS combined with the mouse going WHEEEEEEEEEEEEE CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. Using Windows would certainly suck with this trackpad. Maybe that’s the problem with how Mac users think of Windows: They install it on Boot Camp, fumble around with either this sub-par tracking device or a one-button mouse, and pronounce it useless.

More experience will change my mind, maybe. But at the moment it’s just a fairly lackluster OS befouled by hardware demons. Nothing particularly “different” about it, unless you just mean “slightly more difficult to know what’s installed and running at any given time.” Which is pretty different.

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