Switching to Mac after 20+ years of using Windows
Published on in Mac
I have used Windows PCs since I was a kid. A year ago (Jan 2022) I got my first MacBook. While Mac isn't perfect, it's so much better that I'm not going back to Windows.
Table of contents
Why I switched to Mac
- I had long had the impression that many developers use and like Macs, so I was intrigued to try it myself.
- Macs are relatively expensive (same amount of money gets you more horsepower if you buy a Windows PC, though I'm not sure if M1/M2 Macs have changed the game), and I'm a cheapo.
- A year ago (Jan 2022) I switched jobs and could freely choose a work laptop (a great perk by the way), so I took the opportunity and chose a MacBook.
How long it took me to get familiar with Mac
Only about three days:
- Thu: fetched my MacBook from the office
- Fri–Sun: got to know the MacBook, configured things, installed apps
- Mon: started my new consulting gig
The first work days consisted mostly of introductions to the customer's systems etc., but even if the very first work day was full of coding, I feel I wouldn't have been any more productive had I used a Windows PC (because of the pros of Mac, listed below).
It was a bit risky to switch from Windows to Mac with such a short time frame, but it was worth it.
Things I like in Mac
Mac is a Unix operating system, so:
- Terminal works great and is fast
- Git Bash for Windows is slow in comparison
- WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) felt fragile and had performance issues last time I used it
- Unix tools work out of the box
- Oh My Zsh gave me a nice Terminal experience very easily
The hardware matters as well; I switched from Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 7 to MacBook Pro 16" M1 Pro (32 GB).
My MacBook is not as fast as I thought – I had read high praises from several sources, so my expectations were very high – but it's still fast.
Every time I use my Windows laptop I'm baffled how sluggish it is. So compared to that, yes, my MacBook is very fast.
Better keyboard shortcuts
Using the Cmd key (next to the space bar) with the left thumb is more ergonomic than reaching for the Ctrl key with the left pinky.
Things I miss from Windows
The Menu keyboard key
The Menu key is essential for comfortable keyboard navigation across Windows:
In computing, the menu key or application key (≣ Menu) is a key found on Microsoft Windows-oriented computer keyboards [...]. It is typically found on the right side of the keyboard between the right Windows logo key and the right control key [...].
The key's primary function is to launch a context menu with the keyboard rather than with the usual right-mouse button. It can be used when the right-mouse button is not present on a mouse.
[...] In many Windows applications, a similar functionality can be invoked with the ⇧ Shift+F10 keyboard shortcut [...].
I used the Menu key (or sometimes Shift+F10) all the time.
Mac doesn't have a Menu key. Such a shame. An accessibility issue as well.
The default alt-tabbing experience on Mac is poor. No window previews like on Windows, and the keyboard shortcut for alt-tabbing to a hidden or minimized window is crazily complex.
Switching between the windows of a single app with Cmd+` is cool though.
I use a free app called AltTab which "brings the power of Windows's 'alt-tab' window switcher to macOS." Unfortunately it's a bit buggy (because "Mac development ecosystem is pretty terrible in general"), but it's 90% great and much better than the default alt-tabbing experience on Mac.
Middle-clicking on the trackpad
I'm used to middle-clicking by tapping the trackpad with three fingers. That's not possible on MacBook's trackpad though.
The free app called MiddleClick fixes that, but it's a bit buggy.
There are paid alternatives, but I'm not willing to pay several euros for a feature that should be part of core Mac. (I already said I'm a cheapo.)
It's baffling that I need a 3rd party app for this basic feature.
I rarely play video games, but I miss Battlefield 4. I'd also love to try Age of Empires IV.
Mac runs some games, but of course not those two I'm interested in.
My bro recently built a Windows gaming PC, which made me want to build one too.
Things that are bad both in Windows and Mac
I truly hated focus stealing on Windows. It's so annoying when you are doing something and another app/window suddenly steals focus, interrupting your typing/clicking/whatever.
Focus stealing is a problem on Mac too, albeit not as big a problem. Krisp is maybe the worst offender I have encountered so far.
I had reaperducer's Hacker News comment about focus stealing on Macs saved on my bookmarks. It's a good comment; here's a snippet:
I think allowing any pop-up to demand focus is a serious security flaw. I've sometimes found myself typing a password into a browser, or a word processor, because they've decided that they are the most important thing in my life at that moment.
So, focus stealing is not only an annoyance but a security risk as well.
I like Mac because it's fast and a Unix system and generally just feels good.
Mac required some tweaking to make me feel at home, but what system doesn't require tweaking? The Windows experience isn't optimal out of the box either.
After a year of using Mac and touching Windows only a few times, I don't see myself going back to Windows, except maybe for gaming. Though it didn't take a full year for me to feel this way; only a few days or weeks.