The end of 2014 and 2015 have brought with them lots of changes for me. In November I got my first iPhone and, last week, I decided to take the plunge and get my first Mac. I decided upon the mid-2014 13” MacBook Pro with Retina Display with 256GB storage. I’ve been a Windows user for years. For a period of time, I even considered myself a “Windows fan,” but, really, that was because I never really took the time to get to know OS X and the Mac environment. I loved the design and sleekness of MacBooks and tried so hard to find a Windows equivalent, but with no luck. When I changed my major to computer science a couple of years ago, I decided that the advantages of having a Mac were worth the of the machine . Most of my peers had one and they were very happy with theirs. I had resolved to get a Mac long before I even considered an iPhone as my smartphone of choice. Of course, the fact that I already had an iPhone makes the MacBook all the more alluring and creates a type of synergy unique in mobile and desktop computing.
So, after a week of having one, here are my initial thoughts and a round-up of my favourite apps/programs so far.
What I like - Hardware:
General Notebook - I’m not necessarily talking about specs here, but just the way the notebook feels while I’m using it. It’s very well-built and isn’t as heavy as I thought it would be. Ventilation seems to work well as I don’t really hear any fans. The keyboard is great. The Retina Display is gorgeous. Really, there’s nothing about the Mac’s hardware that I’m missing.
Multi-touch Gestures - I’m very impressed with the multi-touch gestures on Apple’s trackpad. Every gesture works well almost every time, and most are very natural. For instance, pinch-to-zoom in the web browser works just like a smartphone’s touch gesture. Pinching brings up Launchpad (the list of all installed programs) and a four-finger swipe up brings up Mission Control (all open programs). These are just a few of many but the implementation here is near-flawless.
What I Don’t Like - Hardware:
Wrist positioning - Perhaps I’m just grasping at straws here, but the only real gripe I have with this MacBook is that when I type in a natural position, the edge of the computer feels a bit sharp on my wrist. I have tiny wrists so I don’t know if that’s a factor but I can feel it when I type. Not a huge deal, but one nonetheless.
What I Like - Software:
OS X 10.10 Yosemite - As Temple students, we have access to both Windows machines and Macs for use around campus. When I decided to get a Mac, I maximized the amount of time I spent using one. Therefore, the transition from Windows to Mac wasn’t terribly bad for me. I’ve gotten used to the Dock and the Menu Bar at the top. Having my “X” button in the top-left vs top-right on Windows took a bit of adjusting, but that didn’t take long to get used to either. Finder is very similar to File Explorer on Windows and the two work identically. I also like just using the Terminal and working from the Command Line, from where I can remotely access my school projects through ssh.
What I Don’t Like - Software:
Mac App Store - Really, this is the only point of contention on the software side of things. The Mac App Store is nothing like its iOS counterpart. It’s filled with third-party substitutes for common smartphone apps and very few of the most notable developers have dedicated Mac apps. On a computer, this isn’t really a big deal, but to have a prominent store so devoid of apps is hard to look at.
What Apps and Software I’m using So Far (and Liking):
Safari - Just a tad embarassed to say it, but I’m actually enjoying Safari on my Mac. My experience so far has been a fast and fluid browsing experience. I haven’t heard too many great things about Google Chrome on Mac OS so I’m just a bit apprehensive to install and use it. In my opinion, Apple’s built a great browser in Safari and it does everything I need it to do quickly.
Mail, Contacts, Calendar - Mail works as well as I could ask. All my emails come in around the same time as they come in on my phone and I get a notification in Notification Center. It just works. Calender and Contacts work in much the same way and everything was brought over from my phone to my computer.
iTunes - I didn’t use iTunes much on my Windows laptop but I’ve started using it more now that I have a system on which it works well. It helps me manage my iPhone but, more importantly, I have access to all the music I’ve ever purchased through the service and that’s all I really need.
Twitter - I didn’t even know there was a Twitter app for Mac until after I tried TweetDeck. For me, TweetDeck is a bit much. It takes up most of the screen and I don’t need all of the features TweetDeck offers, such as the activity of those I follow. Twitter is a good, minimalist app and offers integration with the Menu Bar that adds just a splash of extra convenience.
Pages - I actually had Microsoft Office installed on my Mac through my family’s Office 365 subscription. But when I saw that it actually installed around 11 programs, most of which I won’t even use, I decided to uninstall them and try Apple’s native offerings (and 256GB can fill up quickly). Pages is Apple’s answer to Microsoft Word and, so far, it’s more than satisfactory for my needs. I’ve enjoyed using it and, actually, I’m beginning to prefer it to MS applications on Mac OS.
Desk - Desk is a very minimalist blogging app for Mac. It’s a bit pricey at $30, but I decided to give it a try and, so far, I’m quite happy. It lets me store my drafts locally and publish to my WordPress or Tumblr sites when I’m ready. There are lots of in-text options and makes adding media to my writing very easy. So far, it’s been well-worth it.
Day One - 2015 brought with it a new resolution for me; to write more. Day One is a journaling application that allows me to add photos, location, weather, etc. It has an iPhone app and the two sync seamlessly. The constant reminds on my Mac compel me to write in it almost every day.
OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive - With 15GB on Google Drive, 15GB on Dropbox, 20GB on iCloud, and about 1TB on OneDrive, I’m covered as far as cloud storage is concerned. Each of those services has different data stored on them so I do need all of them.
Xcode - Apple’s iOS and Mac OS application IDE. I haven’t had much of a chance to use it yet, but learning Swift is a goal of mine and one I intend to pursue. Connecting my iPhone also automatically opens up Developer Mode options on my iPhone, which is great because it eliminates having to use a simulator.
Netbeans, Android Studio, MySQLWorkbench - Netbeans and MySQLWorkbench are specifically applications I use for school. Most programming assignments are done in Java and it’s preferred that we use Netbeans as opposed to Eclipse. MySQLWorkbench is a great tool for remote web development work (also done for school). I also have a class on Android app development this semester so Android Studio (Google’s IDE for Android development) so it will be a program used much during an long after this semester ends.
Continuity - This is one of Apple’s most powerful features. When a Mac and iOS device are signed in with the same Apple ID and are on the same wireless network, SMS and
iMessages are sent to my Mac as well as my iPhone. Everything syncs in real-time and the end result is seamless. Phone calls can be answered through my Mac as well and. Safari syncs between the devices and will allow me to open tabs on one device when they’re open on the other. Mail works in the same manner.
What I’m Looking Ahead to Doing:
I’d like to install Parallels software and run Windows 10 (eventually) in a virtualized environment. So far the only real program I’d like to have on my Mac that I can’t have conventionally is Visual Studio.
Final Thoughts (for now):
A lot of people told me that a Mac is “a waste of money.” I have to disagree. For me, it’s an ideal machine. As a computer science student, I'm required to devleop software for a range of different operating systems. Macs are the only computers capable of running Windows, Linux, and Mac OS on one machine. Besides that, I’m really enjoying my Mac experience thus far. Everything works and works well. I have access to everything I did on my Windows computer and now that I have an iPhone, I have a lot of extra functionality. I’ve longed for the capability to come home, plug my phone in and stil have access to everything on my computer. My MacBook makes that a reality. I'm much more deeply entrenched within Apple's ecosystem than I had ever imagined, but this kind of synergy is very powerful. I can see why so many people opt for this duopoly. Independently, both my iPhone and MacBook are powerful devices, but I feel that, in tandem, these two together really shine. When I get home from school or work, I want to just leave my phone in one place and use my Mac for everything.