It has been two years now since I switched from using a Lenovo laptop to a MacBook Pro. Here are my impressions over the couple years since I switched.
Overall I am happy with my decision. One of my main goals was to see what it was like living on the other side. Not only have I been able to familiarize myself with macOS, but also I benefited from the synergies that exist in the Apple ecosystem. I have also started developing for iOS with Swift.
One of the biggest downsides of using a Mac is that I need to work in a Windows environment. I use VMWare Fusion for this purpose, but it is overhead I would rather not deal with. One issue I have with Fusion in particular is power consumption. The battery drains much faster running a Window VM, and is noisier and hotter to boot. I enjoy using the laptop more when Windows is not running.
So far I have stayed away from Bootcamp, since I want to easily switch between macOS and Windows in the same session. Switching often has it’s costs, however. I often get stuck using the wrong copy and paste keyboard shortcuts, and making the function keys default to the right mode when switching is also tedious.
When I initially purchased the MacBook, I wondered if I would transition to MacOS desktop more and more as time went on, but there were always roadblocks. I believe these roadblocks will continue to lessen over time, especially since Microsoft is less focused on Windows lately. I may start to use the Fusion Unity feature to bridge the remaining gap. On the other hand, I like to stay up to speed with Windows advances as well, so I may continue to run both desktops together.
These are applications I need to use that are only available on Windows.
- Corporate VPNs: some only work from IE or Windows, or the IT group has chosen to only support Windows. The Windows dependency should decrease as time goes on.
- Visual Studio: I have begun using VS Code on Mac, but it can’t handle some of the SharePoint solutions I develop.
- SharePoint designer: this is becoming a legacy app, but I can see continued usage for a few years to come
- Visio: Doesn’t exist on Mac, but I occasionally need it for system diagrams
- Access: I support some older Access databases, and this doesn’t exist on Mac
These are applications that I use on Windows that I have found direct equivalents to on Mac.
- Remote desktop manager: I use these applications to store and group remote desktop connections by customer, and to quickly connect and switch between servers. There are equivalents on Mac, including one from Microsoft.
- Office 2016: From Microsoft, there are slight differences, but for the most part they are equivalent: Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint, and Word
- Skype for Business: I don’t like or use Skype, but it is supported on Mac
- WebEx, GoToMeeting: I commonly use these apps, and they work well on Mac
- Browsers: I use Chrome, and it mostly works as well as on Windows. Occasionally forms on some sites don’t work and I am forced to Windows.
Head to Head
One thing I was surprised to find is that there is no clear overall winner between macOS and Windows. Mac wins with better integration features for those with iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches. Windows wins with easier desktop management features for power users.
It is interesting to note the different strategies employed by Apple and Microsoft. Apple has always kept the desktop focused on desktop only (no touch) and added integration features with mobile, whereas Microsoft had a failed attempt with Windows 8 to blend the two (desktop/tablet). Windows 10 refines that approach, and there are more variety of Windows 10 devices, but I prefer the approach Apple has taken. The OS can be fine tuned for a specific use scenario instead of trying to do everything well.
- Trackpad: Apple’s trackpad and gestures work amazingly well. I use a mouse for most pointing needs, but keep a trackpad above it just for gesture support. When I am mobile I don’t feel as hampered using just the trackpad as I do in Windows.
- iMessage: Having texts appear on your desktop is wonderful, as is replying with a full size keyboard. It is easy to cut and paste links, or attach images which might not be on your phone.
- iPhone Calling: It is great to see who is calling from your desktop. Plus you can click Ignore if you want to silence the ringing and send the caller to voice mail. I haven’t taken a call on the desktop so I can’t comment on the quality of desktop calls.
- Apple Watch Unlock: This time saver may be less useful with the newer MacBook Pros which include Touch ID in the Touch Bar.
- Find Friends: A sidebar widget version of this app lets me check on friends location without getting out my phone.
- Retina: Although Windows has improved recently, macOS deals better with high DPI displays.
- AirPlay: macOS makes it simple to switch your sound output to any AirPlay device on your network. I use AirPlay more from iOS, but it would be interesting to have a pair of quality AirPlay speakers on my desk that could be used by desktop or mobile device
- Window Organization: Windows snap features with keyboard shortcuts is a great built-in feature. Apple tried copying this but it falls short when forced to integrate with the full screen = desktop method. Third part software on Mac helps (I use Moom) but doesn’t work as well as Windows.
- Window Switching: Alt-tab is better on Windows. Mac Command-Tab only switches between applications, which doesn’t work as well when an application has multiple windows open, especially when those windows are on different desktops. Having window switching within an app using a separate shortcut (Command-~) is cumbersome.
- Task Bar/Dock: Microsoft got it right with the positioning of the task bar. By default it always shows. On Mac even when forced open, the dock is easily covered by open windows. Also, Windows has a better task bar system for indicating which apps are open, and the number of open windows each app has. It also has better right click app integration, showing app specific options even before the app is running.
- Keyboard: Home and End work differently in Mac, I prefer to go to the beginning and end of a line as Windows does. Command-Arrow is too awkward. Also having backspace and delete keys on Windows is more convenient than using fn-delete to get a forward delete. These differences are particularly painful for me when writing code.
- Application Launch: I prefer launching applications by typing. Both Windows and Mac work well in this regards. On Windows, typing <windows key>, then the name of the application, or part of it, then enter launches your program. <command>-space on Mac launches Spotlight, which can launch a program the same way.
- Docking: I miss my Lenovo docking station, but the traditional laptop dock is going away. I use a Belkin thunderbolt dock to connect to speakers, ethernet, display (thunderbolt and usb) at my desk. I need do and undo two connections every time I move my laptop (one thunderbolt for the dock, and one mag safe for power). With new laptops and USB type C with power this could be reduced to one cable.
There are some comparisons I can’t make right now:
- Virtual Desktops: Mac wins over earlier versions of Windows with its built-in implementation of virtual desktops. Each display on the system can have one or more desktops. Switching between them is easy, and moving windows between desktops is also simple. I don’t have enough experience with Windows 10 Task Views to make a comparison at this time.
- Siri vs. Cortana: I haven’t used either virtual assistant on the desktop. I have used Siri in iOS and watchOS, just not on macOS, so I can’t make a comparison with Cortana.
- Hardware Longevity: My Lenovo lasted 5 years before a motherboard death. My MacBook is still going strong, but it is too early to tell if it will last as long. Expensive laptops need to last many years to make economic sense.
- App Store: Mac has successfully transitioned from traditional software deployment to desktop app store. The macOS app store integrates well with the iOS app store by sharing accounts and payment options. Windows 8 introduced an app store that wasn’t widely adopted, and unfortunately I don’t have enough experience with the Windows 10 store to direct compare at this time. I would guess the advantage goes to Apple here.
Anything I missed that you feel strongly about? Are you considering switching to Apple? Let me know in the comments!