So what's this whole "Mac" thing?

Hello there, friends!
Matt speaking, long time MPU listener but newly migrated from a lifelong of Windows (almost, as I started on Amiga as a kid (I’m 35) ) and new user here!

And I wanted to ask the community a simple question: What do you do with you Macs?

It’s a silly question, but I’ve been thinking about switching pretty since the Mac G4 came out, never been able to afford one until I recently replaced my aging Asus 13" Windows laptop with this glorious iMac 2019. I really like it, it’s comfortable, it works wonders with my iPad Pro, which is my actual main machine (I work in a game studio as an creative/art director and illustrator) and it’s great.

BUT I don’t know what to think.

Maybe I was expecting too much from that switching, the gap between the two ecosystems isn’t as steep as it once was, but I have a hard time seeing the benefits of the switch.
The interface is pretty and the machine is fast and seems reliable, but the UX is far from perfect, with the prime example to me being the “drag the app icon into the app folder icon” window, which feels like something that should be automated?

Is there a beginners’ guide to Mac around here? Something to show the strengths of the software (hence my posting here), beyond the clear aesthetic advantage? :stuck_out_tongue:

Anyhoo, thank you for welcoming me here! I look forward to earning my power user badge!



That’s one of the security features that prevents apps from installing into a system directory (the /Applications folder) without user interaction. I agree that it feels antiquated, but it actually is reassuring when you choose to install the app into that directory.

Apps from the App Store can install into the system /Applications folder without this user interaction, since they are certified.


I love the amount of automation that you can do using Automator or third-party programs like Alfred, Keyboard Maestro, Better Touch Tool, and Hazel.

The new handoff features that transfer work to and from iOS devices is really great. If you are “all-in” on the Apple ecosystem, it’s really pretty frictionless nowadays.

I love that macOS is built on unix. I drop into the command line a lot to do programming-related work.

The indie app sphere for macOS is amazing. Apps like OmniFocus, OmniGraffle, Agenda, Scrivener, 1Password, Fantastical, and oh-so-many-more allow me to be super productive.

Welcome to Mac!


Having switched myself a few years ago I know what you mean, but since my work continues to use Dell notebooks I still experience Windows (from time to time…I keep my work notebook in a drawer sadly), plus I spent 20 years with Windows on my personal machine.

In the end though, the Mac is a machine with an operating system, just like the Dell, that runs apps. Many of those apps run on both systems, so it is a bit unrealistic to expect too much when switching.

My most succinct answer to your question then, is that I do my hobbies on my Mac. I do less waiting and less maintenance of the machine than I have ever done with Windows machines; this makes the Mac a more pleasant experience than Windows, not an entirely different one.

What do I actually do on it? Well, with the incredible access we have these days to professional level software, I use Xcode to write apps (this is an amazing tool for hobbyists like me), Studio One for music production, Graphic for house design, plus do various batch tasks through Automator/Keyboard Maestro/Shell scripts and tools such as ImageMagick. (I also browse the web etc etc).
— these are the reasons I use a Mac rather than iPad for now and the short-term


What convinced me to switch an always quite high resell value and AppleCare warranty.

What convinced me to stay:

  • flawlessness of TimeMachine backups and restoring/migrating to new Mac hardware
  • powerful search (Spotlight) and even more powerful add-on app Alfred, which has changed how I work entirely
  • quicklook (hitting spacebar on a file) to instantly preview it
  • way better and more reliable support of file previews in icons than Windows Explorer has (great for designers)
  • having it work flawlessly in the Apple eco system (iPhone, iPad, AirPods) incl. AirDrop
  • AirPlay to an AirPort Express to wirelessly transmit audio without much hassle (or audio + video to an Apple TV)
  • other neat tools, like ColorSnapper, Keyboard Maestro, BetterTouchTool, iStat Menus, PopClip, RocketTypist, TripMode and many more make it very hard to leave macOS ever again
  • not having to deal with drivers and Windows updates
  • quality fonts directly available (nice to have)
  • linux based terminal baked in (this is now also available on Windows, yet it feels more native on macOS)

It’s Unix with a great desktop UI that (mostly) “just works”; there really doesn’t have to be anything else said :grin:


Thanks a lot for the insights and warm welcome, I expected no less from the MPU folks!
@ cavalierex good point on the security update explaining the drag-and-drop shenanigans I was talking about, I understand it from that regard.
And I agree with your comments on handoff (I’m fully Apple’d at this point and I was hoping for these benefits and they got delivered, as far as I’m concerned) and about the indie sphere and how thriving it seems to be, without being too overwhelming (although I suppose I’m sort of primed thanks to MPU, I knew what apps to look for from the get-go).
@ GraemeS I appreciate your understanding! I’m sure I’m part of some kind of a wave of “soft-switchers”, keeping one foot on each side, and your take on it is interesting. It’s interesting as I feel the same way about how my Mac is for “projects”, yet it also feels more stable and uncluttered (although a lifetime of Windows power use muscle memory can make that OS’ clutter invisible) and for that reason it feels much more professional…? At my studio, we obviously use Windows machines, and I don’t see that changing any time soon, but I wonder what switching the company to Mac would change in terms of how we work and how productive we are.

@ leo Thanks for the detailed list, that’s super useful, I’ll look into all of these tomorrow for sure! BetterTouchTool has been mentioned on one of the recent MPU episodes and I never heard of it, so I’m curious.

@ ACautionaryTale
I think I miss education on why being on a Unix system is such a net positive (aside from solving dinosaur parks problems, I suppose). :stuck_out_tongue:
Me not being an actual programer (I code a little but usually sketches in Processing and not professionally)
It’s clear I need to get on the automated side of this game, and I’ve got the mindset for it (I’m lazy AND tinkery, so automation sounds like a good idea) and I look forward to getting on with it.

I find it interesting, though, to see how my own perception of the platform seems off in comparison what is actually is. And I was thinking that maybe it was a matter of time marching on, but even when I look at the Mac SE that I recently found (a story for another time, I’m sure), I realize how tinkering and tweaking and scripting seems to have always been at the core of what Macs are. Makes me think of that anecdote I read somewhere about Steve Wozniak famously opting not to include any software with the Apple I (I think?), arguing people would make their own.

Thanks everyone! :slight_smile:

Someone has posted that this gives you control of installation. Think about how this compares to installing an app on Windows, where installing an app involves lots of things happening behind the scenes, not the least being registry changes. Now uninstall on Windows - you need an uninstaller program. Lots of debris may be left behind in the registry and elsewhere. Uninstalling on Mac, for the most part, involves dragging the app to the trash.
So now we have a complete life cycle on the Mac. Installing, you drag an app to the Applications folder, uninstalling, you drag the app from Applications to the trash. A nicely complimentary operation.


Hi John!
I didn’t see it that way and you’re right, it makes complete sense. I’m so used to Windows’ own quirks I forgot how clunky it is.
I think my confusion came from the coexisting standards: App Store apps on one hand, with no extra step needed to install them, and outsiders on the other, with this little bump. And that point, as clarified by cavalierex, is perfectly understandable once you have all the context.
I think my questioning was induced a lot by an expectation of everything being crystal-clear and obvious, while it is a complex OS and ecosystem with lots of parameters influencing lots of things.

Thanks for the new perspective on this! :slight_smile:


I wonder if you had the same misconception I had (from before iPhone days, for me), that the Mac platform was constrained and offered less flexibility to tinkers like me.

I switched because of my move to iPhone, iPad and a simpler computing life, only to find the fiddling around with drivers that I used to do has been replaced by fiddling with automation ideas, which is far more rewarding!
The fact that most things just work has meant I can build more reliable automation than I ever managed on Windows (I’m also more experienced now, so it may be that).


Yes that she sums it up nicely. Time-sucking maintenance and troubleshooting is largely a thing of the past. I switched gradually from 2004 to 2006 and don’t miss Windows one bit.

I wouldn’t touch that. Pre-OS X Macs are as bad or worse than win 98 machines in my experience. OS X was the breakthrough.

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To reply to both you, dfay, and GraemeS, you’re totally right, that’s exactly how I thought about Mac and even iOS when that came out: a closed-off platform I couldn’t do anything with. And working in games and playing them added to that sentiment.
And you put it perfectly, GraemeS, indeed. I feel I can finally nerd out on my machine for pure leisure as opposed to nerd out because it doesn’t work the way it should.
My previously mentioned Asus laptop lasted me 6 years, which is amazing for a 1200CAD 13" laptop with a discrete GPU. But I’ve had to replace about every single part of it, from the RAM to the hard drive, down to the LCD panel which died following an EDID rom corruption after a software update. -_-

For the past couple of days, I’ve dabbled into Shortcuts on both my iMac and iPhone, and started sketching on the Paper app (which I’m finding a renewed liking to) graphs for other automation ideas I have.
I definitely start to get it, in large part thanks to your comments! :slight_smile:

dfay, as for the Mac SE, it’s a curiosity to me, don’t worry, my expectations are relatively low. I’m enough of a nerd to appreciate old tech, and I love to repair machines. This one was given to me (it even came in a bespoke transport bag) because it wouldn’t turn on, and I’ve managed to wake it up after the 40MB hdd would warm up enough. It’s more of a project to me: I mean to recap it, replace the hdd with a SCSI-to-SD card and load it with apps from its era. It’s especially fun for games because it’s black and white and has tons of really unique things which a lot of my coworkers aren’t familiar with (younger folks, or just people who never used Macs, a constant in game development).

Thanks again, all!

Forgot to reply to this but I agree, the reading experience in here is really great!

I have used Macs and Windows since they both existed. First of all, I spent alternate years on each platform at work. Then it became Mac at home and Windows at work. Here are some thoughts.

On the Mac platform everything user related is stored in the user’s folder. If you move to another machine you can just move that folder. In Windows, your user preferences are scattered all over the place and when you move to another machine there is no easy way to do it, at least in my experience and in my work enviornment.

The apps on your Mac are in the Applications folder. If you need to find the executable of an app for some reason, you look in that folder. Try that on Windows, it’s not so easy.

One thing I dislike about both platforms is the Documents folder. It’s supposed to be a place for YOUR documents. Instead, app developers consider it prime real estate for storing configuration files that clutter up the space that was supposed to be yours. I don’t willingly use the Documents folder on either platform, however sometimes it’s a default file save location and documents end up there.

So the Desktop becomes the place where you keep your stuff, and there are so many people who consider this morally wrong. On the Mac you can simply hide the icons on the Desktop with a line of Unix in the terminal, and continue to access files in the Desktop from the Finder. On Windows you can’t do this, and also Windows Explorer is kind of confusing with the same folder appearing at multiple levels in the tree.

I’m enjoying touch on Windows though, and it beggars belief that Apple are still denying that touch Macs should be a thing. Even if you can’t use touch all the time and it’s less accurate than a mouse, there are some occasions where touch is a huge timesaver and just more natural. It’s time, Apple, let’s do it.


Thanks for the insight, Diane!
Wow, I wish I’d used Macs as early as you did. I was lucky enough to have access to DOS and Windows 3.1 machines back in the day, but Macs were rare around me. I loved my Amiga, but Macs, perhaps by virtue of being so rare, were terribly appealing to me.

And I totally feel your pain about the Documents folder, I wish it weren’t used by apps.
It’s interesting that MacOS seems pretty reliable at storing your user-related stuff in the eponymous folder, and the simple way the applications and their folder work, but I guess years of Windows’ chaotic management of that made me untrusting.

Fun fact regarding touch Windows: Because it is integrated really well in Win10, when I use (often) my iPad Pro to use my Windows workstation remotely through Splashtop, the pencil integration works perfectly well, no questions asked.

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On Windows you can right click the desktop and choose to hide desktop icons, which is nice and easy.
Also, one thing that annoys many people about the tighter controls Catalina has is that you can choose to not give apps access to your Documents folder, allowing a bit of control. This should trickle through to developers realising they can’t assume they get that by default.


Aargh! I will try the icon hiding trick on Windows. Sounds a bit easier than keeping the Mac Unix command in a note.

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Ask IBM. IBM: ‘Mac users are happier and more productive’ | Computerworld

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I grew up on windows… though we learned on MACs in school (90s) and I managed a MAC graphic lab in college - it was my first iphone/ipad (2011) that opened me back to apple lifestyle. Only in the last two years have I embraced the desktop. don’t get me wrong its still hard and I have my windows laptop on a switch box for some things that still take me longer in mac. I still struggle with basics lol remembering the keyboard shortcut for screen grab… no print screen button LOL but i say what made me commit was of course the MacOS/ios ecosystem and apps are better on mac.

The best way to learn is to just jump in and know that MAC looks at things fundamentally different from the microsoft life but its great for the brain to be able to learn and function on multiple operating systems.

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As an IT person I don’t put much stock in these types of pronouncements and I’m pretty sure there has to be some incentive dollars or other quid pro quo going here, but still its a big statement for IBM to make considering their history…