In November 2014, I switched from using a Microsoft Windows based laptop for work to an Apple Macbook Pro. This came about as a result of a change role at CSC, as I moved into a role within a Professional Services team.
Up till then I had used Microsoft Windows as my primary work OS, across a series of machine types and iterations of Microsoft’s desktop OS. In most cases, the machine specification has not been too shabby, and able to provide a reasonably productivity performance baseline. In fact I wasn’t expecting to be re-fitted with another device at the moment of role change, having been using a Lenovo Thinkpad T430 with 8GB of RAM and running Windows 7, I at least knew that it could be trusted to support the execution of the all the tasks and activities common to my previous role. However, it didn’t have an SSD and the subsequent response lag due to disk i/o was evident, particularly at boot and during resource intensive activities – e.g. virus scans etc.
I had all the administrative privileges and permissions to configure the device to my preferences, e.g. personal preference on browser, and use of preferred PKM tool. (products that will have been mentioned elsewhere in this blog).
So what was the main reason to move to a MBP? Primarily because I have a need to run a local lab environment on my machine, consisting of a number of virtual machines. The Apple Macbook Pro, in terms of specification and OS performance tuning, provides the best combination of high specification device with a highly optimised OS to enable the machine to perform this type of workload, without causing any significant performance lag. Certainly with 16Gb of RAM and 500 GB SSD the machine is by far the highest spec. device I’ve used.
I seem to have approximately the same level of administrative privileges and permissions in respect to device configuration. So after a few days to a week I was being to feel pretty settled with the device.
The main user experience switch for me has been, from mouse to trackpad. While the Lenovo laptop did have a trackpad, I did prefer the mouse or mouse nipple control on the device, the trackpad never quite delivering the variety and dexterity of control that the mouse provided. In contrast the MBP trackpad is a much more sophisticated, providing a range of multi-touch control gestures, which have superseded the mouse (of course multi-touch trackpad, capability is now common across many modern devices). I quickly adapted to using a regular set of keyboard shortcuts and trackpad gestures to move around and manipulate the MBP. Having said that, the lack of consistent and adequate application window menu control has been a surprise and slight disappointment. Within Microsoft Windows, the minimise, return to previous size and maximise window is an universal constant, and in Windows 7, the double click on the menu bar, and snap to resize the window on the desktop were very useful productivity shortcuts. Mac OS X has some almost equivalent features, but unfortunately they are not quite so useful or consistently implemented. Which is something I find strange after all the ‘uniformity’ and ‘conformity’ that is frequently mentioned in Apple marketing materials.
In Mac OS X there is a keyboard function and window menu function to minimise a window to the task bar (cmd+m). Unfortunately there’s no ‘return to previous state/size’ as a keyboard function, you have to open the task bar and click on the application window, even when the application is in focus (e.g alt+tab). The maximise window (maximise in its own desktop) – is a very useful function. It is frequently (cmd+shift+f) or (cmd+crtl+f) and the same to return to the previous state. But not all applications acknowledge these keyboard commands. Some don’t acknowledge either the minimise or maximise commands, some respond with an alternative response, or have bespoke or application-specific set of keyboard controls.
This inconsistency is frustrating and depletes the whole user experience, as such is as familiar to me as my experience using Microsoft Windows.
So after having the opportunity to try and use both operating systems for a work context, that I remain ambivalent on which is my preferred operating system.
This switch has not turned into any moment of revelation, or any dramatic ‘new dawn’. Only the cliched realisation that all things are a mix of strengths and weaknesses, and the most flexible and adaptable element in the mix is the human component and its faculty to adjust and temper the tools available the personal preferences and needs of the task in hand.