By Anže Tomić
July 26, 2023 10:23 AM PT
I switched to a Mac after decades on Windows
I bought my first Mac ever this year.
I was born in 1983 in Slovenia1. My first contact with computers was at about 10 years old with the ZX Spectrum my mom’s cousin had. Then I played with a 286 PC at my dad’s job. The first computer in our apartment was a 386 PC, and from then on it was PC towers… until four months ago, when I bought the M2 Pro Mac mini.
Breath of the Mac
In a strange way, the reason I switched to a Mac was the Nintendo Switch.
I’ve always had Nintendo consoles, starting with the original Game Boy. But in 1998 I played Half-Life on a PC at a friend’s house, and from that day most of the money I saved went toward graphics cards.
After we had kids five years ago, actually sitting at a computer and playing games just didn’t happen. So I bought a Switch—and because it’s portable, it has taken on all of my gaming duties.
With the Switch in the picture, replacing my eight-year-old PC tower with another PC gaming rig seemed kinda dumb. (And just to be clear: I do also use my computer for work, and by work I mean a lot of podcasting and writing2.)
The other reason I got the Mac mini is how quiet it is, which is very helpful when you record your voice for a living. My gaming PC tower is a “quiet” build (as much as a PC tower can be), but the many fans inside are audible.
When the M1 MacBook Air came out and I saw it was powerful and fanless, I was suddenly, for the first time ever, very interested in the Mac. (I am not a laptop person, though, which is why the Mac mini caught my eye. Alas, the M1 generation didn’t offer a pro-level chip or enough ports, so it wasn’t for me.)
The announcement of the M2 Pro Mac Mini with all those Thunderbolt ports at the back was the day I knew I was going to switch. So I waited for the computer to be available in Slovenia and bought my first Mac.3
I’ve been using the Mac mini for about four months now. While I still do a bit of switching between the Mac and various Windows machines in my life, the Mac mini is now my main computer.
I’ve been using computers for long enough that I’ve learned not to stray too far from the defaults of the operating system. Sure, I’ll use little apps to help things here and there, but I like to leave things like system-level shortcuts and UI behavior alone. These things have had decades to evolve and a lot of thought has been put into the ways things are. In my experience, sticking close to the defaults is worth it, because you don’t have to unlearn your customizations and learn new tricks every time something more fundamental changes in the OS.
Every guide to switching from Windows to Mac warns you about a few changes that, somehow, didn’t bother me too much. I was most worried about the Mac’s inverted scrolling behavior, but it didn’t end up bothering me at all. It’s all thanks to Adobe Premiere, which I use at work. Premiere uses the Mac way of scrolling on Windows, and I had no problem switching the mental model for scrolling depending on which app I was using. So when I am on the Mac, I just scroll the Mac way.
What took some more getting used to is the Control/Command/Option key situation. My muscle memory is so used to the Windows key positions that I was having real trouble just copying and pasting. It got to the point where Jason suggested I just remap the buttons, but I resisted—and it’s better every time I use the Mac. So I am sticking to the defaults!
Still, someone will have to explain to me why the shortcut for pasting text without formatting on the Mac is Option-Shift-Command-V. My fingers can’t do that! On Windows, it’s Control-Shift-V and even three keys for a shortcut I use very often is stretching it. I immediately installed Pure Paste, which makes pasting without formatting the default.
There is another very strange thing macOS does that has been driving me crazy, and that’s switching between windows of the same app. I can already sense your thoughts, dear English-language reader: Why not just use Command-backtick (⌘-`) to toggle between windows?
It turns out that on the Croatian keyboard layout, I can’t find the right key to press for this shortcut! This is not an exaggeration. I literally can’t find the right combination of keys to cycle through windows. My “solution” so far has been right-clicking the app icon in the Dock and choosing the window I want, but I will surrender soon and find an app that will help me out here.
Expectation (window) management
I use an ultrawide monitor with a 24″ secondary monitor at home and two 24″ monitors at work. Windows is pretty great at arranging windows and desktops, especially when you want to use two or more apps side by side on one monitor.
macOS is bad at that particular version of window management, but great at something else, and that is being a laptop operating system. I have seen people switch between Spaces/apps/windows so fast when using gestures on a MacBook that bordered on magic. I think the biggest reason for that is the MacBook trackpad, which is world class. No other laptop comes close.
My theory is that because MacBooks are the vast majority of Mac sales, the OS has slowly been tweaked for use with a trackpad. Sure, I could buy a Magic Trackpad for my Mac Mini—and one day I might get there. But until then, getting to Mission Control, switching Spaces, switching windows… anything to do with multitasking is much slower for me using only a keyboard and mouse.
The joy and excitement I felt when I discovered Hot Corners4 was immense, but the whole thing is still clunkier than when using a trackpad. I have been too afraid to try Stage Manager, mostly because some people I trust really don’t like it.
When Jason asked me to write about what surprised me about switching to the Mac, it never occurred to me that window management would be the main thing. But it is. I really believe this is the biggest difference between Windows and macOS nowadays. One is a desktop operating system that is worse on laptops and the other is a laptop operating system that is worse on desktops if you don’t buy a trackpad.
A fair bit of the annoyance that prevents me from using the Mac the way it was intended stems from the fact that macOS does not support my language5. There is a Slovenian keyboard layout, but it is the QWERTY version and not the correct QWERTZ version. The letter Y does not exist in our alphabet6, so having it in the middle of the keyboard is pretty dumb. I end up using the Croatian PC keyboard layout, which is fine… but I really shouldn’t have to.
All of that is mitigated by the fact that I can speak English at a level that is not a detriment when using a computer. But having the ability to run your computer’s operating system in your native language should be given for a computing platform this old. Even Microsoft, which has included our language at the OS level since Windows ’95 “forgets” to include the Slovenian spelling checker in Word.
That kind of lack of support is evident in all apps, and I imagine it originates from the fact that “if Apple doesn’t support [insert language] in the OS, we don’t have to in our app.” It might not sound like much, but it all adds up and makes the experience of using macOS worse for me and not tenable for someone whose English is not as good.
The good stuff
I’ve really been enjoying using a brand new operating system after all my years on Windows. I like computers—I talk and write about them as my job. It’s been a delight figuring out the ethos and decisions that went into macOS.
And there are things that absolutely live up to the hype. AirDrop (yeah, yeah, when it works) is amazing. The Finder is such a good file manager. The Column View opening folders is very much in line with how my brain works. The tags you can append to downloads is a feature I love and never knew I needed. The Dock makes sense to me, although I did put it to the left and turned off the “too long” animation of minimizing windows and used the Terminal to add spacers.
Then there is the solid feeling of moving things around, dragging and dropping, the animations… all of it is worthy of praise. It all feels smooth and solid in a way Windows never quite manages.
Those feelings extend to the apps, too. I finally got to play PCalc’s about screen! I bought Transmit, and it is the best app of its kind I have ever used. Ever. Audio Hijack is like a legal, no-side-effects performance-enhancing drug for a podcaster. There are very good Windows apps, but so far for me the Mac has some stuff that is unbeatable.
It’s also weirdly comforting to see that macOS shares some stuff with Windows that neither operating system should have. It all just shows that the grass is green, but maybe not that much greener. Both platforms’ app stores are a joke. It’s also time for Mac people to stop making fun of Windows settings, given the terrible state of the macOS System Settings app. And the way you dismiss notifications in macOS Monterey is hilariously bad. (Apparently it’s fixed in macOS Sonoma?)
The switch and the Switch
I am very happy with my Mac mini. It has been frustrating at times, but I really do love computers and getting to experience such a mature platform anew is a gift for someone like me.
Gaming really is nonexistent on the Mac7, but like I said at the beginning, the Switch is enough for me at this point in my life. I’ll probably never play games on the Mac… but from now on I think I’ll do everything else on one.
- Lovely place. Google it. You’ll want to visit. ↩
- I work in public radio where I make a tech show/podcast and I got that job because I have been podcasting since 2012. I have also been writing for a tech magazine for the last 12 years. ↩
- With added RAM, for which I sold a kidney. ↩
- In System Settings, choose Desktop & Dock and scroll down to the very bottom to set what happens when you stick your mouse in a specific corner of the screen. ↩
- When I’m a guest on English-language podcasts, I always mention the utter disrespect Apple has for most languages. There really is no excuse for Apple to not properly support more languages. If I get another chance to write something for Six Colors, the language situation will be my first pitch to Jason. ↩
- We also don’t have the letters Q and X. We do have Č, Š and Ž, though, so it evens out. ↩
- I filtered my Steam library to show just Mac compatible games and it was grim. ↩
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