Every tribe has its talismans. Here and now, mine seem to be:
- Moleskine notebooks (if you’ve never owned one, I dare you to pick one up and not fall in love)
- digital cameras (I’m rather excited about the new Canon EOS 450D / Rebel XSi)
- Macs. PowerBook, MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, … pretty much everyone I know carries one. Outside of IBM, at least; with few exceptions, most IBMers have use of a Lenovo ThinkPad for work.
Although I’ve actually owned a Mac (Mini) for years, but never really felt like a Mac owner until now. Even having bought a MacBook Pro (I went for the 2.2 GHz, 15.4″ version) of my own I have not exactly switched so much as finally bought a laptop which actually belongs to me. I’ll continue to use my ThinkPad T42p for some worky things (and it’s nice to have both), but I’d expect to use the Mac more and more.
Some observations after a few days use.
Like the Moleskine (which I’m convinced is what a Mac would feel like if it were made of paper) the MacBook Pro is a machine which asks to be touched. Everything about it looks and feels good. It’s full of surprises too. The LED next to the camera wasn’t a surprise (I’d wondered if it had one) but it was nicely hidden. The way the screen dims and the keyboard illuminates automatically, based on the ambient light in the room, continues to surprise and delight me. In fact, putting my hands over both speakers is still my favourite party trick.
Of course, the machine is a small part of the story, and like so many small parts, It’s what you do with it that counts.
Before I even bought it, I ordered the Mac Heist bundle, which includes
- VectorDesigner (which I really like)
- Snapz Pro X (which I really like)
- Pixelmator (which I am not sure about yet)
- CSSEdit (which I have not used yet, but looks promising)
- iStopMotion (which I really like)
- TaskPaper (which I really like, but can’t help wishing I would sync with Todoist. I’m unlikely to use both)
- … and lots of other things which are interesting but not the reason I bought the bundle.
I bought iWork with it, and also installed Quicksilver (on the sage advice of a friend who follows the 43 Folders blog more closely than I), Firefox (I still prefer it to Safari) EVE Online and Second Life. I’m thinking I probably need/want TextMate, Aperture, … what else am I missing?
There are some things I’m still trying to get used to. I’m not going to point out the power of right-click, because Ctrl + click is fine. Honestly. But even the keyboard still baffles me somewhat, mainly because I’ve spent many years perfecting my keyboard navigation skills in Windows . If I used the mouse more, it wouldn’t matter, but in my head, Ctrl + left means jump left one word. Combine it with Shift and you select the previous word. I’m struggling with doing this with different modifier keys, and it’ll take a while before it feels natural. I’m not saying the way it’s done in Windows is right, just different.
A bigger issue is Tab. I try to use only the keyboard as much as possible, especially when typing. Tabbing between fields in a form is much faster than pointing and clicking. Firefox continually surprises me by not treating non-text fields (such as checkboxes) as something I can click by Tab, then Space to toggle the checkbox. Am I missing something? Tab jumps over the checkbox altogether (often taking focus back to the address bar) and I’m forced to take my hand off the keyboard, point, and click. [Update: found it. Ctrl + F7, or System Preferences | Keyboard Shortcuts | Full keyboard access: if windows and dialogs, press Tab to move the keyboard focus between: Text boxes and lists only / All controls]
When a dialogue box pops up, does Enter mean OK? It seems to, but what if I want to click the 2nd button. Normally I’d hit left, or Shift + Tab or something, then Space. By I don’t get any on-screen hints as to which is the active button, or what keyboard shortcuts I can use.
Veteran OS X users are probably laughing at me for all of this, so please do share your mouse-free power user tips.
Why not an Air?
I’ll be the first to agree that the Air looks great, and would be even nicer to carry around than the Pro. For me, the power/price/weight ratio was wrong. What I wanted was a 12″ MacBook Pro. The Air isn’t that. It’s small, yes, but not powerful enough for a primary machine. Add the CPU upgrade and it costs more than the cheapest 15″ Pro, which outperforms it in every way except size and weight. No contest (for me), and at least the Pro is still no heavier than my ThinkPad T42p. I’ll still drool when I do pick up an Air, of course.