Sunday, November 13, 2011

My First Week on a MacBook Pro

I’ll admit it, I’ve been a Microsoft fan boy for all my life.  I’ve only owned Microsoft products (even a Zune!), never really gone outside my comfort zone and experienced the “other side”.  For the last week, I’ve been working on a MacBook Pro and, must admit, am really enjoying the experience.  From my employer, I had the option between a PC and a Mac laptop.  I chose a Mac for a couple for a couple of reasons:  1.) I wanted to broaden my OS horizons and learn something new and 2.) The option of potentially doing Mac iOS development is now an option.  I can create a Windows VM (which I have) on a Mac but the other way (creating a Mac VM on a Windows machine) doesn’t work out so well.  So, with that, here’s been my first experiences with the Mac and why I’m enjoying it.


Setup was a breeze.  Within a few minutes I was up and running with OS X Lion.  Once loaded, I was excited to get started so, off to the App Store I went.  The first thing you’ll want to do is to sign up for a free App Store ID.  This will enable you to download things from the App Store, both free and paid.  There are many great Apps in the App Store to get you started!  I’ve also notice that installing applications are easy, it’s literally a drag and drop into the Applications folder.  It takes away all the “Next, Next, Next” that a Windows setup has a user to do.


  • VMWare Fusion (paid) - this is a great VM product for Mac.  Since I still do the majority of my development in .NET, I needed a Windows machine to develop in.  I had an option of Boot Camp (basically dual booting) into Windows or creating a VM.  I chose a VM for a variety reasons.  Creating a Windows 7 64 bit VM with Fusion was super easy.  It first asked to give it a user name and password and it was off.  I didn’t need to enter any other piece of configuration data.  The VM has been running smoothly all week.  Full disclosure:  I did upgrade the RAM to 8GB and have dedicated 5.5GB or RAM to my VM.
  • Alfred (free in the app store) - this is a quick productive tool designed to keep your hands on the keyboard.  With Alt + Space bar, we can launch Alfred and have it search what we are looking for whether it be locking your system to searching for something locally or on the internet, Alfred can help.
  • Twitter (free from app store) - the Twitter app for the Mac is fairly impressive.  It has a time line bar and everything that Twitter has to offer in a good layout and it’s easy to use.


Developer Tools

  • XCode - this is the IDE of choice for Apple development.  While I did experience some serious lag in downloading this application, once up and running it does install easy.
  • HomeBrew - package management tool

Blogging Tools

For me, I find it best when I write a blog to initially write in a “distraction free” writing zone.  That is, an application that is full screen, I can’t see any notifications nor icons that tempt me to get distracted.  Often I’m ADD and just want to click on the next shiny thing so a good distraction free writing tool helps me immensely in writing!  I was looking for a good one for a Mac and found two free ones and haven’t made up my mind which I enjoy more:
  • FocusWriter - I am admittedly writing this blog post in this tool.  I like the fact that you can create and Import/Export Themes.  I am a big fan of a high contrast theme so the first thing I done was created a “Retro” theme with a black background, black foreground, and green text.  Back to the good ole green screen it is!  FocusWriter has a Timer that will go off after set number of minutes.  This is useful if you are using a Pomodoro technique and it also helps keep me focused for a set number of minutes.
  • OmniWriter - this is another great distraction free writing tool.  This gathers more senses than just your sight.  Omniwriter envelopes you in a zen like environment complete with a soothing background and writing space and playing zen like music.  It definitely puts you in a much more relaxed state to allow your ideas to flow freely.

Key Observations

I’ve consistently heard that Apple is great at improving things and that “it just works”.  I have found this to be true in the different accents they put on their product.  Some things I noticed are:

Power Brick

First off, it’s a relatively small power brick that you can easily pack away.  There are small, yet useful improvements such as cable management that allows you to clip the cord to itself not to mention the magnetic plug that plugs right into the laptop.  The little adapter where you can plug the power brick directly into the wall or attach a longer power cord to the power brick for more cord length.  Typically I just use the power brick and not the longer power cord as this is easier to pack away in a bag.


Having this concept of multiple Spaces I found very useful.  With a 3 finger swipe, I can just swipe between spaces.  This is useful to help organize the applications I’m in.  I typically use this by having my Windows VM up in a space and having other applications that are native to Mac in another space.  This allows me to switch and organize my spaces easily without minimizing/maximizing a bunch of windows.


While I’m mostly a keyboard guy, I was amazed at all the Apple TrackPad can do.  This is much more sophisticated than the TouchPads I’ve used on a Windows machine.  With the TrackPad you can do a three finger swipe to move between workspaces or a two finger click to bring up a context menu or just swipe from side to side in your browser to go between web pages or just do a two finger swipe or down instead of scrolling.  Apple has really made use of the TrackPad and has brought it up to an entirely different level. 

Backlit Keyboard

To be honest, I never thought I’d use a backlit keyboard.  I thought, what’s the use.  I have found a use!  In our Team Space, we enjoy the room dimly light.  It’s easier on the eyes than all the bright halogens.  Since it’s dimly lit, the backlit keyboard provides just enough soft light to make it an enjoyable experience.
Display The display is fantastic!  I got the 15” glossy screen and am enjoying the experience.  It has a nice, sharp, high resolution screen that is much crisper than the ones I have seen on Windows hardware.

Wrap Up

There are many other aspects I’m enjoying but those are my top 5, not in any particular order.  My first week with a MacBook Pro and I’m really enjoying “the other side”.  The broadening of my horizon has proved useful and would encourage PC users to try out the Mac.  I am enjoying the small footprint, both in size and weight that the MacBook Pro has to offer.  There are some “oddities” with keyboard shortcuts such as Command + C to Copy instead of the good ole Windows Ctrl + C to Copy but am learning everyday!  I’m anxious to continue learning new things about the Mac whether it be hardware or software in the coming days.

What other tips/tricks and/or apps do you have that you find useful (free or otherwise?)