A month on a Mac

During the second job interview with my new employer I was asked if I’d like to use a Mac or a Windows PC with the assurance I’d get a Linux workstation after my probation time. Just put me behind a Mac then, that’s closer to Linux than Windows and from what I recalled it comes with a native terminal that does SSH. And what do I need more?

So there I am in front of a big, glossy screen and a tiny keyboard that lacks some familiar keys. My findings so far? Kind of neutral. I’ve got my terminal and I can run SSH from the CLI so I’m happy. There are some quirks that annoy me though (in no particular order):

  • No Compose key and I had to jump through quite some hoops to map a key as a Compose key.
  • No easy way to map a keyboard shortcut for opening a terminal. I had to resort to something called ‘Automator’ to get it working. And it still doesn’t work the way I want too. When there are no windows open pressing the shortcut doesn’t do anything. When there are open windows it works but why does it open two terminals when pressing the shortcut for the first time? Not a real big deal as I need multiple terminals anyway (I just can’t get used to tabbed terminals).
  • I prefer non-glare monitors to glossy ones.
  • No Home, End, PageDown and PageUp keys. Not a real big deal either, in fact, it’s a real good incentive to start getting accustomed to Vi(m) shortcuts since I kind of live inside Vim these days. I even bought this, great stuff.
  • Can’t get used to the default window management settings. For instance when you minimize a window and Alt+Tab to it the window doesn’t open. So I’m not minimizing any windows anymore since this is really annoying. Haven’t looked into changing this behaviour though, it’s probably something relatively simple.
  • Annoying pop-ups from updates and programs that are downloaded from the internet (“blabla” is an application downloaded from the Internet. Are you sure you want to open it?). Especially the latter ones are annoying. Disabling the pop-ups has to be done from a terminal. Wow, so much for a “user-friendly” OS.
  • Clicking the close button of an application doesn’t quit it. Cmd+Q does. This is something I won’t get used to either. Actually I don’t want to get used to the Cmd button at all.
  • I prefer a panel with a window list on it. I don’t know how other folks do it but this Alt+Tab stuff is counter-efficient in my case.

Are there things I particularly like about Mac OS X or the Mac itself? Actually no, can’t think of anything. Yeah, the keyboard feel is really nice but that pro gets nulled out because of the missing keys, ~ being placed next to the left Shift key and the Fn keys being mapped to the F1/F12 keys. Add to this the meaningless keys with all kinds of arrows on them and this key with a crossed square. No idea what they do. On a software level MacPorts is nice, it allowed me to install some of my favorite tools that I found were missing. Other than that I can’t wait to have my own workstation with Linux on it. The plan is that I get a Dell XPS 15 with a dual monitor setup. Something to look forward to.

And yes, I have to deal with quite some Windows servers now. I’m not going to dedicate a blogpost to my findings on that OS. Just one word. Meh.

A month on a Mac

4 thoughts on “A month on a Mac

  1. Harry van Haaren says:

    Interesting: I’ve used them for college work (music/max msp/etc), and had roughly the same experiences. A keyboard is a personal-choice thing!

  2. Roald says:

    I made the switch from Linux as my main OS to using OSX on a macbook a few years ago. I thought I would never get used to the different keyboard layout and window management, but now I’ve read your blog and it made me realise I actually got used to it quite well. A few tips:
    If you don’t want to use the command key, map it to the ctrl key (it can be done), but inside the terminal you can just use ctrl without remapping it from cmd.
    I figure you’re an extensive keyboard user, so why not close your programs with the keyboard? I find myself using cmd w (close window) and cmd q (quit app) quite a lot. Also, I start almost all applications with spotlight; just hit cmd space.

  3. flyx says:

    Comments from a Mac user:

    I use the neo2 keyboard layout which includes a compose key. Don’t know about adding one to a standard layout.

    For opening applications, Cmd+Space+first few letters of the app name+Enter does the trick and doesn’t show any strange behavior. Yes, it’s some more keystrokes, but I’m okay with that and moreover, it works for every application.

    PageUp, PageDown, Home and End keys lie on the arrow keys, just press Fn.

    If you’re working keyboard-centric, don’t minimize windows, hide them. Cmd+H does the trick, and the window will show up again when the application gets focus.

    The close-button on a window closes the window (Cmd+W), not the application (Cmd+Q). Yes, that’s by design. One can argue whether the button closing a window when the application has multiple windows open, but exiting the application when there aren’t, is more intuitive. Obviously, non-Mac users are used to that behavior.

    Mission Control is probably the closest to a “window list” one can get on OSX, I really wonder why people aren’t using it more.

  4. @Roald, good tip about the Ctrl key but I think that when you remap the cmd key you’re more or less crippling Mac OS X 😉 I’ve never really used Spotlight, only occasionally. I’m not a HUD kind of person.

    @flyx, I’ve added it with the help of http://uscustom.sourceforge.net/
    Thanks for the tips on the arrow keys. Unfortunately Fn is placed at a very unpractical spot so I tend not to use it. I’m definitely going to try working with Cmd+H. And I think I’ve stumbled upon Mission Control, isn’t that Fn+F3?

    Both thanks for the valuable feedback!

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