Thanks to my job with Information Technology Services at my college I’ve managed to get my hands on an old G$ PowerMac. It’s a decent machine with a 1.25GHz PowerPC processor and currently 768MB of RAM, but what really makes Macs what they are is the world-class Mac OS X operating system. I’m currently running a fully upgraded Tiger 10.4 with iLife ’06 and I can only say that it simply rocks.
Firstly, it’s beautiful. The looks are clean, bright, but not gaudy and the UI stays out of your way for the most part. There aren’t too many customization options, but for me at least, I don’t want to customize it. I haven’t even changed the default wallpaper and somehow, I really don’t think I will. For anyone used to a a Windows or Linux interface, the Mac does take some getting used to. The lack of some sort of a start menu can be intimidating at first, but thanks to the Dock’s flexibility you can just drag your Applications folder into the dock and it gives you a menu on right click (or control-click). Any other folder dragged onto the Dock also gives you a menu in the same way, saving you from having to open Finder all the time. Talking about Finder, it fulfills its role as a discrete file-management application. The ability to easily and directly mount FTP shares and other forms of network drives makes it particularly useful to peopple who need to work across a network.
Besides the UI there is one other thing that I deserve special mention: application install. Having experienced application install procedures on Windows and Linux, I’ve come to believe that the most important thing in an application installation system is simplicity. Users should not have to go through a dozen complex steps to install a simple program. On a Mac, some programs come with Windows style installers, but for many others, double-clicking on the downloaded file for an application will give present you with an icon which you can drag to your Applications folder and everything else happens automatically and behind-the scenes. Simple, isn’t it?
Though I’m well on the way to becoming a Mac fan, I do have some gripes. Though Expose is a great way to manage open windows, it can become slightly confusing an involve a fair amount of mouse movement if you have lots of windows open. Holding the Apple key and hitting the Tab key provides a list of open programs, but not open windows, making it useless if you’re trying to quickly switch between several open PDFs or something similar. I’m looking for something more keyboard friendly than expose, but haven’t found anything yet.
As for Leopard, I’m still not ready to switch. I am looking forward to using Spaces, and I actually like most the new UI features, but the incompatibility are not something I’d like to deal with. We have it running on a test machine at work, so I get to try it out often, but I think I’ll wait a few months before taking the plunge.