Changing horses in midstream: PC to Mac

In yet another leap of faith yesterday, I bought yet another new computer. Sometimes the completely illogical decision is the one that needs to be made. Of course, there are never ways to tell in advance whether a leap-of-faith decision is totally idiotic or absolutely correct.

I have worked up to this by attempting to reduce fatigue: going to bed as early as possible (sometimes not very) and taking time within every day to read something escapist, in this case three fantasies by Robin McKinley: Chalice, and the two related titles The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword:


When facing a decision of this magnitude, it's good to refresh the mental palate. There's nothing like monstrous dragons and not-entirely-human foes that require magic to be defeated to make my real-life challenges seem less momentous and disconcerting. (I've been meeting freelance deadlines, too. They don't have the same bracing effect.)

I now have a MacBook. It is not, contrary to friends' advice, a MacBook Pro, which several people have told me is the minimum I really need in order to do what I want (that being, for the most part, editing, designing, and publishing books). Nor is it a desktop Mac with a big monitor, which is what I think is likely to be the best tool for the job. I'm told that this MacBook will, however, run the programs I need to run, even if not optimally, and my leap of faith did not extend to the number of dollars required to get one of the other solutions into play.

Although it appears that I'll be able to get the upcoming publication that has been plagued by computer problems off to the printer in the foreseeable future from the PC system (too late to start over on that one, and I think I've got workarounds that are sidestepping the file corruption), the past year-plus (nearly two years, but I try not to think of that) of hardware and software glitches has nearly driven me out of business. My choices are to quit . . . or to be brave, jump into a parallel universe (without benefit of seeing what's really in there), and keep going.


Let's just say that quitting is very difficult for me to do. I'll go do something else for a while, but if the task I wanted to accomplish was something I want to get done, I will return to it. Hopefully with new ideas, crazy or not.

Balancing the unknown and unpredictable with a some reliable activity, I have completed a pair of fingerless gloves, made from the yarn that LynnH over at Colorjoy! kindly sent me:


I've shoved up my sweater sleeves so you can see the fingerless gloves better. The pattern is from the new Luxury One-Skein Wonders, by Judith Durant. The design is "Silk-Merino Fingerless Gloves" by Andra Asars, although the original was designed for superfine yarn and I modified for worsted-weight (I worked on smaller-than-usual needles, cast on 52 stitches, and finished the thumb area when it contained 22 stitches; I also lengthened both cuff and finger areas).

Changing operating systems is not trivial. It requires a whole different way of thinking. I will also need to change layout software, at least until I can afford to acquire what I'm currently accustomed to, because Adobe does not currently permit cross-platform upgrades, which means I'd need to start over by purchasing a new, complete edition of the Adobe Creative Suite (I have already purchased two of the earlier versions, which are running on my and my daughter's PCs). Not an option right now.

However, I do have two alternatives that will not require additional major investment. QuarkXPress permits cross-platform upgrades, and Scribus (open source layout program) appears to have evolved since I last examined it. More research and testing required, plus a learning curve in that direction.

I'll also need to see how many of the fonts I've acquired will run on Mac as well as PC. I've been purchasing only OpenType (Type 1 flavor) fonts for the past couple of years, so all the new stuff should be fine. However, some reliable oldies will need to be replaced, or I'll simply need to do without them.

I think the Mac may be much easier to use in many ways than the PCs. However, my brain is accustomed to thinking about certain tasks in specific ways—to install a program, you do this; to uninstall one, you do that—and even my excursions into Linux have only been partially successful because I haven't taken the time to do the background training that's necessary to become fluent and versatile in a new system. I've been with the PC line of computers since CP/M (my first computer was a Kaypro II, with 64K RAM . . . not a typo). At the time, Apples only had 40-character displays and the PCs offered 80-character lines. I moved on through MS-DOS and versions of Windows from 3.x up to XP, with one brief excursion into the Apple IIc. Parallel universes indeed. Give me a C:> prompt and I will probably remember what to do with it.

I feel like I'm starting again from scratch. For example, I know this machine runs Mac OS X. I have even been able to find the place within the system data that tells me it's version 10.5.5. However, when you start working on figuring out what resources there are for learning how to navigate Mac's OS X operating system, everybody's talking about big cats: tigers, panthers, leopards, and the like. I finally figured out that what I have here is a leopard. Whew. That makes everything completely clear. Right?

The best news is that the library OWNS the book I was looking for, called Switching to the Mac, by David Pogue (oops, that was a tiger version; easiest to find), and it OWNS the Leopard (newest) edition, and the book was CHECKED IN at the very branch where I was located when I was doing this research.

It's already apparent (in the first 24 hours) that people who use a computer for normal tasks would find it very easy to get up and running very quickly on a Mac. However if, like me, you want to do the equivalent of brewing tea for a hundred people in what amounts to a single mug, you'll need a different approach.

Oddly, the Linux-like qualities of the operating system that I have so far encountered are comforting. For example, many changes require me to enter the machine's basic password.

I do keep trying to hit CTRL-S to save things (looks like CMD-S may be similar) and I was a little more accustomed than I thought to being able to delete either forward or backward from the cursor, depending on which PC key I chose (delete or backspace). The Mac does not seem to have that capability (confirmed by a friend). Although I think there's a way you can make the machine do that.

Right now, I'm seeking the basic truths of life: How does a Mac organize itself, and therefore me? And if Windows crashes and there is no sound, do you still have to reboot?


18 thoughts on “Changing horses in midstream: PC to Mac”

  1. Don’t worry, the mac is much easier than the PC. The main transition is getting used to the cmd and option keys instead of ctrl and alt. And you use cmd for almost everything, and it’s easier to reach than the alt key, so less strain on the fingers.

    If you have any questions about OSX or whatever, let me know. I have Tiger, but Leopard info is easy enough to find.

  2. I have only ever used a Mac. No, I take that back – I had to deal with Windows 2000 once and it was so buggy I was driven insane. And I quit that job.

    I hope you will find your laptop suitable. I find the Mac operating system, whatever the name, to be understandable and intuitive.

    Also, notice directions for adding a printer. Twelve pages for Windows, half a page for a Mac.

  3. I bought my first Mac in 1988, and although I’ve had clients who said “oh, you have to buy a PC to do this job,” I never have, and they never knew the difference.

    Um, until now. ; – )

    That being said, I’ve used both, and still prefer working on a Mac, even my now creakingly old G3 iMac, which had its seventh birthday last month.

    You’ll love it, Deb: trust us!

  4. We are a mixed marriage–he has a Mac, I have a PC. We find that some things are better on one, and some on the other, and sometimes, those little key stroke differences can drive one insane. In any case, congratulations on making this big shift in your life! You are growing and learning from it–and gosh, it looks like you’ll have lots of support from friends while making the transition! (and some very good fingerless mitts…!)

  5. I’m glad you didn’t give up. Yes, it seems everyone who has a mac loves it and in time learns how to intuitively fix things that Windows people can’t do for themselves.

    The keystrokes with CMD are easy to switch over to. The absence of a DEL key that went the other way made me crazy, but there are so many “extensions” you can add to a mac that maybe you can fix that as well.

    I am really used to using a keyboard to acces my menu bar, did’t find a way to do that but again I think extensions must be out there.

    In the end, a mac won’t crash as much. It’s just the price of switching, ouch! I coulda done it a year ago and in the end probably I should have.

    But this way I could buy new software one at a time, after the computer was paid. If I’d done mac I’d have had to buy software and machine at the same time which was pretty impossible.

    CS2 in a wrapped box was hard to find and still $900. At least I could wait to find a copy, I didn’t have a deadline for that install.

    Best of luck, and enjoy those handwarmers!

  6. PS. if you do need windows for something, you can use parallels and run it on the mac. Since you have a plethora of windows machines hanging about, you probably won’t need this solution. 🙂

  7. I feel your pain, my sister. But you are far braver than I am: I finally succumbed to Vista (I’m convinced that XP Home is configured to commit suicide just before the winter gift-buying season); it is very Mac-ish and I hate it with a consuming passion.

    Whenever I had to sit at a Mac in my graphics-drone days, I was grateful to get home to my “real” computer…

  8. Glad you’re getting some use out of my “Switching” book!

    Just so you know: use the Delete key by itself when you want Backspace. Add the Fn key (lower-left corner of the keyboard) to turn the Delete key into a FORWARD delete key.

    Hope this helps!


  9. David: Thanks for the note. Your book taught me the Fn-DEL combination earlier this afternoon {grin}. I won’t make it through all near-600 pages by the time the library wants it back, so I had my favorite bookstore employee (daughter) order a copy for me at our local independent bookstore this afternoon. And I am delighted to have the library copy to use until the one I’ll read with a highlighter in hand arrives.

  10. I will have to say, I’m very proud of you! You managed the initial transition with minimal mental hives!
    Quick story: back when I made my living by being a temp, I would routinely take work home from whatever ::shudder:: PC I was supposed to use, and do it on my Mac, then bring it back in the morning. One boss finally caught on–and converted to Mac, as he’d spent the cost of 2 Macs on PC tech support in one year.

  11. As you know, I made that same leap almost 2 years ago now. I’m not running a Pro either, though I don’t work with as large of layout files as you 🙂 But feel free to ask me questions if you need. I’m sure between myself and Drew we can answer most of them.

  12. I admire your perseverance!
    Both my daughters have gone the Way of the Mac, but I’m still living in PC World.
    I remember in early versions of Windows, I had to exit out to DOS to get the computer to do what I wanted – Windows wouldn’t let me…

  13. I’m coming back to this post. I’m in the market for a new laptop and am completely besotted by a fellow knitter’s MacBook. Now you!?

    My decision is complicated by the fact that I live with a Windows software developer. Giving up in-house tech support. Not so easy.

    Will want to read everything!

  14. Leslie, I’ll have a series of posts here for you. I hope they will make your transition easier. Despite my current frustration, I think you need a Mac. If only for Scrivener and Journler.

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