For the past month, I’ve been using a MacBook Air (M2). This is a big deal, because I've been a Windows user for decades. I dabble in Macs, I even write about them, but I do my job on a Windows 11 PC. Or rather I did. I've moved to Mac – and I may never go back.
To understand what a big deal this is for me, I need to share a little history.
There was a time when I thought I’d be using a Mac for the rest of my life. This was back in 1986, when I was using an original Macintosh, and working in apps like PageMaker and Cricket Paint. I was 100% an Apple guy. I was so Mac- and Mac OS-proficient that I trained people on the platform. I did massive design projects on Macs, right up through the ugly-as-sin Macintosh II.
That all changed in 1991 when I joined PC Magazine, and they plopped me down in front of a Northgate PC running DOS 5. It was, I won’t lie, a nightmare. However, within a few months, Microsoft released Windows 3.1, a platform update that transformed the experience of using a PC into something approaching the ease of use and elegance of the Mac. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a start.
PC Magazine covered the Mac, but lightly, and as Apple’s fortunes waned in the late 1990s, the entire Apple ecosystem became less interesting to us, and to me.
Obviously, things are very different now. macOS, and the MacBooks and iMacs and Mac Pros and Mac minis that run it, bear little resemblance to the friendly system I used almost 30 years ago. Anytime I review a Mac, or spend a little time digging into macOS, I marvel at the beauty of the hardware and the richness of the operating system. Yet, I always pull back.
Not this time. I made a commitment at the beginning of March to use Apple's MacBook Air running the M2 Apple silicon, one of the best laptops on the market, and macOS 13 (Ventura); and not just for part of the time. I have not touched my Microsoft Surface Pro 8 for 25 days and counting.
I also kept a sort of diary, daily missives about my experiences, discoveries, and, yes, frustrations. For as much as I’ve written about Apple and its impressive hardware and software ecosystem, there were a lot of surprises. What I will say, broadly, is that the simplicity of early Mac is long gone. macOS, like Windows 11, does a lot, maybe too much. On the other hand, six months from now, I might tell you that there's no simpler and more efficient OS than what Apple has created. Maybe.
What follows is an edited version of my very honest diary.
Swapped out the Surface Pro 8 for the MacBook Air M2
I quickly installed all my Gmail accounts (personal and work), and logged into Slack and Parsley on Safari.
I need space to work, so, as I’ve been doing with my Windows 11 system, I connected to an external HD screen (the same one I used with Windows).
I didn’t have a Magic Mouse handy, so I connected a Surface Mouse. Don’t tell Apple (scroll on the mouse is backward, of course).
macOS is always familiar, and yet foreign when you’ve spent years on Windows.
This is cool: I opened the iPad Pro 12.9 next to my MacBook, and now I can move my mouse across three screens. Thanks, Universal Control.
I don’t have Windows Hello to unlock with my face, but I do have 'Unlock with Apple Watch,' which is just as fast and convenient.
Yes, I miss being able to touch the screen a bit.
I installed Chrome because it works with my critical work extensions. Took me a while to realize that there’s a Microsoft Edge for Mac (Apple Silicon or Intel), but I haven’t ended up using it.
Training myself to look at the top of the screen for the time.
Why does MacOS feel busier to me? I think I just need to learn how to manage it.
Do love the big screen, and that MacBook Air notch is mostly fading into the background.
The thing about setting up a new system is how much time you spend recreating your environment. This includes reinstalling access to various cloud storage drives, and a lot of apps like Photoshop, Word and Chrome.
Weird what being on a different platform does to my confidence, as in it’s just gone.
Relearning shortcut keys. Muscle memory is simply not there.
Why on the Mac is backspace called delete? Which means there’s no true delete key.
Learning new things all the time, like you can’t drag a Window from one screen to the other when an app is set to full screen.
I still sometimes accidentally hit the power/Touch ID button thinking it’s backspace or delete.
Definitely getting more comfortable using this system, even if sometimes my confusion overwhelms me into a frozen stupor.
The Dock can feel a little overcrowded.
Can’t drag a Window onto that iPad screen, which is a little disappointing.
Unremarkable weekend with the system. Finished a newsletter.
Realized I have yet to install Photoshop on this laptop.
Also wish I wasn’t running both Safari and two instances of Chrome for my two accounts (that’s my fault).
I still think the way macOS installs apps is counterintuitive. If you double-click on an installer, it should disappear and instantly be replaced by the installation window.
Maximizing windows is weird, too because you cannot one-click maximize without hiding access to other apps. This has something to do with desktop management, which I’m still mastering.
No Bing AI chat unless I install Edge and sign into my Microsoft account.
Been a long time since I worked long-term on a system that has the CPU in the base. The MacBook Air M2 is super-efficient (it really sips battery), but it can get a little warm under the hands.
I like Touch ID for verifying purchases and downloads in the App Store. So easy.
macOS default file management system is still foreign to me and a bit confusing. Today, I struggled to find images I grabbed and saved.
Not sure I will ever like having the menu bar separated from the app.
Couldn’t install some apps because, in testing, we’d installed three massive game apps on the device. I deleted them and, voila! I have more than enough room on the 256GB drive.
While I use the free-to-download ScreenToGif on Windows for all my Gif-creation needs, I found the Giphy app for the Mac more than satisfactory.
It's nice that the Mac instantly finds my iPhone 14 Pro and tethers to it for connectivity without the fuss of adding a password.
Still relearning how to 'right-click.' 🤦♂️
If anything, the combo of my external office screen and the laptop is better than it was with my Windows 11 system.
Glad to see the MacBook Air works with my USB-C to-USB-3 hub.
I still love that I can shake my mouse to see a giant pointer. Fun and useful when I can’t find my mouse across two screens.
The camera failed during a Google Meet. And I thought that was just a Windows 11 problem. Had to reboot the Mac to bring it back.
Unexpected roadblock. The Mac refused to read an SD card. iPhone reads it fine [Turns out this was operator error. I needed to import the images through Photos].
Airdropping 40 photos from my iPhone to my Mac? Effortless. How did I live without this?
I wish that every time I captured a screen it was automatically added to the clipboard, as it is on Windows. It’s just easier. Instead, Apple drops them all on the system. I don’t care about my screen captures that much, do I?
Every day I get a little bit better at using the Mac, and at remembering critical shortcuts.
Will I forget how to use Windows 11?
Learning to hold down on a window’s green 'expand' button to arrange windows. I think I prefer the Windows way, which lets you basically throw a window to the side screen to manage multiple window arrangements.
Set up hot corners on the recommendation of UK EIC. They are way too hidden. Not sure how well that works when you’re connected to multiple screens, though.
I find it weird that the cursor or mouse doesn’t always change to a pointer when I’m resizing windows or navigating an interface.
Am I getting used to working every day on the Mac? Yes.
I did find that the hot corners work better if I detach from my external display.
Not sure I love hot corners. I forget they're there, and then when my cursor glides into one I feel like something unexpected happened. “No, no, I didn’t want to view my whole desktop at this moment.”
It took me until today to figure out how to access the emoji keyboard. I’m so used to the Windows spacebar combo on a PC. With the Mac, it’s Ctrl/Command/Spacebar.
I have struggled a bit to navigate Apple’s Finder, but I’m getting better at using things like typing in the letters of what I want. Still, the default to 'Recent' doesn’t help me as much as Apple thinks it should.
The rudimentary native image-editing tools aren't bad, though I wonder where crop (and aspect ratio resize) is.
I come to realize that Universal Control is only marginally useful. As long as I can’t drag a window to the iPad, I really don’t care.
I usually use Notepad in Windows as my catch-all for clear text and quick notes. I use Notes on the iPhone in the same way, but I'm just getting acquainted with it on the Mac. When I did a little programming, I found I needed something that could save in plain text. That’s when I found TextEdit, an app I feel like I might have used back in my original Macintosh days.
Spent part of this morning cleaning up my Dock.
I still struggle to navigate all my open windows and desktops, and while swiping up with three fingers helps me eyeball stuff, it’s still sometimes hard to know what is what.
Right-clicking on icons to quit is also nice and easy.
A big part of understanding how to efficiently use a Mac is understanding how to use the Dock, especially the minimized area next to Trash. It’s usually the quickest path to finding what you need.
Also, I keep getting better at making Finder work for me. Organizing by 'Kind' of file helped me stop hiding folders among endless file names.
Becoming second nature to use the Mac. Will I ever go back?
Finder is just as powerful as any search within Windows.
BTW: Have pretty well integrated OneDrive on the Mac, much as I integrated iCloud storage on my Windows system.
Finally realizing that Mac’s method of automatically saving every screen capture is more efficient than having to actively save it, though I do wish all those captures would end up in the clipboard. My workaround is that when the thumbnail appears briefly in the lower left-hand corner, I click on it to expand it, and then I can Command+C to copy the image.
This has ceased being an experiment, and may now be a way of life.
Surprising frustration: AirPods Pros connected, but would not work with Google Meet. I suspect Meet is the real culprit here.
Everything is becoming second nature for me on the Mac. Sure, I still occasionally touch the screen, expecting something, anything, to happen. The Force Touch Trackpad’s lack of actual movement still occasionally throws me (especially when the MacBook Air is on my lap), but I’m otherwise now smitten with the laptop and the latest macOS platform.
It always says it can’t repair my SD card but actually reads it just fine.
BTW: The AirPods Pro work just fine with other video sources.
Every once in a while I get confused about where my windows and desktops live. A little peculiar logic is at play here.
The Dock constantly disappearing is not necessarily a plus. I really need to dig into Desktop and Dock settings. Nice that I can right-click on the dock to instantly access its settings.
Really becoming devoted to the 3-finger sweep to reorient in my desktops.
Also, love 'Quick Looks' for file management
Wired file transfer between Android phones and the Mac is not as effortless. Every time I connect the phone to the MacBook Air via a USB-C cable, the phone asks how I want to connect. Once I set it as a photo transfer through USB, access to the phone’s storage worked fine. Then I could import the photos as I would with any other connected (wired) device
How many times will I forget that the menu for any app is stuck to the top of the screen?
Every day I learn something new. Today, I found I could drag and drop a window from one desktop to another. First, the three-finger sweep, and then I just grab and drag. It took me a beat to learn that I could grab and drag any window up to the desktop manager and accomplish pretty much the same thing.
As for that old trope about Macs being less complicated than Windows, I don’t know that that’s true. Both systems are incredibly feature-rich, and manage how you access those features in their own idiosyncratic ways.
You can overload this robust system. I’ve done it a few times, and then certain actions will just take a beat to work (or for the text you’ve been typing to appear).
How did I not know you can run Microsoft Edge on a Mac (Intel or Apple Silicon)?
Dragging and dropping between desktops is a sort of revelation.
Did what I think was my first TV hit (CNNi through Cisco) with this MacBook Air.
I do love having a full 1080 FaceTime camera for TV hits. It’s now on par with what I’ve had for ages with the Surface Pro.
While I’ve mostly used Chrome on this laptop, I do appreciate how content that’s been shared with me on my iPhone, like a link to a video, automatically shows up in Safari. That’s the power of a tightly woven ecosystem for you.
Finally realized that Cap Locks does not work as it does in Windows 11. I kept tapping the key wondering why it never works. Turns out I was doing it wrong. You can’t just tap the key; you have to hold it for a split second to turn Cap Locks on.
That’s my last entry, but the experiment continues. I always thought I’d go back to Windows when I encountered a task I couldn’t perform, or perform as well, on the MacBook Air. The problem is, I have yet to find such a task. I’ve worked in Google Docs, Microsoft Word, and Photoshop, run multiple browser instances (and way too many tabs), and managed multiple windows and Desktops. I installed a printer (a new Canon Pixma G6020), connected to networks (both wired and wireless), tethered to my phone, conducted video conferences, and I never run out of battery power.
Things I still miss:
- A touchscreen.
- A screen that accepts pen input
- Windows Hello
That’s about it. The MacBook Air has been, on balance, more stable than my Surface Pro 8. I love Microsoft’s systems, but they have a few consistent bugs that I've encountered on every Pro since the 6, which include untimely blue-screen crashes.
I cannot honestly say if I’m done with Windows, but I am now a tiny bit fearful that it will take some effort to reset my brain if I do return to Windows 11.
Or maybe I’ll just invest in an Apple Magic Mouse. Yeah, I could do that.
I haven't gone back.