I recently switched jobs - doing kind of a full circle thing - so that I’m back at the job I left a year ago. However, for the past year I worked at a university using a Mac Pro. It was a nice piece of machinery and it was my first and only full time usage of a Mac in my computing career. I had two 27” cinema displays and a pretty big third display. I mention this because the display area and windows management were the main items I’m going to discuss.
I’m currently using, as a temporary solution, a small Dell Optiplex machine with a single widescreen monitor running at 1920x1280 resolution. It isn’t really sufficient for my job but, until my development machine arrives from Dell it is what I’ve got.
Oddly enough I feel as productive on it, with it’s one little screen, as I often did on the Mac. How could that be? Well, I’ll tell you how - windows management.
The mac - as good as it is at somethings - just sucks for windows management. I don’t understand how anyone finds the Macs approach to windows management and arrangement satisfactory by default.
For instance you can have a bunch of floating windows, or full sized windows. But that’s about it. There is no easy way to cause a window to go half- screen. There is no easy way (short of using the cursed mouse) to move a window from one screen to another. There is no built in way to do much of anything with the windows on a mac. Don’t even get me started with their horrendous tab switching of windows. Half of the windows you have open aren’t even in the tab ordering if they are minimized.
Granted you can buy add on programs like Witch and Moom (both are great addons made by Many Tricks) to give you better control - but they aren’t native to the platform and, as much as I like them, I never became as proficient at using Moom as I would have liked.
Windows on the other hand makes it super easy to have move windows around or to have them take up just half of the screen. Alt+Tab isn’t great - but there are at least free improvements to it that you can install such as VistaSwitcher.
With windows I can just drag a window to the side edge of the current monitor to have it auto-fill to half screen. Again, it involves the mouse (something I prefer to avoid) but it works well. Plus, with windows there are a plethora of keyboard shortcuts for nearly everything else I like to do that are consistent across applications. On the Mac I had to define application specific keyboard shortcuts that wouldn’t be available to me on any other Mac.
One thing I did really like on the Mac was “CMD+Q” to close an app - a great shortcut. The closest to that on a PC is, I think, ALT+SPACE+C which isn’t nearly as convenient.
However, back to the crappy windows management. I’ll try to explain why it bothers me. A 27” screen is a TON Of space. When you have 2 or 3 of these screens you’ve got enough real estate to do almost anything. Most (all) applications aren’t designed to run at the massive resolution of a full 27” screen Cinema display. That’s something like 2560x1400 resolution! Thus, it seems like it would behoove Apple to make it easy to put an application on just one half of the screen so the other half can quickly be occupied by another.
The thing is though - at least for me - a half screen app kind of sucks because it is distracting. Sure, when I need to see into both apps at once having half screen as an option is handy (especially when you want the two windows near each other for quick comparisons). But most of the time I prefer to run an app in full screen mode - it removes all other distractions from the UI. Thus, for the most part I probably prefer three smaller monitors over two or one huge monitor. The other apps can run in full screen on the other monitors and are effectively not distracting me while being instantly available for review and comparison needs.
I realize I’m conflating two issues into one. The huge monitors are a nice thing to have - If you can manage the real estate on them well. But Apple wants you to use a huge monitor without giving you any tools to actually manage them. It’s absurd.
While I’m complaining I’ll mention one more small but aggrivating niggle I had with the Mac. It seemed like the finder was always incredibly slow to launch from within an application. For instance, within safari if I wanted to upload a photo to a website the “beach ball” would popup for a good 10-15 seconds whenever the finder dialog was opening. And remember, I was using a pretty powerful Mac Pro fully loaded with 16GB of RAM. It just didn’t make sense.
There were plenty of nice things about the mac but pretty much everything I disliked about it after two months of using it continued to annoy me 10 months later.
I will reiterate one thing I loved about the Mac that I already miss. On the Mac I could drag a folder to my text editor icon in the dock and it would open with the folder selected and expanded (a nice way to avoid the slow finder integration too). On windows if I drag a folder to an icon nothing happens at all. Windows seriously needs to steal this feature.