Remember that confession I wrote a while ago? A sobering story of a designer who grew up on Apples and Macs, but gave into the dark side, jumped ship, and began using Windows. Well, it’s coming up on a year since I wrote that piece. Some of my friends were beginning to wonder if I was serious about shaking the Windows addiction.
I couldn’t shake it as easily as I thought I could. My addiction had woven itself into the fabric of daily life. It was a hard thing to give up. Every now and then, I would try, and never succeed. But I was determined. I surrounded myself with a network of friends who wanted me to come home (in reality, read: they scorned and shamed me). I decided I really wanted to be back. It was a decision out of principle. And I knew my experience could be better.
So, as of yesterday, I’ve finally made the switch back to the Mac. Yesterday was the first day I came into the office with only a G4 laptop in my bag. There was no safety net to fall back into. I left the Windows laptop at home, sitting peacefully in hibernation on the corner of a desk. Mail and important files have been transferred over to the Mac. A few applications were updated. And several other important steps were taken to ensure the Mac would become (and will remain) my primary machine.
And you know what? It was a little scary, and still is. I feel like I’m going through some kind of withdrawal.
All drug and addiction references aside, this is the first time I feel out of control while sitting in front of a computer. And I haven’t felt like this for years. At the office yesterday, Merlin asked me how long I had been on Windows. To the best of my recollection, it’s been at least three years, maybe four. Way earlier than the initial OS X release, so I’ve never really learned to use Apple’s new operating system. I’ve just fumbled around with it whenever cross-checking designs or retrieving old files. Now, I’m using it full-time. In many ways, I’m realizing I haven’t really switched “back” to anything, because everything on the Mac is so different than what I knew from before.
So, sure, it’s a nice experience to be back. I’ve upgraded to Panther (OS 10.3 for non-Mac people). Things are pretty and cozy looking, and I can make all my windows magically arrange themselves on the desktop, or fly off the screen with a single keystroke. There’s some wickedly cool functionality built in now. But many things just feel so unfamiliar compared with what I knew so well when working in Windows. Things aren’t in the right place. Keyboard shortcuts are missing or have been completely remapped. Network settings are different. Applications behave differently, and they don’t quit when I close their last remaining window. I got so used to the way everything worked in Win XP, it became second nature. And that’s how I like a computer to be: merely a tool I use to get things done. Just as I believe design should not get in the way of communication, I don’t want to have to think about how the tool works.
I know I’ll eventually feel comfortable again if I stick through the awkwardness. It was just like this when I started to use Windows several years ago, but I was determined to learn an operating system in use by so many people.
This whole switch is supposed to be exciting and painless. Believe me, parts of me are thrilled, and I’m ecstatic when I learn some cool new feature in OS X that I didn’t know before. But I quickly get frustrated when I have to hunt for an application function, or a shortcut, and I find myself repeatedly searching through help files to find the answers. Or worse, I’m constantly asking my Mac friends “How do you do this?” then five minutes later, “How about this?”
So, despite the transition period I’ve entered, I’m excited about the switch. You may have noticed a few more Mac-related links showing up here than in the past. Now you know why. I’m looking forward to the day when I no longer need to pay attention to the tool I’m using. Rather, I hope to be able to sit back once in a while and admire how much more enjoyable designing and working on a Mac can be.