Switching to a Mac: One Month In

About a month ago, after multiple laptop disasters that in all likelihood were my fault, I decided to switch to a Mac after a lifetime of PC use. How's it been?

It's been pretty good. Here's a quick rundown of some of my experiences.

• Expose and Spaces are great for someone who usually has over a dozen windows and programs open at once. Having Photoshop isolated to its own space to reduce clutter is great, and being able to swipe down and see everything at once is also really nice. One issue I've run into, however, is that spaces makes dragging and dropping across programs harder. Sure, you can drag down to the icon, but if I want to drag album artwork from Firefox into the proper section of iTunes rather than importing the image, I can't do it across spaces. Not a huge deal, however.

• I really like the multitouch trackpad...most of the time. It's great for using expose and for right-clicking with two fingers, but it also often misfires, especially in programs like Photoshop. Photoshop thinks I want to rotate the image every damned time I put more than one finger on the trackpad. This gets very annoying.

• Some functions and options are just buried way too deep. For example, whenever I plug my iPhone in, iPhoto opens. I in no way want this to happen. In order to turn this off, I had to Google it and get instructions from a message board. It involved fiddling with the Image Capture app, which is not really that intuitive. How would a non-expert figure this out?

• One of my favorite programs is Connect 360, which serves media to my Xbox 360 from my MBP. It's actually amazingly ironic that this works so much better on a Mac, seeing that Microsoft makes the Xbox 360. But I tried multiple times to do this on my PC, and it always involved downloading new versions of Windows Media Center and Windows Media Player, getting codes from my Xbox and putting them into my computer and multiple restarts. Even then, it never worked. For $20 I bought Connect 360 and it was working in 3 minutes. Microsoft, what the hell are you doing that this is the case?

• Growl is a nice little notification service that lets programs deliver pop-up messages in a way that's unified across the system. It's great for stuff like the Gmail notifier, but a lot of apps abuse this thing. No, Last.fm, I don't want a pop-up notification every time a new song starts. Annoyingly enough, you can't control these notifications inside the preferences of the apps that use it. Instead, you need to go to System Preferences and go to Growl's pane. Not a huge annoyance, but I had to search around through all of Last.fm's menus before trying a different approach. Not too intuitive.

• Every single Mac app costs money. Where's the freeware on Macs? On the PC, I used Texter to create macros for things I type a lot, which is free. On the Mac, there's TextExpander, and it's $30. There are loads of free FTP clients for the PC. On Mac, you use Transmit, and it's $30. Tweetie is a nice enough Twitter client, but it sure isn't $15 worth of nice. TextMate is a great, robust text editor, but no text editor is worth $54.

Paying $30 for one app that provides a great value is fine, but paying $30 each for 10 basic apps that aren't all that important on their own adds up pretty fast.

Overall, the learning curve on the switch was really gentle. I feel like I've figured out most of the important stuff, and I've been enjoying my experience for the most part. But the fact remains that this was a damned expensive computer. MacBook Pros start at a solid $2,000. Is it worth it in this recession?

I'd say that if you are happy with your PC and don't have any serious issues, no. There's no real reason to justify the switch and the difference in price. But if you're sick of your PC, are curious or just feel like switching things up, I haven't run across any dealbreakers that would make a former Windows user run for the hills. It's a slick machine that's very stable and has lots of nice perks, but switching isn't going to change anybody's life all that much.