When I decided to switch to the Mac one of the first things I did was create an application to application comparison matrix in order to ensure I could find an comparable Mac replacement for all my important Windows applications. I found some great articles written by others who’d made the switch and that really helped in that process. Now that I’ve had my Mac for a year and a half or so I’ve found replacements for virtually everything I had on Windows. In order to help others who are making the switch to a Mac or maybe just looking for a Mac replacement for a Windows application they can’t seem to shake, I thought I’d put my cross-reference list here, albeit it in a very informal, unstructured manner (trying to avoid a boring list). I’ve included links where possible.
My hope was that most of the apps I used on Windows would have a Mac port. That way I wouldn’t have to learn something new and the learning curve would be shortened. I’m not opposed to learning something new but switching everything over at once and having to relearn everything is a tall order and I wanted to be productive as quickly as possible. Luckily many of the apps I used on Windows had Mac ports. Firefox, for instance, is available for both (as well as Linux). I used Safari for a while but ended up going back to the comfort and familiarity of Firefox. Unfortunately the default theme for Mac Firefox is kinda ugly, in my opinion. I use the Silvermel theme and it both looks and works great. There’s also Opera and Camino, as well as a slew of other, more obscure browsers to choose from. Most recently though I’ve been using Google Chrome; it’s been lightening fast, incredibly stable, and has a great bookmark syncing feature. It’s also available not only for the Mac but for Windows and Linux as well. No matter which browser you go with giving up Internet Explorer will be incredibly satisfying.
For graphical FTP transfers I used Filezilla on Windows. Although there is a Mac version of Filezilla that works fine I use a program called Cyberduck, primarily for the Mac look and feel and the ability to drag and drop from the Finder. For instant messaging on Windows I used an open source program called Pidgin; the Mac version of Pidgin is called Adium and it’s very good.
I used RealVNC on Windows for remote control. The default VNC server on the Mac, at least the version that shipped with Leopard, just sucks. It’s so slow it’s unusable. I actually had to turn that service off and install Vine Server. Vine Server is free, but their client is not. I now use Vine Server to serve up my Mac for remote control, and I use JollysFastVNC as my VNC client to connect to other VNC servers. JollysFastVNC is free and works reasonably well. To control my Mac from a Windows box I use the TightVNC viewer (which is also free).
I used Thunderbird on Windows for my imap e-mail. While Thunderbird is available for the Mac, I actually just use the Mac Mail client that ships with the Mac. That ties directly in with the Mac Address Book. I recommend using Mac Mail along with the Mac address book because other Mac apps are integrated with them and it makes life easier. One of the things I really like about the Mac is that so much of it works together, which is incredibly useful. Mac Mail also has a nice RSS reader built in; it’s a great replacement.
For word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations on Windows I used OpenOffice. OpenOffice now runs natively on the Mac and the port is pretty good. There’s also another port of OpenOffice for the Mac called NeoOffice and of course Microsoft Office is available for the Mac if you really need it. There’s also iWork for more of a Mac look and feel and better OS X integration. iWork can read and write most MS Office files and can export in several other formats. I’m now using LibreOffice which is a fork of OpenOffice, minus the Oracle. It’s very capable and available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
For several long, long years I was stuck with Microsoft Outlook at home. No longer; I use Apple’s iCal along with my iPhone. Free at last!
For general text editing and/or programming I used Gvim on Windows (being a vi guy). MacVim is the Mac port of Gvim and it’s very good. It has tabs which are really useful for working with multiple documents. I also use another editor called Text Wrangler when I don’t need vi functionality. TextEdit ships with the Mac and is similar in nature to Notepad.
Audio management was easy; I was already using iTunes on Windows so I transitioned right over to iTunes on the Mac. The Mac comes with a DVD burner and very nice DVD playback software. On windows I used Picasa to manage my digital photos. Picasa is available for the Mac but I use iPhoto personally. My digital camera just works with the Mac; I don’t need any additional software to unload my photos from the camera. I also bought a new Canon scanner, the CanoScan LiDE 200 and it works just beautifully.
For image editing I was looking for something to replace Faststone Image Viewer. After a lengthy search I ran across a comparable replacement called Pixelmator which is similar to Photoshop. You could also consider Acorn, Adobe Photoshop Elements, or Gimp for OS X. I now use ImageWell; it’s simple and provides pretty much all the functionality I need.
I found I can play back virtually any kind of video file using the Mac. Quicktime does most everything out of the box but I had to download Flip4Mac to play .wmv files. It installs a codec that Quicktime can use. To view .flv and/or .swf files I use SWF & FLV Player. Both Flip4Mac and SWF & FLV Player are freeware. For creating video and DVDs I replaced Pinnacle Studio with iMovie. I like it much better than Pinnacle Studio. I print DVD labels for all my home movies; on Windows I used to use MediaFace for that. I found this great equivalent called DiskLabel that’s even better.
MySQL server and client tools are all available native and free for the Mac.
For genealogy research and documentation I used Heritage Family Tree on Windows. I’m now using Mac Family Tree on the Mac and it is very impressive. It utilizes some really cool built-in OSX technologies to graphically display family trees in a way I’ve never seen before. It can also produce an impressive html rendering of a family tree that can simply be dropped onto a webserver (if you run one like me) or the manufacturer’s freely provided webspace. I was very pleasantly surprised at just how good this software is.
In addition to all this stuff I also had a lot of utilities I used on Windows. Fortunately I was able to find replacements for all of them. Beyond Compare was a big one. It’s directory and file comparison software. It can look at two files and display the diff or it’ll compare two folders and show the differences, allowing you to easily sync files between them. I searched high and low but was just stuck on Beyond Compare which has only a Windows and Linux version. Then I found DeltaWalker. It’s proven to be a comparable replacement. I wrote more about it here.
For storing passwords I used KeePass on Windows. The Mac port is KeePassX and work just as well and can read the same encrypted password files. I just opened my existing file in KeePassX and was on my way. Speaking of encryption, I used TrueCrypt on Windows to create encrypted volumes. TrueCrypt is also available for the Mac and is just as easy to use.
There are some other apps that I used less frequently on Windows but were still useful or even necessary. For digital books I used eReader and for taxes I used H&R Block at Home (formerly TaxCut). Both of these have Mac versions.
One of the biggest hurdles was finding a Quicken replacement. Quicken for Mac is just awful and most of the other personal finance software is still up and coming. I ended up replacing Quicken with Moneydance, and I wrote a detailed article about it too.
And what if there’s something you just can’t replace yet? You can always run Windows virtually with VirtualBox. I used to use VMware Fusion but eventually it just stopped working. VirtualBox is free and has most of the features you’ll find in VMware Fusion or Parallels. Save the $80 and just use VirtuaBox; I wish I had from the beginning. It’s also great for running Linux (and keeping multiple computers out of your office space). Although I no longer run Windows in a VM I do run Linux in a VM.
So there you have it, how I switched off Windows and moved completely over to the Mac. I hope you found it useful as you contemplate a switch to the Mac or if you already have switched and just need some some fresh options for turning off Windows. Feel free to let me know below. Once you turn Windows off on your Mac it’s like removing the ball and chain; you’re free to just run about, enjoying life again.
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