Don’t underestimate how much you’ve learned about using Windows.

Over the years I’ve been asked the same question frequently: “Should I switch to a Mac?”

Not very much has changed about my answer. I work mostly with small businesses and law firms, and there are mundane, practical reasons to stay in the Windows world. Take away all the hype and the halo effect from the mobile devices and in the last ten years Apple’s market share for computers has risen from roughly 4% to roughly 10%. Office software vendors can read market share as easily as you can. It’s a Windows world. Perhaps that’s changing as we move to platform-independent cloud services, yes, but that’s not everything we’re doing at our desks yet and it won’t be for some years.

Still, I understand the temptation. Apple users are less often exposed to malware – still vulnerable but not yet suffering through the hardening under fire that Windows users have endured for more than a decade. And more importantly, Apple users are less likely to have their experience hijacked by third parties intent on becoming your browser home page and installing useless toolbars and taking over functions that Windows handles perfectly well on its own and crowding the lower right corner of the screen with icons that pop up incomprehensible balloon notices and in general taking the lovely Windows 7 operating system and making it appear to be a mess.

I sat down at a Mac a few months ago, for the first time in years. It was fascinating! My reaction was very personal and I don’t expect everyone to share it: I thought it was ugly as sin. The cartoon look harkened back to an uglified version of Windows XP, and passing my mouse over the buttons and watching them pop up and down like a hyperactive Jack Russell terrier was rather terrifying.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. True believers think it’s beautiful. I think that’s wonderful for them. That’s not my point.

You see, the other thing that I noticed in the course of the next hour or two was that I couldn’t figure out how to do a damn thing.

Everything is different. You might not realize how much you’ve learned about how to make Windows work, and how long it would take to switch over to a Mac.

Here’s an article by someone making the switch as an experiment. Put yourself in his shoes and make sure you want to go through this!

After spending a little over a week and a half with my shiny, new MacBook Air running OS X Lion, as a Windows user, I must admit… I almost can’t take it anymore. Learning OS X is driving me absolutely batty, but not because I think the OS is incapable or anything of that nature. In reality, I had no idea what I was in for and how I would have to learn even the most basic-of-basic functions of the OS.

To be clear, my experience and opinion thus far has absolutely nothing to do with “PC vs. Mac” prattle or me being intentionally provocative; I’m just having difficulty finding the patience to continue dedicating to a $1750 beauty that currently serves for little more than Internet browsing at the moment. And even that has been a pain.

When I formally started my consulting business more than fifteen years ago, I sat down at a Mac to see what it was like. It took ten long, frustrating minutes to figure out how to turn it on. I decided at that minute that my brain was too small to become proficient in the Apple world. I still feel that way.

The keyboard. It haunts my dreams. Moving from a PC keyboard to a Mac keyboard has had me pulling what little hair I have left out of my head. Do I press “fn,” “control,” “option,” or “command” before ‘c’ or ‘v’ to copy and paste? And where’s the delete key? I see one key called “delete,” but it’s the same as “backspace.” Okay, so then, how do I get delete functionality? I guess I have to press a key along with “delete” to achieve that functionality. Hmm, so do I press “fn,” “control,” “option,” or “command” before pressing “delete?”

Some of you are frustrated that some buttons are moved around in Internet Explorer 9. You find it shocking that the Home button has moved from the left to the right of the screen. Are you aware that the new Mac OS, Lion, has reversed the scroll bar? It literally scrolls the opposite direction that you expect. Not to mention that scroll arrows and menus will sometimes unexpectedly disappear and many, many other things are moved around or changed from the previous version of Mac OS X – which already bore little resemblance to anything you know from the Windows world.

Here’s the way one writer summarized Lion for new users:

Lion represents the biggest user interface change to the company’s desktop experience since the debut of Mac OS X. With the Mac hard drive hidden by default, full-screen apps that hide the menu bar, and omnipresent scroll arrows put out to pasture, it even dispenses with some user interface conventions that have been around since the original Mac. The focus on multitouch gestures — while enabling more fluidity in the user interface — are not as self-evident. Overall, though, the gradual shift away from contrivances such as windows, menus, and cluttered icons should make things less intimidating for new users.

Think about that last sentence. That’s a sympathetic writer who thinks the Mac will be “less intimidating for new users” because it shifts away from “contrivances such as windows, menus, and cluttered icons.” Contrivances? Those aren’t contrivances! Those are the things I use every day to get my work done! So do you. Ready to “shift away” from them so you can get that swell Mac experience?

Perhaps you are. Lots of people make the transition and never look back. (Lots of people transition from Macs to Windows 7 and find it a well designed, elegant operating system, but those people don’t get any attention.) If you’re ready to make the switch, convinced by well-meaning friends or marketing hype that the grass is greener in the Mac world, I wish you success and happy computing.

But if you’re just mulling it over, make sure you have in mind the amount of knowledge you have in your head about where the Delete key is, and how to start Task Manager, and how to find your programs, and how to maximize a window, and how to rename a file, and a thousand, nay, ten thousand other little details that seem natural. They won’t seem natural when you sit down at that shiny new Mac.

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