Moving to Mac Guide: Part 4 – more alternatives to Windows

Apple logoIf you’re moving to Mac, don’t be surprised to find that not all of your Windows programs have a direct equivalent. In many cases, such as with MSN Messenger, Microsoft Office, Firefox etc, there’s a Mac version. Sometimes, though, that’s not the case and you’ll need an alternative. This part of the Moving to Mac Guide deals with suggestions for the applications users miss most when switching to Mac and a lowdown of the most commonly used or default applications on Mac for different tasks.

We’ve already covered internet browsers, email clients, music players, video players, file archivers and CD/DVD burner in the first part of this post. Here, in the second part, we look at PDF viewers, photo management, maintenance, photo editing and instant messengers on Mac.

PDF Viewers

Preview for MacMac users typically use Preview to view PDF documents – it comes free with the OS X. Preview is very lightweight, easy to use and reads just about any image format, including PDF. Thanks to its editing options (including resizing of multiple photos) it’s also an indispensable tool for everyday use. If you were tired of using the bloated, slow Adobe Reader on Windows, Preview will come as a breath of fresh air.


Photo Management

iPhotoPC users usually manage photos through Windows Live Essentials. Others use Picasa or ACDSee (which also exists for Mac). Mac users have the option of iPhoto, which, like Preview, comes free with OS X. iPhoto is comprehensive, and includes Geotagging and a facial recognition feature which helps you organize your photo libraries. You can also edit photos, create slide shows, photo albums and share them via email or the web. The more professional counterpart of iPhoto is Aperture, which provides you with highly advanced editing tools.

Maintenance

System PreferencesPeople who switch from PC to Mac often want to know what registry cleaner they can use. The answer is simple: none! Forget programs like Defraggler, OS X doesn’t need them at all – or a registry cleaner. The UNIX heart of OS X is well organized and maintains itself very well.

Onyx for MacThis doesn’t mean your Mac is perfect and invulnerable, of course. It doesn’t hurt to give it some TLC from time to time. Some classics include OnyX (for checking the integrity of the disk and file system by eliminating temporary files that are no longer needed) and Cocktail, an app that has hundreds of functions that clean, repair and optimize your computer. Another important piece in the first aid kit is Disk Warrior, which, among the other things that it does, can repair the root directory of your computer.

Things sounding complicated?  Well, let’s use an example. A computer is a kind of book, complete with a lot of content and an index that summarizes it. However, since the contents of a computer is constantly changing, this index must be updated constantly. If there are inconsistencies between the index and actual content of the Mac, you have a problem, and it can be a serious one. Disk Warrior intervenes in such cases, successfully recreating the corrupted index. Hundreds of computers have been saved by this utility – including my own.

Photo Editing

PhotoshopFor Macs and PCs, editing applications are mostly the same: as a Mac user you can work with Adobe Photoshop, the free GIMP for Mac or Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. However, there are also several other lower budget and more lightweight options such as Seashore, Picasa (for basic editing) and GraphicConverter X. In general, Macs are far better designed for photo and graphic editing. In fact, most graphic designers use Macs as their tool of choice.

Word Processors

Pages for MacApple’s answer to Microsoft Word is Pages, a part of the iWork office suite. It’s slick and the workflow is fluid, although it lacks the tools offered by Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac. With regards to compatibility, however, there is some good news: with Pages, you can open and edit any Word document, and you can also create and save your work in DOC format. It’s also very easy to send files from the Share menu, where you can choose the format in which to send the file you’re working on. In the case of a text document, you have options like the native iWork format, PDF and DOC.

If you don’t want to give up the Microsoft Office suite however, the PC and Mac versions are virtually identical, both in appearance and function.  Alternatively, there is NeoOffice or OpenOffice, which are both free open-source suites that run on Windows, Mac and Linux.

Instant Messengers

One of the best solutions for those using Mac is Adium, a multi-protocol client that connects you to FacetimeAIM, MSN, Jabber, Yahoo and many other instant messaging services. The only service that it does not offer, however, is video chat, but for that there are good alternatives: the classic Skype, which needs no introduction, or the simple but effective FaceTime (free in OS X Lion onwards), which allows communication between Apple devices.

The nostalgic, however, can always count on Messenger for Mac or opt for its open source counterpart, aMSN. Don’t forget Yahoo! Messenger, which offers video conferencing, video chat and VoIP services.

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