Tools for Mac Newbies

Making the switch from a Windows PC to a Mac isn´t nearly as daunting as it might seem. Most of … Continued

Making the switch from a Windows PC to a Mac isn´t nearly as daunting as it might seem. Most of your files, including photos, music and Microsoft Office documents, will open on your Mac without any conversion (although you will need to buy the Mac version of Microsoft Office). And Mac OS X´s interface is pretty intuitive (just remember: Finder is the Mac equivalent to Window´s Explorer). But if you´re the least bit squeamish about the transition, we highly recommend Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual [ ] ($25; O´Reilly/Pogue Press), by New York Times technology columnist and author of several Mac how-to books David Pogue. The 434-page tome not only covers the basics of transferring files and settings from PCs to Macs, but is an excellent tutorial for the OS X operating system as well. Here are a few more tools that can help make your switch an easy one.

If you have a home network, it´s possible to access your PC from your Mac with OS X´s Windows File Sharing feature and manually drag your files over. But the process can be tedious, especially for moving special files such as bookmarks and e-mail account settings. The $50 Move2Mac kit [ ] reduces the process to a few simple clicks and includes both software and a proprietary USB cable for connecting the two machines (a serial cable version is also available). Note that Move2Mac doesn´t copy your e-mail messages. The program doesn´t actually convert any files, and you´ll probably use it only once, but if you have a lot of files that you don´t want to have to deal with manually, you´ll find Move2Mac worth the dough.

If you do choose to move your files manually, Disk Commander ($23) is a handy little dual-pane file-management utility and FTP client that makes transferring files easy. And you´ll still need something for your e-mail. Outlook2Mac ($10; no relation to Move2Mac), converts your messages, address book and calendar appointments from just about any version of Outlook to run on just about any Mac-compatible e-mail app, including Mail and Entourage.

Most major applications come in both Windows and Macintosh flavors, but if you have a few Windows-only apps you can´t live without, invest in Virtual PC from Microsoft ($220 with XP Home Edition). The software emulates a Windows environment as an application on your Mac, running just like a PC. Be warned: Your Virtual PC will run much slower than a real PC, so gamers are out of luck.

Just want the XP look? Here a few utilities that can make your OS X desktop more familiar.

We strongly encourage you to learn to use Finder for managing files, but if you simply can´t live without a PC-style interface, Macintosh Explorer ($16) will give you the same basic feel as Windows Explorer and adds a few extras such as tabbed file browsing and batch renaming for changing a whole folder of files at once.
DragThing ($29) is an application launcher that allows you to create multiple docks. It can easily be used to replicate the familiar Start button in XP.
To mimic the look of XP entirely, use a program such as ShapeShifter ($20) or ThemeChanger (free), and the MacOS XP theme developed by Max Themes. It´s a fairly complex process but can really freak out your Mac buddies.

Part of Apple´s strategy with the Mini was to sell it without a keyboard, display or mouse, assuming users already had their own. That´s fine if you´re ditching the old machine these were connected to, but what if you want both to live side-by-side on your desktop? Pick up a KVM switch (from around $20; link to a NexTag product search, which allows you to share a video and USB port (sometimes more than one) between two or more computers.

If you have a monitor that accepts more than one input and need only to share a keyboard, you can use a USB sharing device (link to several of these products at Just plug in your keyboard or any USB device, and you can use it on both machines.

Speaking of keyboards,DoubleCommand is a free utility that lets you remap your keyboard´s keys. So, for example, you can make that Alt key on your Windows keyboard have the same functionality as the Mac equivalent, the Option key; likewise for the Windows to Apple key.