Back to Mac Basics

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been busy cleaning up my MacBook and rethinking everything with regards to my computer productivity and workflow. I upgraded to Snow Leopard which was a huge usability improvement and then started critically evaluating my day to day computing needs. As much as I love the Mac way of doing things, I had never fully embraced an all Mac workflow. I was using Firefox, Thunderbird and a host of third party software. So, after performing a clean install of Snow Leopard, I decided to use the built-in applications for a week or two to see exactly what, if anything, I was missing.

I must say, I’ve been impressed. Native Mac applications have a certain feel to them that their alternatives simply don’t match. Therefore, Safari and Mail.app are very clean with regards to look and feel. However, it hasn’t all been wine and roses.

Safari

Frankly, I really am enjoying Safari for my browsing. I was able to import my bookmarks via Xmarks which is phenomenal. Since this is a two-way sync, I can easily use Safari on my MacBook, Firefox on my Ubuntu server and Firefox on Windows at work and my bookmarks are all the same. Very nice!

Other than a few interface differences, Safari is just as nice as Firefox and faster in many regards. However, I do miss certain Firefox extensions. In the end, I’m typing this blog post from within Safari.

Address Book

Well, it does exactly what it says. No more, and not much less. But, it does happily integrate into all the other made for Mac software which is really nice.

Mail.app

Here is where things get a little rocky. I have about 5 IMAP email accounts comprising over 500MB of mail all stored on servers. Frankly, Mail.app just couldn’t handle it. It kept loosing connections to IMAP servers and just stalling.

I got so desperate that I installed Thunderbird. Presto, everything just worked. So… what to do. Since Thunderbird doesn’t have support for the Mac Address Book, I don’t really have any benefit to keeping anything in the address book. Hmm….

So I went online and started looking around. I found that Thunderbird 3 Beta (version 4 as of right now) does indeed use the Mac Address Book. Happy day! I can’t recommend Mail.app, but Thunderbird 3 is a huge step forward and I highly recommend it to all Mac enthusiasts who need a bit more powerful mail application.

iCal

iCal is much like the Address Book. Simple, effective. No more functionality that one needs, and just enough to be useful. However, it doesn’t sync with my BlackBerry. Sigh. Apparently there are third party applications to fix this, so I’ll give it a whirl when I have a chance. I’m not holding my breath though. And I’m certainly not switching to an iPhone (which apparently does sync happily).

Conclusion

I really feel that my exercise was worthwhile. It really opened my eyes to the power of Mac applications and frankly, I find that their integration with each other is second to none. However, they seem to be geared to the basic users. Problems with IMAP servers are unacceptable in 2009. And the lack of support for thousands of messages makes them a bit unrealistic for many mobile professionals.

What do you think? What are your favorite native Mac applications?

5 thoughts on “Back to Mac Basics

  1. Hey Mark — I’m a semi-machead, and while I don’t have the mail requirements you do — never use mail.app. I’m a much bigger fan of the google products, and the ability to have a seamless experience on anything with a browser is definitely nice. as far as the calendar goes — ical supports caldav sync to ical, and google realeased google sync for blackberry. it’s not an instantanious sync between ical to blackberry, but it’s completely automagic and just works. i’ve been using it for a while now and just love it. :)

  2. Things I loved with Mac ,one the Address Book, I never forget a birthday again because iCal will create a Birthdays calendar for me, so I’ll have plenty of time to pick up a card or present.
    Two, wth my busy schedule, I depend on iCal to make certain you know when the kids need to be at the dentist and when I am supposed to be at office for the conference meeting. Three, I can make my own custom Dashboard widget. In seconds. They’re called Web Clip widgets, and they’re easy to create. Mac offers me a lot that is why i will never ever replace it with other OS platforms available in the market.

  3. @Jon – I’m currently using the Google Sync for Blackberry with much success. However, I really wanted to sync my iCal to my gCal so I tried exactly what you were doing — with the calDav subscription. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sync to my main calendar in iCal. So, I’m trying something called Spanning Sync. This also syncs my address books between Google and the Mac Address Book. This way, I get synchronization between my Mac, Google and my BlackBerry that works seamlessly. So far, I think I might purchase Spanning Sync.

    @Jens – I should really look into the birthday calendar. I haven’t tried that yet! My biggest issue is that I’m stuck with Windows and Microsoft Outlook at work. There is no good way to get everything on my two calendars to work out. I will agree that the Mac just makes things easy. I’ll have to look into the Web Clip widgets!

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