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.
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.
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.
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 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).
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?