I've recently switched from the Windows world to the Mac world and recently, a friend of mine purchased a Mac because I had purchased one not to long ago, and as I started telling him the things I thought he should know, I realized everyone switching to Mac from Windows should know.
I was fortunate enough to have a friend of mine show me what I needed to know about the Mac, coming from the Windows side. All over IM mind you, and maybe a few times using iChat desktop sharing. Many things I'm still learning... this post is not really designed to be an all knowing post, it's more of a, this is the software you might want/need, this is some of the things you should know.. and then the rest let you figure out.
So where to start? I'm going to write this out like I'm telling it to him.
Note: I'm by far no Mac Genius or Guru. I'm a Windows Guru. So please feel free to correct me as I'm sure my understanding maybe off in certain areas, but the end result is the same.
You should visit Apple's site at this link. Switch 101. It will go some basics with you but there's a good site out there for it somewhere.
Installing Mac Applications
First thing was to Explain how the Applications work on Mac.
On Windows we're used to going through and Install process and files get installed everywhere... and then later we have to uninstall the applications. A lot of Mac apps do not work this way, some do. Mac applications are all contained within a single file. So usually if you download an application or unzip a file you'll find the app file or see the Icon for the Mac Application. You could run it from this location but that would be like opening an attachment directly from an email, it's not really saved anywhere "officially". It won't save your settings that way. You need to take that file and put it somewhere else first, usually drag it onto your Applications doc icon, or drop it into a sub-folder in your application folder via the Finder.
Finder is your Windows Explorer, the icon to the far left of the Doc bar at the bottom of the screen.
Some downloads or zip files contain DMG files. This is basically an ISO image or a CD Image. You double click it and Mac will mount this image on your desktop which you can then open. It will look like a drive. Once you open it you'll find the application icon or file in the image. Drag this to your application folder.
DMG File when it's been mounted. (Yee-Haw)
Once you've dragged the application into your Apps folder you can then delete your download. For DMG files you need to right click them and eject. (MacBook, you can use two fingers on mouse pad to right click). Delete the files then check your Apps folder you should still see the App. Then you can empty your Trash Can.
Some apps are Packages, these you double click to install from your downloaded file. They all look the same as far as I know. They look like the image here to the left. Most other apps will have thier own icon.
Other System Installs
At times you may not get an App file, you may get a "plugin" file or a "prePane" file. These have to go in specific places, usually they will say but for the most part I find...
PrePane files go into: /Users/<UserName>/Library/PreferencePanes/
I've had to put PlugIn files for my right-click menu into: /Users/<UserName>/Library/Contextual Menu Items/
Free (and some not) Applications To Install
Adium - So first I'd say he needs Adium, so we can get back on Chat. iChat is good, but like most people I use more then just aol (I never use aol) and gmail (I always use gmail) and have accounts on MSN, yahoo, icq etc...
- Firefox - Web Browser - Free
FireFox - Yeah Safari's ok, but knowing him, he'll like FF much better. I tried to look for the Mac version of IE but seems version 6.0 was the last version or was it 5.0? Either way, old.
Thunderbird - Granted there is the built in Mac Email client, sure you can try that. I tried Entourage (MS Outlook for Mac) and I find that it blows. Just don't like it. Thunderbird isn't 100% but it's the best I could find so far and robust with all the mail accounts I have. If you find better let me know.
Note: Some things to note that frustrated me, is on Windows you can copy paste a webpage right into outlook and it will paste the html and keep the same formatting. You lost this ability with the current version of Thunderbird and any other mac email client I've tried. It doesn't paste URL's or email or images, it sucks in that aspect. I had to install some add-on to copy HTML from firefox and kind of do a work around.
UPDATE: I’ve since stopped using Thunderbird and starting using Mac’s built in Mail program. The more I use the more I like it.
TextMate (or Smultron) - Don't really need this but if you use Notepad as much as I did, or actually if you use Notepad2 as much as I did on Windows, you'll hate Mac's TextEdit program. It's more like WinWord is to windows then notepad. So I found TextMate to be great. With Syntax formating and coloring. Smultron is pretty good too, I just liked TextMate better.
- Overflow - Purchase $15
- A Free Alternate - Right Click Application Doc Icon, and change to List View. Now looks like Start Menu on Windows. ( lol )
Overflow - This is probably my most used program so far. As my applications folder got larger I started making subfolders, but then realized I couldn't get to the folders in the pretty grid, icon view. This program kicks butt. I'm able to create categories and drag in my apps into here, once they've been copied to the Apps folder, and find stuff very quickly. I usually use the Spotlight or Quicksilver (See below) to quickly open apps but sometimes I can't remember the name of an App, so this helps. I like using this more though.
VMFusion - Ok this is a Must Have item if you're going to run Windows. Don't install this and create a VM Image with it. Instead follow the Apple Steps to dual boot your machine to Windows and Mac (pdf). Then when that's done, install this and set it up. The great thing is, it will use your Dual Boot Windows OS for the VM enviornment. So you can run it in VM or you can boot to it. You get to have best of both worlds on top of having best of both OS's. Boot Camp Partition Size? I don't know I went with 40gb because I had to install a lot of work related applications, but you could probably go with 20gb. Keep in mind you will only use the Windows for running apps really, not for storing all your music, pictures and videos. VMFusion will allow your Windows OS to see your Mac Files.
FileZilla - Everyone needs an FTP client, I use this on Windows so was inclined to user thier Mac version. Though.. it's just not the same. I didn't like CyberDuck too much but maybe you will, it's free too.
VLC - Everyone should have VLC. It plays everything, it decrypts DVD's it plays even Windows Media Center Recorded shows. It makes julian fries! Without it the world would be a sadder place. Seriously, this will play things that I couldn't play with "QuickTime".
MacTheRipper - What PC isn't complete with out a DVDRipper. Granted I think Mac has one built in, but I've yet to use it honestly.
Handbreak - is an application that will take that video you have or that DVD video from the DVD ripping you just did with MacTheRipper, and will convert it to many formats to use on your iPhone or iPod or run it on the Mac as a standalone file, or convert to use on the Xbox 360 etc...
Connect360 - This is another of my top 5 apps that I love. Granted this is only beneficial if you have an Xbox 360. It allows your 360 so see your music, photos and videos on your mac. You can choose what to allow to be shared, but it's instant. It's so fast. On windows you have to go through that pairing process and then Windows has to give that Media Center User access and rights blah blah. This things you just drag and drop into your Control Panel System Preferences folder and done.
Note: This is a System Preference app, so see above in Other System Installs on where to put the file.
KeyChain - Not something you have to download but make use of this app. It's a pretty good app for storing your Passwords for various websites etc. I usually bring it up using Spotlight (See below). Another alternate if you want more features, which I also like, is KeePassX - Free.
MS RDP - If you have a Windows PC you'll want this. Remote Desktop Protocol or Terminal Connection Service for the Mac, by Microsoft.
Little Snitch - This is one I wanted for reasons I'll keep to myself. You might not need it but it's sort of like a firewall. The mac has something built in, but this is better. It will prevent ANYTHING from getting out onto the internet. It will prompt you for every app, not like Windows and just genericsize everything, but everything. Then you can block forever or just this time or allow. It's great tool, but not a must have. I just like to know what my Mac is trying to do, well what the apps are trying to do, and when they want to phone home.
SeaShore - This is a simple free image editing application for the Mac, a little more robust then using iPhoto. Of course no where near as good as Photoshop but smaller foot print. There's an app named Gimp too which is more robust then this but I think I had to install it using MacPorts or something can't remember.
CrossOver - Now this you don't need unless you have a reason. I had one and tried it out and it worked great. This application will allow you to install a Windows program onto your Mac and run it nativily, like it's running on your Mac, which it is. At the time of this posting it doesn't work for .Net apps that require .Net 2.0 though so keep that in mind. Not sure when the next version is due out. Again, not something I would buy unless you needed it and were too lazy, like me, to boot up your windows partition, VM or no VM.
FilePath Context Menu Plugin - This isn't really an app, but more of a plug-in on the right click menu. On windows I'd always copy a path from the UNC path bar like C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\etc and paste it somehwere for example. On the Mac I lost this ability, the Finder window has a lot of things it needs to make me a happy convert. So this plugin allows me to right click a file or folder and copy the FilePath to the clipboard, then I can paste it somewhere. See above under Other System Installs for Plugin install.
AppCleaner - This one is helpful, it will clean up files from Applications you want to remove from your system. Just drag and drop it onto the icon and it will do the rest.
Mono - You know I'm not 100% sure what you can do with this. I'm a developer now by trade and I code in VB.Net for ASP.Net apps and I found this interesting but have not messed around with it much. Seems you can create .Net apps for the Mac after you've installed the framework.
Burn - is free OpenSource CD Burning software.
Suggestion Apps from Comments and Others
Well the list above is what I could come up with with the aid of a few from a friend that had direcected me in the first place. Here are some that have been sent to me or suggested after I wrote this article.
From Jeff Coughlin
* AppZapper (removes ALL files for a program - not just the file.app. Works great when you want to use a program with a timed-trial... just use AppZapper to remove the program's attribute file and timer restarts :) ).
* Zipeg (really awesome and free compression program - like Winzip, WinRar, and other programs rolled into one. plus supports many more compression types)
* Colloquy or XChat Aqua for IRC usage
* CoRD (free MS RDP program, but so much better than Microsoft's)
* TextWrangler (free text editor. Makes it easy to find and edit hidden and protected files like hosts and https.conf (if you're a web developer))
* Transmit - FTP client software (one of the few programs I've actually purchased... it was just too good to not pay for. $30 USD)
* Shimo - for connecting to VPNs and firewalls (an all-in-one client). Used to be free, now has a cost. Most people just find the previous/free version.
* Azureus (now called Vuze). A bitorrent client (there are plenty others than are not all into the graphical user interface which most people prefer - I'm just too lazy to research them :) )
* Audacity (free audio editing software for Mac and PC)
* Miro (Win, Mac, Linux) - video rss consumer (pretty cool)
* Mozy (Mac, Win) - offsite/online remote backup system
* NeoOffice - Free MS Office substitute
* OpenOffice - Free MS Office substitute
* RazorSQL - (Mac, Win) - an awesome SQL management interface (that can connect and interact to many many SQL engines - not free but worth it)
* Toast - for CD/DVD burning and downloading video from your TiVO (there is also a free program out there to download videos from TiVO - just don't recall the name).
Web Developer tools
* Balsamiq - An AIR app (Mac, PC, Linux) for designing website mockups napkin-style)
* Eclipse (multi-platform) multifaceted IDE
* Changes - like csdiff for the PC
* Charles - web debugging proxy (Mac, Win, Linux)
Well, those were a few off the top of my head. Hope it helps :) - Jeff Coughlin
Ok so you got a huge amount of apps now in your app folder. Well you can use Overflow, which I listed above. But you should also be aware of Spotlight. Built into the Mac, it's a search all-in-one type program. Press Command (or Windows Key if you on a windows keyboard like me) and Space Bar. Then just type in what you want. So one I use a lot is KeyChain. That's built in, so try it. Cmd+Space Keychain. It will show up in the list and just highlight and press Enter. If you know the name of the app this is the fastest way. There is also QuickSilver which does a lot more and is more robust, but I just havn't gotten into it as others have.
Other Blog Sites with Good Info From Ex-Windows Guys
Well that's about it for now. Hopefully this helps my friend out with what he needs to install to get going.