7 Productivity Hacks My Pretty MacBook Won’t Do

A laptop keyboard.

Unlike most blog posts, I’m truly hopeful that (a) selected good Samaritan Mac evangelists will chime in to explain why I’m completely wrong. (b) Apple and software manufacturers will take this input and fix some baffling ticks.

To my mind, it seems that we all need to pick between the best hardware and operating system in the world (Mac/OSX) and the best productivity tools (Windows). For my blogging lifestyle and work habits, I’ve noted annoying Mac deficiencies which might make a serious blogger at least somewhat wary of making the switch.

Life On the Fence

Like many, I’ve wanted to make the move “back to Mac” for years, but was woo’ d by cheaper Windows equipment and the ubiquitous effectiveness of Microsoft productivity software in each generation of MS Office. After giving Vista’s bloated promises a chance for more than a year, I’ve gone and done it. I’m writing this post on my shiny new MacBook aluminum case notebook.

The new MacBooks are beauties to behold in sheer elegance, backlit keys and raw power. At 4.5 pounds & 13.3 inches, this sweet little Mac-thing is everything I’ve ever wanted in a physical machine. OSX is lovely and, while not as feature rich (really it’s not), blows Vista’s doors off in speed and stability. OSX is a Panther baby.

History Of a Mac User Gone Rouge Rogue

From the early 80s until 1996, I was a fanatically devoted Mac-addict musician video editor. Problems arose when wanting to code .asp web applications using MS SQL databases. I was devastated to learn OS9 was not easily ODBC compliant, therefore pained to support local client-software, like MS Enterprise Manager, to communicate with Microsoft databases.

There were no other obvious client-options and weak online DB tools available then. The black 12 inch Compaq I bought at Best Buy felt like a stupid brick, compared to my handsome MacBook Wall Street, with golden-glowing keys.

I wanted to write web app’s with DreamWeaver man, didn’t see a future in ColdFusion, .CGI looked like Swahili to me (and was becoming less popular), .php was a couple years off and developers did simply did not use Macs.

Begrudgingly I made the switch over to what I considered “the dark side,” Windows 98. By the time OSX came out, our whole business was built on Windows. We were reluctant captives of the Microsoft empire for the better part of 10 years. It was like being in a utilitarian-marriage to a woman I did not love.

Now that I’ve made the switch back I’m shocked to learn what Mac can’t seem to efficiently handle.

  1. Can’t Scrape & Bake Links: When blogging, it is extremely common to link out to other sites or your own site’s pages. It’s one of the roots of our culture a fundamental precept of Google’s ranking algorithm. With Windows (both XP & Vista) copying formatted text from a browser, including embedded links, works perfectly well.Go to any web page using Windows FireFox, copy some anchor text, paste it into Windows Word, DreamWeaver or PowerPoint and it you’ve got the anchor text to highlight for your readers–embedded links and all.Not so with Mac browsers FireFox and Safari.Though some Mac programs have preference settings to support various levels of paste-included-formatting, in many cases it just doesn’t work for pasting links.For a blogger, this is a huge productivity loss.

    Think about the scenario of creating a daily post roundup.I used to scrape together a list of post titles (links intact) right out of Google reader, paste into DreamWeaver, grab the HTML from code view and paste into WordPress.

    Alas, now I have to copy/paste the name of the post, grab the link, embed the link in the anchor text and I’ve just wasted quite a lot of productivity. What used to be stream of consciousness construction is now an organ grinder process, and I’m the monkey

  2. Productivity Applications For Mac Are Weaker: It should come as no surprise that Microsoft makes only half-ass MS Office productivity tools for Mac. Let me count the ways it’s obvious that MS held back on the dev-budget.Open-source office applications, with the exception of Google App’s are generally weak, though coveted by people who don’t mind a no-frills productivity environment. Apple iMail Mail and iCal, which come with Mac are bare-boned and relatively featureless, nowhere near as useful as MS Office. Either way, Mac tools just don’t stand up.
  3. Keeping Track of Large Volumes of Email is Harder: With MS Outlook 2003 & 2007, the “find” function is so incredibly intuitive that I never had to file anything. Even with 125,000 saved emails between the In, Sent & Trash boxes, I rarely lost anything. For the last 8 years, I’ve been building one giant .pst (Outlook Personal Data File) that worked great until, you guessed it–VISTA, which can’t handle any amount of .pst girth.Mac handles volume great and “Spotlight” is pretty cool.However, Entourage has only a bit more internal search clout than Outlook Express did 5 years ago. At the least “Find” functionality in Entourage is better than iMail, which is free, so how good do you expect iMail to be?My mother thinks the outcome, me being forced to file my email, is great. However, I don’t have time to do anything but dump my emails into a pot and use great search functionality–not nearly as intuitive on my shiny new Mac.
  4. Apple iCal has less features than my BlackBerry and is pretty dumb. Sync between iCal and Entourage calendar is quirky. Calendar Sync between my MacBook and Google app’s for contacts and calendar is a pain the the butt to set up.BlackBerry 8830 with Google Sync (Contacts, Calendar) and IMAP using BlackBerry’s email client is an easier platform to deal with than than synchronizing contacts and calendar on this Mac notebook to anything.I now think of my 8830 as the master among my remote devices.True, Office 2008 provides implementation with Exchange Server…so what? If I wanted Exchange I would have kept my Vaio. IMAP works fine using iMail or Entourage, but the local mail clients are so weak so (again) who cares?
  5. Give me a break! You can’t insert hyperlinks in an Entourage email’s body! WTF! It doesn’t even work to paste from another MS Office Doc. I’m a blogger so, when I send emails, I like to link out to resources for the recipient.To me, the inability to paste links is a total application killer, practically a platform killer. I am forced to compose blogger-style emails in Google App’s Gmail client, which is not anywhere near as robust a writing environment as MS Outlook. Someone at Microsoft must be sitting around the beer table having a good laugh about this one.
  6. Screen Captures: This one is so simple. Using Windows OS “Print Screen” function, screen captures are placed on the clipboard for pasting into nearly any application. Mac OS drops a .png on the desktop which needs to be dragged into an app’ or opened/exported from an image processing program. Again, for anyone who’s ever put together a PowerPoint deck or blog post replete with dozens of screen captures, this silly Mac drawback can slow things down a lot.
  7. Where’s the SD card slot on the MacBook people? So let me get this straight, no more popping the memory card out of my camera and simply transferring pictures and videos directly to my laptop, without keeping track of an external card reader or cable? It’s a tiny little slot. Couldn’t Apple it fit in the chassis? How much could it have cost to include?

Hot Link Anchor Text Pasting That Does Work On A Mac

  • From MS Office applications to others except Entourage
  • From iMail to any MS Office Application except Entourage
  • Any Office Application to DreamWeaver

Hot Link Anchor Text Pasting That Does Not Work On A Mac

  • From any web Browser to any application
  • From any application to Entourage calendar detail (works from any Windows app’ to Outlook)
  • There are no calendar notes in iCal to past into
  • From DreamWeaver Design View to any application (Also does not work on Windows)
  • From iMail to DreamWeaver

Unbelievably Dense: You can’t insert a hyperlink to an HTML email in Entourage! It doesn’t even work to past a hot link with anchor text from another MS Office application! This is absolutely inexcusable. I just tested again, because I still can’t believe it!

Sure, I’m Crabby

I know this sounds like some pretty picky stuff but these points matter a lot to my process, especially when I want to grab links from the web really fast for a blog post–with the anchor text. Mac calendars’ functionality, sync to Google App’s and other subtle roadblocks make productivity more difficult on a Mac to me. I can hardly keep up with my email because the clients are so weak. It may seem over-sensitive, but both Vista and Mac have their challenges and there is no perfect option.

Vista On A Mac & CrossOver

Yes, I know I can install and run Vista over OSX, but what’s the point? I’m trying to get away from Vista. CrossOver, which lets us mostly run Windows programs native on OSX, falls down using IMAP with Google App’s and other Internet functions like Clip Art and help from within MS Office App’s. CrossOver is not the magic fix it promises to be.

Unlike most blog posts, I’m hopeful that readers will explain to me why this perspective is just a misunderstanding. To my mind, it turns out that state-of-the-art means choosing between the coolest hardware and OS in the world (MacBook/OSX) and the best productivity tools (Windows/MS Office).

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