I know, it’s been a long time since I posted here. Cut me some slack…I’ve been busy.
This is the first in a series of articles that will describe my experience in switching from a Linux operating system on my laptop to a MacBook running Mac OS X.
When the MacBook was released, I was pretty excited. Linux has been my OS of choice for about 6 years, and I still use it on my servers. I have no complaints with Linux, but having never owned a Mac, I wanted to see if it was a better environment for me to work in.
The first thing I had to do after booting up was to download all the applications I need to do my day-to-day work. This includes email, web browsing, writing technical papers, programming, and other tasks.
The purpose of this initial post is to list what I consider to be the “required” applications on Mac OS X for mathematicians and scientists, or at least applications that I require.
I recognize that many scientists and engineers will be coming from a Linux environment just as I have, so my first priority was to replicate the features I need in that environment. These applications are just the ones that I needed to do my work, your mileage may vary.
The first missing thing I noticed was that I needed a good text editor and virtual desktops. To that end, I downloaded Smultron, an editor similar to gvim and Desktop Manager, which allows me to have virtual desktops. I like gvim a lot, but it’s easier to use Smultron on Mac OS X (for me anyway).
In addition to basic text-editing and desktop-switching, I needed productivity applications. When I was using Debian, LaTeX and other applications were easily installed with a simple apt-get. However, on Mac OS X, the situation is a little bit different.
If you need LaTeX and its associated conveniences, I would recommend TeXShop for an editing environment (if you need one). Another nice thing about Mac OS X is that you can use LaTeXiT to write complex things in LaTeX and then simply drag them into other applications like Keynote. However, you cannot use TeXShop without a LaTeX environment (MacTeX on Mac OS X).
If you do any file transfers via FTP or SFTP/SCP, Cyberduck will be an invaluable tool.
This leads us to the problem of office applications. For that I use OpenOffice.org although NeoOffice or AbiWord would work as well. For communication purposes, I have Skype handy, although I haven’t had an occasion to use it yet.
That pretty much covers it on the productivity front. The only things left are other applications used for communication and day-to-day tasks (email, web-browsing, IM, etc.)
If you need anti-virus protection, ClamXav is available.
For an RSS reader, Vienna is the best I’ve found. It is clean, intuitive, and doesn’t get in your way. There is another application called RSSOwl that does the same thing, although Vienna is my preference.
Adium can take care of all your instant messaging needs.
Thunderbird will handle your email.
Firefox will take care of web-browsing (unless you prefer Camino).
Flip4Mac will handle playing wmv files, which Mac OS X doesn’t really handle natively. Currently it’s in beta but I got the link from Digg and it has worked flawlessly for me. I don’t know when the release-version comes out, but I do recommend it.
Those are all the apps I use on a daily basis. If you have any others, please feel free to let me know. I’m still a relatively new convert to Mac OS and, at this point, I’m trying to make it resemble my Linux environment as much as possible, while simultaneously increasing my productivity. Overall I’m enjoying it and feeling like I get more done, especially with all the native keyboard shortcuts, which I may write about at some later date.
Future articles will include converting email into Thunderbird on Mac OS and getting used to those glorious keyboard shortcuts I already mentioned.