42 Reasons Normal People Can Switch to Macs

NICK DOUGLAS — Are Macs just for hipster designers? Not at all! Maybe you've wanted to switch to a Mac, but you were afraid it wouldn't work with your Office files. Maybe you can't convince your parents they won't lose their vacation photos. Maybe your boss thinks Macs are toys not meant for serious adults. For all those cases, here are 42 reasons that normal people can switch to Macs.

They're compatible. Right out the box, Macs and PCs use the same:

1. Wifi. Wireless Internet works the same with Macs and PCs.

2. Internet. The vast majority of web sites work on both systems.

3. E-mail. Every form of e-mail system (except Microsoft Exchange systems) works fine on Macs. The last couple of versions of the Mac operating system, OS X, support Exchange as well, using this setup.

4. MP3 files. This is the most common form of music files. (WAV files work too. For other forms, see below.)

5. DVDs and CDs. Watch the same movies, listen to the same albums.

6. MPG files. This is a popular video format.

7. ZIP files. Mac has an unzipper just like WinZip for these compressed files.

8. PDF files. Love 'em or hate 'em, you can use 'em.

9. Image files. All your bmp, jpg, gif and png files are just fine.

10. MOV files, a video format that's popular on the web, will work better than ever.

With a little software, Macs can run:

1. WMA and WMV files. These "Windows-only" music and video files work after installing Windows Media for Mac.

2. AVI files. These work best on VLC, a media player that can handle nearly every file on Windows or OS X. It's the only program you need for movies.

3. Office files (.doc, .xls, etc.). Just buy Microsoft Office as you would on a PC.

4. Photoshop files. Just, um, buy Photoshop.

5. Windows. Yep. You can install Windows and move any files and programs that still won't work on your Mac.

Dig these nifty programs:

1. Macs come with iPhoto, iMovie, and iTunes to handle your photos, movies and music in a friendlier way than the clunky systems on Windows. Of course, if you like files and folders (so do I!) you can keep handling your media that way.

2. Adium combines AIM, Yahoo IM, Google Talk, and a bundle of other instant messaging programs. It's slick, friendly, and customizable.

3. Firefox is a great internet browser for Windows and Mac. (You might also like the Mac's normal browser, Safari.)

4. Dashboard widgets are little programlets that can display the weather, an inbox, the white pages, flight info, how well your computer's doing, when Heroes is on next, and plenty of other information.

5. Quicksilver lets you start any program or open any file on your system by hitting a few keys (instead of digging through a programs folder or start menu).

6. Podworks lets you download music from an iPod to a Mac.

7. This is really just a super-useful feature that comes with OS X. Press apple-shift-4 to take a partial screenshot, just capturing the part of the screen you want. You drag and click, OS X drops the file onto your desktop. It's a great way to clip from pictures or show someone what's happening on your screen.

8. And there's so much more, on lists like this and this and this and this.

Isn't it nice when things just work?

1. The OS X operating system has four hotkeys that show your desktop, all your open programs, all the windows in one program, or your Dashboard widgets.

2. When you're watching a video and you use those hotkeys or minimize the video, it keeps playing on screen. Sweet.

3. Say you're moving some episodes of Heroes to a folder within a folder. If you click and drag them over, say, a folder marked "TV Shows," you can hold them there and "TV Shows" will open, so you can drag the files over to "Heroes." This way you don't have to crawl around selecting and re-selecting.

4. No draggable edges on your windows means that the edges of your programs are clickable. What does this do? Well, you can slide your mouse to the edge of the screen and use the scroll bar without accidentally shrinking the window instead.

5. How much power is left in your Mac laptop? Don't turn it on, just press the button on the case and watch the power meter light up.

6. Your software and hardware will feel beautiful. Macs don't have dangling hooks; the clips are embedded inside the laptops instead of sticking out; the power cords on the new models have that famous magnetic connection, so if you trip on the cord, it pulls out instead of dragging the Mac onto the floor.

7. None of those #$@%^ pop-up bubbles that tell you the same thing over and over.

No crashes.

1. Windows takes so much work just to keep it running. But Macs don't take maintenance. Viruses? Not much of a problem.

2. Defragging? Forget it.

3. Disk repair? Well, if you managed to whack this machine so hard that the built-in motion sensor didn't save your hard drive...

4. It's hard to crash a Mac. I drive my computers hard, so I made Windows crash every few weeks for years. I've owned a Mac for a year, and it's crashed once.

Stuff really does hook up easily.

1. Cameras and camcorders, which are increasingly shipped as plug-n-play since no one really needs the dorky software that comes with them, work smoothly with Macs. (I personally recommend this line of camcorders from Sanyo.)

2. External hard drives are a breeze too. Just make sure the box doesn't say "Windows only." Most, such as the My Book, work smoothly with Macs.

3. Scroll areas on trackpads? Ew. Those get in the way unless you stare at your trackpad as you use it. That's why Apple's laptops scroll when you drag two fingers, no matter where on the trackpad you are.

4. I'll admit one thing: It's hard for a geek to find a good Mac mouse. If you're not a fan of Apple's standard-issue Mighty Mouse, spring for this nifty Logitech mouse. Even if you just use your computer to surf the web, you'll love the extra two buttons that save you from finding the "back" and "forward" keys.

All the other Mac users will love you.

1. When you're sharing an Internet connection, they'll mooch your iTunes playlist. But that's fine; they can only listen when you let them.

2. They'll want to share tips.

3. They'll have stories to tell.

4. They may get smug about it. Please don't encourage them; just gently tell them the truth: You're a normal person.