New Laptop, New Process

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New Laptop, New Process

I just bought a new laptop. Partly because my old one had slowed down essentially to a halt, but also because I needed to shake up the way I work away from my desk. It’s a MacBook Air. It’s my first MacBook and after one week of use, I’m fairly sure it won’t be my last. I’ve been in the market for a small, quick laptop with a respectable amount of power for a LONG time. Now I have it and now I’m looking to change the way I work.

As it’s my first Mac, I need to learn a new OS, but that can only be a good thing. Previously, testing websites on anything other than Windows platforms wasn’t an option for me. While the differences have been fairly minimal up until now, they were differences all the same, and it’s good to at least be aware of them. Having an OS X machine to hand makes that possible.

So, what new process(es)?

Well, with my old Dell laptop, despite its supposed power, I really struggled to get work done on it. I treated it like a proper computer and added many of the applications and software I would on my main PC. It couldn’t handle that and became slow and unresponsive. It overheated and would shut itself down on occasions (it did this from the very start) and approximately 1 in 10 times that I started it up, it wouldn’t make it to the login screen, which meant it needed a forced shutdown and would then do a full blown crash recovery and restore, losing lots of my settings. Pain in the arse.

MacBook

The MacBook Air is unbelievably quick. We’re talking around a 10 second startup and a 3 second shutdown. It makes you want to pull it out whenever you get a spare few minutes to work. This time I’ve loaded only the apps and software I really need. I want to keep it lightweight and flexible.

A4 Paper pad size

Slightly smaller than a pad of A4 paper

It simply isn’t possible to replicate my home setup on a laptop. So why strive for that? It’s a mobile device. As long as it can do the bare bones of my work in as simple, quick and effective way as possible, it’s fulfilling its purpose.

So this is my setup so far (I can’t promise it won’t change/grow though):

  • Photoshop – for image work. It’s a necessity. I looked at Pixelmator briefly, but it’s missing some critical features and I’ve always used Photoshop. No reason to change if the laptop can handle it.
  • Coda – for web dev work. I’m still considering swapping for Dreamweaver, but I feel I should take the opportunity to get to know more software. I’ve yet to really get into it but it looks nice and simple to use.
  • Dropbox – helps with the portability ideal, allowing me to sync files across my laptop and main working computer. The plan is to move everything to the cloud over time, allowing me complete freedom in where and when I choose to work.
  • Firefox – I hear and read lots of talk of designers and developers switching to Chrome for various reasons. I can’t do it. Firefox is too flexible. It’s too customiseable. And we’ve been going together for years.

So while the majority of the software I’ve installed is the same as I used on my old laptop, the MacBook just makes it feel easier to use. It’s way more responsive and it has completely removed all frustrations I had previously with working away from my main desktop. Mobility and economy are absolutely key to getting work done when you’re out and about and the MacBook Air has it all tied down.

Sleek hinge design

Incredibly thin

The positives of switching to this machine continue to mount up. Here are some off the top of my head:

Positives

  • It forces me to learn another OS. This is good for the CV but it’s also useful in general to have a wider knowledge of what’s available to you
  • It allows me the ultimate setup for cross-browser and cross-OS testing on websites. Windows on one maching, OS X on the other
  • It opens up a world of new apps that are only available to OS X users
  • It’s incredibly quick. Startups and shutdowns are almost enjoyable now!
  • It’s incredibly beautiful. It’s just nice to look at
  • Despite the ageing Intel Core 2 Duo processor, it handles multiple applications with ease – no lag and no freezing so far
  • It’s super light and super slim
  • The battery life is very good (around 5 hours) and easy to manage using the preferences system
  • The trackpad is excellent. The multi-touch feature forces it to be a relevant point here. Scrolling has never been so easy or natural.

Negatives

  • It’s bloody expensive.

Conclusion

Overall, so far, it’s been refreshing and rewarding to use not just a new, quicker laptop, but to also experience OS X for the first time. It’ll take some getting used to and learning the shortcuts will definitely require some serious cognitive priming – there are four fairly similar (from what I can gather) operator buttons in a line in the bottom left corner of the keyboard, all used in conjunction with the rest of the keys to perform innumerate tasks.

Bit thicker than a pencil

Bit thicker than a pencil

But this thing is genuinely satisfying to use. Which does matter. If I didn’t already enjoy my work, this little Air should breathe new life into it.

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