For one thing, if you do many different things throughout the day, it’s extremely easy to switch focus because the Mac can have all things going at once.
The screen shot is my current set of desktops, and the details of one of them.
Note that’s plural: desktops. Across the top are the six (6) I have open and running with various programs. At any given moment, I’ll choose one (1) of them and have it take up the whole screen. (This screen shot was taken while “in transition” so you can see all that are available. Normally just one of them takes up the display.)
Below the six little desktops are two big screens. These are from desktop #4 that I was using just before bringing up what you see to do the screen capture. Desktop #4 has two programs running — you see their (two) screens in the middle of the display. (And you can read about them below.)
You do a three-finger swipe, left-to-right or right-to-left, to switch. Or, as I did here, do a three-finger swipe up to see them all. You can set up the Desktops with any program(s) you wish. My settings are, of course, what I prefer.
- (Left-most screen) This is the Mac dashboard and it has a couple of useful items including a small calendar, an analog clock, a calculator, a widget to see what movies are at our local theater. There are dozens of handy gizmos to choose from. I just have a few common ones on mine.
- Email and a web browser on Facebook. I think of this as my social home. I communicate by computer with my friends and acquaintances in those two ways. I’ll check this Desktop several times a day such as on short breaks or if I’m expecting something.
- Calendar and ToDo List. The Calendar is a Mac application that syncs with Google’s calendar and also those on my Android tablet and phone. I keep appointments, reminders, “things to do on Thursday”, birthdays, and so forth there. For the ToDo list, however, I don’t like the Mac’s offerings. They’re all too simplistic. Instead, I have an account and login with Trello and, through another (copy of the) web browser, I keep the Trello “board” open where I maintain my list of things to do. Each day, I look at incoming emails, my calendar and other “sources” of tasks and compile three lists, my Must, Should and Could tasks. I move cards around in each list so they are in priority order — always do the most important things first — and, throughout the day, when I finish one task I switch to the Calendar/Trello desktop, mark it done and then look to see what’s next.
- Time for fun! In this desktop is the “waterfall” display of the last few seconds of digital communications happening in the 20 meter amateur radio band. The computer and my radio transceiver are interconnected and, in that desktop, I can communicate with any station that shows up. Switching to that desktop, I can chat with other ham radio operators in the US, Canada and Mexico and, when conditions are right, Asia, Europe and Africa are possible. (A couple evenings ago I “worked” — that what we call a conversation on the radio — a station on Reunion Island. That’s off the southeast coast of Africa, more than 11,000 miles away.) Also in this display is another web browser display, this one looking up the details at http://www.qrz.com/ for a particular ham radio station. (I am “k7eds” — you can look me up there.)
- I log all my ham radio activity in this desktop and, while I could keep this program’s screen on the same desktop as the radio application, because they both show so much information I find it easier just to swipe left and right to switch between them rather than clicking to bring something to the front.
- I think of this last desktop as my “temporary work” desktop. I use it when I need to do a few things needing other applications not currently open in the other desktops. Here I might run an old-school command shell, or maybe open (yet another) browser display to play a few hands of Bridge on-line, or maybe bring up my address book to get someone’s telephone number, etc.
Could I do all this on a Windows PC?
Yes and no.
Yes, you can get multiple desktops on Windows machines so, at least in theory, you could have a similar layout.
But in practical terms, no, you really can’t for the simple reason with “Windows” doesn’t really multitask anywhere near as well as the Mac’s operating system, OS X. That operating system is a descendent of the Unix operating system and for more than half a century, it has been dealing with multiple programs all jockeying to use the computer at the same time. The Mac’s operating system is perfectly at home when running dozens of applications at the same time.
But Windows is not. Multi-tasking came to Windows rather late in the game and, sorry Bill Gates, it just has never gotten it together. When you try to run several applications at the same time on Windows, things get jumpy or jerky. That’s because Windows doesn’t “share” the computer evenly and you notice when the program of your choice isn’t getting enough time.
Macs and Linux and other Unix descendent operating systems handle that same situation with grace. They’ve been doing “fair” for half a century and, in those environments, all the programs will seem to be much more responsive to your touch, and they’ll get their jobs done even when you’re not looking.
For example, that ham radio program is constantly updating its display according to what’s heard on the air from one moment to the next — I know because I can hear it all the time and when something interesting happens, I can switch from whatever I’m doing to that desktop and see what just happened.
Windows can’t do that.
And that’s why I prefer the Mac — it works like I do with lots of possibilities, one focus at any given moment, and the ability to immediately switch from one thing to another.