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Saturday, December 28, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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5-step recipe for a well-done Apple switch

The experience will differ person to person, but the move from the PC to the Macintosh can be traced in five basic steps:

Select the hardware. Macs are available in five basic models: the iMac, the eMac, the G4 tower (all desktops) and the iBook and PowerBook (notebooks). The one with the greatest cool factor is the iMac; it looks like a fashionable lamp and has one of the most comfortable keyboards available. The more traditional looking G4 has a dual processor and is more expandable, so it's a better choice if you are going to add lots of new features to the unit.

While the mouse on the iMac is pretty dreamy, a stylish combination of white gloss and clear plastic, it still has only one button. PC users have long seen the one-button mouse as the Mac's biggest failing, requiring a Ctrl-click motion for the contextual menus. This problem goes away with a third-party mouse.

Devices from Microsoft and Logitech automatically load the contextual menus as a right click, just as it should be.

Select the software. Which will mean, in many cases, Microsoft Office. This is slimmed down from the PC version, to Word, Excel, Power Point and (Outlook equivalent) Entourage.

There are a few MS Office alternatives, such as AppleWorks or ThinkFree Office (www.thinkfree.com), but Mac Office is one way to make the new place look like home. It's pricey — $499 — but is now available for $199 with the purchase of any Mac.

Other than that, you should select programs that are designed for OS X. Running an older Mac program in emulation mode is a hassle; you may as well be using Windows.

There is a pretty good range: the FileMaker database. Adobe Photoshop Elements. The only real holdout is the Quark desktop publishing program.

"The environment has changed radically since OS X came out," said Sean Luckman. vice president of sales for The Computer Stores Northwest in Seattle. "There is a greater commitment from developers and vendors to write applications. And there are a lot of programs that were written for UNIX and Linux that are easily ported to OS X."

Move files. Move2Mac offers some simple shortcuts, but many people will want more control (and won't want to move every file from their PC anyway). After you determine what to move, you need to establish the best connection. This will depend on the machines.

If your PC has USB, FireWire and a CD burner, it will be a lot easier. If not, this could be the most time consuming part of the process.

Newer Macs do not include floppy drives. USB flash drives are another way to move large amounts of data.

You may take this opportunity to set up a permanent connection if you are running both machines in parallel. In theory this requires only an Ethernet cable and some minor system tweaks (System Preferences on the Mac; Network Neighborhood on the PC). Once connected, each machine can read the disk of the other.

Polish the environment. This also depends on the PC's configuration. Name brand peripherals with USB connections will automatically install on the Mac, so there's no reason to replace your three-year-old Hewlett-Packard Deskjet. You might want a new scanner, but won't necessarily need one. If the drivers don't start automatically you can visit www.versiontracker.com or gimp-print.sourceforge.net for the latest updates. This is mostly free, although Version Tracker's paid service scans your drive and the Internet and alerts you to any available driver updates.

Learn the equivalents. This is a combination of trial and error and instinct. The Dock (Mac) and the Start button (PC) are rough equivalents, likewise System Preferences and Control Panel. The basic window controls are a little different, and the Mac places the up and down scroll buttons together rather than on opposite sides of the window. While this preference is configurable, the Apple way is better. Switchers will find a lot of these little advantages as time goes on, and they add up after a while.

Thanks to Sean Luckman, vice president of sales and marketing for Computer Stores Northwest in Seattle.

— Charles Bermant

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