How to Switch Part Seven: Easily Use Your Files On A Mac

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By: switchtoamac at: 12:16 AM on May 1, 2006 | Comments (5)
For those interested in switching, but are holding back because they are not sure if they will be able to use all of their files, rest assured that moving to a Mac is simple.  Apple's modern operating system OS X handles all the file types a computer user is accustomed to using on Windows.  The goal of this post is to describe how easy it is to transition your files from Windows over to a Mac.  It will put aside any reservations that may be holding back your Switch.

The process of transferring your "stuff" is easy and straight forward but I urge you to pencil in a few hours to transfer your files.  Moving stuff is tedious so be prepared to devote some time to this task.  You can choose one or several methods to get your critical documents, files, photos, emails, and whatever you want to get over on your Mac.  Many options are available, network transfers, CDs, DVDs, portable storage, external hard drives, and USB drives can be used.  Once you get your files onto your Mac, you'll be able to organize and view them in short order.

What to do with all your photos, emails, documents, and PDFs?  OS X has built-in software to allow you to view, access, and use these essential file types.  Photos can be viewed and edited with iPhoto.  You can view your Word documents with TextEdit.  Send and receive emails with Apple's Mail software, intuitively called "Mail".  Windows users are accustomed to viewing PDF's with Adobe Acrobat Reader and although it's available for Mac, many OS X users prefer to use Preview, OS X's built-in PDF viewer. You can instant message and participate in video conferencing with iChat.  Browse the Internet with Safari.  Save your contacts in Address Book.  Organize your calendar with iCal.  You can even download third-party software such as the popular Firefox Web Browser and the Mac version of Microsoft’s MSN Messenger.

New Macs come preloaded with iLife, Apple's Digital Life software suite that includes iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie HD, iDVD, GarageBand, and iWeb.  iLife provides all the necessary applications to enable your digital lifestyle.  The popular iTunes software can be used to purchase, manage, and organize your digital music, music videos, and TV shows.  Use iPhoto to manage, edit, and share your digital photos.  Use iMovie to edit and create your home movies.  Burn your own custom DVDs with iDVD.  You can even create and edit your own music with GarageBand.

If you need to work with Microsoft Office programs such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, Microsoft has a version for Mac called "Office for Mac" that even includes an email application called Microsoft Entourage.  Just note that Microsoft Access is not available on Mac but an alternative database, FileMaker is available.  An export from Access and subsequent import into FileMaker will allow you to move your database to OS X.  Several large software vendors offer Mac versions of their software that for the most part, look, feel and operate identically on both platforms.  For example, Adobe offers has Mac versions of Creative Suite, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Acrobat, and After Effects that in most cases, leverage OS X's superior graphics capabilities.

Just as you are able to get your files on a Mac, sharing and exchanging files with Windows users is easy.  Both Mac OS X and Windows work with all the popular file types.  You'll most often exchange documents via email but any method of transfer will suffice.

Prior to the transition to Intel, Macs and OS X ran on PowerPC processors.  Without getting into the technical details, software written for the PowerPC processor will not run natively (automatically) on the new Intel based Macs because the processor architecture varies between Intel and PowerPC processors.  Apple is urging software vendors to transition their software to what the company calls "Universal Binaries".  Universal Software will run natively (full speed) on both Intel and PowerPC Macs.  For software that is not yet Universal, the new Intel Macs run a version of Mac operating system that is capable of running PowerPC based applications.  The under-the-hood software that makes this possible is called Rosetta.  Rosetta is an "emulator" that automatically translates software written for PowerPC Macs (non Universal) and allows the software to run on Intel Macs.  The translation is done in RAM, so there will be a reduction in performance but it allows existing Mac OS X software to run without modification.  As a result, consider getting as much RAM as possible for your Mac.  I recommend at least 1 GB for optimal performance, especially if you plan on running non Universal software on an Intel based Mac. With each passing day, more titles are available in Universal format.  You can view a list at Apple's Universal page.  You can read more on Rosetta at Apple's Rosetta page.

Searching for files on OS X Tiger is easier than searching on Windows. Tiger comes with Spotlight, the amazing search tool that it built into the core of the operating system. Unlike Google Desktop Search, Spotlight takes searching to a new level.  By using Spotlight Mac users can quickly search for and within documents, applications, photos, e-mails, address books, calendars, and just about anything stored on the Mac's hard drive.  The speed of Spotlight is amazing thanks to indexing and metadata.  Spotlight can be accessed from just about anywhere in OS X and it can even be customized to suit a user's needs.  By comparison, Windows users can neither customize nor easily access the Windows Search utility.  Windows users have to manually navigate to the Search utility via the Start Menu.

You can simplify the transfer process with the help of a software package called Move2Mac.

Apple also has a document that shows how to use an iPod to transfer your files from a Windows based system to OS X. All you do is use the hard drive on the iPod as a temporary storage device.

Potential switchers should not fear that they will not be able to use their files on a Mac.  OS X is the most modern operating system that handles today's file types.  Rest assured that OS X will continue to meet the computing demands of its users.

5 Reader Comments

And what about my PC's WordPerfect files from 1987 to 2002 when I switched to Microsoft Word?

If I switch am I doomed to convert only my Word documents beginning with 2002, and lose access to fifteen years of data? Must I print everything out in hard copy, and then PDF it? Is that the ONLY way to switch to a Mac?

- Dan

Check out the following article, it will provide the information you need to open your WordPerfect files on OS X.

The tough one is converting Outlook and Outlook Express email databases. Any thoughts on this chewy subject?
For the reader concerned about Word Perfect, there is a freeware workprocessor called Abi Word that will open WordPerfect files and let you save them as either Abi Word or as MSWord format.

Note the following, Microsoft's Entourage program (part of Office for Mac) doesn't support Windows based PST files from Outlook. For about $10, you can get a program called Outlook2Mac

Although I have never used it, friends tell me that it does the job.

>The tough one is converting Outlook and Outlook Express email >databases. Any thoughts on this chewy subject?

Open Mail on OS X, go to File > Import Mailboxes. Then a new window opens, choose Outlook Express. Press continue. Check the available boxes (mine says 'Inbox' and 'Sent Items'). Press Continue. Press Done when done.

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