Tips for the Mac User for Working in a Windows World

00 revelationJust like most other MegaCorps, my dayjob company’s IT systems are heavily skewed towards Windows computers. However I was lucky enough to be furnished with a company-supplied Mac. Here are some essential apps that you’ll need if you find yourself in a similar situation: you work in a Windows-oriented company and you use a Mac – either official Mac or you often find the need to use your personal Mac for the dayjob.

Must-haves

Microsoft Office is a de-facto “must have” – if your company is on Exchange then there’s quite a good number of features that Mavericks’ built-in apps doesn’t support. Things like out-of-office auto-replies, replying with a meeting, etc. On the spreadsheet side, Excel still excels Numbers in terms of formulas and programmability; not to mention if someone else sends an elaborate spreadsheet, there’s a good chance that Numbers won’t be able to import it intact. As for Word, well, frankly Pages 5.0 haven’t done a good job importing the Word version of my résumé, which I need to maintain in Word format since a number of employment agents had asked it in the past.

Klammer. Even though you’ve got Outlook 2011, there are times where you receive e-mails that contains other e-mails as attachments. Often these are .msg files that Outlook for Mac can’t digest properly (why is that so is beyond me). Thus you’ll need this handy little app to view those e-mails attached in another e-mail

Skitch. Sooner or later you’ll need to explain to a tech support person saying why it doesn’t work. They will always assume a Windows machine and tell you to click on the Start menu (yes, the company is still on Windows 7). Having annotated screenshots in your support ticket will do wonders.

Nice to have

A real Windows installation. This could be a virtualized Windows VM in your machine (run under Parallels Desktop, VMWare Fusion or VirtualBox). Parallels tend to look better and have better integration with the Mac desktop whereas VMWare tend to have better compatibility with its counterparts on other host platforms (if your company provides a pre-built image, chances are it’s going to be in VMWare format) and VirtualBox is free (both “free” as in beer and speech). Your company could also provide a Windows Terminal service accessible via Citrix or Remote Desktop. You can even rent a Windows machine by the hour over at Amazon Web Services – and the first year is free. Lookup their EC2 offering.

OmniGraffle Professional, if you do any diagramming or regularly receives diagrams. The Professional edition claims it can import Visio drawings – I haven’t tested this myself, but you can find the latest Visio document that you receive and download OmniGraffle’s trial version for free and try it out yourself.

Microsoft Visio – or at least Visio Viewer. Check with your IT department and see if they have a company-wide license for Visio. Failing that, get Visio Viewer for free. Use CrossOver to run those on your Mac – Visio 2003 is known to work under Parallels.

That’s all for now. Until next time!

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