This article was first published on 2008-04-10. Due to the age of this article, it is included here for archive purposes only.
The following article is an excerpt from the recently released Take Control of Switching to a Mac, a $10 electronic book available for download from TidBITS Publishing Inc.
Let’s face it: the vast majority of our family members, friends, and coworkers have managed to resist the Mac’s charms so far. This can make for some rough edges as you transition from Windows and become a Mac user. In this section, I cover some of the difficulties you might run into as you continue to work with Windows users, along with possible solutions.
Share Documents with Windows Users
You can exchange many kinds of files, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, GIF, JPG, and PDF files, with your Windows counterparts. Usually, you’ll share documents via email, but any form of transfer is fine. Although sharing documents across operating systems works well, here are some troublesome areas to be aware of:
- Many Excel documents include macros, which are generally portable between Mac and Windows. The major exception is macros that use ActiveX controls in Windows: those don’t work on Macs and can’t be converted.
- PowerPoint presentations can have problems moving from Mac to Windows if they include movies. Movies created on the Mac are typically in QuickTime format, but for them to work in PowerPoint in Windows you must convert them to AVI format. Apple’s QuickTime Pro lets you export QuickTime movies to other formats, including AVI.
- You’ll occasionally have problems with documents that appear or print slightly differently after they cross operating systems. Sometimes you can fix these problems by avoiding exotic fonts and sticking with a well-known set.
In particular, some fonts on the Mac are installed in Windows only if the computer has Microsoft Publisher. If you send documents with these fonts to Windows users, they won’t appear or print correctly if the recipient doesn’t have Publisher.
Microsoft Office 2004 and 2008 for Mac include a helpful feature that tries to determine whether a document will have any problems when viewed with Windows. To use this feature, choose Tools > Compatibility Report in the Mac versions of Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. In some cases, Compatibility Report will offer to fix potential cross-platform problems in your documents, but often it merely reports them and can’t fix them. In either case, it’s a useful tool for these applications.
For more information on these kinds of compatibility issues, and to join a community of people who use both Macs and Windows computers, visit macwindows.com.
Run Windows on Your Mac
Some Windows applications have no Mac version. If you can’t find a suitable replacement, you might have to run the actual Windows application. But don’t worry about that: now that Macs use Intel microprocessors—the very same ones found in Windows computers—you have several excellent options for running Windows and its applications on your Mac.
There are three ways to run Windows on a Mac:
- Use Apple’s Boot Camp software to enable your Mac to start up in either Mac OS X or Windows.
- Install virtualization software, such as Parallels Desktop ($80) or VMware Fusion ($80), to run Windows and its applications right beside your Mac programs.
- Run an emulator, such as CrossOver or Darwine, which allows you to run Windows programs under Mac OS X without having to buy or install a copy of Windows.
The first two options, Boot Camp and virtualization software, are widely used and generally considered quite reliable. The emulator options are less ready for prime time; they work far less reliably, although they do save you the cost of buying a copy of Windows.
For thorough information on this topic, see Take Control of Running Windows on a Mac, which currently comes with discount coupons for Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion.
Remote Desktop Connection
Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) Client is a free download from Microsoft that provides another option for running Windows applications on your Mac. With RDC, you use a network to connect to a Windows computer that you have permission to use.
From your Mac, you run the applications on the remote Windows computer, basically using the Mac as a terminal. If you can arrange network access to a Windows computer, this might be the right solution for you. Download the RDC software by going to microsoft.com/mac and clicking Remote Desktop Connection Client for Mac OS X.
NOTE: Apple sells a product called Apple Remote Desktop, which is not related to Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection, despite the very similar names. Apple Remote Desktop is useful for managing Macs on a network from a central computer.
Another option that works this way is the Citrix ICA Client from Citrix Systems. Although the Citrix client is not free, many organizations prefer it because it’s available for several plat¬forms and provides more features and options than Microsoft RDC.
Scott Knaster has worked at Microsoft and Apple, so he knows his way around the operating systems created by both companies. He has also authored a number of books about the Mac, and his latest book is Take Control of Switching to a Mac.