Windows expert to Redmond: Buh-bye

Scot Finnie says "sayonara" to Windows, but his search for Mac software continues

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Many people wrote me to suggest easy ways to convert line endings in text files. I actually didn't have any trouble with that aspect of the chore. Several products do that very well. The main problem was getting the Mac to open and recognize the Windows-created Eudora mailbox files as Mac Eudora mailbox files. That's two separate problems, actually.

The easier problem to figure out was how to make the Mac associate Windows-based .mbx (Eudora Mailbox files) with Mac Eudora, so that the Mac can finally recognize them. It was just counterintuitive. The trick is to preserve the Windows file extension. I came across forum posts and help sites that gave me this technique; it's apparently needed more frequently under OS X than earlier Mac system software versions. It was an easy process to use the Mac's Get Info facility for one of these files and apply the Eudora association to all files with that extension.

The second problem -- that the Mac and its apps would not recognize these files (I couldn't open them in any application, and they appeared grayed out in File Open dialog boxes) -- took a bit longer to figure out. The only program with which I was able to open these files successfully was the TextWrangler (or its big brother, BBEdit) text editor. To open them in BBEdit, I had to drag and drop the .mbx file icons onto the BBEdit program icon. And it wasn't until I saved these mailbox files with BBEdit that the Mac began to recognize them. (Note: I tried several other text editors, and none of them solved the problem.)

I decided to use BBEdit to set the new line endings because it was easy enough to do once I was in there. Besides, I found that text encoding was an issue with about 10% of my mailbox files, which required me to mess around in there anyway. Another 10% had a file-name length problem, requiring me to shorten the file name on the Mac. Since I had to work manually on some aspects anyway, it just made more sense to do everything in one place instead of running through separate batch processes.

The good news is that the Mac community is friendly and active, and a lot of people tried to help. The most promising suggestion came from a developer who solved the identical problem for himself by creating some AppleScript scripts using some development tools. Jay Batson is a programmer and CEO of Plum Canary, which makes the Chirp task and project management software for the Mac and Windows. While I haven't tested his Eudora migration scripts, he definitely understood the Windows-Eudora-to-Mac-Eudora migration problems and convinced me that he licked them. Check out Jay's SourceForge.net project for downloadable (command-line based) help.

A last note about e-mail: With my Mac environment becoming permanent, I'm giving thought to migrating again to Apple's Mail program, which I like quite a bit. The only thing really stopping me is the lack of export options out of Apple Mail. What if I don't like it? On the other hand, it's not like Eudora's maker, Qualcomm, offered any help whatsoever, even for migrating between its own e-mail software versions. I'm sure I can figure it out if I have to.

Mac Browsers

In other software news, I've spent a lot of time testing browsers, including Safari, Firefox, Camino, Opera and OmniWeb. I've come to a hard conclusion: There is -- surprisingly -- no ideal browser on the Mac.

Like many Mac users, I have come to like Apple's Safari quite a bit, even though from a usability standpoint, it has not kept pace with OmniWeb, Firefox or Camino. (Let's hope that the new version of Safari coming in OS X Leopard 10.5 makes major strides. I have my doubts that it will.) On the plus side, Safari is lightweight, renders pages well, is fast and delivers 80% of what I need.

After more time with Mozilla's Firefox on the Mac, I am less enthusiastic. I like the overall UI, but the product has not been properly tested on the Mac platform. There are little things it doesn't do that it's supposed to do. For example, I'm big on putting bookmarks in the form of Web icons on the desktop. Firefox doesn't preserve the titlebar text on Web site desktop icons. It can also take interminably long to load. There are other user-experience breaks too. Firefox 2 for the Mac lacks polish.

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