Living With Two Laptops (and Two Platforms)

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Now I have two laptops.

My MacBook Pro is relatively huge, but not that big, and it does absolutely everything I could want it to do, in style.

My Surface Pro is smaller, thinner, and lighter. It does virtually everything—certainly anything involving documents or that can be done in a web browser—plus a couple of tricks my Mac can’t do, e.g. the pen stuff.

I made a list of all my work tasks for the day, and for the life of me, I couldn’t think of anything I need to do that I couldn’t do on the Surface. There are a few things I’d have done in native apps on my Mac that I’d do instead in a browser on Windows, but everything I need to do is doable.

And yet there are things I might want to do today that aren’t as accessible on Windows as I would like.

Most of these are coding-type tasks. Even though I’m a product manager and rarely contribute code to Typekit (and rarely have time to do any coding on my own account), I still keep a full development environment around, and sometimes will research an API or an approach to a work problem by opening up a text editor and exploring the code myself.

I could do this stuff on Windows. My editor (Sublime Text) has a very good Windows version, and GitHub makes an excellent Windows Git client, which includes not only a command-line Git but virtually a full Unix-y shell environment. (BTW, pro tip: if you need SSH on Windows, and you use GitHub, the GitHub for Windows client will add a SSH client to your regular Windows command prompt.) Failing all else, there’s a Windows version of Vagrant—I could fall back to Linux, running in a virtual machine.

Other stuff is less essential. I often make wireframes or diagrams in Sketch or OmniGraffle—both Mac-only, both made by small, indie developers for whom making a Windows version would be a poor use of their time—but I could make them in Google Drawings instead. I have some outlines saved in MindNode, but at some point they need to move into a word processor. But I’m used to doing this stuff on a Mac, or at least on iOS.

Finally, I know how to type em dashes (—), ellipses (…), and other special characters (™, ®, , emoji) on my Mac. I’ve confirmed you can’t type them on the Surface keyboard. For all I know, this could be a good excuse to cut back on the number of em dashes I use in my writing, but Opt-Shift-dash is a hard habit to break.

Then there are the habits I’ve changed by spending more time in Windows. I had been keeping to-do lists in Things, a Mac-and-iOS-only app; I’m now gradually starting to move into Wunderlist, which is available on tons of platforms, has excellent Chrome extensions, and which has the best Windows 8 native app I’ve seen to date. Speaking of Chrome, I’m spending more time in there as well, saving more passwords to my Google account, and making more use of Google’s syncing. (I’m still using Safari on iOS, and it’s still the default on my Mac, but fortunately Apple makes an iCloud bookmark syncing extension for Chrome on Windows.)

For today, I’m choosing to solve this problem with my back: I’m just gonna carry both, and see which one I pull out more. I expect I’ll use the Surface for writing and meetings. I may not pull out the MacBook at all. If that’s the case, next time, it won’t go in the bag.