Avid Verge readers will know of my frustration with Apple's unsatisfying MacBook Pro update late last year. It was an anticlimactic end to a prolonged wait for users of MacBook Pro and Air laptops alike, and it led many of us to grow curious about how far the Windows alternatives had evolved in that time. The design, displays, and versatility of Windows laptops have all improved in major ways, but one of the final hurdles that kept many like myself attached to their macOS habit was the abundance of great utility apps. Well, I followed The Verge's own advice and used a set of apps to recreate my MacBook experience on a Windows laptop, and you know what, I'm kind of loving this new world I'm living in.
My MVA (Most Valuable App) on the Mac is easily Alfred. It's my shortcut to searching for files on my computer or stuff on the web. You can do a whole heap of advanced automation and workflow integrations with Alfred, but for me, it's simply the most immediate way I know to search the Verge archives or look up a word or a news story. Wox is a rather shameless copy of Alfred that recreates that basic, ultra fast, constantly needed search functionality.
Setting up Wox is not the most user-friendly experiences I've ever had. You have to download a separate program to allow you to search your computer's drives, and it's a bit fiddly to install your own custom web searches (and icons for those) such as I have. But hey, it's free, and once you've got it up and running, it works like a charm! I have it tied to the same shortcut combo — Alt (as opposed to the Mac's Command key) and space bar — as I have it on my Mac keyboard, and it accelerates my work in the same fashion. I recognize that Microsoft's Cortana handles a lot of these search tasks too, but macOS has Spotlight search too, and I still favor Alfred over it. It's a difference in quality and speed.
Like my colleague Paul Miller, I've been doing Windows screenshots wrong for a long time. That's a function of my treating Windows PCs mostly as glorified gaming consoles, but now that I'm taking them seriously as work machines again, it turns out they have a neat utility waiting to spirit away my screenshots into the cloud for easy sharing. The app is called Lightshot, and it does everything you'd want from a screenshot app: it can capture the whole screen or a part of it, share directly to social networks, or automatically feed you a sharing link upon upload, if you want to share manually. As with Wox, some of this functionality is already built into Windows, but Lightshot is a nice power-up to the variety of things I can do with the PrtSc button and, more importantly, the speed with which I can do them.
If you work with photos on a Mac, you instinctively develop an almost neurotic space-bar-tapping habit. In macOS, the space bar opens up a large preview of any image you have selected, and it allows you to arrow around among your files, previewing each one at an enlarged size. It sounds trivial, given that you can always jump into a proper photo app like Preview in macOS or Photos on Windows, but it's the quickness and cleanliness of the space bar preview that keeps me using it while choosing a quick selection of pictures. Seer does the same thing on Windows, and is even a tiny bit better in having absolutely zero chrome (if you hover near the top of an image, it'll display a small bar at the top where you can access the file info or hit an "X" to close).
Seer, Lightshot, and Wox are all free, lightweight apps that do no harm to my Windows 10 experience while adding a great deal to its ease of use. You honestly don't have to be a Mac user for me to recommend giving them a download and a try, but it is the people habituated to Apple's smooth ways on the Mac that will enjoy the benefit of these apps most. I find Seer is a split second slower than Apple's method and Wox still has some incompatibilities to iron out, however both successfully recreate the home comforts of macOS to a degree that makes me feel no nostalgia for my MacBook Air.
These solutions lack the final polish of something integrated directly into the operating system, as you'd get with a MacBook, but they allow me to tap into all the myriad advantages of Windows (which would merit a whole other article). The highlight for me is probably just having access to a much wider range of hardware options, including laptops with touchscreens and without dongle dependencies, or, as in the case of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon I'm currently testing, longer battery life.