Mac2Windows

Love OS X but Need to Use Windows? FlyakiteOSX May Help

- 2006.08.09 - Tip Jar

If you're reading this on Low End Mac, I can probably assume that you'd rather be using a Mac than a Windows computer. You don't need a lot of convincing that it's a better way to be working with a personal computer.

The theme of this series of articles has been ways that Macs can work in a world dominated by Windows computers; this article, however, is for the would-be Mac-user who has to work on a Windows computer at work, school, or home.

Despite some reports of installing Mac OS X onto a standard PC, and despite Apple's Boot Camp and Parallels Workstation allowing Intel Mac owners to run Windows, there's no easy way that I'm aware of turning a PC into a Mac.

There are, however, ways to make a Windows PC look and feel more like a Mac. My favourite is a free download that goes by the name FlyakiteOSX, which promises to allow users to "Modify. Simplify. Aquafy" their Windows PCs. Their website takes visitors to a bogus OS X boot sequence, complete with a bogus log-in screen. (You don't really have to type anything to get to the next page).

login screenOnce into the website, they explain that FlyakiteOSX is a software package designed to let a computer running Windows XP look like one running Mac OS X. The website includes a description of the software, tutorials, downloads for the FlyakiteOSX software, and links to other Mac-on-Windows resources.

setupThe website describes FlyakiteOSX as a "transformation pack", something more than just a skin or a theme changing Windows wallpaper, screensaver, standard icons, and cursors. It does all that, but it also installs replaces a variety of system files, tweaks the registry, and installs a variety of third party software such as two different Docks, a program to roll-up (windowshade) open windows, an application to add user-configurable shadows, and one to provide alternatives for folder icons.

user settingsYou get an OS X-style System Preferences alternative to the Windows Control Panel. There's even a program to add a Spotlight-like desktop search option. (If this makes you nervous, it's all completely uninstallable.)

Nicely, it's not all or nothing: Users can choose whether they want the full meal deal, or they can pick and choose which pieces of the system to modify - and they can alter their choices at any time.

start menuThere's a great attention to detail: A wide variety of icons and other resources are replaced with more Mac-like equivalents. I really like the aquafied-look of the Apple Menu/Start Menu, for instance. And the mapping of the various Control Panel items into the pseudo-System Preferences panel is nicely done.

The end result isn't quite a Mac, however. It's moved the Windows task bar to the top of the screen and replaced the default Start Button with a blue Apple icon, but it's not a menu bar. (The program's tutorial includes links for downloading several Finder wannabe programs, but none really worked to my satisfaction.)

pseudo-dock

scroll barThe Docks are kind of nice, but neither of the two included seems to indicate running programs, at least in my tests, though minimized applications end up on the right, beside the Trash (er Recycle Bin) icon.

Some of the visual effects don't quite work 100% either; in some (but not all) programs, the vertical scroll bar seems to resemble a series of white and blue sausage links in some software, for instance.

open withAnd look at the side-bar in the Open With dialogue box: The Aqua-style icons are too large, and there's no way to scroll down to the items pushed out of the way.

The default mini-icons to minimize, maximize, and shut down a window are replaced with nice OS X-style glowing yellow, green, and red bubbles - but in most cases they remain on the Windows-default right corner of the window rather than the Mac-style left corner. (The online FAQ suggests purchasing Stardock's WindowBlinds in order to get this feature.)

Of course, underneath the pretty face, it's still Windows. Internet Explorer, for instance, gains the About dialogue from the Mac version of IE, but it still has all the vulnerabilities of the Windows version, including making it too easy to inadvertently download and install spyware.

Still, if you're stuck on a Windows XP system, FlyakiteOSX makes it easier to at least pretend you're using a Mac. LEM

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Alan Zisman is Mac-using teacher and technology writer based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Many of his articles are available on his website, www.zisman.ca. If you find Alan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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