Working across platforms, part 1: Mac and Windows

Like many others in the university sector, I work in a Windows environment. At work, I have a PC (although I usually also bring my mac with me) , and nearly all my colleagues develop their research using Windows programs. This platform schizophrenia can be a bit frustrating, but there are some work arounds that can help your cross platform work flow go a bit smoother.

First, DropBox if your friend. I recently upgraded to their paid version, and it was worth every penny in terms of providing peace of mind, and knowing that all my essentials are with me wherever I am. However, sometimes I forget to sync (i.e. transfer my work from the hard drive to dropbox)- and that’s where the next app comes in handy.

MacDropAny is a sweet little app that keeps your folders seamlessly synced with Dropbox, Google Drive or Microsoft SkyDrive. I use it to to keep my literature folders and my current work synced with DropBox, which means that the latest version of ‘everything’ is always available on my work PC, or anywhere else, for that matter.

Papers is a reference manager that comes in both mac and Windows versions (as well as a version for iPad), which can be synced via DropBox. While sync via DropBox is not officially supported, many experienced users use this alternative to keep their libraries in sync. The trick is never to never have more than one copy of Papers open at one time, so make sure you close the windows version properly before you open Papers on your mac, and vice versa. This is a pretty good alternative to EndNote in terms of accessing the same library from multiple locations, which EndNote doesn’t handle very well.

Scrivener (which I will write about in more detail in a future post) is an excellent writing app which also comes in both a Windows and mac version. While the mac version is a bit more developed and smoother to use, the Windows alternative isn’t bad. There is no automatic sync, so again I use dropbox to transfer files. Of course, for writing there is also Microsoft Office which you can also get in a mac version. I tend to use Scrivener for drafting text up to a relatively advanced stage, then I switch to Word since this is the format that most publishers request, and it’s also the standard program for collaboration at my university.

Inqscribe (also to be elaborated upon in a future post) is my favourite app for transcribing data. In addition to working on both windows and mac, I believe they also charge you for one licence, rather than two – which is always a relief when you are dealing with multiple operating systems.

For task management, Wunderlist works pretty much anywhere and on anything.

Finally, Evernote is of course a great app for syncing across not just windows and mac, but also IOS and android. I use it extensively, but less so for my actual research – but I know several researchers who use it for their academic work, especially for literature review notes or as a more general notebook.

You could also partition your mac hard drive and install windows, using software such as BootCamp . I’ve been resisting that option so far, but I see how it could bring a lot of advantages. MacRumors has a good page on how to get started.

I haven’t gone into details about remote connections here – simply because I’m not a huge fan and prefer other options – however, when you really need a document or a program that you can’t access by other means, they’re very good to have.

Do you have any experiences to share or recommendations for working across windows and mac? Please let me know in the comments area!

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One Response to Working across platforms, part 1: Mac and Windows

  1. Pingback: Writing academic texts with Scrivener: Making your non linear writing projects pleasurable | Macademise

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