macOS to Linux: Distro hopping in 2021

This post is a draft post. This means it may still be a work in progress, or hasn't been proof-read, but I still wanted to share.

I had been considering going back to Linux as my desktop OS for a while. The last time I did it was probably around 5 years ago. At that time, I used Ubuntu. I then moved to a hackintosh, and then on to a MacBook Pro. There’s something about Linux that always draws me back eventually. I feel like macOS has spoiled me a bit though, because I’m not enjoying it as much as I had hoped this time around.

Why did I finally install Linux again?

Apple getting a little creepier was already making me lean towards this decision. Then the other day, my MacBook suddenly had a swollen battery, so in a rush to get a working computer, I merged two broken ThinkPads into one working ThinkPad, and installed elementaryOS.

elementaryOS

I was drawn to it because it reminded me of macOS. It is beautiful. It seems that I joined at a bad time though, because the App Center was near-empty. It seems that after the recent update to elementaryOS 6, all apps that weren’t updated were removed. Now what remains, is, well, not much. Installing apps by apt install isn’t a problem for me, but I was excited to try out many apps built specifically for elementaryOS.

Other than that, I found that the default files and mail apps weren’t ideal for me:

  • Files app is set to open folders with a single click, and there’s no option to set it to double click. Perhaps this is more productive, but I want to be able to switch between operating systems without struggling with something as basic as opening a folder.
  • The mail app crashed on me twice in just the first day. It also doesn’t automatically go to the next email when you choose a delete or archive action on the current email. This makes it difficult to process emails quickly.

I was also interested in window tiling. I use yabai for window tiling on macOS and I didn’t want to give that up. At this point I was thinking: if the file manager won’t work for me, the mail app won’t work for me, and I need something else for tiling, why not just try a distro that solves all 3 by default? This lead me to Pop!_OS.

Pop!_OS

The style isn’t my favorite. I prefer more of a macOS look. I assume since it’s using gnome, I can simply install a theme, but for now I wanted the default experience for my testing.

  • Tiling works great. Better than great. I love it!
  • Geary works mostly as expected for email, but like, where’s the unified inbox? I’ll be searching for an alternative.
  • Files app works as expected: double click opens folders

What I miss from macOS

  • KeePassXC global auto type. It doesn’t seem to work in Linux. The browser extension doesn’t properly detect all of my logins. My login process is sort of a mess now.
  • The clipboard managers I’ve tried are all trash compared to Maccy. So far the closest I’ve found is Diodon, but for some reason you need to press the shortcut key twice for it to appear, and it has no option to exclude apps from the clipboard, like my password manager.
  • Emoji selector. The built-in one works as expected, but doesn’t work at all in the web browser. Emote is almost there, but it’d be better if it appeared near the text box I’m editing instead of the middle of my screen. I’m on an ultrawide monitor, so it’d be ideal to not have to turn my head just to see what emoji I’m selecting.

What I’d miss if I went back to macOS

  • Dino – it’s an XMPP client that feels pretty modern. Definitely better than Monal and BeagleIM on macOS.
  • Pop!_OS’ window tiling feature. It works much better than yabai.

Have any of you tried moving from macOS to Linux? How did it go? Have any software suggestions for me? Discuss on Mastodon.