A week wouldn't go by on ol' Maximum PC dot com without a flurry of comments erupting over the very mention of that one competing platform. You know, the one whose company is named after a fruit? Anyway, I won't draw out the joke--Maximum PC fans are not quite as enthusiastic about Apple products, Apple platforms, or Apple software as they are about their own custom-built (or purchased), Windows-based PCs. And that's a shame.
We can all agree to disagree on the various parts and pieces of the whole "PC vs. Mac" war that we subscribe to. However, it would be improper--and downright wrong--to deny some of the neat accomplishments that Apple's brought to the table. There are some elements of OSX that are awesome to fire up from a usability standpoint and, at the same time, equally fun to use. But as a Windows user, you're trapped to one system. Good luck getting a legal version of OSX to work on your PC without some interesting sacrifices and workarounds.
Well, that's where this week's Freeware Files leaps into the picture. I can't turn your Windows installation into OSX, nor would I want to--I'm going to show you how you can mimic some of OSX's more fun features in Windows directly. Let's go!
You know a freeware program is hardcore about Apple's platforms when the very Web site it resides on has been completely transformed into an OSX lookalike. And, go figure, that's exactly what FlyakiteOSX will do to your typical Windows XP installation (this one's for you, netbook folk). I kid you not. This application will transform your system--to the best of its ability--into a carbon-copy of Apple's big operating system. It's the closest you're going to get to OSX on a non-Apple system without resorting to the words "hack" or "-intosh."
Quick preface: This application, while geared for Windows 7 and Vista, hasn't been updated in quite some time--nor will it be. The developer has lost all interest in pursuing this program, which grants your Windows-based system a lookalike replica of OSX's popular Expose functionality. With the click of a hotkey, you can shrink all of your open Windows to fit on a grid that's roughly the size of your current screen. Select which window you want to jump to and, voila, up it pops. Better still, SmallWindows doesn't have to be installed to work--just run it from a USB key of your choosing for instant, portable access to one of OSX's cooler features.
Prefer the look of fonts on OSX versus Windows' Cleartype rendering? There's one way to adjust that and it won't cost you the price of a brand-new operating system. Grab the freeware application GDI++ and run it. A little icon pops up in the corner of your system tray. Double-click it to activate it, turning the icon green, and your screen's fonts will be rendered in--what else--GDI++ instead of Cleartype. Double-click the icon again to deactivate the new rendering and return to Windows' default look.
[Author's note: winLight is pulling up as a virus on my other system scanner, so don't download that. Check out nDroid instead, which is what winLight was based on anyway!]
I don't much care for Windows Indexing--neither do you, I venture. When it comes to desktop searching, OSX simply has Windows beat left and right with its awesome Spotlight capabilities. But you, too, can tap into the speedy, comprehensive search results of one of Apple's flagship features. The freeware application winLight slaps a Windows-based copy of Spotlight on your desktop. Start typing in whatever it is you want to find, be it programs to launch or files to explore, and they'll appear in an easy-to-access results window.
Of course, you could always go the easy route for combining the best of the Windows and Apple worlds. Pick yourself up one of Apple Magic Mice--a super-fancy multi-touch mouse--and then hit up Uneasysilence to grab the unofficial, third-party drivers that will allow you to use this hardware device in the Windows operating system. It's not quite as neat as finding out how your favorite magician does his tricks, but these user-generated Bluetooth drivers will nevertheless allow you to connect just a little bit more Apple magic to your daily Windows routines.
David Murphy (@ Acererak) is a technology journalist and former Maximum PC editor. He writes weekly columns about the wide world of open-source as well as weekly roundups of awesome, freebie software. Befriend him on Twitter, especially if you have an awesome app or game you're dying to recommend!