I have a problem. I can’t decide on an operating system and stick with it. I know this isn’t a problem that applies to many people, but it is something to think about if you have any desire to freely move from platform to platform without breaking the bank. Let’s face it, software is expensive. It’s expensive for the developers to create and it’s often expensive for the end user to maintain the license.
I am a big fan of virtual machines. When I first moved to the Mac, I used a virtual machine with Windows running in Parallels Desktop as my safety net. When I was working on my degree in Computer Science, I often ran Linux in VMWare Fusion virtual machines so I didn’t install a bunch of software I would only use temporarily on my own computer. By the way, I switched from Parallels Desktop to VMWare Fusion because VMWare’s virtual machines are cross platform compatible.
The point is, I regularly use multiple operating systems, so the need for cross platform software is nothing new for me. I will often choose one program over another based on its availability on multiple platforms.
Some programs are better than others in this regard. Probably the best cross platform implementation I have come across is Sublime Text. The programmers of this application have done a really good job of porting all features while maintaining a native look and feel across all three major operating systems.
I was also able to use the following products on 2 or more platforms (L = Linux, M = Mac, W = Windows):
- JetBrains PyCharm (or almost all other JetBrains products) (L M W)
- iTunes (M W)
- Office 365 (M W)
- BitTorrent Sync (L M W)
- Google Chrome (L M W)
- Firefox (L M W)
- Handbrake (L M W)
- Minecraft (L M W)
- Plex Media Server (L M W)
- Wunderlist (M W)
Now let’s talk licenses. This is where the cost of switching platforms can really add up. Some developers are clearly cognizant that people like me exist. My license for Sublime Text works on any platform without the need to purchase again.
Another way to skin this cat is to use software as a service like Microsoft Office 365 instead of Microsoft Office. Essentially, the software is the same, but the license is different. It has the advantage of allowing you to easily switch platforms, but the disadvantage that there is usually a reoccurring cost associated. Over time, I find that I don’t mind paying a reasonable reoccurring license fee to keep up to date with the latest versions of software rather than paying upgrade fees for the latest version, but that is a personal preference that you may not share.
The most expensive software I had to rebuy on Windows was VMWare Workstation Pro. Although the virtual machines themselves are cross platform compatible, the hypervisors are not. Depending on your level of use, VMWare does offer VMWare Player for free for personal use, but I needed some of the more advanced features like snapshots, so out came the wallet.
One caveat here… I am talking about my own experiences and I haven’t closely examined all the EULAs for every application I have referenced in this post, nor do I necessarily endorse them. Links are provided for convenience. I do endeavor to follow the license agreements for each program, but its possible I missed something along the way.
Do you have other suggestions for programs that are well supported across multiple platforms? Please leave a comment if you do.