Why not Mac? – #1

26 05 2006

In computer circles, the subject of Mac versus Windows is a hotly debated one. I thought I would take a brief look at what concerns people may have about switching to a Mac.

Although a Mac isn’t going to be perfect for everyone, I would argue that the majority of novice computer users in particular would find a Mac much more suitable as it is a safer environment and does most of what they need a computer for out of the box already.

So let’s take a look at some of the concerns I have heard people mention:

Mac’s cost more than other computers.
As with most things, you get what you pay for – I for one certainly don’t mind paying more for a higher quality system. Its not just the hardware which is superior in design and build quality, its the software which runs on it as well. And because Apple make both, they have a lot more control over the quality of their end-products.

Software isn’t as widely available for Mac.
Unfortunately this is true – the Mac market is just too small for every single software company to spend time developing Mac versions of their products.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t enough software available for you. Sure, there may be certain people who cannot make the transition as Mac versions of software they depend upon are just not available (such as Microsoft .Net developer tools), but I’d say the vast majority of Windows users are consumers, not professionals and don’t need such things anyway.

I count myself as a professional, having used Windows since version 3.1, and DOS before that, but I have found that the Mac satisfies my requirements for almost everything.

I have an MSN client, Microsoft Office, graphics packages, PHP/Apache support out of the box and of course the whole set of applications in the iLife suite that aren’t available in Windows at all. There is nothing I depend upon my Windows box for now, apart from Games (see next item).

My old software and especially Games won’t work.
Again this is true, your old software will require replacing with Mac versions or alternatives. Games are more of a problem, as many developers have little interest in porting their games over to the Mac platform. There are a lot of Mac versions of popular games available for the Mac, such as Civilization IV, Sim City 4 and so on.

Fortunately, with the Beta of Boot Camp you can now install Windows natively on your Mac for those occasions where you just have to use it. This feature will be included with the next release of the Mac OS once the creases have been ironed out.

What about all my files?
Well since networking is a technology that crosses platform boundaries, you can easily connect your Mac up to a PC to transfer your files. Music, Pictures, Movies, things like that are generally stored in common formats which any computer should be able to read. Of course if you are using proprietary formats, such as Windows Media Audio, you will need to convert them before you can play them, but such utilities are widely available, and the conversion only needs to be done once.

All modern Macs come with built in networking, including wired, WiFi and Bluetooth so there isn’t a shortage of methods of connecting to them. This also means you will be able to easily connect peripherals such as mobile phones and other Bluetooth enabled devices to transfer your files.

Will my Mac turn into an overpriced paper-weight as technology advances?
Again, this is always going to be a factor with any technology, however from personal experience I can say that it effects Macs much less. I had a relatively low spec iBook G4 which I had for about 14 months. Even after all that time, it was just as nippy as it had been when I got it. That’s the longest time I’ve ever gone without having to upgrade, which i used to do far more frequently with my PC. Mac’s tend to stay running smoothly over time instead of clogging up and slowing down.

So, Yes – there is always the problem with technology advancing, but I’d say the impact is felt less on a Mac. Checking Google, I find there are many people who are just as happy with older G3/G4 Macs and are using them online to do today’s tasks without a problem.

The Interface is too different.
Again, this is true, the interface is different to Windows, but it doesn’t take too much to get used to it. The Mac has a menubar which is always at the top of the screen, this means you always know which application you are currently working in. The edges of the screen can be described as “infinitely deep” – this is because you don’t have to aim for them, just throw your mouse towards the top of the screen, for example, and it won’t go any further. This is the same as with the Windows taskbar.

Mac’s also have the Expose windowing tool which allows you to find windows quickly using thumbnails of all open windows. There is also the familiar Windows ‘Alt+Tab’.

The interface is far more intuitive, for example if you want to delete something, just drag it to the Trash. If you want to remove a toolbar item just drag it off the window and it disappears in a puff of smoke. You’ll find these sorts of ease of use features all over the system.

The Mouse only has one-button.
The default Apple mouse has only one button. To perform a right-click you have to hold down the Control key before clicking. The thing is though, any standard USB mouse can be plugged into your Mac so you can quite easily use a multi-button mouse with scroll-wheel if you wish – I myself use a Microsoft IntelliMouse on my Mac.

And finally
That’s all for now, but I’m sure these aren’t the only areas of concerns people may be interested in, so I invite people to put forward their own concerns and will probably write another one of these in the near future.

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16 responses

26 05 2006
26 05 2006
Oliver

God knows there are enough Mac fanboys out there that aren’t helping the cause by saying “Get a mac, PCs are crap.” with out explanation repeatedly 😛

26 05 2006
RyanC

Thanks 🙂 I tried to write it as neutrally as I could, and I know a Mac won’t be for everyone, but hopefully this will help clear up any questions people may have.

28 05 2006
Atariboy

Before Bootcamp gaming was a complete no-no, but now that is not a problem for me…

I really want a black macbook but i keep seeing all these problems with heat and fans and screens… I’m going to wait for the next revision, hopefully they will have fixed some things on it.

28 05 2006
RyanC

Yeah, its quite scary the number of problems people are reporting. The thing is, when there is a problem, you are much more likely to hear from it, than if there isn’t a problem. I’m guessing Apple have sold a lot more than just the ones you are hearing about with the problems.

But anyway, it might be better for you if you don’t feel certain, to wait until the next revision, or at least until Leopard comes out.

14 06 2006
Cristina

Hi,

I was wondering if anyone knew of a good book on mac interface/ui guidelines for mac and conversions for mac. I work for a company that is in the process of making their program available for mac users and we need to know some concerns of people and we DEFINITELY are looking for a book on this.

Thanks!

3 07 2006
RyanC

Well I recommend checking the Apple Human Interface Guidelines which should be of some help to you. There are plenty of resources on the Apple support forums too.

30 09 2006
nusku

Interesting read. I’m seriously considering taking the plunge and getting a Macbook when I visit the States in November.

2 10 2006
RyanC

Glad to hear it, I always suggest to people to go and visit an Apple Store before taking the plunge, as you can see the actual machines and actually use the interface and many of the applications you get with the computer before you buy it. And the Genius Bar in every store is very useful for when you’re just starting out.

I would be careful about buying from a country other than the one you normally live in, mainly for warranty purposes, for example, goods purchased from the US aren’t subject to the same Sale of Goods laws which protect consumers over in the UK.

A good website to check these sorts of things is the UK Consumer Direct service at http://www.consumerdirect.gov.uk/.

2 10 2006
nusku

Good point about the Sale of Goods Law – but on the other hand if I buy in the states I’ll save nearly £200 I think…. decisions decisions….

3 10 2006
RyanC

Yeah its a big saving compared with here, and I would have said go for it before all the issues with my own MacBook Pro, which I’ve been documenting here.

It may be worth asking if Apple products are eligible for warranty work/support at any Apple store worldwide, or only in the country they are purchased. As long as you’re happy you’ll be covered, then you could go for it.

3 10 2006
nusku

The Apple warranty is worldwide, and I’ve googled it and found posts from people who have bought Macs abroad and not had any problems getting them repaired.
Having said that I dropped by the Apple shop in London today and I wondered if it might not just be more straight forward to buy one there…
I had a quick play with the machine and loved it.
By the way do you use MS Office? If heard some reports that it because it runs through Rosetta it is very slow. I need to access alot of files in WORD & EXCEL, so I guess MS Office is vital – plus new docs that I make will need to be sent to PC users from time to time.

5 10 2006
RyanC

Well I’ve used Office 2004 on my MacBook Pro when I was writing my dissertation, and although it was a little sluggish sometimes, it was still perfectly usable, and I didn’t really think it an issue.

Most documents will probably be small enough for it to be even less of an issue, but if you’re concerned about it, I would suggest taking some documents you will be working with into an Apple Store on USB stick, and giving them a try. I think they have Office on those demo machines anyway!

Either way Microsoft will probaby have a new version out eventually, but I believe they will not want to release a new Mac version before the new PC one, and that has been set back a lot due to the delays with Vista 😦

5 10 2006
nusku

Cool. Well I have been the bullet and order a Macbook – plus a copy of MS Office (student edition)

Got a pretty good deal
http://cinnamonpyre.wordpress.com/2006/10/05/macbook-you-will-be-mine/

Thanks for the help.

9 02 2007
Quint Lassiter

I just made the switch and it has been nothing but trouble. PCs usually work fine out of the box and then their software rots (as everyone but you screws around with your registry). My MacBook has been a headache from the git-go.

Pulling files was easy enough, but alot of Mac software can’t run on the Intel processor (finding that out the hardway). Entourage (mac’s version of outlook) can’t fully sync with my mail account (another workaround). Browsing files is more difficult because OS X doesn’t have all the view options that XP does. The wide screen is a waste because only photo or movie applications take advantage of it. I can’t even view full page width on word.

My advice is buy a crappy Dell and plan on replacing it every two years.

11 02 2007
RyanC

Hey there, sorry to hear you are having a few problems adjusting to OS X, it does take a short while to get used to especially if you are very used to the way Windows works.

Let me see if I can try and help you out with a few things:

1. Intel CPU – You’re right there, since new Macs have Intel processors in, any Mac software that isn’t ‘Universal’ has to run through the emulation layer called ‘Rosetta’. I have a lot of older Mac software that hasn’t yet been updated to Universal but I haven’t come across an application that doesn’t work at all, which apps are you trying to use may I ask?

2. Entourage – The Mac version of Outlook isn’t quite the same as Outlook, but it is mainly designed to connect to a Microsoft Exchange Server in an office environment.

If you are connecting to a standard POP/IMAP mailbox, you are much better off using a free light weight email client, such as Thunderbird, or the included Mail.app which can easily handle any standard POP/IMAP server.

It should be noted that Microsoft have a new version of Office for the Mac which should be out this year at some point, which is good as Office:mac is long overdue for an update.

3. Browsing files – I’ll give you that, the Finder itself isn’t as powerful as the Windows Explorer you are used to, but things like Spotlight and adding shortcuts to your most frequently used folders, either to the dock or the Finder sidebar, should allevieate most of your problems.

I myself find it much quicker to find anything now that I’m used to Spotlighting files, and I even use that to quick start apps that I don’t use enough to warrant placing them in the dock.

4. Widescreen – I’m not quite sure what you mean by that, as a wider screen has many advantages – being able to have your web browser open on a page, with your MSN contacts lists at the side, and perhaps a Finder window or two for working with files, they can all quite easily fit on my MacBook Pro (which admittedly does have a slightly larger screen than the MacBook).

Well that’s about it, my advice is to stick at it and try to ‘let go’ of things you are used to with Windows – it took me a few weeks to get used to the Mac, and I was feeling the same as you about the navigation aspect until I got used to it – surely a little ‘discomfort’ while you get used to things, is worth safety from viruses, spyware, insecurity and instability?

Perhaps you should try looking for some Mac alternatives to software you have used on Windows? There are a lot of very high quality developers for Mac and the software tends to be more focused and also cheaper.

Hope that helps, stick with it, and let us know how you get on!

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