Ask TOOZE: is it difficult to own a Mac?

Dear TOOZE:

I’ve heard many things about a Mac and would like to consider one. However, there are several considerations holding me back; especially the worry of compatibility. What’s your take on this?

———-

Note: since DT is the only Mac user in TOOZE, he will be answering this query alone with XY being the devil’s advocate. This post is also in response to a previous post about buying a Mac as an option for getting a new desktop.

DT: This is a classic question, and a legit one as well. After all, we are used to our Windows programs and environment, so why switch? Before I dive into my take on this, let me share with you my hardware history. My first machine way back in 2005 was actually my dad’s Compaq laptop running Win XP. After a year or so, the hard disk on the Compaq died and after repairing it I returned it to my dad. I then had a D.I.Y. machine built. After some time I realized I needed a laptop for my courses in university. Since I had a Windows PC, and I heard much about a Mac being useful for photos, movie production, design and what-not, I got myself a bumped 15″ MacBook Pro (MBP). Soon I was using dual OS and after some years the hard disk on my desktop died, leaving me with my MBP only. I survived solely on the MBP for a year or two before getting myself an iMac, and most recently a MacBook Air to replace my MBP which I sold away.

XY: So you were Mac only for quite a while. Were there problems? I’m sure there were, weren’t there?

DT: You are getting to much into your role you know. Some of the common programs I use are Adobe CS 4, Microsoft Office and MSN Messenger. The former two have versions specially written for the Mac, and they work wonderfully well, though a little different. Nonetheless, file compatibility is not an issue as they still save in their native formats, for example .doc for MS Word.

XY: You left out Messenger, and I’m sure there were some programs you couldn’t use. Even Office for Mac is really different no?

DT: Messenger for Mac was a sad program. At that time, Messenger for Windows was already at version 9 (I think) but it was version 6 for the Mac. They only recently updated the software to allow for video chats on the Mac. Two other classes of programs don’t work too well on the Mac platform: Flash apps and games. Flash is not optimized on the Mac and tend to be buggy/laggy, unlike its WIndows counterpart. Games are also sorry on the Mac. I tried running Warcraft 3 on the Mac and it crashed often due to driver issues. As for Office, I’m still sticking to MS Office for Mac 2008, which I thought was much prettier than the Office for Windows 2007 onwards, which sport the ribbon (and I hate). Excel is by far the most different in terms of layout and stuff, but since I wasn’t really a power user, I didn’t have much problems.

XY: Yeah, I remember you crashing out so often on B.Net during the DOTA games. So why bother with a Mac?

DT: Apple’s website has a page on why you should switch to a Mac but for me, it’s really because I like how it looks and works. Frankly, it is a lot more intuitive; the phrase “it just works” isn’t a lie — at least to me.

XY: You’re kidding me. A while back they don’t even have right click on their single-button mouse! And it’s so different from Windows!

DT: Different yes but not necessarily worse off. To a brand new computer user, a Mac layout is actually much more easier to pick up. Heck, the right button thing proves the point because my dad struggled with the right click when he first started learning the Windows platform. I mean, we take it for granted but for a new user, it actually takes quite a bit of effort to remember which finger to use and for what. Personally, when I first switched to a Mac I felt stupid because I kept pressing the wrong buttons. I took almost 3 weeks before I got back my productivity but it was history ever since. It’s all practice. However, I would think that power Windows users (meaning those who know many keyboard shortcuts) would feel frustrated on a Mac because there is just so much to unlearn, but to call it worse off is hardly justified.

Secondly, while Messenger and games don’t work well, there are actually many good programs that are solely Mac. For example, there’s Pixelmator and Acorn which can be considered to be Photoshop and Illustrator alternatives (might not be replacements per se). There’s also Marsedit, a famous blogging program, the Omni Group of programs and more. Heck, the iLife suite which comes free with every Mac wins its Windows counterpart any day. Just try iMovie and GarageBand and you’d never really want to go back to Windows Movie Maker and Sound Recorder.

XY: So basically you’re saying that you lose some but you win some. However, as a gamer myself, I’d avoid Mac since games don’t run on Mac.

DT: Perfectly legit. Well, I’m running Win 7 on my iMac via Boot Camp, which gives me access to all the games and Flash apps and whatever I want on a Windows platform. Essentially I have the best of both worlds. However, I use the Mac platform primarily and boot up my Windows platform only when I want to play games. Here I’d add that even though they have some games for the Mac (there are games that are only Windows) like Starcraft and Civilization V, they don’t function as smoothly as their Windows counterpart. Hence, if you really want to play games, I’d say stick to a Windows platform or be prepared to use Boot Camp.

XY: True. Even if you ran Boot Camp, the hardware is still pretty behind*. Anyway I think that’s enough for our readers. Any conclusion for us?

DT: Agreed. Well, know what you are looking for in a machine and seek clarifications instead of being swayed by uninformed people. Call me a fanboy for loving Apple stuff, but I believe that I am aware of its limitations, as much as I am aware of Windows’s strengths. Ultimately, use the machine you are most comfortable with, and be productive. For those who have just switched and would like some help in adjusting to your Mac, check out my previous post here. As a summary, here’s my take:

  • If you want lots of games and everything else is secondary, stick to Windows.
  • If you want to make movies and play with music or photos, try the Mac**.
  • If you want to make movies and play with music or photos, but want games, get a Mac and Boot Camp.
  • If you are frustrated with how Windows work and look, try a Mac.
  • If you have a lot of Windows only program, and don’t have time/don’t want to play around with something new, stick to Windows.
  • If you are looking to change your computer and don’t have a preference, and only want to surf and do the occasional Office stuff, try a Mac or maybe just get an iPad*.

As an afterthought, before you get a Mac, do borrow a friend’s to try it out and ask them for their take on using a Mac. Afterall, your friends would know what suits you better (I hope). Need more clarifications? Drop us a comment below!

———-

*Behind as in not cutting edge, especially since it is a pre-built machine. However, it is more than sufficient for most.

**As for which Mac to get, I’m currently recommending the MacBook Air, or else 15″ MacBook Pro. Personally, avoid the MacBook and 13″ MacBook Pro. My previous post about MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air should clarify this point better. Having said that, do NOT buy any Mac machines until OS X Lion has shipped and the machines (iMacs and laptops) are all updated for the new OS.

***We’d be doing a post about using the iPad as a primary computer soon. Keep a look out!

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