Ok so here it is, my thoughts on the Mac vs PC thing… 🙂

If you know me at all you know that I’ve been a lifelong PC guy.  While I grew up using PC’s exclusively, I actually didn’t own a PC until my Freshman year of college (1996-97).  On the flip side I have only owned my MacBook Air since February 2011 (about 5 months before writing this).  So I want to get that out there right off the bat.  I am by no means the best person to be doing a comparison as I have far more experience and time logged on PC’s than I do Mac’s.  This should be taken into consideration when reading this blog post.  I fully admit that I do not know everything there is to know about Mac’s (or PC’s for that matter) but I have been asked numerous times by my friends how my new “Mac owning experience” has been, thus my reason for writing today.

Since owning a Mac these last 5 months I can truly say I’ve enjoyed my experience using it, but not 100% of the time.  I think this is probably true of any new Mac user as there are so many things to learn and adjust to.  There are so many different and foreign ways of thinking that I have to get my head around, and learn how or where to do the things I want to do.  For example how do I close a program that isn’t responding? Or find out how many bytes of space are actually in my Trash?  These things are easy to access on a Mac, but only if you know what keys to push and it’s not always easy to find unless you know what keys to push.  This argument holds true on the PC side too… if you don’t know Ctrl+Alt+Delete opens up the task manager, you might have dig a little to find it.  There’s a learning curve and I am aware that might result in some frustration simply by lack of knowing where or how to do things.

So lets begin…  Right off the bat I thought I’d list some of my most significant pro’s and cons (or rather frustrations) of a Mac thus far.

The Good Stuff:

1)   I find myself excited to pick up and use the Mac.  Perhaps its because it’s the Mabook Air and so thin, or maybe because it’s the slick design of a Mac… but it could also just be because it’s a new piece of equipment which always gets me excited (I’m a gadget geek to the core).  In any case I am pleased when reaching out to use the Macbook Air.  It feels like I’m about to have a treat.  I don’t know exactly why I have this feeling, but I do.

2)   Many of the things I like are the very reason I got a Macbook Air over other PC laptop’s.  These things include the small, thin and lightweight design with a very long battery life.  These things were the ONLY reason I went with a Mac.  Plain a simple, the Macbook Air had everything else beat for these 3 things at the time that I bought it.  It wasn’t the OS X experience, or the applications Mac offers… had I not been looking for a laptop with these features I may never have purchased a Mac.  But the Macbook Air is hands down the best for size, weight and battery life for a small to midsize laptop in my opinion.

3)   The Track Pad is a thing of beauty.  PC’s have some of the features such as scrolling and some zooming, but the Mac has many other gestures and its intuitive use makes my computing experience a wonderful thing.  Also the scrolling is smoother on a Mac than on a PC from the comparison tests I’ve casually done on a few PC’s with 1 or 2 finger scrolling.

4)   “Expose” is great.  Especially when used in concert with a gesture (4 finger down loads “Expose” for me).  I’m excited to see how the new “Lion” version of OS X improves this too.

5)   The solid state hard drive system is great for speed, battery life, and especially boot up time.  I can reboot in under 8 seconds which impresses me.  I don’t know if this is a Mac thing, or just the solid state hard drive… but whatever it is, I like it.

6)   As a longtime PC user, I found the “right click = 2 finger click on the Track Pad” to be very intuitive and easy to use.  I can’t imagine not having a right click option … and for the longest time I wondered how Mac people survived without a right mouse button.  Thankfully this has been an easy adjustment for me, and knowing that you can use 2 button mouse on Mac’s desktop’s is a good news as well.

7)   The OS is slick and smooth and in general pleasant to work with.  This seems to be Mac’s shtick though… everything is buttery smooth and glossy.  It holds true from my experience thus far.  I know there are many additional benefits the Mac OS offers being based on a Unix? System vs the Kernal PC system… but even saying this sentence might show I don’t know what I’m talking about… just that the Mac OS is supposedly cleaner than Windows from an “under the hood” perspective.

There are probably more things I like as well, but I’ll stop here as these are the first major things that came to mind and stood out as worthy of mentioning from my experience thus far.

The Frustrating:

DISCLAIMER: A reminder that I am writing from a long time PC user’s perspective.  These things I found to be frustrating (notice I didn’t say “Con’s”) as I have been learning to use a Mac.  Long time Mac users may not see some of these things as an issue at all… but for me I find them annoying.

1)   The keyboard is hard to get used to.  I REALLY miss having a “Delete” (delete forward) key, a “Home” key, an “End” key and a few others.  I’ve since found out there are shortcuts for these operations but I use these keys so frequently on a PC that I feel they deserve their own space in the compact keyboard found on smaller laptops.  Additionally using “Command” instead of “Ctrl” is very hard to get used to.  My hands will just have to relearn where these keys are before I can be as fast on the Mac as I am on a PC.  I’m sure in time I’ll get used to it, but it’s definitely an adjustment.  Yes I know a Mac keyboard can be remapped to simulate a PC keyboard… but I want to be able to walk up to any Mac and know how to use it, not just my own Mac.  So I’ve chosen to leave the keys where they are and try to learn a new way of doing things.

2)   You can’t rename files in pop up “finder” windows.  Say for example you want to send an attachment using “Mail”… The window pops up to let you select a file … only to reveal you spelled something wrong in the file name and want to rename it… sorry… can’t rename it here (not via right click or single clicking on the file name itself).  You have to load it up in the actual Mac “Finder” program to change the name.  This is the case in other places as well (can’t rename the file outside of the core “Finder” app).  I’ve heard this may be improved with the new OS X “Lion” release right around the corner though… I really hope so.  PC’s let me create folders and rename files easily in any window showing files within any application or pop up file window.

3)   There are some things that simply aren’t intuitive or easy to figure out which I found to be interesting, as I’ve always thought the Mac to be “super easy to use.”  One recent example was when I was trying to find out how much space I’d be freeing up when I empty my “Trash”.  If you select all the files in the Trash and right-click on all the selected files and select “Get info” (which is similar to the “Properties” option on a PC’s right-click menu on a file) you end up opening up a separate window of data for each file in the Trash.  Not good… especially if have hundreds of files in the trash.  A simple menu option should be added to get info for all selected items or something.  Or have that information presented at the bottom of the finder window like a PC has listed at the bottom of the Recycle Bin window when you select multiple files.

4)   There is no help built into the OS X… or at least none that I could find.  I was on an airplane recently trying to figure out how to do something on the Mac and no help could be found.  Only when I was on the Internet was I able to get the help I needed.  As far as I know Windows has an extensive help center built right into the Windows 7 OS… and the Internet augments this service.

5)   Using “Preview” to view pictures lacks simple features that come standard on any Windows 7 machine.  For example if you want to quickly browse through some pictures you recently took (outside of iPhoto) you can view a single picture in full screen mode, but you can’t see the next image unless you pre selected multiple files first before launching into “Preview”.  Simply annoying and not user friendly at all in my opinion.  Additionally you can’t easily rank or mark them (like you can on Windows 7) unless you import them into another program first such as iPhoto.  Perhaps there is a way, but I couldn’t figure it out.  You can add color labels to any file in the Max OS X system, but there are not shortcuts to do this.  You have to Right click on each file to assign it a color, again not helpful.

6)   iPhoto has issues.  It’s cool and has its perks too, but beware… there are issues.  First you have to import photos into it.  This takes time, and it’s an extra step (which I don’t like).  What if I want to quickly download 100 shots from my camera to my desktop and then quickly browse them, rank or mark them and only keep 10 and delete the rest?  Well if you can’t easily do this using “Preview”, so if you use iPhoto you have to wait for them to import into iPhoto first, and by default iPhoto creates a COPY of the photo onto your hard drive while importing it leaving 2 copies of your pictures on the computer.  I can see some small benefits to doing this… but please, give me a choice up front and don’t make it for me.  I only have 128 GB of space with the solid state hard drive on my MacBook Air, and that space will be gone very quickly if I don’t pay attention to stuff like this.

7)   Plugging in my Nikon Cameras to the Mac did not work.  I literally had to boot into Windows 7 on my Mac (I use VM Ware Fusion to do this) and it worked then.  Perhaps I was (and still am) missing a driver or something… but the fact is that with both my Nikon D3s and the Nikon D7000 worked in Windows 7 which had this driver built in, but the Mac did not.

8)   Another small thing you can’t do on a Mac is right click on a file and “cut” it.  So if I want to “cut and paste” a file, I have to use the keyboard shortcuts (Command+X and Command+V) to do this.  I know you can “Drag” a file from one place to another to “move” it (i.e. cut and paste it), but sometimes moving windows around to allow for you to drag from one place to another can take a lot of time.  Again this may be splitting hairs with some people, but for me… I feel it’s a small thing found on all PC’s that I’ve grown used to doing in a certain way and now that “cut and paste” feature is not there (at least via right clicking).

As I said with the “Pro’s” section above… there are more things I find to be frustrating, but these were the things that topped my list.

So how are we doing so far?  Are all you Mac lovers hating me?  I’m doing my best to be honest and share both sides of my experience so I hope you will continue to read on. 🙂

Thus far I’ve only addressed my experience using a Mac and haven’t really talked about PC much.  So let me transition for a moment to do that.

As a longtime PC user I can honestly say that all the issues people have had about PC’s have not been an issue for me.  My PC’s don’t crash any more frequently than my brand new Macbook Air does.  And I own 7 PC’s (one is over 6 years old and still working great), so that’s a strong statement when you do the comparison.  I don’t have spyware issues or viruses on my PC’s… never have.  And many of the “user-friendly” advantages that Mac OS X has, have found their way into the PC world through Windows 7 (Finally!).  The “Spotlight” search feature on Mac for example is now very similar to the search on Windows 7 (and both work equally well from my experience).  Yes I know spotlight is more powerful, but for how I’ve used both Spotlight and the search feature on Windows 7, they perform identically for me.  I do have to give credit to Apple for pushing the PC using experience to what it is today.  There’s no doubt PC’s have been playing the catch up game for a while… but I think they are finally comparable.

Many of the people who had complaints about PC’s had valid complaints when comparing ME, XP or Vista, but Windows 7 finally caught up to Mac OS X in many ways … only it was too late.  Anyone who switched to Mac from PC over the last few versions of Windows are long gone and are now die-hard Mac users.  And of course when Mac people share that the Mac experience is better, they are often comparing their Windows ME, Windows XP or Vista experience of working with a PC.  Often hey haven’t seen (or worked much with) Windows 7 and frankly they don’t care to.  Of course all this is about to change again with Windows 8 and OS X Lion on the near horizon everything is going to be different.  Who knows what will happen next.

There are some features I really like about Windows 7.  Some of them have been highlighted on my “Frustrations (of using a Mac)” section above.  But some others are these:

1)   I like seeing a file transfer displayed as part of the application icon in the task bar.  I don’t have to switch windows, minimize anything or move things around to know right where a file transfer is.

2)   I like the quick “live” preview window that pops up when hovering over a running application in the task bar.  Again a time saver and helpful feature that steps up the computing experience.

3)   Snapping windows is fantastic.  Every computer should have this feature.  (I’m glad I could download an app on my Mac that does this).

4)   I use the “show desktop” button all the time.  (I used it on the mac via “Corners” as well).

5)   I use the search feature ALL THE TIME in Windows 7.  It works fast and very well.  I launch most everything using the search command now.

6)   Its stable!  Finally windows made an OS that can be relied on.

To sum it all up I think both systems are great.  For the money you can get a lot more PC for your buck and have a great, productive and pleasant computing experience.  However many would fight for the sleek design of a Mac and the OS X computing experience.  For me, I have both and use both for different reasons.  But I don’t think one is better than the other, at least in an overall sense.  Get what you like, get what works for you, find what will do the job better for your specific needs and leave it at that.

One of the things that frustrates me the most on the whole Mac vs. PC thing is the attitude.  Get over yourselves (I’m speaking to both Mac and PC people here).  It’s a computer.  Who cares what you or I edit pictures or video on.  You’re not better than me, and I’m not better than you just because I chose computer “A” and you chose computer “B”.  I’ll be honest that the #1 reason I stayed away from getting a Mac for so long was because of this very “I’m better than you” attitude that many Mac people had.  I was happy to find out that not all Mac people are like this though, which helped a lot in breaking down any emotional blocks I had against getting a Mac.  If you can see past the shallowness of this and simply look for a solution that fits you… you are well on your way to a better computing experience, be it Mac or PC.

One last thing I wanted to do here was to thank my friend Anthony who works for Apple in California for all his help with this new Mac way of thinking.  He offered may hours of his time to chat with me and talk me through how to do things and I’m not sure I would have the same positive reflections I do of Mac’s had it not been for his help and generosity.  He never once made me feel inferior for working on PC’s and never even hinted or pushed me in the slightest when I mentioned I was thinking about getting a Mac.  I appreciate this.  Thank you Anthony.  I wish all Mac people were like you.

Let me end by saying this… Using a Mac has been great but it’s not this “Amazingly better experience” that all my Mac friends told me for YEARS it would be.  I haven’t found myself going to work each day saying… man I miss all those Mac features I use at night when I’m at home with my MacBook Air.  Maybe its because Windows 7 finally has something to shake a stick at.  In the end it’s a tool.  It has its strengths, its weaknesses and its way of doing things.  I view the PC and the Mac as 2 different tools or ways of doing things.  They both have their good points and their areas needing improvement.  I like using both.  I even found an app on the Mac that simulates the “snapping” windows feature found in Windows 7.  I installed it instantly and would encourage any Mac user to do the same! 🙂  Perhaps you think I’m just playing it safe by saying I like both, but I honestly do.  I now can appreciate both sides and think they both bring a great computing solution to the market.

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6 Comments

  1. Great post! I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m a Mac user as you know. Also a recent Apple employee and I’m loving my job because I love the products. Here are my thoughts:

    Glad you like the two-finger click as a substitute for right click. I’ve set my trackpad to right click in the bottom right corner, and the Mighty Mouse and Magic mouse let you assign the right area to do the same. This hasn’t been a problem for me since I started using Macs back in 2003. Before that it was pretty much control click only.

    When in Trash, Command + I (the shortcut for get info) will bring up an info window, which tells you the amount of space taken up by the trash.

    Agreed about Preview, when opening multiple files. It’s slightly annoying but it’s not hard to click them all together and open in Preview – the slick design helps me justify this minor, minor problem. Opening PSDs in Preview is wonderful! And as a side note, ‘Quick Look’ is great – hitting space on any file in Finder will give you a fast preview of it, whether it’s a photo, movie or document. Awesome.

    About being able to Cut from the right click menu – is this really an issue? Since you’re aware that Command X still works, this is way quicker than right clicking to Cut anyway. Slightly weird to me that it’s not there, but I would be Control X-ing on a PC anyway. These type of things to me aren’t so much negatives as they are odd, but they’re soon adapted to.

    You’re totally right about Mac users compare OS X to Windows. I definitely am comparing to the older versions, but not Windows 7. I’m open minded about 7 (and 8) being good, but as you said, it’s too late for me to turn back. 🙂

    Good thoughts about people being douchey about which is better. At Apple I see people every day who have switched to Mac, so I disagree slightly about your thoughts of Mac not being life changing – for the average person, who sucks completely at organising their files and taking care of their computers, Mac is definitely life changing. It simplifies things for them, welcomes them simply through clean design, and approaches the computer as a life-enhancing tool. On the other hand, I understand why you feel that it isn’t a massive change. Because you’re a rare PC user, in that you take really good care of your gear and you’re pretty intelligent. You know how to run a tight ship on PC. I have a friend here in Australia who is the same (except he isn’t nearly as open-minded about Macs as you are now). He loves PC and his setup is amazingly smart and efficient. The average Mum or Dad’s PC desktop will look like a junkpile.

    The other thing I’ll say about moving to the Mac world is that the uniformity of it all is really handy. The fact that an Apple store will provide support is great, and there are only a few models of computers so everything’s pretty simple. The hardware and software, while expensive, work together and always in the same way. I think in the PC world, support is much harder to come by in this way. HP or Dell don’t have a direct connection with the operating systems…and I think that’s why a lot of people are attracted to Apple. Just not people who fear socialism. 🙂

    What is this ‘snapping’ app you speak of? Sounds like I would like it.

  2. This has been my experience – and its only that so I am not trying to generalize to anyone else’s.

    PC user for many years. Did have a mac plus (with a whole megabyte of RAM back in the late 80s but that’s so long ago and things have changed a lot). Bought PCs for home, used them at work and got along pretty well.

    When I changed jobs about 3 1/2 years ago, I was in a place to really examine our computing needs, costs, etc. and make a decision about which way to go. I found (for me and my workplace – a church):

    -We were spending significant amount of dollars on support to remove malware, getting machines going that for one reason or another were not running up to speed. Staff were frustrated on a regular basis with their weekly computing experience. Once, while the outsourced tech was re-imaging a dell laptop – again, I thought I would ask him for his opinion about the Mac/PC thing. As I walked up, I noticed he was working on a mac. His response to my query was simple – if you switch to Macs, you won’t see me very much. And that was true.

    -There were fairly simple and regular things that staff couldn’t figure out how to do on their PCs, and sometimes, things that worked yesterday didn’t work today (printing, for example). After an initial learning curve, this pretty much went away when we switched to macs – and if there is a problem, it is usually network based rather than machine based.

    -We have found that the mac machine has a longer usable life. We were getting about 2 years out of the PCs and the macs have lasted fully 3 years, still very useful for the same tasks. If we upgrade at 3 years, we can still use them for other functions in the office, thus extending their useful life.

    -Downtime is virtually nonexistent in our experience. In the 3 years I have been using a macbook pro, my wife has had her work-issued Dell laptop completely re-imaged 3 times. Very frustrating for her, and significant loss of time and productivity. I have had a screw work loose a couple times on my mac, but that is it for support issues.

    -The user interface has drawn folks of all levels of computer experience and interest in – they seem delighted and intrigued by their macs. As a result, we are seeing folks doing more exploring, self-teaching, sharing of information, and innovation. People seem more interested in trying something new because they believe that can do it, or if that cannot initially do it, they can eventually figure it out.

    -Cost is an issue – at least initially. The sticker price is higher, without question. In my experience, this has been offset by significantly lower support costs (almost zero), long usable life of machine, and higher staff productivity (innovation, self-teaching, less down time/problem solving). Conversation around computing has shifted from negative frustration to largely (although not exclusively) positive, can-do collaboration. Happy staff, longer life, almost no support or down time – all erode the sticker price issue significantly for us.

    -The folks at our local apple store have been awesome to work with. They provide education (one-to-one or free seminars), advice and consulting (business consultant and genius bar) and great support – in the few situations we have had a hardware issue (one of which was caused by a user dropping the unit) they respond quickly, helpfully and completely.

    Bought a mac for my college-bound kid last year. Will do the same this year for next kid going to college. Fully expect it to last them through 4 years of college. After year one, no support issues for the mac at college.

    -During this same time I have had a very nice PC system at home that I don’t use, but the kids do for homework. I am regularly and frequently having to do work on it to keep it going. Can’t wait to get rid of it.

    That’s us. Personally, the Mac has been at least work changing, if not life changing. Thanks for posting these thoughts John.

  3. Great article John…
    I share your view…its just a tool. I have more than a dozen PCs…most on windows 7 and a couple on vista. While I find Vista a joke for work flow it is still stable. I spend less than an hour a month..if even that..fixing or tweaking mycomputers computers. Someone that can’t keep a 7month machine running is making poor decisions on what to download.
    While I admire the hardware of Macs, I just can’t see spending 3-4 times as much on inevitable . I personally choose to just buy a mid line PC for $500 and not worry about it…if I drop it..just go buy another. Don’t hate on me for that. 🙂

    Sent from my Macbook Wheel

  4. Darned Macbook Wheel..lots o typos in my last comment..most glaringly…omit the word “month” and I sound less like an idiot…thank you

  5. Great article! I’m so glad now I didn’t spend the extra money for a mac . . . have been a pc user since they were first introduced and never looked back. I really like Windows 7 and how quick, efficient, and intuitive it is. Yes, I can build PC’s out of necessity, but quit doing that about five years ago. . .
    Your article was very interesting, thank you!

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