Things I like about the Mac

Published in Apple

Mac OS X Mountian Lion

My brother recently asked me to point out what I like about the Mac. I have used windows for many years and don't really hold anything against it. Heck it has to be said that windows gave me something when I couldn't afford anything else. Even the latest windows versions are quite good, but at the end of the day, you have to choose one operating system and now that Macs are cheap (the current mac mini, cost less than the first double speed CD-ROM I bought for my first PC). I kinda think you would be mad not to use a Mac.

Remember I'm trying not to make this Mac vs PC thing. It is simply "Things I like about the Mac". It's my personal opinion. Sure I'll make comparisons but not for the purpose of windows bashing, just so you can see why I like them (that is after all what my brother wanted to know).

 

(some) Things I like about the Mac in no particular order.
 

Speed:

People are such slaves to specifications. PC people always get hung up on the fact that their machine has more RAM, HD space and a faster processor for the price of an Apple Mac. It's quite amazing though because pretty much every techie knows that a major factor of how fast any computer runs, is the software. I did some test running windows and Mac OS on two identical machines and the Mac was faster. Blisteringly so in most cases (sometimes was it only way faster). At the end of the day I satisfied myself that a PC with higher spec won't actually outperform a Mac and that's what's important. Does it stop a tech junkie like me wishing that the I could purchase a Mac with the same low cost to spec ratio as the cheapest PC's. no it does not, but it's nice to know that for what I paid I do get the same or better performing machine.

Getting it done:

This is one of the Macs best features and yet one of the hardest to measure. Productivity. I consider myself a power user and I get things done on computers. I make it my business to find the best way to get a job done regardless of which system I use. I am a senior manager so saving time is very important to me. Since I changed to Mac a couple of years ago I have notice a marked improvement in getting things done. The software is slicker, the way you work is smarter and because Mac apps (in general) are aimed at Mac users and built by Mac people, they are designed to allow users to achieve their goals quickly and easily. Not because Mac users are dumb, but because although a complicated system might need a smarter people to operate it, that does not mean complicated is smarter. More importantly, a smart person using a well designed system will be allowed to shine.

Spotlight:

What is the one of the most important computing tasks tasks you do on a daily basis? The answer is "search". You search the internet and you search your HD, folders and email for files and programs. The Mac search tool which sits up the top right of the screen with a simple magnifying glass icon is exceptional. It's so good that I often just use it to launch programs on open files even though I know where they are. Windows doesn't even come close to searching your machine and sorting the answers so that you find what you are looking for, to the point that on windows it's a last resort.

iLife:

I know, I know, it's a little out of order to claim some included programs make the operating system better, but remember I'm talking about things I like about the Mac, so I think this is fair. When you buy a Mac it comes pre-loaded with iLife, a suite of programs that may not be perfect (I have some issues with all of them) but they are definitely (my opinion remember!) best in class. Heres what I like:

  • iPhoto. Worth the cost of the Mac alone. I LOVE it!! iPhoto allows me to easily manage my photos, email them out using great pro templates, share them to facebook with faces pre-tagged via face recognition and show amazing slideshows with professional populated realtime that look more like movies than slideshows...
  • iMovie. It takes a bit of getting used to and I'm not as smitten with iMovie as with iPhoto but it is great to use and saves a lot of time. I certainly haven't found any other program better or even close for the prosumer.
  • Garage band. A great program for making and sharing music, I admittedly have only dabbled in but it seams pretty fantastic. If I ever get time to make more music, I know at least where I'll start.


Downloads Folder:

Downloading anything on a Mac is great. On windows I used to download to the desktop. I hated going to the downloads folder in my documents because (*laughs) it was too much effort. Result? Often the things I was downloading were things I didn't want to delete and wanted to leave easily accessible so my desktop got cluttered. On the Mac there is a folder on the dock (at the bottom of the screen) which is essentially like the downloads folder on windows, but with one click it pops up a fan with the most recent items and a link to open the whole folder. Yes, I could manually make something similar with windows, but it wouldn't pop out in a fan like that (unless I used other thirty party addons). It just works brilliantly.

Coverflow:

Instead of browsing you files by looking at a representative icon or thumbnails of their contents, try actually flicking through the files by looking at them open in the same way we do it in the really world. It's built into the mac file system and even faster than pressing space for a ….

Preview:

On a Mac. If you have a file you want to look at, you can preview it. Just press space. You can preview office files (.doc .excel etc), pdf files, image files, in fact most of the file type you ever use will pop up full screen in a split second just by selecting and pressing space. On a PC you have to load the program to look at the file. Oh, did I mention you don't have to have Office or PDF reader installed? You might expect this to be just a basic preview function, but you can print from it and even re-order PDF files and delete pages from within a PDF, change the compression type etc. When I see a PC user open a file and wait for word or pdf reader to load, find it's not the right file, close the program and then open another file and therefor the program again it just makes me wince. Not good enough for you? (boy you are demanding)... Mac OS has...

System wide contacts:

OS X has a system wide contact service. It means that once you have added a contact, you can pull this contact from with any program built to access it. Once you've got this synced with your iPad and Facebook accounts (as I have) it make life a whole lot easier. Writing emails, sending photos and making appointments on the (you guessed it) systemwide calendar service is easy and everything is linked. It's impossible to actually illustrate how this simplifies my life but trust me that this is a great thing!

System wide dictionary:

The Mac uses a system wide dictionary available to any program that wants to use it. If you add (for example) your child's name that most dictionaries won't recognize, then those changes will be automatically be reflected in all programs. Oh and the dictionary service also provides a....

Multilingual, systemwide spell check:

This is a big thing for me. I simply start typing and the Mac recognizes the language and underlines words spelt incorrectly regardless of which language I use. Sure I used to do this in word too, but I had to configure it first and on the Mac it's systemwide, so it works pretty much every program. Great for me!

Text Edit:

The Mac version of Notepad (Text edit) is so much better. Heck it's almost better than word. I use it every day.  You can paste in web pages or rich text without loosing formatting. Use it for editing code. It's small, fast, lightweight but also feature packed. It seams to always do what I want. A very good text editor.

No configuration networking:

I sometime can't get over how much IT guys defend windows. I don't think it's because they think if computers were better they would be out of a job, I just think they are used to what they know and like the rest of us are adverse to change. The Mac OS uses a thing called the Bonjour Service an with it I share a printer physically attached to one mac with another Mac in the same room with just a few clicks. "But I can do that on my PC" I hear some techie scream, but the kicker is not that it took just a few clicks... it's that these Macss AREN'T EVEN NETWORKED!!

Exposé (now called mission control):

When I want to change between programs, I just flick the mouse to the corner of the screen and suddenly every window open on my mac (except stupid Skype) is displayed before me so I can go straight to the one I want. I never minimize or maximize like I did with windows. With a flick-floc and one click I go straight to the window I want. I love it.

Beautiful looking system:

Hey, why is it that plenty of people acknowledge this (even windows users) and in the same breath imply that it doesn't mean anything. Mac OS X is a nice environment to work in. It looks good and has an easy to use file system. Considering the amount of time we spend in from of our computers, for me at least, this IS important.

Cheap plentiful high quality Apps/programs:

This is a more recent thing. Mac ship with an Icon that links to the Mac App store. It's amazing, full of programs that were developed for the iPad and have been re-tweaked (for minimal developmental cost) and are available cheap or free. One of the best things about this is actually the overall quality. Mac programs on the whole have always been that notch above windows applications. On of the by products of selling the first graphical systems, it the for a long time, regardless of cost, Macs were actually the only computers that could be used for design. Consequently a high standard of applications has always been available on the Mac thanks to the people who chose the design/quality aspects of the operating system over cost. Now with the introduction of the iPad hundreds of thousands of beautifully crafted apps have been developed and now they are appearing on the Mac App store. They're cheap and they're good and I don't have to scour the internet to find a quality program. The tables have really turned on windows which (and it was one of the reason I used windows in the past) people used to choose because it had "more software". Now the Mac has more software than you could hope for and it's reasonably priced. An example is "Pages" like MS word (only better because it works the way you want, does true desktop publishing, includes high quality templates etc) which is a 10th the price of word (yes it can edit .doc files).

Cheaper updates:

Plenty of techies defend windows "because it's cheaper". But for a lot of people it is cheaper because you they pirate it. They then recommend this to people who pay, and pay they do. A friend o mine upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7 and it cost him just short of 300€ (including installation fee). A couple of years back I help a friend who's computer was full of viruses and did a windows format/reinstall. He was using a pirated version of XP, so I suggested we buy a real version, as windows Vista was out, I though it might be cheap enough. It was 270$AUD! Does this sound familiar, you (or someone you know with windows), waits until it's time to buy a new machine and get's it with the latest version of windows? This is normally done about every 3 years after Windows is showing it's age. Mac users stretch this out to 5 a 5 year (or longer) life because Mac don't slow like windows does and the updates are cheap (only US$24.95 for OS X "Lion").

Time Machine:

Just saved over a file with a change you can't reverse? Deleted and email and now you need it? Just go back in time on the Mac. Time machine allows you to go back in time with with the files system or within a program, to a time when the data you want existed. You can then just move copy and paste it to recover it.

Little things:

There are hundreds of little things that are either straight out better/easier or simply operate similarly to windows but are more enjoyable to use. I'm talking about things so small you cant remeber them when asked to. I read a luxury car magazine which used a niggles system. The more niggles a car had the worse it was. The mac OS simply has far fewer niggles. I'll illustrate this point with one of the smallest examples I can think of. On a Mac when you press caps-lock and then hold the shift key and press a letter, it stays as a capital. On a windows PC if you do this the letter will appear in lowercase. This seams logical, but I am (as most of us are) accustomed to using shift for the start of a sentence and for pro nouns etc. This means if I ever need to write something completely in uppercase on a PC I inevitably get lowercase letters by accident. Apple thinks about the user. One of the things that struck me most about Sir Jonathan Ive (they guy who heads of the design teams responsible for the shape of Apple products) is that when interviewed he didn't talk about the design in terms of weather the product looked good, he said; “We try to develop products that seem somehow inevitable,", "That leave you with the sense that that’s the only possible solution that makes sense. Our products are tools and we don’t want design to get in the way.". What I truly love about the Mac is how both the little things and big things add up to a computer that doesn't get in my way.

Summary:

If I reflect on my last year using windows, all I acknowledge windows gave me years of good times, but also years of headaches. As often as windows facilitated something, it demand something else.

Use the system you think is the best. Windows is stable and fast enough/easy enough for most people. Linux is good too. I think Mac is by far the best, so I choose OS X.