Sunday, January 03, 2010

Mac vs. PC - for Writers & Poets

As I mentioned early, I recently replaced my Vaio laptop with a new MacBook Pro last month.

I have always wanted a Mac, but have never purchased one for three reasons:
1) they are expensive (more than PCs)
2) I was afraid I wouldn't know how to use one once I got it
3) I was afraid editors wouldn't be able to open my documents or they'd come across scrambled.

I finally decided that I was so sick of replacing my laptops every 3-4 years and after talking to various Mac users and visiting our local Mac Store to suck it up and buy a Mac. I chose the MacBook Pro which starts at $1600. Yowza. To me, that's a lot. I know years ago, this was about the normal price for laptops, but now they are under $1000, so in my mind, this felt expensive and well, to me it was expensive, especially when I added on MS Word ($150) and MobileMe ($60).

But as my husband put it, "This is your business. This is your life. Your writing revolves around your laptop, it's not an area where you should be cheap." So, I bought a Mac.

Now, don't get me wrong, I've been a fan of Microsoft as they are a local company in my eyes. Bill Gates went to the school my mum used to jog to each morning. Paul Allen has done a lot for Seattle as far as the arts. So I'm definitely not anti-Microsoft. In 1988, I found an article about Bill Gates in our family Bible my dad had cut out. My dad was into technology and so I grew up not seeing technology as bad, but the future. I know Jeannine's family also were one of the first to have a computer, a Tandy, I believe. Us too.

My father always told me that if I wanted a good high paying job, to get into computers and the tech field. My response, "I like writing stories and poems." So I don't want this post to be anti-Microsoft, because it's not. They keep a lot of my friends employed and I appreciate that. They also donate to the literary journal I edit and in fact, are the ONLY corporation that donates to it. And I think the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is doing some terrific work in the world. So full disclosure: I do not believe Microsoft is the devil (like a few old-time Mac users I know), but I have been having some issues and complaints with my PC over the years and decided to try something new.

When I purchased my Mac, it took me about one full day to "get it" and feel comfortable on it. There are some things that take a PC use by surprise- like there is no right/left click buttons on the actual laptop, only if you buy a mouse that has it. I'm embarrassed to say my husband and I couldn't figure out how to click on things at first and I was doing a lot of moving through pages by the Tab button. Let's just say, we just weren't pressing the pad correctly, total user error.

Once I got out of old habits, the Mac has been a breeze to use. I watched a few "how to" videos on the Mac website, the best being the one for PC users switching to Macs. And I have been honestly impressed with everything it comes with and not having to worry about viruses.

So here's my quick list of Pros and Cons with moving to a Mac--


Much faster than a PC (though it is new, but it doesn't take forever to load Windows)

Dragging what you need to where you need it- love that.

Finder- if ever I'm lost or need something, I just pull this feature up

Photos, iMovie, Photobooth - all came with the Mac and are easy to use and no "you get to use this for 30 days then you have pay" features like on the Vaio

MS Word on the Mac is better (graphically, for sure!) than on my old Vaio

It doesn't come with all the garbage programs that were always loaded on my PCs. Or with things you only got to use for 30 days, but then you had to pay for it. This is a huge pro for me because as you know from my previous posts, I dislike clutter.

The Calendar syncs with my Google calendar and that right there, is awesome.

Downloads are easier and if you download a photo or image, it's much easier to find

Being able to find documents by "today, yesterday, or last week" is a great feature! Especially for writers who can never remember what they are working on.

Durable! - You might remember, one the third day I had this it slid off my bed onto the hardwood floors and it was absolutely fine.

It's smarter than I am - when I was at Hedgebrook they had a printer set up wirelessly and my Mac found the network and printer & was able to print my poems when I had only had the computer a week and had not much of an idea of what I was doing.

Not having to worry about viruses. Love that.

So far, seems to be able to do more than PC was ever able to do. And everything about it slick, in that positive way. Beautiful screen and graphics (and I didn't get the no-glare screen and I'm glad).


Does not have an "Insert Key" on the keyboard (I'm sure there's way to do this, but I haven't yet figured it out. I have use the command/delete key, but I haven't been able to figure out how if your cursor is in front of a word, how to make that word to the right of it delete (back up to the cursor) if that makes sense.

Finding Documents- While I love being able to pull up documents by Today, Yesterday, etc. I haven't quite figured out documents as it feels very messy to me (some are in black, some are grayed out). On my Vaio, I could pull documents by only Word documents and by date so I can see everything I added to my folder "New Work." I understand how to sort by date, but it just sometimes feels I'm missing something, but this is probably more of a user error than the Mac as I'm still learning. I should probably watch a video on this.

The metal laptop is cold.-- While I love that I was able to drop my laptop off my bed (though I do not recommend this), my laptop is made of metal and is cold and sharp on my arms. I keep a pair of fingerless gloves to type in until my laptop warms up in the morning. I must be sensitive, but the edge is sharp on my arms and it's too cold for me when I begin.

Doesn't always remember my passwords online-- While it does remember some and there is this feature called "Keychain" it doesn't always show up for me. For example, it remembers my Gmail acct but not my eBay acct. I tried to add both this morning to it, but no luck. Again, this could be user error.

In Mail, I can't go down my address book and add people like I could do in Outlook, I just have to type part of their names, which is fine except when I'm sending out something I don't know who to add I like to go down my contact list to see who I might want to send some info too. Because this seems like such a simple thing, I'm wondering if maybe it can do this, but I haven't figured it out yet.

Things I need to learn about:

Stacks: I don't get what these are for
Keychain: I'm definitely not getting my full function of this.
Documents: the best way to organize my work
iPhoto: if there's a way to cut and paste another image and add it to a photo (like I really wanted a Santa hat on that Whitman photo a few days ago, but couldn't figure out how to do it), or if I need to purchase Photoshop or something like that to have more control.
Email: how to pull up my address book and add names from that list


If any of you Mac users want to offer up any tips or feedback for me, I am listening!

But mostly, if you are a writer and haven't switched to a Mac because you were worried that editors wouldn't be able to open your work, read your work, etc. You can totally make the switch without a worry. Just get the MS Word for the Mac and you are set. I haven't had any issues in sending out my manuscript, poems, etc.

In the end, I think I have found a laptop that fits my needs more than my old PCs (I was a Microsoft gal since 1993 or '94). I'm not planning on going back. I had a very bad time with Vista and that stupid DocX (which MS Word still has, seriously, what was the point of this, so people can't read your documents?)

Anyway, so far I think my Mac was completely worth the money and the day it took to move my files over (which was ridiculously easy and took less time than moving it from PC to PC!) and learning the basic flow of things. I'm glad I made the switch and like most people who have moved to a Mac, my only wish is that I had done it earlier.

* * *


  1. thanks so much for the summary on this because I've been wanting to make the switch especially after my current HP laptop basically crapping out on me in so many ways just one month past warranty... the next time I replace I am going this rte too :)

  2. Even if you don't purchase Word for Mac, the word processing application that comes on Macs (Pages) can turn your document into an editor-friendly .doc, .rtf. or .pdf file in literally seconds.

    And, as for the cold thing, you can buy a rubberized hard case from Speck online (cheaper than the Apple ones) in colors like purple and pink and red - it feels soft and warm to the touch unlike the aluminum cover!

  3. J-- it's been a good switch for me. I recommend it.

    D--Thanks for that! I just ordered a case.

  4. Good move! I love love love my iMac. Have been using Macs for years. All the issues you've listed under Cons seem very minor. When you figure out the solution to each, the Con will become a Pro. I know there is a way to Insert as I figured that out for my daughter. I don't care about that feature so have forgotten it. But I know I just put "Insert" into the Help window and the answer popped up. The help menu is amazing as is tech support. I especially live the call service. Someone calls you and walks you through the fix. Enjoy your great investment.

  5. Stacks are things that live in your dock, for example I have one for iWork (the Mac answer to Microsoft Office basically) and I click on it to get a little list that curves slightly to the right which has Keynote, Numbers and Pages in it, this is the 'Fan' style. You can also have 'Grid View' which shows the 'Stack' as a folder on the dock then shows everything in a table format or just neatly organized thumbnails. And finally there's the list which shows things as, well, a list. Just drag and drop a folder such as your documents folder out of Finder to the dock and play with it - and don't worry, you're not moving it!

    Keychain: This is your password and username storage. It works with all the built in Mac applications and so if you have your email info saved via Mail you can also use it in Safari. I haven't had any problems with it saving account information, but it could be that the ebay page wont let it save the information to help prevent someone accessing your account - safety measures. If it really bugs you then Firefox is an excellent browser and will save it - at least with the LastPass addon (which also backs up your passwords and you can set it to ask for 1 master password when you open your browser before all your other passwords work).

    With your iPhoto problem I think you need an external program to do what you wanted to do. I use Photoshop CS4 personally, but for your average user it's very expensive! I got it with student discount thankfully, but you could try Skitch which is free. I've not tried it but it was recommended by Make Use Of several times so it should be quite good.

    Email is the easiest one of the lot. Simple go to Mail, open a New Message and click on the Address book image above the to field! If it's not there then right click in the menu bar near send (it should be the one with the paper plane picture), go to 'Customize Toolbar...' and drag the Address icon out onto the menu.
    When you have the menu open simply select the Contact(s) you want (Cmd+Click to select more than one) and then click on the 'To:' 'CC:' or 'BCC:' buttons to add them to the relevant field.

    In Documents the best way of organising your work is by folder. Under your Username (which should be in the side of the finder window) there are folders for 'Pictures' 'Movies' etc, it can seem rather less intuitive for Windows Users so I suggest you right click on these folders, click on 'Create an Alias' and drag these to your 'Documents' folder for ease of access. You can also create folders within documents - you could create one for each project you're working on or however you want to organize it.

    If you're trying to open a file in a certain program and the text (such as the name) is grayed out then you're in the wrong program. If it's just the background is grey then you're either in List view or Coverflow view which highlights every other row to make it easier to read across.

    Quick tip for you: When browsing documents and you don't want to open Word or whatever to open it and see what it is, press space, it'll preview the image for you and if it's a multi-page document even let you scroll through the page without opening the program :)

    Hope this helps you and you actually get to read it as this post was back in January!

  6. Forward delete: hold down the function key (bottom left of the keyboard) while you press delete.

  7. I hope you've posted each time that machine crashes while sending email. I had three macs and each one was worse than the one previous.

  8. Yikes, I've ever had it crash while sending email--though I use Gmail.

    I'm guessing yours was the mail app. I used that in the beginning,and occasionally it will come up if I click on an email link. My only issue with that is it keeps forgetting the password, but I think this is more user error than a Mac thing.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.


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