Mac or Windows? Writing Tools That Make Me Stick With Mac
After almost twenty years of Dos and then Windows and years of work in the computer industry I switched to a Mac in 2006. No surprise then that people who know that I left "the dark side," as some Mac people put it, ask me whether a Mac is better than a PC. By that they usually mean whether Mac is better than Windows. I know, you can also run Linux on a PC, but for most people who ask the Mac-Windows question Linux is not part of the equation.
I usually answer that the point is really not which one is better, whatever that means. From a hardware perspective, if you buy a PC for the usually pretty hefty price you would pay a Mac, chances are that you will end up with a pretty good machine. On the other hand, if you compare a Mac with a cheap $500 PC, the Mac will definitely be better. Actually, to tell the truth, I have actually not been overly impressed by the quality of Mac stuff in the last couple of years. Since 2006 I have had a Mac Mini, a Mac Book, and a IMac. Both the Mini and the Imac had to be brought back for repairs within a couple of months. The MacBook lost a screw and had a chipped body within a year. So much for Apple’s reliability. Overall, I think Macs are way overrated. If I could run Mac OSX and Mac applications on a clone, I would do it.
But deciding between Mac and Windows is much more than choosing hardware (or the fact that there is less risk being harmed by viruses, spyware, etc., on the Mac). The real issue for me is your workflow needs. The point is, if all you do is e-mail, surf the web, Facebook, and use MS Office, you might as well get a PC. It will generally be cheaper than a Mac, even for a decent quality machine, and Windows 7 is actually not bad. Get a Mac only if you really prefer the Mac experience and can’t stand Windows (Windows 7 still feels like Windows).
But there is more to using a computer than Word, Excel, e-mail, and internet. What should make you decide whether to go for Mac or Windows (besides the price and whether you can choose your computer) should be the tools you need to do your work. My dentist, a mac guy, has a Windows laptop in his office. Not because he thinks Windows is better, but because he is using a software for his practice that has no Mac version. If you do research and writing, it all depends on the programs you need or want to use.
Besides being tired of Windows and all its problems, the main reason I switched to Mac in 2006 was not because it was more fun to work with a Mac (which I think it is) but because I really wanted to use the bible software Accordance and a couple of other programs. Furthermore I was tired of Word. There are more choices of decent word processors on Mac.
The ridiculous pricing policy (the new Mac mini and MacBook are outrageously expensive for what they offer, as are the new IPods of September 2010) and sometimes irksome marketing strategies of Apple make me sometimes consider switching back to a PC, but, given my workflow, that would be a very painful and labor intensive venture. You see, the reason I stick with Mac is my workflow and the tools I use. If I need to send files to someone else, most of the time I send a pdf version, and I almost never work collaboratively on a file. That’s why I can do without using Word. At this stage, my workflow includes several programs that simply have no reliable equivalent on Windows (see also this post). The main ones among these are:
- Accordance. I know BibleWorks and Logos are pretty good now, but I have invested too much time and money in Accordance to use something else. Besides, I still think that Accordance is better (though I might be wrong and the interface needs some updating).
- DevonThink Pro, the beast of information management softwares. Evernote is simply not in the same market. I use DevonThink all the time.
- Scrivener, a fabulous writing program. The first time I tried it, it really did not do it for me. A year later, I decided to give another try by starting from scratch a writing project I was working on. I got hooked. I now use Scrivener for most of my writing projects, articles, books I am working on, etc. I transfer from Scrivener to whatever software I need for final delivery (usually Word or rtf at least, or LaTeX if I can submit a pdf file). If you are on Windows, a version for Windows is coming out in early 2011.
- Textmate, my text editor for programming or writing in LaTeX. I know that I could use another text editor on Windows and that TextMate 2 seems more and more to be a distant illusion (or vaporware), even though I hope not. But I just like working with Textmate. I use it to write the two books I am working on after having transferred the first draft from Scrivener.
- Bookends, my bibliography manager. Endnote, the standard for many, is, in my opinion, terrible and their customer service is awful. It only survives because of its monopoly on Windows and the inertia of much of the academic world. Sente is pretty good too but I have not really used it much.
There you go, these are the main reasons I stick to a Mac (plus the fact that I just enjoy the Mac experience and that my kids won’t let me switch back to Windows). Except maybe for Textmate, none of these programs have a real equivalent in Windows, all are terrific. I use them every day. Since I keep my computer usually at least four years if possible, I do not mind paying a bit more than I would be paying for a PC of comparable quality to be able to work efficiently and in a pleasant manner. Spread over several years, that’s not too much money a year extra for what I get from using all these programs.
So the point is not whether Mac is better than Windows, but what your work needs are. But this implies that you know what programs are out there besides MSOffice and that you identify your needs and have a look at your workflow.