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Monday, April 18, 2005

Sure the Mac is Fun to Use, but Can I Actually Get Anything Done On It?

You went ahead and bought that iPod for your daughter's birthday. You borrowed it while she was at school and got yourself addicted, so you went out and got one for yourself. Now you're wondering, if the iPod is so well designed, is it time to look at a Mac? Apple's latest Operation System - Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger - is out and the best version yet. Apple profits are soaring with a second quarter net profit of $290 million. Apple recently did a 2 for 1 stock split and the Macintosh's market share is growing. Considering how well things are going for Apple, they must be doing something right.

Before you run out and get that iMac G5, you're going to want to know a few things about compatibility.

"Will I be able to open all my documents and pictures?" you ask no one in particular. "What about email with attachments? Will I be able to open them?"

The truth is, you can open just about anything anyone will ever send your way, and every file on your old PC, including your pictures and the letter written to grandma by your daughter when she was only 4 years old.

Microsoft makes a version of Office for Mac, that some consider superior to the PC version. MS Office 2004 for Mac offers full cross platform compatibility for all your Word, Excel, and even PowerPoint presentations. There is even a version of Entourage, Microsoft's email and calendar client.

There are also a number of alternatives:

Mariner Software makes one of my personal favorites - Mariner Write is a lightweight, yet powerful word processor. Write can open, edit, and save as any Word document, as well as other formats.

Mariner also makes a good replacement for Microsoft Excel - Mariner Calc, a great little spreadsheet application, able to open, edit and save as Excel formats. Both Mariner products use a lot less system resources than their Microsoft counterparts, which means they will run faster, especially on older machines.

Apple has been in the office application game too, with it's capable, but aging Appleworks - a suite of applications with a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a painting and drawing application. Appleworks will work with your Microsoft documents as well.

Apple recently released iWork, a bundle of two productivity applications that work the way you have come to expect Apple products to work - simply and beautifully. Pages is a word processor with style, and Keynote is simply the best presentation application in existence (I'll admit, I am most certainly biased, but it really is good). Both applications are very worthy replacements for Microsoft's Word and PowerPoint, respectively.

For your family photos, Apple's iPhoto - part of the iLife suite, does a great job of both managing your pictures and making it easy to import them directly from your digital camera. The rest of the iLife suite is worth checking out as well, for digital movie editing - iMovie, music library management, and purchasing - iTunes, composition - GarageBand, and DVD creation- iDVD.

Would I recommend a Mac for a life long PC User? Most certainly, after having used both platforms for many years, I realized that the main difference between the two was that PC's make you fight your computer to get anything done. Simply put Macs are a pleasure to use; they get out of the way and let you get your work done. One of the things that Apple care the most about is good design, they pay attention to how people use their systems and design the OS accordingly. One of the hardest things for almost every switcher to get used to was how easy things were, so easy, it was sometimes difficult. PC simply aren't used to things being designed well; they assume that anything they want to get done will be a time consuming task and contrary to common sense.

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