Strongly considering taking the leap

Hello everyone. I'll start off by saying this is my first post here. To quickly introduce myself I am in my late 20's Am completely blind except for a very small amount of light perseption, have used computers and other forms of technology for the majority of my life, and I am a rather adept computer user. I currently use windows with jaws as my screen reader. I also have an iPhone which I constantly use and love.

Unless I decide to switch Opperating systems I am about to have to pay the blind tax again. Yes that wonderful price of upgrading Jaws, Openbook, etc. I have been reading a lot about the Mac and voiceover and am strongly considering in investing in one.

I do however have a few questions. I had no problem addapting to voiceover on the iPhone 2 years ago after using windows mobile phones with third party screen readers for several years. I realize this question is jenerick but in the experience of those of you who have switched will I have any more trouble switching to a Mac from windows? I have played with one in a store a couple of times but it is hard to get a good feel for it in that lowd hectic environment. For those of you who have switched to a Mac from a PC is there anything that you miss or can't live without that isn't included? I have read the voiceover manual and it seems rather simple yet it seems to be very thorough.

Thank you in advance for your responses.

Forum: 

comments on Macs, plus NVDA?

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Hello,
I have a mac with Windows installed, so I can switch between the two systems. You have probably heard about all the wonders of the mac (said with some sarcasm), so here are the problems I have found. Please note, though, that some or all of these may be fixed by the upcoming Mountain Lion update, due out this summer if rumors are to be believed.

1. Productivity: the mac can't touch Windows for advanced wordprocessing or spreadsheet work. While I have not personally tried Pages or Numbers, I have heard that they are useable, but not easily, and some things are just not possible. This is compared to Office/Excel on Windows.
2. Games: plenty of audio games exist for the Windows community, but none are available for the mac. The RS Games client can be installed, but that is not a true audio game.

3. Web browsing: Safari in the mac is a slow and painful process. While some report better luck with Google Chrome, combined with the Chromevox extension, I have not personally tried this. That said, work is underway to bring an accessible version of Firefox to the mac, though no one knows how long that will take to complete.

4. Get a monitor! If you go with a Mini (as opposed to a laptop, iMac, or anything with a screen built in), make sure to get a monitor as well. For some reason, the mac, and in particular vo, will become unresponsive or sluggish if used with no screen at all. this was a shock for me, as I never bothered with a monitor and have still not found one that is cheap enough for me to buy. Since I have no monitor, I cannot say that vo is slower or less responsive than windows, as no monitor will cause these very problems.

My question to you is: why not use NVDA (http:/www.nvda-project.org)? It is a good screen reader and handles everything I throw at it quite well, plus it is updated frequently. The best part is the pricetag: there isn't one. NVDA is funded by donations, and is completely free to download. Buy a $30 or $40 sapi voice (unless you can get used to eSpeak, which I was able to do in a month or so) and you have a great screen reader with a voice you can even use for self-voicing programs to replace the built-in windows voice. Don't misunderstand: NVDA comes with eSpeak, a free and open-source voice, but if you hate it (as many do) you can just buy your favorite voice to replace it. No, you cannot buy Eloquence, but I find Ivona Salli to be one of the best voices ever created (except Alex on the mac, which I wish I could get as a sapi voice).

Let me know if you have questions about anything, and good luck with your decision.

switching from Windows to Mac

well, I'm a Window-Eyes user since the start of Windows and I use Window-Eyes and NVDA as my screen reader. A while ago, when my laptop at work would have to be replaced I tested a macBook for 3 months. Long story short, I decided to give the macBook back and went with a new Windows laptop. Reason for that were the following:
1) although I listened to many great podcasts about voiceover for a mac, I was not able to become familiar with voiceover on the mac, as I am with screen readers on Windows, and I spent lots of hours to become faster with voiceover
2) the MS Office suite for Mac is not really accessible with voiceover and I need that to do my work in the office
3) for all other programs, we use in the office, I would have to install VMWare on the mac to run a Windows image with this programs. This means, that I still need my old screen readers installed and maintained in the Virtual machine

One last comment, I'm a iPhone user as well and learned that voiceover under IOS is working perfectly, but on a mac it is something completely different and I am sure that I am much faster under Windows with Window-Eyes as I could be with voiceover on a mac.

Hope this helps,
Ralf

I've been using a Mac for

I've been using a Mac for just about two years and seven months now. I know that a lot of people have many misconceptions and myths regarding OS X and its ease of use, and some people are opposed to that statement and say it is "made for idiots" though this is only meant as encouragement.. I'll be happy to outline a few things that annoy me about the operating system, and others that make me love it.

Firstly, let's start off with the items that actually make me want to use it as my primary operating system and the things that impress me.

VoiceOVer isn't just an add-on to the operating system, but an integral part of it. It's built in from scratch, enabling visually impaired users to make use of their Macs as soon as they unbox the beast. You probably figured that, though, when you tried it at the store, though I do agree that it's hard to get a proper feel for a product in such an environment. This is similar with iOS 5, where you can triple-click the home button and VoiceOver turns on. Of course, WIndows 8 is apparently addressing this issue with the redesigned Narrator, though Narrator isn't meant to replace current screen reader technologies beyond Metro apps.

Interaction is an essential part to VoiceOver and you'll need to master it at some point. When and where you have to interact eventually becomes second nature to you, and I hope it'll make your work more efficient. At least, in my case, being able to skip certain parts of the screen without having to tab passed them makes me a lot more productive, even with shortcut keys. I've been using Windows and JAWS for most of my life, though I took to interaction surprisingly well. For some it's hard to catch onto, but not for everyone. It's like that with any practice. Interaction is really like looking closer at an item, and inspecting the smaller details such as those found within a toolbar. Take Safari on OS X, for instance. The toolbar at the top left of the window has the essential buttons like Back and Forward. So, to get to them, you interact with the toolbar by using VO-Shift-Down arrow. To hide them so you only see the toolbar, you just stop interacting by pressing VO-Shift-Up arrow. Of course, you can also invoke the Item Chooser (VO-I) which displays all items on the screen. You can narrow down this list by entering letters, like "for." Of course, depending on the amount of elements on the screen the Item Chooser may take a little while to load.

Another thing I love about Mac OS X is that it's incredibly stable. Of course, you can attribute that to the foundation it's built upon, and this applies to VoiceOver, too. Of course, you see the occasional crash, and some very strange ones at that.

VoiceOver also has a built-in tutorial which you can invoke at any time by hitting VO-Command-F8. When you set up your Mac, it also tells you how to invoke the tutorial. It teaches you how to complete basic tasks like setting the time, browsing the web and interacting with various elements like tables.

One thing that I can actually point a finger at is the infamous "Busy" message that VOiceOver is in love with. When OS X is working, a beach ball is spinning in the window as a visual effect. Unfortunately, VoiceOVer is designed to be busy as well when that happens, so you're unable to use the application which has focus at the time. You can still use the mouse and actually use the program in question, but VoiceOver is unable to. This is one thing that truly annoys me about OS X, though that's the only issue I'm having personally. If I had to really consider what annoys me about OS X, that'd be it. Otherwise, I'm productive. I was able to enter my Computer Science education without problems except for diagrams, and if one application we had to use such as BlueJ was inaccessible because of Java, I could use Eclipse which actually works pretty well.

I don't miss using Windows. I fire it up on occasion just to update it and play the occasional audiogame, but I use OS X as my primary system. Some people say that you can't write documents without using the inaccessible Microsoft Office, though that's far from correct. You have plenty of third party suites which do a very good job, and even Apple's own iWork bundled with Pages which is used for document creation, Keynote which is built for Power Point presentations and Numbers which is an Excel substitute. I will say that accessibility could be better particularly for Numbers, although if you can find a workaround, it's perfectly usable. And if none of those suites do what you need and if you've looked through every option within the application before giving up, you can always try something like Nisus Writer Pro or OpenOffice. OpenOffice has some issues though, but I believe they're being addressed. I tend to take most people who say something isn't possible on the Mac at face value, particularly if I haven't seen anything proving they're right yet, but it honestly depends on what you need to be able to do. There's a lot of choices.

Bottom line. If you have had no trouble adapting to VoiceOver on iOS, it's probably not going to cause you trouble on the Mac either. If you're generally good at adapting and taking to new concepts, you'll probably have this down in no time at all.

I hope this was helpful. I tried to cover at least the factors that made OS X become my primary operating system, and the thing that annoys me the most. I really don't have other issues that'd annoy me on the Mac, but I have more that make me want to use it. This isn't an article, however, but I still hope you found this useful as a good starting point. It's a worthwhile investment, I think, and it's a very versatile one. You don't have to stick to a particular method of navigation and you can use a number of methods to complete the same task. Of course, the myth that you have to drop everything you already know isn't one I'd go by. In general, many things are similar on WIndows and Mac OS X as you'll probably find out.

Again, good luck.

Just to clarify one

Just to clarify one thing.

The reason that the Mac Mini goes busy is because it constantly checks for a monitor. It shouldn't be that surprising, but annoying in the case of VoiceOver since that hinders performance because of the "busy" issue, and given how VoiceOVer retrieves information.

Some experimental audiogames do exist for OS X, but I do mean experimental and also abandoned, mostly.

As for advanced spreadsheet work, I already addressed Numbers, Pages and Keynote. Numbers definitely needs improvements, and I personally looked for better document creation tools which I did find, and are definitely competitors. I've never seen anyone fairly compare third party tools, but only the ones Apple provides. I suppose since Office is made by the same company that makes Windows, that comparison would make sense, though if it comes to third party tools it's inaccurate.

For me the issue is

For me the issue is simple...

There's nothing you can do on a Mac with VoiceOver easier or better than on Windows with a decent screen reader.

You may be able to do some things as easillly, but most things will be harder and slower and far less enjoyable.

There are many things you can't do at all, such as use Word, Excel and Power Point.

The third party office apps don't really match the professional level features of Office that JAWS and Window Eyes give access to.

So unless yu can afford the Apple Tax and don't really have any real work to do, stick with the thing you have invested all this time and effort into learning how to use at a high level. Properly looked after Windows 7 machines with the latest software don't really crash as much as Apple would have you believe and it's fairly easy to avoid getting viruses to.

I'm sure the pgrogrammers writing the latest upgrades to JAWS and OpenBook would love to be able to work for nothing, but I guess they have families to support and bills to pay like the rest of us.

Personally, I think NVDA is a fabulous screen reader and I expect fewer and fewewr people will have the need for the likes of JAWS and Window Eyes in the future.

Finally, I'm not sure hos close the experience of using VoiceOver on an iOS device is to using it on and OSX machine, not very close I think.

The iPhone and iPad are amazing products and the access is incredible, but this is a million miles from the experience of VoiceOver on a desktop or laptop machine.

I'm writing this on my iMac by the way - I rather like the experience of using the Net with it, except that Safari doesn't seem to render a number of the sites I use properly.

Good luck with whatever you choose.

The best thing of all is to be lucky enough to have a Windows machine for proper and a mac for play, which is what I have.