To Mac or Not To Mac?

To Mac or Not To Mac? That is the question for many of us visually impaired computer users.
 
Having been a long time member of the AppleVis community and a long time commentor, I was very excited when the AppleVis Editorial Team was looking to bring on some new members. Being someone who lost his last remaining vision in 2009, and never having used a screen reader, but in desperate need of one, I was at a cross road. 
 
Prior to losing my last remaining vision,  I had  used ZoomText on the PC. Along with losing my vision, my computer was getting in to that ancient phase. I had to make the decision many of us visually impaired computer users have to, to Mac or not to Mac.
 
I did a lot of due diligence and investigated the pros and cons with both the Mac and PC operating systems. While things have certainly changed these days, one of the most annoying things to me was how ZoomText slowed my computer to a crawl. I really wanted in my next computer a screen reader that was built into the operating system.
 
Additionally, 2009 marked the year I switched from a Blackberry over to the iPhone 3GS as I went to a seminar at the Lighthouse in New York City where a rep from Apple demonstrated the iPhone 3GS and how VoiceOver worked. To say the least, I came away very impressed with Apple and the iPhone, and ran out to get the iPhone 3GS. So when it came time for me to get a new computer I was quite interested in VoiceOver on the Mac. At the time, VoiceOver wasn’t very widely talked about. After pricing things out, and taking in to consideration how much JAWS would cost on top of buying a new PC, I was surprised to learn that an iMac would be cheaper. I made the plunge.
 
I got home and was blown away at the ease of unboxing the iMac and just having to plug one plug in. Previously most of my computers had been through Dell and Compaq, where your computer would arrive in a few boxes with all kinds of peripherals you had to hook up. Of course this was five years ago, so I am sure things have changed on the PC side of things since than. 
 
I got my iMac up and running, and was ready to dive in. After a few minutes I was completely lost and frustrated. I had heard that using a Mac was easy. Having never used a Mac and not knowing any keyboard shortcuts, I was ready to throw the iMac out the window, which wasn’t an option as I needed the computer.  I still had my old PC hooked up and began using it to research the web and how in the world to use a Mac. To say I was lost was an understatement. Fortunately for me, I came across a guy who I had never heard of, and we all know quite well now, David Woodbridge. I discovered his podcasts through the Vision Australia website and how to get started using a Mac. I dove in to his instructional lessons as if they were religious scriptures. I then connected with a fellow blind techie in NYC who was also teaching himself to use the Mac, and the two of us started bouncing ideas off each other and figuring out workarounds on the Mac. It was at this time that I discovered the AppleVis website, which back in 2010 was solely focused on the iPhone and had some reviews of apps and how they worked with VoiceOver.
 
Like anything in life, you get out of it what you put in to it. I spent the next three months using the iMac every waking hour. I had to teach myself all of the keyboard shortcuts. The pro was I never had used keyboard shortcuts or JAWS on the PC side, so I didn’t have to replace any PC keystrokes in my muscle memory with new ones, I just had to learn the Mac keyboard shortcuts from the beginning. 
 
Flash forward to 2013. I am very proficient on the Mac, and love it. Did it take time? Sure. Was there a lot of frustration? Definitely. Do I consider making the jump to the Mac a good move? You betcha. Am I an expert on the Mac? Definitely not, and I still do rely on my network of blind Mac users anytime I have a problem. Thankfully, in 2013 there are several email lists, Twitter contacts, and of course the AppleVis website for us to get answers about all things Mac, iPhone, and VoiceOver. Apple even has a dedicated phone line for VoiceOver users, and yes for those of you who don’t have it, it is 877-204-3930.
 
So what do I hope to bring to the AppleVis Editorial Team? I hope to contribute helpful blogs on both the iPhone and Mac computers, and be yet another voice that people in the blind community can rely on.
 
And for those of you wondering, no I have not upgraded to Mavericks. I am pretty happy on Mountain Lion, and learned a long time ago if it ain't broke don’t fix it. I do plan to upgrade to Mavericks eventually, but not until I hear about less bugs while using VoiceOver. If you are asking yourself if you should upgrade to Mavericks, you need to ask yourself, what is most important to you, and can you live with the individual bugs. It all comes down to personal preference, and it is great that we can all make the decision when to upgrade.

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17 Comments

#1 Welcome to the editorial team.

Hi. I wanted to outline my own experience with the Mac. I'd had a dell laptop that wasn't right from day 1 and eventually just quit. Why would i put more money into fixing it then just get a new computer? So i used others' and looked at windows pcs but nothing gave me the oo go get this, vibe. I mean one had the hard drive space, the other had the bluetooth built in, the third had the small size i wanted. Sure i could have gotten everything at once but that meant more money. And i hear you on Jaws too. So after having an iPhone since the 3GS I just took the plunge and dove into the mac. I will say that the voice over tutorial is a good one, but like you I still don't know everything. Welcome to the editorial team, and here's hoping to keep reading such well thought out posts. Maybe i'll join you on there someday. smile. Siobhan P.s. It really shows my character if I can spell editorial and not such without correcting it. Haha.

#2 Well-thought out post

I liked this post a lot! I think you definitely made the right choice because you researched it, and thought things out instead of being one of these people who just does it because everyone else is doing it. I'm certainly happy with windows and have no reason to switch, but the good thing is if I ever actually get enough cash to buy a Mac, I know I have lots of people who can help.

#3 You Have To Use What Works For You

That's great that the PC works for you, and more importantly it's great that the blind community has so many options these days. I am one of the fortunate ones as I lost my remaining vision at a time where accessibility is a hot button topic and being built in to computers these days. Chevonne, thanks for sharing your story also. IT seems like we think alike. Best, Brian

#4 to mac or not to mac

I have used a mac exclusively for about 3 years now. I used a PC before that, all the way from windows 95 onwards. I do love the mac, but, yes, having a Pc did make certain tasks easier done. Ah well, At least Pages is now mostly accessible with VoiceOver, which is excellent news. Now, if we could just get more audio games over to the mac side :) lol!

#5 Spelling my name right. smile

Hi. Ok I'll use the :) because i'm not offendd. Myname is difficult, but oh man you killed it. :P it's s i o b h a n Thanks for trying. :)

#6 To Mac or not to Mac

Hello, I have been a windows/Jaws user for the last 17 years and I'm thinking about making the switch. I currently have a desktop and I believe its going to be soon time to get a new computer. I want to go to a laptop and I'm thinking about making the big switch to Apple. I just can't seem to break away from that comfort zone of using Windows and Jaws. I have a couple of question that I'm hoping some one can help with. First, you mentioned that Mavericks has some voiceover bugs and that you would not upgrade right now. With this in mind, would be prudent to wait to buy a new laptop? Also, The two biggest things I'm using my pc for now is, scanning mail and I use Quicken for home finance.I've done a little reading concerning scanning software, but does this work well on the Mac? Is there a Quicken equivalent or better for Apple? One last thing for now. What about Microsoft Office? I read recently, can't remember where, that there are problems with voiceover and Office for Mac. Any light you can shed on these topics would be greatly appreciated. Matt

#7 reply to Matt's post

Matt I, like you, wanted to use a Mac, but still needed to do some things on Windows. Office for Mac doesn't work with Voiceover, and while Pages has reportedly improved, I doubt that it would be capable of doing the heavy formatting that Word can do. Not sure about a Mac equivalent of Quicken. What I did was bought a mac, but I also run Windows on it. You can use a program called VMware Fusion to run windows on the Mac, or you can run it through bootcamp. Plenty of advice on here for either approach. That way you can have the mac benefits, and still use windows. VMware is stable, and I use it with jaws all the time. Note you may need to do some key mapping, but there is a podcast on here that will help with that. Hope this helps cam

#8 new mac user myself

Hello there, I am a new mac user having bought my first about two weeks ago and so far I love it. It is running Mavericks and so far so good. Naturally I have not used any older versions of OS x so if there are bugs, I probably wouldn't know unless they drastically affected my computer useage. However, I am a programmer. I am currently finishing up my degree in computer science so I need to be someone reliant on windows but for my recreational use, I will be exclusively on my mac aside from gaming. I am not one of those individuals who upon switching over the mac proclaim it to be a much better machine than windows, nor am I accusing anyone else here of being one either. I strongly believe that having both is the way to go as they can each surve different purposes. For instance, I primarily use my windows machine for gaming, and for all my programming for school. I use my mac for skyping with friends, listening to music, and setting up and working with my I devices on iTunes for mac. In closing, I want to conclude by stating how much I love this website and all the plethora of information and resources it provides. It would be nice if there was a stronger focus on macs as there is currently on the IOS side, but what there are on the Mac side is still quite good and helpful.

#9 Well, i'm using windows for

Well, i'm using windows for more than 9 years, and i'm very fast on it. i'm afraid i'd be extremely slow if I want to do the switch over, and like cam said, there are cirtain things that you cannot do with OSX. However, being a musician, I believe that having a mac for a musician is a must. If I could afford it, I would buy a new mac and put it in my home studio, and use it as my main audio workstation. but sadly, they are very expensive and I can't afford to buy it. specially in iran, where inflation skyrocketed already to uphills.

#10 Hope This Helps

Hey Matt, Yes, upgrading to a new computer when you are blind you have a lot of decisions to make. If you do in deed switch to the mac I would suggest doing what I did and leave your PC connected, but use the Mac mostly, and only use the PC to Google things when you get stuck on the Mac. Yes, there is a learning curve and the only way to get over it is by using the Mac. Regarding my thoughts about Mavericks. I have read that OS 10.9.1 will be addressing a good amount of VoiceOver improvements, and I am waiting to upgrade to Mavericks once the update comes out and I have gotten a chance to go over the reviews and user feedback. It is very nice to see that Apple wants to address VoiceOver improvements in 10.1.9 and is still dedicated to making Voiceover as good as possible. I don't believe Quicken runs on the Mac, but I could be mistaken. Google it, as I don't use any financial software, as you would have to have money to do so. LOL. Microsoft Word does not work with VoiceOver, but I have become quite comfortable with PAges and Numbers, and you can save a Pages document as a Word document. I do not do any complex layouts but as far as reading any word docs and writing anything, Pages is great. As far as gaming goes, I am not a gamer, so can't help with that. As far as social networking, email, web browsing, audio playback, I love it all. There is a lot on the boards and AppleVis about Fusion which allows use to use your Mac as a PC and run windows, but since I don't have Jaws, and don't have any Windows specific programs anymore, I have not had the need or the money to spend to buy Fusion, Windows 7 or 8, and then have to get either Windows Eyes, JAWS or another screen reading program. For my I guess I am fortunate that I don't need to run anything on Windows as the expenses can pile up fairly quickly. Hope this helps.

#11 Matt, have you thought of giving NVDA a shot?

It's a free, open-source screen reader for Windows, and has come quite a long way. If you want to check it out, go to: www.nvda-project.org I've been using it exclusively since 2011, when I ditched JAWS. I've thought about getting a Mac, but always winced at the price. Thanks, Shersey

#12 mac

hi there, yeah, i have always found the price of a mac the part that puts me off the most. that's partly why i have gone with an iPad mini, and i have my bluetooth keyboard connected to it, so it's almost as good as having a mac. lol. there are a few problems with iOS 7 at the moment, but most things are miner. never the less, i may get a mac to run windows on in the future, but that's only if the prices keep coming down on them, and if i can be bothered being limited to two USB ports and all that. but i have to admit, the ipad is a close second to a mac. either way, a mac is a good machine, if you can aford it.

#13 I bought the Mabok pro.

Hi.
I bought a macbook pro about a year ago, unfortuanetly i was one of those that did it just "cause." Do I regret it? Hmm kind of. I'm used to windows and like the voices like eloquence and e speak. I'm not a big fan of the human sounding voices because, well for me at least, they lack inflection.
But on the other hand, I might end up using my mac side of the mac when I move out.
To see if there's any apps on cooking and things like that, for example.

Do I think the mac is bad? No way, do I think windows crashes a lot? Yeah, do I like windows still? yes. What about the mac, would I recommend it? I would if you are willing to put in the time to learn the shortcuts, unlike I did :)
Another thing, don't just get it because some people might say access is better on the mac, or because you here podcast's on it and want it, or because you can pay it off in stages. Get the mac because you want to, and you no you're going to use it.
I made all those mistakes above, so trust me, I know what I'm talking about.

Will I use windows more than my mac. probably. Will i find apps on cooking on the ap store for the mac? yeah maybe, will I enjoy both experiences? Yep.
So in closing, by a mac if you want to and have the money, do not by a mac if you think it's cool or the access is great. test it out if you can first, make sure you like the way the mac or windows if you're trying that, feels and make sure over all, that you will be happy with the machine.

Oh and just one more thing, 2 USB ports for me, isn't good. That's one downside I found with the macbook pro.

#14 Great Post

Hello everyone. This is a very nice post. After using an AppleIIE or 2, I was a PC user starting with JAWS for DOS back in the mid-90's. Then I moved to JAWS for Windows when that came out, and I have subsequently used all the screen readers except for Hal/Supernova. A few years ago for Christmas, my parents gave me a Dell laptop. I ran both NVDA and System Access to Go on it, with access to my SAMNet account via www.satogo.com . Although things worked okay for the most part on the laptop, it had to be sent back to Dell not once but twice. The first time was due to a corrupt hard drive, probably due to an overloaded system. When I received the laptop back, everything worked great up until a couple years ago when my hard drive failed again. To cut a long story short, that was the end of that laptop. So for awhile I only used my desktop PC, which still works okay but it seems to be on its last leg too. But when I was at my parents' house last year over Thanksgiving, they bounced the idea off me about getting a Mac. At the time I wasn't too keen on the idea, for various reasons. But all that changed when I accompanied my parents and a sister who is visually impaired to our local Apple store. This sister was also in the market for a Mac. Having never used Macs before, we weren't sure quite what to expect. Some other family members had used various current Apple products for a few years, but they're all fully sighted. Immediately upon entering the Apple store, we ran into someone who asked if we needed help. Thus began our journey into the Mac. The guys assisting us that day were great. They got VoiceOver going on a Mac Book Air, and briefly demonstrated various features. We ended up purchasing that very same Mac for myself. It wasn't long before this sister got a Mac Book Air as well. Due to circumstances which I won't go into on here, she hasn't had quite as much general computer experience as I have, but I've been helping her out. She has also been receiving help from some trainers at the Apple store and a life-skills tutor from an organization of which I'm a member. I'll only speak for myself here, but I am thrilled. VoiceOver is excellent and Mavericks seems very stable.

#15 Office 2016?

Office 2016 has Ben announced by Microsoft its very accessible with VoiceOver

#16 Very nice blog!

Hello. Thanks for writing this blog. it helped me a lot. I am planning to buy a mac, and I am 100%sure! I am using a mac computer in my college library, and I love it! again, Thanks for making ME definite.

#17 Not to mac

Give me my Windows 10 and jaws.