Advice on needing to heavily use the MS Office suite

macOS & Mac Apps

Hi To This Wonderful Community,
As a bit of background, I grew up heavily using JAWS and Windows in a work environment. About 8 years ago as the iPhone became fully accessible, I began using it and loved VO on the phone. I quickly purchased a Mac for personal use and to learn the Apple systems. I retired a couple of years ago and stopped using Windows and JAWS. For email, the web and other functions, the Mac is great and integration with my iPhone and iPad is extremely helpful.
Now, however, I've taken on new responsibilities and the organization I am working with uses only the Microsoft suite of products. I will have to edit documents, modify spreadsheets and work on PowerPoint presentations that will be shared with, and worked on by, others in the organization. I have found that translating back and forth between the Apple suite of productivity apps and the MS products is neither seamless nor perfect. Thus, I have tentatively concluded that I need to do this work in the Windows environment.
First, do folks agree with my conclusion or have you found the MS suite in OS to be easily useable and straightforward with VoiceOver?
Second, while my 2013 MacBook Air still works like a dream (which I find as one of the best Apple features - excellent quality), it won't support Windows 10 with BootCamp. I'm considering whether to just keep using this Mac for general purposes and buying a new Windows 10 machine or buying a new MadBook Air and using Windows through BootCamp. Any and all thoughts welcome.



Submitted by peter on Sunday, October 4, 2020

First let me say I have never used a Mac, but do really enjoy my iPhone.

From reading comments from users on both sides over the years and also my own experience with accessibility and using JAWS on Windows I would say however, that if your work depends on interacting with other people on a professional level using Windows with JAWS would certainly be the right choice.

Although some aplications might be perfectly "accessible" using Voiceover on the Mac, having a program be "accessible" is not enough in a professional environment. If you want to be on the same level as your colleagues the programs you use must not only be "accessible" (i.e., you can navigate to an read everything on the screen), but the aplication must be efficient and productive to use. Thus, rather than having to tab many times to find something on the screen, it is nice for a blind person to have hotkeys to get there quickly. Having your screen reader read appropriate text at the appropriate time without you having to guess what text came up and where it came up is essential. Also in order to be prpoductive you will usually want to customize how you use your aplication and how it gives you feedback. Again, although much can be done with Voiceover, the JAWS support in Windows is very customizable via numerous user settings and the JAWS scripts for the Office suite are geared toward user productivity.

In addition, as you pointed out, using the Office suite on another platform from your colleagues will present it own problems. sometimes the formatting might not be what you expect, the UI may not be the same as other users, etc. You want to make your setup fit into your work environment as seamlessly as possible since, in the end analysis, it is your work output and how you interact with others that will define how well you do at your job.

Anyway, that is just my two cents. I don't think that Voiceover has nearly the ability to be customized as does JAWS and Windows in order to make the user productive. You've apparently already seen some of the disconnect.

It will be interesting to see what other advice you get.


Submitted by Roxann Pollard on Monday, October 5, 2020

Although I have never owned a Mac computer, which also means I have never utilized Windows on the Mac, I would recommend that you upgrade yourself into a Windows based computer for using MS Office. This way you aren't having to modify anything. Windows will obviously be straight forward in working with Office. I have been a JAWS user for many years now and highly recommend the MS Office suite of programs. As another poster stated, JAWS is so customizeable that, it seems that whatever issue you may face, JAWS has a way to modify something so that your productivity doesn't suffer.

By the way, I just had to convert to the MS 365 online version of this platform. Although I went kicking and screaming, because of the loss of the hard copy CD installation option, I will tell you that I have had no issues in using this latest iteration of their program. I highly dislike the subscription model that they have now, but I guess that's the price I have to pay, if I'm going to continue to use what I feel is the best suite of programs available, whether blind or not.


Submitted by Karina Velazquez on Monday, October 5, 2020

This is the opinion from a less-than-a-year new user of macOs.

I haven't been able to manage daily tasks in office as I do in windows. for me the keyboard shortcuts for Word don't work at all, but maybe this is because my Mac is in Spanish.
Also when editing texts in Word, which by the way, is almost the only office app I use, reading through pages is inconsistent. For example VoiceOver doesn't read the last line of a page, and that makes me nervous.

I have to say that I feel more confortable with windows 10 via bootcamp and therefore I will suggest to change your MacBook Air to a new one, but this is the opinion of a woman that is still stick to Microsoft, although there are other tasks as navigating with safari, that I like more in the macOS environment.

good luck.

Submitted by ray h on Tuesday, October 6, 2020

thanks to all for your comments. They are very helpful.
I am wondering if any heavy Mac users who use the MS suite of products have any observations on their functionality compared to the Windows versions.

Hi. I've been slowly using Microsoft apps on my Apple devices. Last time I tried using them, I wasn't that impressed... however, since the updates that have been coming out, now everything is great. Currently, I'm using Outlook, Word, etc. I also use Windows as well. Both are great. :-)

Submitted by Jenna Pepper on Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Club AppleVis Member

I used the MS suite extensively during a semester of college. Word is okay. Outlook is okay. Excel is meh. It starts heading downhill from there. It's a nightmare. It's nice if you've got the touchbar because it gives you access to handy functions, but I haven't been able to figure out keystrokes otherwise. Give me MS Word on Windows, and I'll make it dance. Give it to me on Mac and well uh, the tab key and touchbar are going to get a lot of use. If you use tables in Word at all, don't even bother with the Mac version. Simply put, Office is better on Windows.

When it comes to Bootcamp, I had my share of issues on a 16 in MBP. Audio switching between speakers and jack was bugged, and the thing turned into a small jet engine with garbage battery life. Perhaps it's better on an iMac or Mac Mini, but at that point, you should just get a Windows machine and keep your Mac on hand for everything else. Give NVDA a try. It features a ton of keystroke overlap with JAWS and is totally free.

Submitted by Voracious P. Brain on Tuesday, October 6, 2020

I tracked developments with Mac MS Office from roughly 2013, when I bought my own MBA, through 2018 or 2019 on a hiddious butterfly-keyboard touchbar MBP, and it was never usable. For one thing, following the Mac Office accessibility instructions, there was still no way to label rows and columns in Excel spreadsheets. Microsoft blamed Apple, sayin to me that they don’t support Voiceover as third-party software, while Apple accessibility blamed Microsoft for not doing it the Apple way. Performance in Word was wildly inconsistent, and there’s just no way around the suckiness of each page being a container object, particularly when it comes to trying to read, edit, and delete comments. PowerPoint was utterly a miss, last I checked. But that was a while back. I became convinced that there’s no substitute for a third-party screen reader development team entirely dedicated to making the office suite work for blind people. Apple isn’t going to do it, and Microsoft isn’t going to do it on Mac. People keep saying Jaws, but I gave up Jaws quite a while ago in favor of NVDA as more reliable, even in office, though it has problems with comments.
I’m surprised your 2013 MBA has problems with Windows 10 in Bootcamp. I used it for years that way, so that would be something new. Mine was a Haswell-based MBA from mid-2013. A friend’s dog ate its power cord, so now it’s a paperweight. Since bootcamp seems like a non-starter with a touchbar, though, given Windows’ reliance on function keys, I’d do one of the new MBA’s with Bootcamp, while they’re still on Intel chips and have real function keys.
Keep in mind that I haven’t tried office on Mac in a couple of years. I just don’t have faith that, even if it worked fairly well today, the same would hold true tomorrow.

Submitted by Vsevolod Popov on Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Hello everyone,
After using my macbook air for 2 years I understand that I will purchase the windows machine.
It is great for working with MSOffice applications and the accessibility state is much more better in general.
While using word with mac I find it really difficult to navigate in large documents especially between it's pages.