I want to buy a Mac, so which one and will it work ok for me as a current Windows user?

macOS & Mac Apps

Hello everyone,
I currently use an Aser Longtitude with Windows 10 and Jaws 16. I want to buy a new computer but which one? I am a Phd student and I work in a UK University, so need quite a sifticated piece of kit that can do quite a lot for me in terms of everyday software like Microsoft Office Professional, e-mail, internet browsing, music and other standard software applications but I also need to run SPSS and similar analysis software. I was looking at a new Windows lap top but I cannot get that much for the £700 I have to spend (that's about 1,000 dollars).
I was looking at something like an I5 2 Gb with 6 Gb of ram and a 250 Gb SSD. However, in terms of Windows the good ones are about £1,000 (1,350 dollars).
However, as a student in the UK, I can get the basic iMac (PRO) for a little under £800 and the iMac AIR for between £500 (750 dollars) and £800 (1,200 dollars). So:

1. Should I get some kind of Mac and can I use it as a blind person? I know that I can use Voice Over on the Mac but is it as good as Jaws?
2. Is standard software such as Microsoft Office Professional accessible for me using a Mac with Voice Over and what about other software applications?
3. Is it fairly easy for me to convert from Windows to Mac i.e are the key commands fairly similar?
4. For those blind people who use a Mac, would you ever go back to a Windows computer and do you love your Mac??
and lastly:
5. What should I get for the money I have? I'd go a little bit more for an iMac (PRO) if it really that much better than an Air.

Thank you,




Submitted by Justin on Saturday, October 24, 2015

This is an interesting topic. I've used a macBook for 5 or so years now. The MacBook pro is a great option for your money. I've got a mid 2012 15 inch non retina pro with 8GB ram, 500 GB SSD, came with 500 GB mechanical drive, but since died and replaced with SSD, and quad core I7 running at 2.3 GHZ. I personally would go with the pro. In terms of windows and jaws, the commands are not similar, most of them use the CTRL and option keys, plus arrows, etc. you can learn about the commands from here or in the VO help menu. Microsoft office is usable now, just make sure it is 2016. I believe the Mac side of screen reader is heaps better than windows, sure you'll have bugs and issues, but there's work arounds. I'll never go back to clunky old windows ever again. One thing to note about apple computers is, they just work. Everything works with each other in harmony, and if VO crashes, it just automatically restarts.

Submitted by Joseph Westhouse on Sunday, October 25, 2015

Actually, since the El Capitan upgrade, you can use Caps Lock as a VO modifier, just like you would in Jaws. That's not to say the commands are necessarily all that similar - often they are, but sometimes they aren't. But if you're a competent computer user, I doubt you'll have any trouble making the change. Personally, I was a long-time Windows user, and I don't think I ever see myself going back to a PC for my day-to-day use, but it's a strong matter of personal preference. And there are still some tasks that I prefer to do on the PC. So...I guess that's not enormously helpful. All I can say is, as a whole, I am extremely happy since switching to Mac, and would heartily endorse it.

Submitted by Serena on Sunday, October 25, 2015

erm, i must disagree. the idea that macs, *just work* is not true. i've got a macbook pro 2011 model here, that i've been playing with. and to be honest, os x is ok, but it, does not, *just work.* yes, it's ok. but if you intend on doing much in the way of web browsing, forget it if you're used to how it works on windows. sure, it has it's good points. installing the system on your own is for the most part easy and accessible, though it sometimes decides not to talk for a while, leaving you wondering if something has gone wrong. yes, i think the newest office, 2016 on the mac, is accessible, but i can't be sure. i don't use office myself, so have no need to get it and try it.
now, as for a point of contention. windows, being, clunky? uh, no. not even. windows on this $1000 aud machine is as fast, if not faster then os x is on a comparable priced mac. sure, it doesn't have voiceover. but that's not much of a downfall really. not these days. you do have more custom controll over things easier to get at in windows then a mac. on the other hand, i like the way that apps work on the mac. don't want an app any more? delete it. don't want an app any more on windows? ... remove the app, then go through and remove all of it's files it refused to get rid of, and in some cases, go into the registry and whipe out stuff in there too. lol. that is, of course, unless you use portable windows apps. but generally speaking, if you are used to windows, used to your jaws or NVDA, or what ever, and don't want to have to learn a new way of working with a computer, stick to your windows. there's no reason, of course, that you can't buy a mac, and put windows on it. ... *other then the fact that bootcamp drivers tend to be rubbish.* lol.
the advantage the mac has had up to now, is that it's SSDs for a couple years have been pcie based, not sata. which gives a much higher speed. but now, the microsoft surface pro 4 and surface book have this as well. so perhaps look at the price of grabbing a pro 4?
as well, the base model of the pro 4, is a core m 3. which means it's fanless. so if quiet operation is of interest, that's a point to that. though it may not have the performance of the core i5 version, i can't be sure, not tested the core m CPU's yet.
as well, what are we talking here. desktop? or laptop.
and by the way, do, *not* go for the base model of the imac. it's a bloody 5400 rpm hdd. ugh. apple, really? seriously? in this day and age? a 5400 rpm hard drive? omg. rofl. or for that matter, any, hard drive at all. no matter what speed. come on apple, ssds aren't that expensive any more. they aren't a premium much now.
so you might as well basically look at the second model up from bottom, IE about another 1 to 200 quid for your ssd.

so, after you add that, you're already pushing the 900 to 1000 pound mark i'd say. let alone buying office for it, unless you have a 365 subscription or something, not sure how that all works on the mac.

as for one of the other questions you posed, those of us who have macs, would we go back. erm, yes. i'm writing this on a toshiba windows computer that is just way faster then the core i7 in the macbook pro i got given by a friend. mac's, as well, tend towards only providing dual core, not quad core, core i7 CPUs, to make matters worse.
sure, you can get a quad i think, maybe, but it's gunna cost you.

so over all, pound for pound, if you want to keep the costs to a min, stick with windows.
i have a mac, as i said, and i've been playing around with it. going to test putting windows 10 on it at some point, just to see how it runs. and i might get an SSD for it one day, to pump up it's speed. but i don't think i'll ever switch to it fully. hell. even my iPad mini 2 retina gets more use then the mac does. lol. and yes, office is accessible on the iPad. so an iPad is a possible choice, if you wanted to go that way. though that's not windows, so you may not want to.

Submitted by Ekaj on Sunday, October 25, 2015

Hello. It's true that Macs are more expensive, but all the accessibility features are baked right into the computer. This includes VoiceOver. I got my Mac as a Christmas present from my parents in 2013. I was very skeptical too, coming from a strictly Windows and DOS background. But I was pleasantly surprised. VoiceOver is very good. It does take some getting used to, but after awhile I'd say you'll really like it. I just upgraded to El Capitan last night into this morning, and it has some very welcome additions and changes. For instance, there is now a setting which controls the type of interaction. While I have not yet played around with the setting, I think it will be handy for those who for whatever reason don't particularly like VoiceOver's interaction model as is.

Submitted by Khafsa2015 on Sunday, October 25, 2015

Yes, macs are good, I have one for personal use, but I would not use it in an educational or work capacity. I really struggle to format documents using Mac word processors, reading PDF documents is a nightmare, esp if you need to locate specific text and there is no guarantee that the Mac's software will be compatible with your uni's portal.
Looking back at my uni days, spss was not compatible with Windows based screen readers, although that may have changed now.
Personally, I felt that the learning curve was huge, and I defo would have struggled juggling learning a new system and meeting the demands of a course.
Am not for one second saying that macs are not good, I love my lil mba, just not sure i would use it in a profressional setting. Obviously some people started with the Mac, so don't know any different, but a switch from a windows based operating system to a Mac is a huge gamble in a pressured situation.

Submitted by Serena on Sunday, October 25, 2015

hi jake. yes, it's built in. that's actually a 2 edged sword. it's good that it is, because it's there in nearly everything you do. but, as a side effect, it never gets updated, unless the entire! OS is updated. so that means that if a major website that you use changes how it does things, for example, and your voiceover breaks and can't work with it, ... guess what? ... too bad. deal with it, as far as apple is concerned, till the next update. and that's, if you're really, really lucky. some bugs have been in voiceover for years and years. lol.
where as with a windows screen reader, lets say, in my case, NVDA, I'm actually running next snapshots. which are the bleeding edge code. and strangely, saying that it's bleeding edge code, means little in this case. it's not super buggy or crashy, which is good. cause I am basically running the code that was applied to the screen reader, ... yesterday!
so when / if google, of facebook, or some basic form of access to a page changes, they can spread out an update that you can have in your hands that night.
ok, that's an extreme thing. but I've had loads of situations where that has made a massive difference. for example. when skype's access for things was changed, and it broke accessibility hard, NVDA had a working fix for it within a week at most.

sure. macs are good. I find it's best for basic stuff like emails perhaps, twitter, maybe a bit of light text writing in the very unusual chance I might need to do some, or skype calls. but then, a $300 computer from hp or asus or toshiba or what ever can do that. lol.

Submitted by Andy B. on Sunday, October 25, 2015


I believe Dallas is attempting to explain the difference between an investment and fast-fix. Here are some points to consider when determining what platform to invest in.

1. It is useless trying to say that a MAC or Windows is better than each other. Each is a tool. Each one has pros and cons. Therefore, it depends on which pros/cons you want to live with.
2. Accessibility is baked into the OS. Some say this is good, yet others say it is bad. If you consider the cost of purchasing JAWS or Window Eyes, you nearly doubled the price of a MAC.

Example: Price of a latest MACBook Pro with 8GB of memory, I7 1.9GHZ processor, and a 512GB SSD will run around $1200 USD. The same hardware on a Windows laptop will run around $900. Add JAWS with an SMA upgrade for $1400, and you have around $2300 USD. The problem with this example is that you won't normally find a 128, 256, or 512 SSD in a Windows system. The only model is the Surface Pro 4, but it carries a regional price of around $2900 USD.
3. For accessibility, the only other point I will make is in the event you must factory reset your MAC and start over, it is completely accessible for Voice Over users. This is something Microsoft has not done to date. Partly because they have not found a way to embed a screen reader into the Windows Reinstallation Environment (WinPE). Someone else had done it, but it poses significant problems when using it to install Windows.
4. The equivalent system in MAC and Windows has a significant weight barrier. The MAC version weighs roughly 4-5LBS. The Windows hardware weighs roughly 9-10LBS, depending on brand. My wife has problems carrying around huge clunky hardware. She finds the MAC much easier to use when she does use it. My mother also has problems with carrying around a heavy object. Her MAC Book Air runs around 2LBS.
5. Would you rather pay every time you need service on your Windows laptop, or have the ability to take it into an Apple certified location and have it serviced for free for up to 3 years? Any Apple device comes with the option of purchasing Apple Care (TM) for your device. I find this a huge stress relief because I no longer must worry about putting out at least $200 USD every time I need Windows serviced.
6. Yes, Office 2016 is completely accessible on a MAC. I use it for university assignments all the time. Mail, Safari (web browser) and other apps come default with a new MAC. You mentioned music, and you will have access to ITunes, Apple's media library management and media playback app.
7. The I5 or I7 processors put into a MAC are the same chips put into a Windows laptop. The difference in speed comes from several factors including:
- Cache size.
- Installed memory.
- System preferences: How many apps/services do you have loading on startup or signing?
- Type of disk. An SSD will run roughly 500Gb (Gigabit)/sec. a platter HD will run roughly 80Gb (Gigabit)/sec.
Comparing my I7 2.4x4GHZ with 8GB of memory, 3MB of L3 cache, and a 1TB 7200rpm platter drive took Windows almost 5 minutes to completely load. On the same hardware profile in a virtual machine on a MAC, Windows took less than 2 minutes. Roughly a 50% performance improvement.
8. OSX is stable. Running the latest version of OS X poses no problems such as time outs or crashes. Like other people have mentioned, it just works. With Windows, I run into problems all of the time. The registry needs to be cleaned so the laptop gets slow. You have to do disk defray/cleanup in Windows. Not needed in a MAC other than empty the trash every ones in a while.
9. A MAC is indeed easy to use. After spending a few hours with my mother on setting up her new MAC, she feels at home, knows where things are, is very productive, and can trust her MAC to get the job done when Windows fails.

This is not to bash Microsoft or Windows. Windows is a great OS for the job when a MAC will not work. For example, using Visual Studio to create apps in C#, VB, MVC, or asp.net websites. Therefore, critically consider why you need a MAC. Then, think about why you would need Windows.

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Sunday, October 25, 2015

The good thing about all modern macs is that you can also install windows on them whereas you can't install OS on a windows machine.

In my experience apple products are very good at doing a few things well, however, Jaws is far more customisable for more specialised tasks. I used a windows machine for my electronic and computer systems engineering degree, a mac just wouldn't have been able to do it at the time, I'm unsure now. I am now a writer and use mac exclusively.

In terms of using voiceover, you have to learn a completely different way of controlling your computer. I have to say it's not intuitive, it can be clunky and there are times where you have to go through several keystrokes to do something pretty simple or you have to know other app specific shortcuts. I became frustrated when learning how to use a mac but I am now glad I did. Also, this was very early in terms of Voice Over so there is a great deal of info out there on how to learn to use it. The voice is also much nicer than Jaws in my opinion.

In short, I'd get the mac and make it a duel boot between windows and os. I'd also get the MB pro if you can, it's a work horse, built really solidly and, for me, Macs last longer. I had my last macbook for about six years, my dad is still using an iMac from 2008.

I think that there is less variation in hardware customisation is a help too, everything, should, work. There shouldn't be any incompatibility as Apple designs the hardware and software in tandem whereas windows, until recently, let other people put the computer together and then slapped on windows. This is changing now though.

So, MB pro and get windows 10 on there too. Too easy.

Submitted by Justin on Sunday, October 25, 2015

Agree. If you can dual boot, that would be the way to go. I said earlier I am exclusively using the mac. Sure, there are things Mac OS does better, and there are things windows does better. It's totally up to you what you decide. And, yeah, the MB pro is a workhorse designed mainly for high strung power using apps like garage band, logic pro, video editing/audio editing etc. Macs as oliver said do tend to last longer. I've ad my 2012 MPB for 3 years or so now.

Submitted by Serena on Sunday, October 25, 2015

um, ... uh, ... what?
An SSD will run roughly 500Gb (Gigabit)/sec. a platter HD will run roughly 80Gb (Gigabit)/sec.
no no no no no no! ... there is no! ssd, or hdd, that can run those speeds. the motherboards we have currently would burst into flames! rofl
average hdd, is 80, meggabits, not gigabits per second. average ssd, is, 550 meggabits, not gigabits per sec. and in fact, just to correct a point, the newer macs use ssd that are pcie connected, so they run at between 3 and 6 gbps.

Submitted by Serena on Sunday, October 25, 2015

also, re a comment about pricing. yes, perhaps you can get such a mac for 1200 USD. but, if my reading is right, the OP is in the uk. macs, are, seriously, bloody expensive in the uk. even more so then here in australia.
this is the info and pricing from the uk apple site for a macbook pro.

2.9GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz
8GB 1866MHz LPDDR3 memory
512GB PCIe-based flash storage1
Intel Iris Graphics 6100
Built-in battery (10 hours)2
Force Touch trackpad


if you convert it, that's over 2140 dollars US!

I really am, getting sick of apple charging a massive premium on computers outside the US. after all. it's hardly as if the things are made there! ... they are all made in china and shipped out. even the american ones. so why the hell is it that everybody outside the US has to pay the hugely inflated prices. ugh. apple. really!

Submitted by Serena on Sunday, October 25, 2015

i forgot to give you the price of the core i7! ... here you go
2.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
Turbo Boost up to 3.4GHz
16GB 1600MHz memory
256GB PCIe-based flash storage1
Intel Iris Pro Graphics

Built-in battery (9 hours)2
Force Touch trackpad

that's, over 2440 US dollars!

Submitted by steven carey on Monday, October 26, 2015

Hello all,
Thank you for all the comments but I am still non the wiser. What I get from most of you is that the decision is mine and both platforms have pros and cons.
I just wanted to clarify a few points though.

1. In the UK we get a fund known as Disabled Student Allowance or DSA. This is to support disabled students with the cost of going to university. I got Jaws 13 when I started my PhD and now have Jaws 16. I also have an SMA that will take me to Jaws 19 before I complete. Therefore, I have a screen reader that is paid for and I do not need to buy it again until at least 2018.

2. I also won what is known as a Snowdon award for disabled students in higher education. As my current Windows lap top (the Aser Longtitude is is almost dead after 4 years) the Snowdon award people said I can buy a new machine. Therefore I have about £700 or just over USD 1,000 to spend. I can add to that with my own money up to £1,000 or USD 1,350.

3. From what you are all saying, I am no longer sure that I want to buy an Apple device such as a MacBook Pro as it might take me some time to learn how to use it and I do not really have the time to do that and do my research.

4. The reason why I wanted to consider an Apple device was that I have an iPhone 6 and an iPad 2 already and I use them fine. However, I looked at Windows based machines and I cannot find anything to replace my Aser. The sort of thing I was looking for was a thin lap top that was light to carry with a long cane. I wanted a 13 inch machine with an I5 processor at around 1.5 to 2 Gb, 8Gb of ram and an SSD hard drive of 256 Gb. No go at all unless you want the DEL XPS 7 I think or the Aser S7 and they are both touch screen which I do not want for obvious reasons but they are over £1,100 or USD 1,400. I was therefore attracted by the Apple devices, first the MacBook Air and then the MacBook Pro.

5. I know Dallas believes the prices in the UK are high but that is where we are and I cannot do anything about that. If I go for the bottom of the range MacBook pro, which is the I5 processor with 8GB of ram and a 128 Gb SSD, tht is £999 or USD 1,350. However, Apple give UK higher education students 15 percent off any Mac so the price of the MacBook Pro goes down to £857 or around USD 1,175. I have my £700 from the Snowdon award so I could go one up and get the MacBook Pro but with a 256 SSD. The MacBook Pro is fairly light and better value than the Windows machines (including the fact that I cannot get an SSD on most of them) but I'm still not convinced by the argument to go for a Mac. I need convincing.


Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Monday, October 26, 2015

I'd say if you were willing to take the time to learn the OS and voiceover control you'd be set for a good few years with a good machine however, if you are short on time and you need something to just work for you and you are already familiar with windows, I'd stick with windows. We are obviously, well most of us, apple advocates so you will probably get a bit of a biased view.

I'm afraid I can't advise on a comparable form factor for a macbook air. but a quick search came up with this:


Where the Del has an 'optional' touch screen. But, as I say, this is kinda beyond the scope of this forum.

Good luck with getting a machine and with your PHD.

Submitted by Serena on Monday, October 26, 2015

hi, the problem is, convincing isn't the point. if you won't have time to learn the operating system, i don't think it's going to be for you. it's not super complex in some ways, but in others it will take some getting used to. i think, perhaps, the best bet might be for you to drop in at an apple store if you can, and sit down with one of the reps and they can help guide you through what's what in a mac and how to work with it with voiceOver. you can spend a little bit of time seeing what it's like that way. as for stats wise, if i were aiming for those sorts of stats in a windows computer right now, i'd probably go for a surface pro with a type cover keyboard. it has it's own built in stand, and works much like a laptop. yes, it has a touch screen. but for the most part, you don't have to use that if you don't want to. even if you just used the keyboard as a laptop, it's a good option.
but like i say. convincing you isn't something anybody can really do. you really do need to try these things for yourself. i thought for a long time that once i had a mac, i'd love it. guess what? i don't. it's ok, it's another computer. i can use it, and it works for the most part, barring a few stupid things apple have done that i'm trying to deal with right now that have to do with the type of machine i have. but outside that, it's just a computer. i don't love it. i love my iPhone, and to be honest, i like my iPad mini 2 more then i do the mac. i have all these things. yet, the thing i keep coming back to most of the time, is my trusty toshiba p850 laptop.
so if you can, try to get a chance to play with a mac, with somebody to guide you through it a bit. only in that way, can you see if it's going to be worth the money to you.
Oh and btw. the problem i'm struggling with at the moment on the macbook pro, is not something you'd face if you purchased a new one. it's got to do with the utterly stupid decision of apples, to make it, that if you have a mac with a dvd drive, you can't bootcamp without using said drive. unless you want to hack the bootcamp program some, which i don't know enough about to do safely, without breaking it.

Submitted by Michael Hansen on Monday, October 26, 2015

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Hi Steve,

I started to write this post yesterday, but stopped because, at the time, I didn't think it would be particularly helpful to the discussion. However, after reading your most recent reply above and better figuring out where you're at, I think I might have an idea.

I am currently running Windows 10 on a 2013 13" MacBook Air. One can run Windows on Apple hardware very easily, through either Boot Camp or a virtual machine. Boot Camp partitions your hard drive and allows you to boot natively into Windows, whereas a virtual machine allows you to boot into Windows right from OS X. Either way, you will need to buy a new Windows license for your computer, so that's an added cost of whatever version of Windows you want to buy.

As I am a Windows user, I went the Boot Camp route. I can honestly say that my 2013 MacBook Air is the best Windows machine I've ever used. I bought the Mac because I wanted the Apple hardware and the service and support which comes with it; while Apple obviously can't assist with anything on the Windows side of things, they can most definitely still provide you hardware or OS X support at an Apple Store. When your computer has a hardware issue, being able to take it to an Apple Store and trust that they'll fix it right...the first time...is a wonderful thing.

As with anything, there are a couple of downsides to running Windows via Boot Camp on a Mac. The first is that battery life in Windows is not anywhere as good as what you'd get under OS X. The position of the "Alt" and "Windows" keys is also reversed in Boot Camp on the Mac, so the Windows key is next to the Space Bar and Alt is one key to the left or right, depending on which side of the Space Bar you are accessing the keys from.

If you are wanting to use OS X but still have Windows available, or transition from Windows to OS X, I would recommend installing Windows as a virtual machine. If you are primarily wanting to use Windows, I would recommend using Boot Camp and booting natively.

Submitted by BarthTrader on Saturday, November 7, 2015

Has anyone tried the audio lessons at macfortheblind.com?

Submitted by Usman on Saturday, November 7, 2015

As I recall, the audio lessons from mac for the blind are pretty much out of date as the last one I believe was in 2012.