OS X and Windows?

macOS & Mac Apps

Evening, all!
In my never-ending quest to learn as much about the Mac as I can before I get my hands on one within the next month or two, I've been trying to do as much research as I can so that the switch can go as seamlessly as possible. I personally don't have an aversion to learning curves, as I transitioned from a Braille Note to a Braille Sense without any formal tutoring--mostly, I just searched through the onboard manual when I needed help.
Anyway, I've been trying to find more information on the comparison between Windows and Mac OS X. Most of the discussions, however, are nearly two years old, and I know Apple has updated VO's functionality with the introduction of arrow-key navigation in Safari for Yosemite.
Even though I do plan on installing Windows on my MacBook for future use, I'd like to know if there are things that, as a student, VO would still have trouble with in comparison to Windows and JAWS.
When I switch, one of the things I'm most looking forward to is the fact that VO doesn't crash and freeze my entire system like JAWS does. lol
Also, I've been looking at specs for the MacBook Pro I want, and I was thinking of maxing out everything--that is, going with 16GB of Ram, the 1TB drive, and an i7 processor, since I will be running Windows, and I will major in technology. I also want to make sure that it will be in good shape for several years, as opposed to just one or two.
I know this post already has several questions, but because I plan to run Windows as well, I was thinking of just using it with Boot Camp, since it's not as taxing on the Mac's hardware. What do you guys, as visually impaired users, think? Is it easiest to run a virtual machine with VO and JAWS, or should I just go with my original plan and use Boot Camp instead? I do know that with Boot Camp, you have to partition your hard drive and give Windows space, and if you don't use it all, you'd have to re-partition to give it back to Mac OS X. Also, with Boot Camp and VO, can you still use the option key to select which OS boots up? I wanted to set my default to Mac OS X, because Windows would probably be used sparingly, but I just wanted to be sure I could just set OS X as the default, but use 'Option' when I needed Windows.
Thanks in advance, guys! <3 I really do appreciate the help!!



Submitted by mehgcap on Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

First of all, most discussions you'll find are still relevant. Yes, you can now arrow around webpages, so take that into consideration, but other than that VoiceOver hasn't changed enough to invalidate anything you might find.

Second, the major thing I can think of is productivity. I haven't used them, but I'm told that Jaws includes some nice utilities that make using Office easier, such as Text Analyzer. VoiceOver does not have these, though some enterprising individual may be able to make something similar in AppleScript or JavaScript, but I'm not certain of that. If all you need is basic wordprocessing (rich text support, fonts, text decoration, etc), Text Edit really does a great job. You can't make a research paper with perfect margins and page headers, but it's far more powerful than Notepad on Windows.

Third, unless money is no object, consider your choice of Mac. My Air is two years old, and is still running perfectly. Obviously this isn't scientific in any way, but Macs seem to run better, for longer, than many Windows machines. With flash storage now standard, you might find a maxed out Air is cheaper and last just as long as a maxed out Pro. Plus, rumor has it that the Air will be updated next year, so if you can wait a while, you can get the latest model or get good deals on the previous (current, as of now) generation.

Finally, be careful about running Windows. Yes, it can be done, and yes, there are most definitely times you might need it. However, if your goal is to learn the Mac, be on the watch for the Windows crutch. When I got my Mac, I put Windows on it and rarely booted into Mac OS, because it was new and I wasn't used to it. That was a mistake, but it can be so easy to fall back to what you are used to that you neglect to learn the new thing you intended to learn. Also, keep in mind that Jaws has a licensing system that can be thrown off by, say, changes in your virtual machine or Bootcamp updates. It might not be, but then again it might.

Submitted by Jalys Ortiz on Tuesday, October 28, 2014

In reply to by mehgcap

Those are really good points. As I was reading your comment, I did realize that, in theory, I probably wouldn't need Windows a heck of a lot, because I truly do want to learn and become familiar with OS X, me being the techie that I am. lol So unless I truly do need it this upcoming semester, I probably won't be in such a hurry to install it.
I have read quite a number of AppleVis' 'Switching to a Mac' section (and I'm guilty of doing so more than once).
I do have another question, though: what about Pages and VO? Is it still a bit inaccessible? Because iWork does come standard with new Macs, right?
And see, that's where I'm stuck. lol My dad really does think the Air is better for me, because I have back problems and I carry my laptop in my backpack when I'm in school. Just for your reference, I currently have a Dell Lattitude that weighs over 5.5 pounds. When I took it to school last semester, even with a padded backpack, it did hurt my back after awhile of wearing it. And while the new Air and Pro models are a bit similar in size and thickness, the Air really is appealing because of its size and battery life--especially the model I want, which is the 13-inch model.

Submitted by mehgcap on Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

I'll be honest: I'm not overly familiar with iWork in general. I've used it, and can say that what I tried worked fine. There are some problems that may or may not affect you, such as the inability to assign hotkeys to paragraph styles (or at least, it's really hard) or the incorrect reporting of VO-f4 in a document. For the most part, though, Pages works fine. Again, I don't use it, but I'm on a Mac email list where people seem quite happy with it.

As to the Air, I think you'll be fine with it. In fact, I know someone who says his Air is the best Windows machine he's ever used. The pro has more ports and power, but you'd probably not notice the extra power with iWork, Safari, and Mail. The ports can be nice, since the Air only offers two USB ports and one Thunderbolt port. The main suggestion I have is to be sure you'll be happy with the storage. If you can, get the maximum amount allowed (512GB, I think), because you can't upgrade it later. There are products that hide a micro SD card in the card slot of a 13-inch Air (the 11-inch lacks such a slot), giving you extra storage without having anything sticking out of the Mac, but nothing beats having plenty of internal storage.

I'll definitely try and look into Pages' accessibility. :) I'm not overly sure, but being a college student, I know research papers might be a common thing. haha
That's actually really good to know. The current Air, even maxed out, is cheaper than the maxed out Pro, which is a good thing. I do want at least a 512GB drive, because I like to have the wiggle room, and because my music and movie library will grow significantly in the upcoming months. I think, because it'll be my very first Mac, it would be wise for me to get the Air and max it out, so I will understand what I need and what I don't need. I might mess around with GarageBand a bit, but because I'm totally blind, I don't do things like photo shop and the like. Being a Computer Information Tech major, though, I'm not entirely sure what I'll need and what I don't, which is what I'm going to ask my advisor tomorrow.

Submitted by mehgcap on Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Remember that you can definitely still put Windows on the Mac, I didn't mean to suggest that you shouldn't. Then, if you find you need MS Office and Jaws, you can use those programs, and the Mac for other things. Between Bootcamp and virtual machine solutions, you have plenty of options, and it's not an all-or-nothing switch. This might also help if you take programming courses - you can run Visual Studio on Windows, then Xcode on Mac, if you need to, and you can keep up with the developments in both worlds. Basically, the Mac lets you use a Mac and Windows, if you need it; Windows lets you only use Windows. To be accurate, both will let you use Linux, but that's beside the point. :)

Submitted by ftealucard on Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I don't see any way to check for bootcamp driver updates in windows. I have a macbook pro received as a gift and it includes both an intel and an NVIDIA graphics card. Unfortunately, windows can only use the NVIDIA card so battery life isn't that great, about 4 hours or so. I would assume use of the intel card would give a decent amount more battery life. Maybe an update would fix that if apple ever releases bootcamp/driver updates that is? Any way to check? Also, how is the battery life in windows on the air? I may be getting an air soon for work so I am excited to compare it and the pros battery.

Submitted by mario_hardrock on Tuesday, October 28, 2014

if you do not install windows on bootcamp
...you going back to windows more faster than you think ...
the only advantage of voice over on mac is stability ...
screen readers on windows are ten times better than the voice over ...
are much more update ...
voice over is stopped in time ...

and many, many problems ...
the voice over in Yosemite is full of bugs...
like on IOS8.1


Submitted by Tree on Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I am a firm believer that as blind people it is important for us to have as many options as possible.With this philosophy in mind I think having a mac with bootcamp on it is a very good setup. I am a senior in college and my mac has seen me through my entire school career. I really love pages and it is able to do everything I need. It might not be quite as fully featured as word on windows, but I find it much more user friendly. You might want to get some opinions about how it works under the latest operating system since I am running Mavericks and from what I understand there have been some changes.

The largest issue with the mac is pdf's. I am not going to sugar cote this, pdf's on the mac are pretty bad and getting worse. On Mavericks there is no support for tagged pdf's on Apple's preview app. You can read the text, but you have no access to headings, forms, alt text, tables, etc. There have been some band aid work arounds for this terribly sad support of accessible pdf's. For example I use an app called skim which provides support for headings. You can only move to the page that a heading is on, not exactly to the location of the heading, but over all the reading experience on skim is ok.

As far as filling out pdf forms th the only two options on the mac are an app called pdf pin or the Adobe reader app. pdf pin can be used to fill out text fields, but it can not access radio buttons and check boxes. Its important to understand that the Adobe app is not accessible to voice over, but it has a self voicing feature that can be used to totally fill out forms, including radio buttons etc. To read more about using this app see my post. http://www.applevis.com/forum/os-x-mac-app-discussion/how-fill-out-pdf-…
As far as reading tables I use an app called fine reader which is an OCR program that you can use to scan in pdf's and turn them into a format that the mac handles better like html.

right now the already very poor accessibility of pdf's is even worse under Yosemite. Other people can tell you more about this, but the point is the mac is very bad with pdf's which is annoying as a student. In conclusion there are things I like about the mac, but get ready for having to go out of your way to do some things that windows can do very easily.

Submitted by mehgcap on Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Yes, PDF accessibility has never been great. It is no different in Yosemite than it was in Mavericks, but Yosemite has a problem where the PDF won't always appear to VoiceOver. Instead of the text, you just hear "static text". When things to work, the experience is no different from what it used to be, but getting there is now less reliable.

I was hoping that I would be able to use iBooks to open PDFs now that the app is accessible, but it seems to simply launch Preview (the Mac's PDF viewer) and not open the file directly. If you do a lot of work with PDFs, you'll probably need Windows, or a conversion service to make non-PDF versions of your files. I rarely use this type of document, so it didn't occur to me to mention it. Thanks for pointing this out.

Submitted by Jakob Rosin on Tuesday, October 28, 2014

In reply to by mehgcap

Personally to me, pages is not a good option. Its me so everything stated above still works.
1. I very much dislike how VoiceOver handles text attributes and their verbosity. Its either all, or nothing. So if i'd want to know if certain words in a text are bold or underlined, i'd have to listen through the font name, size, colour, and alignment.
2. I haven't managed to format a pages document, which appears nice on other peoples MS words. After formatting a document and exporting it from pages to docx (oh yeah, you can export to docx, but not save in docx which is also annoying), the previously 5 paged research appears now as 90, which lots and lots of nothing in there.
3. The idiocy with formats. If I get a document from a friend who uses office, I can open it in pages. I can read it in pages and even edit it there. I also can only save it in .pages format. Which means I'd have to save the edited document in pages, open it and then export it again in doc to send it back to the friend. By that time the careful formatting has gone wondering elsewhere as I stated before.

All this stuff has made me really consider switching away from mac and getting a windows laptop next year.
Since I am studying journalism and thus have to write a lot, I really need these features and good knowing of the status of my document. Right now, I am running windows in a virtual machine for my office 365 apps which work perfectly well with NVDA.

Submitted by Tree on Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I agree that not being able to save things as word docs is annoying. Its interesting that you have had so much difficulty with the formatting of documents when you convert them Jakob. I deal with word docs in pages every day, in my job and I have never run into issues with formatting.

I would be curious if others have experienced similar issues. As far as voice over's handling of text verbosity, this is a totally subjective opinion, but I like the way it handles it. You are only informed of the text attributes that are different then the previous text you had focus on. For example if you are going through a document and the text changes from being aligned left to being centered, voice over will only say, "centered" it won't inform you of every attribute. Normally what I do is write something and then turn on the text attribute verbosity to check the document. I do not have experience with equivalent features in windows so other screen readers might have better options; I am simply saying I am ok with the way it works on the mac.

Submitted by Usman on Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I use and recommend iText express for significant word processing.

Submitted by Jenna on Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Ii am also looking in to switching to Mac for school, so thank you all for your input!