potential new mac user, have some questions before buying

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macOS & Mac Apps

Hi everyone. I appoligize if this topic has been posted here before, but I'm thinking of buying a mac to replace my windows desktop that unexpectedly quit working several months ago. Right now I'm using a windows ten laptop running NVDA. The mac I'm interested in is the mac minny. Here are the questions I need answered before I make the hour long trip to the closest apple store to buy one.
1. How easy is the mac to learn for somebody who has used windows?
2. What does the mac minny come with in terms of keyboard, mouse, etc?
3. If no keyboard or hardware is supplied with the device, can I use the hardware that came with the windows desktop?Examples, keyboard, mouse, monitor, and printer.
4. Once I have the mac minny hooked up with the hardware, will I need sighted help to turn on voiceover during the set up process?
5. If sighted help is not needed during the set up process, what is the command to turn on voiceover?
6. What are some things I should know about the operation of the mac in general?
7. What antivirus apps can be used with voiceover? These apps can be paid or free, it doesn't matter.
8. For the following tasks, what apps would you suggest? Keeping a diary/journal. Writing documents other than a diary/journal. Checking email. Keeping in contact with friends and family. Using twitter. And listening to radio stations.
9If I can think of more questions, I'll update this post.

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Submitted by Pepper Fox on Saturday, February 15, 2020

NVDA on Windows handles quite a lot differently to Voiceover on the Mac. Whereas NVDA will give you control of a cursor built into Windows and let you knock yourself out with OS keystrokes, Voiceover has its own non-modal cursor which you move in and out of high-level elements in order to do stuff. It also places a much bigger focus on apps. Moving from one app to another means that some keystroke commands may be completely different. For example, in Windows you can press Win+e to open a new explorer window from pretty much anywhere in the OS. on a Mac the equivalent command is cmd+n but it only works if you're focused on the Finder app. Switching between windows of one app uses a different command as well, as all of an apps windows will be contained within one workspace, kind of like switching between browser tabs. Lastly, you need to hold the Voiceover modifier down for many, many, many Voiceover commands. This can be partly circumvented by toggling on quicknav and enabling single-key quicknav. That will let you browse the web in a similar fashion to NVDA.

As for how easy it is to learn, Voiceover provides a handy tutorial and the learning curve beyond that is fairly shallow. As an avid JAWS and NVDA user who grew up with Windows I found it reasonably easy to learn Voiceover for Mac OS. Applevis also has a ton of useful podcasts and tutorials. It's where I partly learned iMovie.

The Mac Mini comes with no peripherals, just the machine and a power adapter. Fortunately you can plug in pretty much any USB keyboard and/or mouse. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are also built-in if you decide to spring for wireless peripherals.

One of the advantages of Mac OS is that you will very rarely need sighted help. Voiceover can be activated or deactivated at any time by pressing cmd+f5. This is a good command to remember, as Voiceover can, and will, often bug out and require you to restart it. Oh yeah, it will even run in the EFI which means you can wipe the drive and reinstall Mac OS all on your own.

I can't offer much help for specific apps. For Twitter I mainly stick to the web client and use the keystrokes built into that. Mac OS includes a lot of basic, but quite useful, apps including a calendar, mail client, iMessage client, FaceTime, Time Machine for backing up your system, and a lot more. You can download the iWork suite from the Mac App Store for productivity. Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are good, and free, alternatives to Ms Office. For email I personally really like Outlook but that costs money. Text Edit is also included and is a really basic txt/rtf editor. My favorite app is iMovie. It's very basic and a bit temperamental but it's good enough that you can edit videos without sight.

Siri on Mac with Voiceover kinda sucks.

I'm curious as to why you're seeking out the Mac Mini, specifically. Is it just for the (relatively) low price? You might be better served by a MacBook Air if you want portability and don't need that much power. The extra money includes a keyboard, TouchID, and a trackpad which adds a lot of nifty gestures to Mac OS and Voiceover.

If you do get a Mini then keep in mind that the RAM can be upgraded but sighted help is needed. Everything else is soldered in so be sure you pick enough storage and processing power.

Edit: I should add my biases here for context. I hate Mac OS as a desktop OS but I love it on laptops. Coincidentally, I dislike Windows on laptops but love it as a desktop OS. Even now that I use Mac much more frequently at school and don't touch my home computer that much I still prefer NVDA much more to Voiceover. Voiceover is good enough though, and I'm much happier with a Mac on the go, mostly because I'm really picky about hardware and Apple is one of few companies that can meet my impossible standards for laptop hardware.

Submitted by Chris Hill on Saturday, February 15, 2020

It may have changed, but on the mac mini I played with using voiceover a while back, I felt like I was in a room full of boxes, some of them nested, and I was trying desperately to find something. The interface seemed confusing and slow. I think if I had had the trackpad on a laptop (I believe there is something equivalent you can buy from Apple for the mini) it might have worked more like my phone and been a lot easier to use. The idea of being able to text from one's computer, as well as make phone calls and the like is really cool, it is a shame I'd have to get a mac to do it because that interface could use some major love.

Submitted by mehgcap on Saturday, February 15, 2020

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team
  1. How easy is the mac to learn for somebody who has used windows?

It's not too bad, though I strongly suggest you dive in completely. I tried to use both when I was first learning macOS, and never really learned it, because I kept falling back to Windows when things got too hard. When a bad speech add-on broke NVDA for me, I suddenly had to use macOS exclusively. I learned it in a month or so.

  1. What does the mac minny come with in terms of keyboard, mouse, etc?

I believe it comes with the computer and power adapter.

  1. If no keyboard or hardware is supplied with the device, can I use the hardware that came with the windows desktop?Examples, keyboard, mouse, monitor, and printer.

Yes. Note that the Mini doesn't have VGA, so you'll want to check that your monitor will work. In general, though, any wired keyboard and mouse will work just fine. Many wireless ones will as well. Note that, on keyboards, your Windows key will be seen as the Command key, alt as option, and control stays control. Thus, the famous cmd-f5 command, if performed on a Windows keyboard, is win-f5. You can re-assign your modifiers if you want to change them around.

  1. Once I have the mac minny hooked up with the hardware, will I need sighted help to turn on voiceover during the set up process?

No. Simply press cmd-f5 to enable VoiceOver, You may not even need to do that, as macOS should prompt you with a voice asking if you want to have VoiceOver turned on during setup. It's been a long time since I set up a new Mac from scratch, but this used to happen. It may still.

  1. If sighted help is not needed during the set up process, what is the command to turn on voiceover?

Command-f5, or Windows-f5 if you have a Windows keyboard connected.

  1. What are some things I should know about the operation of the mac in general?

That's too broad a question to be answered in detail here, but my thoughts are to avoid comparing the two directly. Don't expect commands to have one-to-one translations, and don't expect the way you get information or navigate to be the same. Prepare to learn some new concepts, like multiple windows per app or an increased reliance on knowing how things are grouped together.

  1. What antivirus apps can be used with voiceover? These apps can be paid or free, it doesn't matter.

Malware Bytes was pretty accessible last time I tried it, as was Clam AV.

  1. For the following tasks, what apps would you suggest?

Keeping a diary/journal.

I'm not sure.

Writing documents other than a diary/journal.

Text Edit is good for basic files, and Pages is good for documents that need more formatting. Both are free, but you'll need to download Pages.

Checking email.

The default Mail app is great. In fact, while I prefer Windows in many cases. the macOS Mail app is far and away the best mail program I've used on any platform. I absolutely love it.

Keeping in contact with friends and family.

In what way? Wouldn't that be Mail? If it's more messaging you're after, you can text or send iMessages with the onboard Messages app. I don't think there is an option for Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, or others, though web-based solutions may be out there. Skype is also available, though it doesn't work that great since Microsoft redesigned it.

Using twitter.

The app Twitterrific costs money, but is truly great. Night Owl may still be around; that's free, but doesn't have all the features of Twitterrific. I've heard of people using the web interface with some success, but I've never tried that.

listening to radio stations.

I don't have much experience here either. I know iTunes has web radio stations built in, and you can open any web radio link with that program. If you want a different media player entirely, VLC Media Player is good, and free.

Submitted by treky fan on Saturday, February 15, 2020

I want to go with the mac minny because of the low price tag. I did check in to a MacBook, but it was way out of my price range and I already have a windows laptop. I'm looking for the mac to be a desktop if I decide to buy one.