Gary Wolstenholme takes a look at some of the common misconceptions someone converting to Apple may have.
Apple Macintosh computers have long been used extensively in creative industries such as publishing, photo-editing and video-editing. Many photographers, both amateur and professional, may begin to consider switching to a Mac as they begin to look for a platform to aid the ease of working with their images. This article takes a look at how different a Mac is to use, so that anyone considering this switch will know what pitfalls to expect, if any, before taking the plunge.
There are many myths about the difference between Macs and PCs which mainly stem from Apple's older Macs, or even from people who have never used a Macintosh computer. In this article I'll take a look at some of these issues that many people have with Macintosh computers. You can't right click with a Mac, the mouse only has one button.
In answer to this concern, Apple created the 'Mighty Mouse'. Not only does it support the usual two buttons and a scroll wheel found on a PC mouse, it has many more features included. The scroll wheel located in the centre not only rolls back and forth, but side to side as well, making navigating large folders or images a breeze. For example, moving around an image while zoomed in Photoshop normally involves using the scrollbars at the edges of the window, or dragging the red box on the navigator window around. This can be quite difficult if you are zoomed right in, as the movement navigator area can be very sensitive. By using the scroll wheel on the mighty mouse, you can move in any direction and retain full control.
The buttons on the mouse are also user configurable allowing you to customise the way you work to whatever way suits you best. Options include being able to set the scroll wheel or the squeeze buttons on the side of the mouse to show you every window that is open, or to switch applications completely, which is great for when you have multiple applications running at the same time and means that the rather clunky Alt-Tab way of switching applications feels terrible when you go back to using a PC.
The mighty mouse can be added to your order when you buy a Mac, or it can be bought separately from the Apple UK store for £35, which is about the same price as an official Microsoft mouse. Macs and PCs aren't compatible.
It is true that the software that you run on your PC system will not run on a Macintosh, although for many major software titles, there is a Mac version. Even Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer can be found to work on a Mac as well as free open-source software, such as Open Office and the GIMP image manipulation software. Apple actively support open-source software development which means that many common tasks can be completed by programs that can be downloaded for free. Also other graphics specific software such as Aperture and Adobe Lightroom are only available for Macintosh computers, or are beta tested on them first. Beta testing, allows you to download powerful, fully featured software packages way before they are available for Windows PC users while they are being developed, the software company will ask for your feedback to help improve the program if you find any issues in its use.
Transferring files, and connecting peripherals like card readers, scanners, digital cameras, etc presents no problems. Modern Macs use the same USB and Firewire interfaces as found on PCs, supporting the same plug & play operation that you will be used to already. In fact Apple were the first to add Firewire connectivity to their range of computers. Peripherals that require special drivers come supplied with the appropriate software needed for Macintosh and PC except in exceptional circumstances. Macs are used throughout the creative industry, because of this manufacturers are obliged to provide support, or they risk alienating themselves from their core customers.
A Mac will also network seamlessly with other computer systems as it is compatible with all the major protocols required. Macs can't be upgraded
When buying a Mac computer you have your first chance to upgrade your machine. Apple give you choices for the amount of RAM, hard drive capacity, type of display and the type of keyboard and mouse you wish to have bundled. If, however, you wish to upgrade the RAM to achieve faster performance, this can be upgraded in the future. There are many different types of RAM available, it is just a case of finding out what is compatible with your model, exactly the same as upgrading a PC.
If you are lucky enough to be considering a PowerMac G5 Quad, the possibility for expansion is even greater. Inside there are four PCI Express expansion slots, so a wide range of hardware can be added. Myth: Macs are more stable and very rarely crash.
Myth: Learning to use a Mac will be difficult and time consuming.
|Fact: This is one of the few myths that actually turns out to be true! Mac OSX is based on UNIX, the same kind of system that keeps servers running 24 hours-a-day use. This leads to faster, more stable performance. In the event that the machine does crash, individual programs can be shut down so that you don't have to completely restart you computer, just like pressing 'Control-Alt-Delete' on a PC. |
|Fact: To help with writing this article, Apple provided me with a computer to play with. The last time I used a Mac it took the form of an all-in-one box with a monochrome screen about eight inches big. If I wanted to scan an image, I'd use a hand-held device which was called a Scan-Man and all the programs I ever needed were contained within the ClarisWorks suite. Ever since then I have used Windows-based PCs and have forgotten pretty much all I ever knew about the operating system itself so this experience was as close as I could get to a fresh start with a Mac. |
An Apple Mac similar to what I would have last used. Apparently these were discontinued in 1993
The set up was simple and required no instruction, I simply plugged in the computer and monitor, connected the leads to their corresponding sockets and switched it on. If you can unbox and set up a PC, you can certainly get a Mac working.
Switch it on, and things start to get different, there is no 'start menu' on a Mac like on a PC, just an icon to represent the Hard Disk on the Desktop, a menu bar at the top of the screen, and an array of icons at the bottom.
|The icon display at the bottom behaves a little like the taskbar on a PC, but with the added benefit of always displaying your most commonly used applications for quick and easy access. Any programs that do not appear in this area can be found in the finder. This is a combination of the Windows 'Start Menu' and 'My Computer'. From here you can access the contents of the hard drive, desktop, and folders for applications, documents, movies, and pictures. In the top corner resides a small blue Apple logo. Clicking this reveals the software update link, system preferences, recently opened applications and documents, and an option to force an application to quit. Also the same Sleep, Restart, and Shutdown options you would find by clicking the 'Turn Off Computer' button on a Windows PC are found here. || |
The finder window
The apple menu
This simple interface helps make those initial first steps as easy as I could imagine possible. The hardest thing I found was opening the CD drive! I spent a while hunting high and low for a drive icon on the desktop and in finder. There is no open button on the front of the machine, either. If I had read the manual that comes with the computer before starting, I would have found that there is a dedicated function button in the top right corner of the keyboard to do this! Three more keys provide volume control and a mute facility.
|Familiar programs take the same form as they do on a PC, the main difference being that menu options are always fixed at the top of the screen beside the Apple icon, instead of being at the top of every window. Whether this helps or not is entirely subjective, but I found it helped when switching between multiple programs with multiple windows, especially when all the windows are of different sizes. |
Menus always appear at the top of the screen, no matter where the open window is
In all I probably spent between three to four hours acquainting myself with the Mac before I felt truly confident. Once I had got my bearings I found the interface to be easy to use and very intuitive. Menus and controls are set out in a very logical way. When my PC system has had its chips, I will certainly consider the switch to a Mac.