What does it even mean to be a Mac user anymore?

This is something I’ve been (irrationally) thinking about lately as my workflows and tools I use have changed.

It seems like as time goes on, the concept of being a Mac user has changed in my mind. Looking back, say, 10 years ago, it was obvious: I was a passionate Mac user. I loved the OS, I loved native apps, they made my work better and more enjoyable.

Now, I look at the tools and apps I get a lot of value out of – Obisidan, Kindle, Brave, Spotify, Todoist, Discord, Gmail, Slack, 1Password – and I don’t know that my workflows would change meaningfully at all if I had to switch to a Windows machine. Sure, I’d lose some utility apps (Hazel comes to mind), but surely there would be suitable alternatives on Windows.

As an amateur athlete, I even wonder some days whether abandoning the Apple Watch for something super performance oriented like Whoop would make sense.

Sometimes I yearn for the old days, and try to switch out my tools for the native solutions I enjoyed previously – Apple Music instead of Spotify, Things instead of Todoist, Bear or Craft instead of Obsidian, Mail or Spark instead of Gmail, Apple Books instead of Kindle. When I do this, I find myself in awe of how beautiful the apps are, but also jarred by how much limited they can be functionally.

I guess really, I’m pondering two questions. First, how do you evaluate the trade offs between native apps and cross-platform/web apps, and how do you decide which is the best tool for the given job? Second, in a world where lots seems to be trending towards cross-platform or Electron based experiences, what does it even mean to be a Mac user?

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I agree with you, but for me being a Mac user is about the hardware. I’m pretty sure I could switch to Windows without any major issues at this point. I don’t think Windows 11 is that bad and anyone who tells me that Monterey (or BS) is great loses a bit of credibility. But the idea of using a non-Apple laptop vs. these new M1s isn’t one I want to entertain.

Also, Apple really has me on the services lock in. Messages, iCloud, AirPlay…these would be hard to give up.

To your questions about evaluating - I look at efficiency, easy of use, and ability to move seamlessly between devices (office & mobile, but also setting up new machines, etc.).

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I last used a Windows machine regularly for work a few years ago, but I didn’t find it easy to automate my workflows — equivalents to TextExpander, Keyboard Maestro, Hammerspoon, Karabiner, Bunch, etc., were either harder to find or more confusing/required more technical knowledge (or blind faith in tutorials) to find out.

The third-party support resources ( log posts, tutorials, etc.) we’re on average much, much lower quality — that is, there was a lot more noise surrounding the good signals.

I use plain text markdown extensively, and it was harder to find really good apps that (Marked, TableFlip, etc.) supported it, and those that did were much more fiddly.

In short, I could do most of what I needed to, but with a lot more effort and less clarity and elegance. Often it just wasn’t worth it and I did things manually instead.

I’m sure things have improved on at least some of those fronts, but I expect the gap is still there.

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I find the paradigm to work in Windows constraining, confusing, and inconsistent. Every app has to be locked into its own window … constraining. The menu bar for an app depends on where the window is located … confusing. In the old days (perhaps not so much now), the menu commands to do certain common actions were not always the same from app to app … inconsistent.


JJW

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I like my Macs, and I don’t mind Windows. Using the former for personal work for years, and the latter for corporate work for much longer. If I were starting up for the first time, I would go for Windows probably, because the devices are cheaper. But, I doubt many readers of this forum are in the “starting up” category. So, the question is, why stay with Macs.

Friction, mainly. All my terabytes of stuff are hooked to the Mac/Apple Mobil platforms. Switching cost is not exorbitant, but why do it. The best friction – the category I don’t want to give up and keeps me on the Mac – is the interconnectivity between Apple devices and OSs – universal clipboard, iCloud sync, Airdrop, all varieties of handoff, etc. This stuff is great and Apple has done a bang-up job of pulling it off and keeping it 99% reliable.

I suppose similar things exist in the Android or Microsoft world, but I don’t care and don’t want to know about it or learn about it because I like exactly what I have.

But of course, if Macs were the best thing going, then Apple would have more than a 10% share of the desktop. (And no, corporate IT is not the reason – that’s a red herring. I’ve run major corporate IT departments.)

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Oooh. I love defining vague and nebulous titles. :rofl:

A mac user is anyone who complains about Electron apps

Done!

(For real now)

The Mac, and Apple as a whole, was in the past considered a shining example of attention to detail and consistency. Every app had the same basic structure, focus on accessibility, blending ease of use with power access, etc. The Human Interface Guidelines were practically a user experience bible! But nowadays, not only are there more companies which have a similar attention to detail, Apple has fallen behind in this consistency. Sometimes it’s across platforms (functionality available on the Mac, but not iPad or iPhone) and sometimes it’s even inconsistencies between apps on the same platform (Catalyst, SwiftUI, AppKit).

I think the “Mac User” you’re thinking of is someone who loves those two key facets of good software: attention to detail and consistency.

That being said, I tend to seek out software that fits the job best for my needs over any sort of Mac-ness. Especially where my data is not stored in a proprietary format.

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Apps aren’t my focus really. They generally are going to perform the same across platforms if they are cross platform. I just feel like there are less obstructions to me with Macs in setting things up the way I want. Mac Assed apps are just easier to learn because they follow popular design conventions.

We all know Windows has a plethora of options and that’s enticing but Microsoft to me hasn’t delivered an OS that just feels natural and polished.

Mac is not perfect …Apple neglected it for a handful of years but they appear to be re-investing in the platform.

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For me, being a Mac user has never been about the Mac apps. To me, for decades, the computer in front of me is mainly a window into the network and local apps are necessary but ancillary things. The value of the Mac has been the way in which it lets me manage all of my ongoing work (Spaces/Mission Control), the “it just works” nature of things that are far less “it just works” on other platforms, the quality of the hardware, and a pretty decent Unix underneath.

I’m a Mac user because more than any other platform, the Mac gets out of my way and lets me focus on working rather than managing my computer.

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You (@dustinknopoff) had me right up until your last sentence… :hushed:

Great! That last part was just me :smile:. Glad you agreed with my definition of a Mac User

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It means that you use and/or prefer a Mac :smile:

Sorry for the snark, but personally, I don’t think users of Macs are fundamentally different from users of Windows. (I’ll say users of Linux are different just because I feel like that’s more of a self-selecting community.) I think that most reasons people give to say one OS is better than another really come down to personal preferences. Maybe not true in the past, but I’d say it is now. The following statements may be considered treason, but…
I don’t think macOS provides an objectively better UI or UX, although I do prefer it to Windows. I don’t think macOS is objectively any more intuitive and hassle-free than Windows, except for maybe the UNIX core? But that may just be my personal preferences at it again, because Windows has better support for the command line tools I need now. I wouldn’t even say Mac users value great apps with nice designs and attention to detail more, from the vast number of Windows users I know. In the end, I really don’t think being a Mac user is an identity.

Personally, I think we should embrace the evolution of cross-platform apps. Sure, Electron sucks now, but it’s a sign of new innovation coming to the desktop apps area. I pick whether to use an app based on how well it gets the job done (how delightful an app is to use plays into this!). In my experience, by default most apps built natively have a good UX and most Electron apps have a bad UX. But I think there are also native apps that lack the right features and UX, and Electron apps that have what I need and have great UX.

That’s my mildly rant-y spiel on this I guess. No offense intended :slight_smile:

For me, in addition to the hardware, it comes down to two things-

  • Automation. I have so many automations that speed up my day, using mostly Keyboard Maestro, that I would take a massive performance/efficiency hit on another platform. Much of this has to do with the “link-ability” of so much on the Mac, including email messages. I link to email messages with a keystroke, and quickly recall past messages many times a day from Things by just clicking on a link to the message. But I also have programmed many sequences of button clicks to speed up use of my firm’s case management system.

  • I’m an outlier, but I still appreciate the elegance of some Mac apps over the alternative, even in today’s cloud-first world. I switched from Things to Todoist for several months because of some of Todoist’s features, but finally switched back and it has been like a breath of fresh air. I liked Todoist, but I felt like I was always working against some of the friction, and the interactions (like what clicking in certain places did) felt foreign. In hindsight, Todoist felt like a web wrapper, as powerful as it was.

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Think you meant “from Things to Todoist”, mate.

Thanks! You’re correct. I just corrected it.

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Good question. I think my M1 MacBook Air is a great machine but, with the exception of battery life, operationally it is virtually indistinguishable from my previous 2013 MacBook.

I’ve never needed a lot of horsepower so mail and terminal, etc. still function basically the same as they have for decades. I first used a Mac at work in the System 6 days then Windows 95 changed everything. It wasn’t until 2009 that Macs began replacing the wintel computers where I was working. Today those users still have Macs but 90% only need Safari.

IMO, mobile and the cloud will continue to change the devices we use much faster than that we can imagine. I’m not sure how long Mac User is going to have any meaning.

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Legit question - doesn’t Windows support legacy hardware longer and jump through many, many more hoops to keep corporate users (and purchasing departments in particular) happy?

Or has that changed significantly post-Ballmer?

And one of the big ties, from what I remember, was server hardware. Apple doesn’t really have a server product, so at least in the heyday when Windows was the small-to-medium business server solution, it was more of a natural fit for the desktops to run Windows as well.

I realize none of this should logically impact the laptop the average corporate employee gets to use, but I’m curious as to your thoughts.

It definitely runs legacy software longer. I used utility programs on Windows Server 2012 that had been around since Windows 95. It’s one advantage of Windows and also one of the things that has held it back in many ways.

Good question. I tend to think the apps I now depend on and am totally used to work well on Mac hardware. I think macs are better than most other PCs. I had some bad experiences with Dell.
Though the big change to Apple I was hoping my wife’s company would make didn’t happen. In fact a lot I anticipated didn’t. I never cease to be surprised at how dominant Word still is and how few lawyers and so on didn’t switch to Mac.
For me the apps and the platform mostly go together.
DEVONthink 3 and Keyboard Maestro really, I have other good ones, Mellel. DEVONthink 3 is the key. I use LaTeX and the Mac versions are fine, very good in fact.

Briefly, a Mac user is someone who has no interest in diddling around with the Windows registry just to get something to work correctly.

I also like the operating system (Unix/BSD-based (yes it is)). I know Windows has the WLS2, but it seems like a kludge to me.

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If anything, macOS tends to support older hardware longer than Windows (hardware support for a lot of machines getting dropped in the move from Windows 10 to Windows 11 is a particularly vivid recent example). As @WayneG points out, software is a different matter. Apple is much more willing to make changes that break old software than Microsoft is.

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