That’s where I’m going to place the blame for my long silence, but the truth has more to do with priorities. We do what is important to us, and this has never been more than a vanity for me, though I have tried to share things that will bless people. I do have something brewing, but I’m not ready to serve it just yet, so here is a bit of trivia that some may find interesting.
For some years I’ve been watching as Apple continued to improve its accessibility and more and more blind users seemed to be making the switch away from Windows. On my fortieth birthday my wife Linda took me to an Apple store, and I was tempted then but not convinced. A lot of time and money has gone into Windows applications over the years and I was comfortable with the way things worked.
But I kept watching and wondering, then Windows 10 came along. It’s not that it’s bad. Actually the transition from windows 7 was not that difficult. Some things I liked better, others not so much. It was the accessibility glitches combined with the age of my windows PC that finally convinced me to take the plunge.
I work from home and have my desktop and work laptop hooked to a KVM switch. I don’t really need a laptop. Anything I need on the road I can do with my iPhone. So I bought a Mac Mini, maxing out the processor options and adding some RAM.
The promise held true. I performed the initial setup without resort to sighted assistance or using a magnifier to try to make out the text on screens that didn’t talk. There were none of those. You can run a tutorial for Voiceover right away that gives you enough information to operate voiceover through the installation process. It did help that some concepts cary over from using the iPhone with a bluetooth keyboard and I had listened to a number of demonstrations wherein Voiceover was used.
There were a few things that took some adjustment. After all, its a different operating system and one can’t expect all of the Windows conventions to apply. That extends to the screen reader. Having to “interact” with things in some cases before you can work with them seems a cumbersome extra step, but in some cases it actually makes things go more quickly. It allows you to quickly skip over whole groups of things that you don’t need to bother with. Some things are taking longer to adjust to, especially since I still have to use Windows at work. For example, I can’t seem to train myself away from reaching for the Home and End keys to jump to the bottom or top of lists or the beginning and end of a line.
That said, the transition has not been that difficult, but it also is not complete. I use the Mac for simple daily activities, but still have to fire up Windows on the weekends. There are two crucial programs for me that I have no Mac alternative for. The first is for braille translation. I take the text from our church’s Power Point presentations and produce braille and large print handouts for those who need them. I also translate the notes I make when preparing for a sermon. Surprisingly there is no braille translator that works on the latest version of the Mac OS. Duxbury Systems, who makes the Windows braille translators hinted at a Mac version but doesn’t have one yet. Even if they do come out with one, it will cost me as much as another Mini, albeit with lower specs. I’ll be better off loading up a copy of Windows and bringing over my existing software.
The second actually does have a Mac version, but I have not been able to verify that it will work with Voiceover. That is Quicken, which I have used for financial management since the days of DOS. If I’m going to have to keep Windows around for a while, I might as well keep that one too.
Sadly, that does contribute to the conventional wisdom that says Macs are fine for play but not much good for work. Even so, I am pleased overall and don’t really want to go back. Windows will get more stable and the screen readers will get better, but right now it can be a frustrating experience that I am quite happy to avoid. I find that I rely on magnification less with the Mac, but when I need it, it works. I can’t say the same for the latest version of ZoomText. Cursor tracking flakes out almost immediately and has to be put right again by restarting the program. I’d almost rather use Windows’ native Magnifier app, except that it lacks center tracking of the mouse and I don’t like having to hunt for the pointer.
My favorite features are the unified inbox in Mail, and the seamless integration of all my day to day activities with the iPhone. It took some adjustment there too as I used to have a whole system that revolved around my Outlook inbox, but this is working out and I think it will lead to greater efficiency than I had before. My Outlook regime made it easy to put things off and move them down the list. I can still do that, but it’s easier just to do what needs doing.
I’m writing this with the aid of MarsEdit, a desktop blogging tool for the Mac. I’m just trying it out, but I think it will be a keeper. Working with WordPress is actually more efficient using Voiceover than it was using anything on the PC, but I like this better so far. So I guess you could say I’ve been converted. It is possible I’ve bought my last windows PC.