Mac V Windows, Voiceover V JAWS. Which is best?
So, I bought a Mac. Crazy hey? Just like a 35+ year old deciding for the first time to buy a manual car, after only having experience with owning auto vehicles. What motivated this change for a blind user!?
To be honest, I was just sick and tired of being held ransom by Freedom Scientific and their once market leading Screen reading software- JAWS. I was tired of needing to upgrade the $2000+ software each time I upgraded my hardware. Therefore, what ought to be an affordable purchase of $1500-$2000 laptop, immediately became a $4000 investment. So, I decided to cut off this dependence on a third-party screen reading software and go with a device which had its own built-in screen reader.
My thought processes were that, I’m already an iPhone user, so adapting to Mac shouldn’t be that hard right?
But I was so wrong, so wrong. The first week after purchasing the MacBook Pro, I was almost in tears! It took me 2 days to work-out even where the Documents folder was located, and then another 2 days before I was able to work out how to even open a document! Crazy right!? As nothing is simple nor straight forward on a Mac! No Windows start key, no leftt clicks or equivalent keyboard key, and the Enter/Return key was no longer the universal key command to activate an action! Grrrr!
Everything became a keystroke, and everything is hidden under different rocks! This function under this menu, that function under that menu! It truly does test the memory and the patience of this old guy……. But after all of this, and now that I’ve crested the Mac learning curve, I honestly believe the Mac is the far superior product, and here are the reasons why.
I keep telling my wife, now I’ve got an entire Apple ecosystem! My phone talks to my computer, the software and hardware are now at one, and most importantly they all talk to me! And I no longer have those annoying performance issues where the third-party software slowed down my computer, stressing out the RAM as the software wasn’t designed for that device, and the device wasn’t designed for the software nor a blind user of it. Now everything works seamlessly, the computer doesn’t crash for unknown reasons, and now I can actually browse a website without losing cursor focus every 5 minutes!
This is expected from Apple, as Afterall they spend millions on R&D, and they have the smartest minds in the world working on their products. So, you can expect it to be well designed, modern, and of high build quality. And it’s all that and sleek, clean, sturdy, light, and super quiet. Not once since I’ve gotten it, has it overheated, seemed stressed, nor have I needed to switch it on and off because it had shat itself and stopped talking. The thing which I really love is it’s instant on! Just lift up the lid, count to 5 and Voiceover already asks you to plug in your pin. Within 30 seconds you can be on the web!
Whereas JAWS eloquence was responsive, but the voice was so robotic! Embarrassingly so! But with Apple’s investment in life like voices, now I have Siri as my every-day reading voice. It’s so good that I’ve slowed down the speech rate so I could better admire her sexy voice. Haaha. Previously JAWS was just a means of pulling out information from your computer so after a while you don’t hear the voice anymore, but now listening to Siri, hearing her voice is a joy and an experience in itself so much so I just find random articles for Siri to read- admiring how human she sounds! Sure, I’m less efficient in everything that I do now, but everything about interacting with my device is more pleasurable now. *Eyes rolled into the back of my head*.
Navigation and Control
Although it took some time to learn all the keystrokes, and nothing is intuitive- however once you get the hang of things you just have a greater control over where you want to go, how to get there (as there’re multiple ways of performing most things), and once you’ve put in the hard yards to learn all its intricacies, the sense of mastery is so satisfying! Returning back to the car analogy, maybe that’s why purists prefer driving manual cars- as it’s that sense of control and needing to be focused- on a Mac you can’t just mindlessly tap away, allowing your fingers to run on muscle memory, but you need to be totally engaged as you use every key on your keyboard.
While the aspects which I don’t like about the Mac, also starts with navigation and control.
Navigation and Control
As I mentioned before, there are always multiple methods of doing things, and everything has a keystroke- however this is also it’s downside. In JAWS you basically only use and need the arrow keys and tab key for navigation, and the enter key, sometimes space bar, and at worse the virtual left mouse click to interact with any interactable feature. However, on Mac, different scenarios require different keystrokes to enable, like a keystroke to open folders and documents; a different keystroke to enter a list or table; and a 3-finger combination to click on a link? Why so complex!? In that first week, I’d be left asking “why? Why? Why?” way too often. And the one thing which really annoys me, and still does to this day, is the assignment of keystroke combinations which are impossible to carry-out! As for non-sighted users of a computer, it’s all about touch typing and having your hands and fingers always settled in the same spot- index fingers on the F and J keys. But the keystroke assignments require you to lift up your right hand, slide it under your left as the assigned keystroke requires 5 fingers, a 4-finger combination which can’t be pulled off by one hand alone! And because you’re not sighted and the opposing hand isn’t use to seeking out the Q key (as an example), so I find myself searching out the Q key with my ring finger on my left hand, then using my right hand to trail down the left to secure it over the Q key, before continuing to find the rest of the other 3 keys with my left hand to complete the keystroke. And the annoying thing is that in many cases these complex keystrokes are commonly used functions. Makes no sense!
Losing myself in menu bars
Sure, in this age of social distancing, losing myself in a bar would be a welcomed change now- but losing myself in a menu bar? What the? So now and again, I just randomly find myself in the menu bar, when seconds before I was happily writing in Word, or browsing a website. And to get back out of the menu isn’t as simple as just hitting ESC. But you have to actually find your way out of the maze, oftentimes I just save and exit the document and then re-open, as it’s quicker, or to shut the page down and re-launch another instance of Safari. It’s really that bad. I’m still trying to learn and recognise the virtual doorways out of menus, but I’m still not there yet 1 month on.
And the basic task of screen reading, it can sometimes be so hard! In JAWS, Caps lock key + arrow down from any part of a document or website would start the reader to read out loud from that point on, to the end of the document/website (unless you stop it earlier). But with Voiceover, this simple task is fraught with problems. Either the cursor doesn’t come with you, so if I stop reading at any point, and start read all again, it would literally start from the beginning of the document again! It’s so annoying, and I still haven’t worked out how to remedy this. *Teeth bared*. Or the fact that there is a keystroke to read headings, and the next text paragraph, and another to just read links. But with each of these methods they don’t read everything on a page. Just reading paragraph text, it misses links, just reading headings it skips everything else. While the other alternative is to read line by line, but that’s so much effort on my part! And when editing your work in Word, I never know where the cursor has landed, is it after the last letter, or is it Infront of the first letter of the next word? So, editing my work is now so slow- shudders to think how long it’s going to take me to proofread/edit this long-ass post!
And although I had praised Apple’s sleek design, but the power pack annoys me somewhat, as it’s pretty huge! Sure, all laptops have that big charger pack, but not everyone has the charger pack connected to the actual PowerPoint plug. So, when you have it plugged into the wall, it feels like the wall socket is propping up a heavy load, sure it’s not, but it just seems that way- not to mention the clearance space required, gone are the days of using a powerpoint hidden behind furniture. The oversized touch pad is also a problem, I kept unknowingly brushing it with my sleeve or something, thus moving the cursor so after typing for a while, I’ll find my work completely jumbled as the cursor was moved here and there- causing me to spend just as long fixing up everything. These days I’ve just de-activate the touch pad. Giving up the chance of using my iPhone touch gestures as an alternative to move around the screen. And the last design floor, is the sharp edges. After typing for a while, I’ll have indented lines on my wrists from the angular aluminium edges, and the corners where there is an indentation to open the lid, the corners are particularly sharp, wouldn’t want to cut your wrists on that!
But after this seemingly long list of gripes, I still thing Voiceover is better than JAWS, and Mac more satisfying to use than a Windows device, just due to the fact that there is a sense of accomplishment after pulling off any simple task (pleased that I’d remembered the 4-finger combination). But all cynicism aside, the MacBook is prettier than any other laptop, more powerful for a portable device, the battery life is great, the screen is high res (so I’ve been told), and the sound quality is truly hi def!
So, if you’re considering a change in your life, looking for a new challenge? Checkout the line-up of Apple MacBook’s, once you master it, it’s so satisfying! Click HERE to see the range of MacBook’s on offer.
13 Inch MacBook Pro
2.0Ghz Quad core Intel i5 processor
512 Gb SSD memory