Microsoft is not the enemy. They never have been

There’s this common fallacy that if you’re a Mac user — at least if you’re one of those Mac users — then it follows that you must hate Microsoft.

I remember a time when that was more accurate — in the 1990s, when Microsoft had plainly beaten Apple for dominance in enterprise, and Apple was on the ropes. Boy, it was fun to hate Microsoft then.

But even then, Microsoft wasn’t the enemy.

People forget that Microsoft was one of Apple’s first third-party Mac developers. Excel originated on the Mac, after all. Microsoft has been developing for the Mac for the last 30 years, and while their interest and support for the platform has waxed, waned, and waxed again over the years, they’ve never left it.

Many folks who buy a Mac now do so because they want to get away from Windows. They’ve had a hard transition from Windows 7 or 8 to 10, or have reliability or usage problems that they blame on Windows but which often have to do with the actual devices they’re using, and how they’re configured.

Even when they get away from Windows, though, these same customers are entirely dependent on workflows they’ve developed or their employers use which require Microsoft products, like Office, in order to use.

These days Microsoft supports the Mac with its Office 2016 product, which the company thoroughly publicly tested before launching it officially. And you can get office apps for your iPhone and iPad, making it possible to create an end-to-end workflow for home and business that makes it possible for you to do your work anywhere you have a device, whatever that device is.

In that respect, Microsoft is very much like Apple: They’re trying to put your work and your productivity ahead of the user experience. Make device and app use invisible, as it were, focusing solely on getting you what you need to get your work done.

At Apple’s iPad Pro introduction this September, one of the development partners that shared the stage with Apple was Microsoft. They showed off Office on the iPad taking advantage of iPad Pro-specific features. That Microsoft was there and figured as prominently as it did speaks loads about how important Apple still thinks that relationship is.

iPad and Mac Convergence isn’t the Answer, it’s about Seamless Workflow

I recently wrote an editorial for The Mac Observer after Tim Cook reacted to the suggestion that Apple would be heading iOS and OS X towards a singular user experience.

I argue that making workflow seamless is Apple’s end game here, not duplicating the iOS experience on the Mac.

iPad and Mac Convergence isn’t the Answer, it’s about Seamless Workflow


Imac iphone

Looking for your Apple device manuals? Check iBooks!

“I like the iPhone, but I wish it had a manual I could read.”

Years ago, Apple streamlined its product packaging to only include the bare essentials, and the company decided at that point that those bare essentials didn’t include a user’s manual. After all, Apple products are easy enough to use straight out of the box, right? Why bother with bulky documentation that very few customers ever use.

I’ve actually heard this complaint from a lot of the customers who come in to the retail store where I work. So I know that this is a recurring theme, at least among a certain type of my clientele: Often older customers who are simply more comfortable with printed matter.

Unfortunately, the days of big books that come with computers and accessories is waning. It’s wasteful, it adds a lot of weight and bulk to product packaging, and the fact is that few people use them.

The good news is that there are manuals available for most Apple products. If you already have a Mac, iPhone or iPad, you have everything you need to get started. The secret is Apple’s iBooks app.

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iBooks is Apple’s electronic book reading software. It’s Apple’s alternative to Amazon’s Kindle, or Barnes & Noble’s Nook (apps that are also available on the App Store). It’s available for both iOS and for OS X. Here’s the link to Apple’s section on the iBook Store.

Apple periodically updates product documentation to reflect changes in new operating system releases, highlighting new features and newly exposed functionality.

The best part is that it’s all free, and you don’t even need to own the device to download the documentation. So if you’re curious about how Apple’s MacBook works,  or you’d like to know a little bit more about the Apple Watch before you drop $350 this Christmas, you can visit the iBook Store and download Apple docs to your heart’s content.

Apple adds Boston transit maps

iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 El Capitan debuted with transit maps for a variety of North American cities, but Boston was left off the list. It didn’t take Apple too long to fix that, though. The company has updated its maps data with transit information for Boston commuters. If you plan to use the MBTA or Commuter Rail to get in and out of Boston, you can now use Maps to plan your route.

There are, of course, third party apps that have filled the gap quite nicely, like Transit. Still, it’s convenient to use built-in apps, and Handoff integration makes it convenient for you to plot your route on your Mac then transfer it to your iPhone.

You shouldn’t need to do anything to see the new content — it’s all server-side on Apple’s end.Screen Shot 2015 10 22 at 10 24 02 AM

How to install Photos extensions

One of the coolest features of OS X El Capitan is the ability to extend the capabilities of Photos, Apple’s photo management and editing application. Photos replaced iPhoto when OS X Yosemite was updated to 10.10.4 earlier this year. If you haven’t already migrated to Photos from iPhoto, now’s a great time to experiment.

Photos extensions are available from app developers including MacPhun (including Noiseless, Tonality, Intensify and Snapheal), Pixelmator, BeFunky, and soon, Serif Labs (makers of Affinity Photo).

Extensions do not provide the same functionality that the full applications do. Unlike Apple’s now-defunct Aperture app, or Adobe Lightroom, Photos does not permit the use of full external editors. What this does is provide some limited functionality so you can edit your photos using tools that are parts of these apps, all without leaving Photos itself. It makes doing color correction, reducing noise and making other editing changes that much easier.

To activate Extensions, there are just a few steps:

  1. Download the latest versions of apps that support them, available from the Mac App Store.
  2. Open the Extensions system preference.
  3. Click on Photos.
  4. Click the checkbox next to the name of the extension or extensions you’d like to use.Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 10.39.55 AM

Once Photos is open, you can activate the extension you’d like to use as follows:

  1. Select the photo you’d like to edit.
  2. Click on the Edit button.
  3. Click on Extensions.
  4. Select the extension you’d like to use. Any extension you checked in the Extensions system preference should be available.
  5. Make any changes you’d like, then click the Save Changes button.

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