Why Mac?

Why is this blog about Mac? What does a type of computer have to do with your focus, creativity and productivity? Isn’t it just a tool to store and transmit information? My answer is in the Zen saying I recently found on Prezi website.

“When the flower arranger arranges the flowers, he also arranges his mind and the mind of the person who looks at the flowers.”


A computer is not only a tool, it also arranges your mind. More prosaically, a tool is not only a technique but also a ‘practice’, inseparable from a ‘community of practice’: people using and developing the tool. This also applies to personal computers which enable users and developers to learn from each other. For example, think how we learn typographic formatting through word processors, or citation standards through reference managers. And here comes a trick! What you learn and from whom depends upon which computer you use.

To be exact, if you use Windows PC, most of the things you learn are probably from Microsoft. This is a great company, but their lessons about productivity or creativity have never inspired me. I have never come in touch with any enthusiastic users of MS Word or PowerPoint or Internet Explorer who would teach me anything useful. Perhaps, because such users are diluted in a vast sea of people who do not really care about the work they do on their computers. They are happy with such standard solutions as Microsoft Word which is supposed to be good for everyone: a secretary, a science fiction writer, a student taking class notes, and a sales person developing a product leaflet. Well, something which seeks to be good for anyone is often mediocre to everyone. And what would I learn from how a bored secretary uses his MS Word?

The Mac community are different in that they are creative and enthusiastic even when they are at their computers. They won’t put up with wasting their time waiting for a clumsy software bloated with unnecessary features to boot. They won’t tolerate ugly or cluttered interface. They would rather use their time to express their ideas than to search for the right command through endless menus. They are not afraid to experiment and to constantly look for more elegant solutions. And the main advantage of using Mac for me is to learn from such people!

The world of Mac is amazing because it is not dominated by one big company such a Microsoft. Instead there is a competition of small developers offering dozens of solutions to every possible task. Their products are challenged and compared by uncompromising users who are prepared to try, experiment, fail and learn. The users and the developers are not separated: in fact many Mac products are designed by users themselves (e.g. Scrivener by a novel and film script writer).

Of course this does not apply to all Mac users. There are plenty of people who do not care about their Macs more than the majority of Windows PC-users care about their computers. You can easily recognize such people by asking them what software they use. They would often not even understand the question. Of course, they use Word and PowerPoint and Outlook! Is there any other software in the world? We wish such people to enjoy their Macs too: at the end of the day it is a fast, reliable and virus-free computer.

For Mac users who want to go beyond this, reflect on the saying I quote in the beginning of this posts. Computers are not merely tools, they arrange your mind. Since I started to use Mac I have a great feeling that my mind is no longer arranged by Microsoft. Instead I arrange it myself taking cues from like-minded people proud of being alive when they are working on their computers.


9 Responses to Why Mac?

  1. Nikos Mattheos says:

    Dear Aleh,
    I just read your article with great interest.
    Now seriously…! What if I would say this: “I love driving a Porshe, because Porsche drivers are creative and enthusiastic behind the wheel, unlike boring secretaries with their Toyotas” … how does this sound as a statement? yet I’m afraid that is very close to what you are writing!

    To state the facts from my side: I bought my first Mac 4 years ago and since then it is my main computer. It was the time I was forced to upgrade to Windows Vista and I was fed up with the constant meaningless changes in Windows. I liked my mac because it is reliable, quick and had a good and logocal interface. It is a good product and this is why I continue use it as my main computer. Meanwhile, I realised some interesting facts:

    – The world of Mac is dominated by one big company: Apple. Apple is by far more successful in imposing a monopoly that Microsoft ever was. Apple is extremely protective of all products and software they make. Their code is a well guarded secret and only Apple will determine which applications and which software will run in their products. Adobe Flash video has been stubbornly excluded from many Apple products for example, despite flash being the most popular video format on internet. The Final Cut Pro, i-movie and other ‘creative’ products have a serious bias towards apple video formats and will refuse to cooperate with many very popular avi captures. Microsoft, in all their monopoly greed, they still have a platform where every Tom Dick and Harry has developed programs and applications that have flooded the market. I am sure you know of the Open Source movement. What about the popular triad Php language, Apache Server and MySQL database? This has been the basis for millions of free, open and creative websites by amateur and professional developers all over the world, which was made possible on Microsoft platforms. This would never be allowed on Apple. If Apple does not approve of your application, it will never be launched on Apple Macs. So much of the enthusiastic army of amateur developers.Full stop.

    – Everything in Apple is consequently a “Black Box”, you are not allowed the slightest intervention in either software or hardware. My PC box is never closed, as I am continously changing graphic cards, memory chips, upgrading motherbords and processors. Now in Macs or any Apple product, you touch a screw and you are damned. You cant even change a battery! You must know of the large class action Apple lost in the first i-phone, when U.S. consumers sued Apple for “planned obsolence” as they were forced to throw away their i-phones when the battery was dying after 14 months. Apple is the definition of the “Closed Source”. In order to intall an application Apple does not like you will have to “jailbreak” (how nice metaphor!)
    And although Apple has every right to do so, I cannot accept that this is a way to boost creativity and support innovation. Do you want to see a community of enthusiastic developers? Check out Linux! Thousands of amateurs donating enthusistic their time and effort in an open source operating system that runs on PC! Now show me how could the Linux movement be ever possible on Apple platforms…

    – The argument about Word and Powerpoint being mediocre programs for mediocre people is at least funny! Do you seriously say that Pages and Keynote are so much different that characterise creative thinkers? I’m sure you also know that more Mac users use Microsoft Word than Pages…I wonder what are these people, creative or boring …! As I have happened to meet amazingly creative people with their PC and very boring people with Macs, I cannot follow in your argument. Maybe if you could show me one scientific study on how the Mac interface can arrange your mind better than a PC does, I would aggree with you. But I have not seen any such study, no matter how much I searched. On the contrary, with the hype that currently surrounds Apple, I see a lot of Mac users who simply have no idea what is in the Black Box and they are just happily locked in the jail that Apple has formed, getting excited about exchanging applications and pressing large colourful touchscreen buttons.

    Conclusively, I like Macs, because it is a good product that helps me to what I want to do, either creative or boring. I have an iphone that I like as well and which has improved certain aspects of life and work, but is certainly not a characteristic or creative people anymore than any other phone. Apple products have a simple and logical interface that can allow a quick start with everything and offer handy tools especially to the novice user. And that is the fact.

    Now from this point on, iMac is still dominated by one big company which runs everything with top secrecy, absolute control and an iron fist. And in that Apple has achieved a control that Microsoft could only dream of. I still have my PC, because I have been in the past very creative with it and there are stil many things I can do with it that Apple will not allow me to do with a Mac. The rest, about the bored secretaries and the uninspiring powerpoint users as opposed to the enthusiastic Mac people is just hype. Unless you can prove otherwise.
    Thank you for your site and discussion.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Vijay says:

      Hi Nikos,
      Thank you for the forceful arguments/view points. I was using PC for the last 20 years and just recently started using Mac and I just loved it. Clean and neat interface, easy to use and navigate. I guess that’s what students like me love Mac. Trust me am not going back to PC again.


    • Czar says:

      I acknowledge the comments about Apple having a closed ecosystem, but I have to agree with the writer more so. Mac OS has been a god-send to me and others who are creative, enjoy simplicity and think different (I’m dyslexic and ADD) so I do so. I’d just posit the following observations regarding a number of your facts.

      Adobe Flash – ah, well I’m so happy it is declining. It made my older Macs obsolete faster than anything else. I had to remove it (where I could) and use HTML 5 videos because Flash so hogged my machine’s resources. Nonetheless, I still use a 2007 Mac-mini solo core (upgraded to a Dual-Core Intel), which I have succeeded in installing the Lion OS.

      While I agree Apple has not been nearly as good as Microsoft at backwards compatibility. Still, I yet have old devices being used that were given to formerly PC using relatives (with the promise that I’ll help maintain them virus and spyware free). My secret is they almost never call to bother me with issues, where previously they did often. So out of six siblings only one yet uses a PC, which her kids (all Mac users), not me, willingly maintain.

      Apple’s foundation is on a Unix kernel and so there is much that is done in a collaborative, open-source fashion. Windows is closed and much more proprietary and this has resulted in some pretty severe limitations )and flaws) on improvements to this OS.

      Linux and other open-source OSs are available to operate on the Mac as is Microsoft Windows. Each operating system can either run concurrently via Virtual PC, Parallels and other open-source emulators. Or, by booting into each respective operating system solely. Open-source software is permitted and allowed in the operating system by using appropriate open-source OS software.

      I’d never endorse the following because it is not permitted by Apple. However, many people with technical knowledge actually build their own PC, which can boot and operate the Mac OS. And many folks do jailbreak (either legally or illicitly) their IOS devices. So Apple’s devices are not entirely closed operating systems.

      I don’t know about PHP, but Apache has been on the Mac for a long time. I’d also suggest these may be available through the aforementioned emulation or booting techniques.

      I think many of your comments are fair, however, there are a number that don’t hold water.


  2. Aleh Cherp says:

    Nikos, thanks for the great comment! It really made me think hard what it is I wanted to say when I wrote this post about a year ago. Well, to begin with, I think your analogy with cars precisely makes the point. I don’t care about cars or driving and that’s why I don’t drive Porsche, I drive some other boring car about which I know nothing. I do care about knowledge work and that’s why I use Mac. The only difference might be that Porsche is probably really expensive whereas Mac is not much more expensive than a PC, in fact, probably cheaper if you take the costs and time of maintenance into account (David Sparks makes this argument in his Mac at Work).

    Then I do not deny that there are lots of people creatively using their PCs. I wrote that it’s hard to find them (so far I met one – see below) because they are lost in the sea of people who do not care. It’s probably harder to find people who love cars among Opel drivers than among Porsche drivers.

    I must admit I am not particularly excited about opening my computer with a screwdriver. I am also not passionate about coding. I have a friend passionate about his PC because he can open it and wire in various devices to control his lab equipment. Well, I don’t do lab work. I want my computer to help me to do my job and I learn mostly from people who do their jobs on their computers, not from people who tweak computers. I am also pretty agnostic about moral aspects (e.g. whether Apple dominates the market) as long as they don’t get in the way of my work.

    Finally, I think Keynote is truly superior to PowerPoint. I think MS Word is in some aspects better than Pages (I am planning to write about it!)

    Thanks again for taking your time to write here!


    • Nikos Mattheos says:

      Dear Aleh,
      thank you for taking the time to reply and also thank you for hosting this discussion in your website, which I have very much enjoyed visiting.
      Indeed, I can now better understand your position and the arguments you are making.
      Best regards and all the best,

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yasin says:

    Hi Aleh,

    I heard about your blog thanks to your very useful Power Mac Users podcast. As a Ph.D. student, I found your blog very useful. I’ve been already using some of the applications that your recommend, such as Omni Focus, Omni Outliner, and Scrivener. But thanks to your blog, I could get a better sense of how to use them as an academic.

    I would like to see more on dissertation writing (or any form of long writing). Long writing projects demand project management as well as the daunting task of writing. How do you deal with this double edged sword? For example, it would great if you write a post that summarizes your research work flow: starting from capturing information to having the final product.

    I would also like to see more on your tips on teaching. How do you grade student assignments? Do you use university softwares like Moodle, or do you have Mac apps for this task as well? Perhaps, you already wrote on this but I could not find this information in your blog.

    Lastly, can you share your IPhone home screen? Which OS apps do you use frequently.

    Thanks for this great blog!


  4. Sanja says:

    Don’t see your point. Neither in 2012 or in 2016.
    Software: What is wrong with Microsoft Office?!?! I just don’t get your point! This is the best office bundle I ever tried. In no way they are perfect, but didn’t see anything nearly as good on the market. It is (and was) well working together, is suitable really for every user and supports scripting (build in each office application). You can automate it and even create own UI without learning programming.
    Windows is lacking of applications? You must be kidding me. This OS has most of all applications and guess what – they are not from Microsoft. Windows applications are coming for most part from third party companies and professionals, while it seems on Mac most of the stuff is either Apple or enthusiasts.
    So only thing I got from reading your article is that you feel better because you own Apple.


  5. As I continue doctorial work, I’ve been researching academic workflows on the Mac. I enjoyed reading your “why” blog. Academic workflows are much different from my previous book writing—Live From Cupertino—workflow. Thank you for your useable/actionable thoughts.


  6. Your words on Why, somehow echoed in me. There is something symbiotic and easy-flowing about the design and implementation both hardware and operating system by a single company, that is able to inspire by just not being there: to be able to concentrate in my research workflow rather than in the tools, it just had not happened to me before in windows-based machines. I have been doing much more creative and composition work lately, and for me the Mac ecosystem with its seamless integration and intuitiveness allows me to get in the zone much more easily than before. I certainly do believe that the florist also rearranges the customers’ mind, perhaps without foreknowledge, soaking theirs with his own. For that, I thank you Aleh.


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