Wednesday, May 4, 2005

They have software on Macs now?

There is a long-held myth that there is "no software" for the Mac. The other day, I told someone I was going to buy a PowerBook, and his immediate response was, "A Mac? But they're not compatible with anything!" Of course, by "they're not compatible with anything", he meant "they don't run software built for Microsoft Windows." Which is true, within limits. (I explained the idea of native versions of the same applications, and stopped short of the concept of PC emulators.)

Of course, it's a favoured criticism of the non-dominant operating system in any niche. (Microsoft Windows just enjoys a rather large niche.) "There is no software for [the non-dominant operating system] X", with the implication that everything would be alright, "if only X ran applications compiled for [the dominant operating system] Y". For another example, substitute "FreeBSD" for X and "Linux" for Y. There are currently over 12,000 ported applications for FreeBSD, so clearly the first claim is false. And FreeBSD has been able to run Linux binaries since soon after Linus cobbled his juggernaut together, so the second statement isn't actually a criticism at all. But, as usual, I digress.

I want to try and avoid purchasing Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac Professional Edition. Mostly because it's $A 849, but also because it's now 2005, and naming software after a calendar year is bad idea that has to stop, and finally just to see if I can. It may be obvious by now that my primary interest in the PowerBook is curiosity. My wife, however, intends to do actual work with it. Her computing requirements are reasonably modest:
  1. Reading and writing email
  2. Browsing the web
  3. Mostly reading, but occasionally writing, MS Office documents (because it seems, despite pleas to stop, people still consider Word documents to be a universal format for information exchange)
  4. Writing and giving slide-based presentations.
Even with my limited knowledge of MacOS X, I think I can safely assume we will have 1 and 2 covered. Let's skip 3 for now. There's no good reason why 4 should involve PowerPoint, and more than a few good reasons why it shouldn't. I'm open to suggestions here, since as long as the PowerBook can be plugged in to a projector, it shouldn't matter what software is making the slides.

Someone suggested to me that the solution to 3 is to "throw money at the problem
," and by this he meant buy MS Office for Mac. I might do that. Hopefully I won't have to.

6 comments:

  1. I'm afraid I've bowed to the software monoculture and use MSOffice. Not that I'm proud, mind.

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  2. Whilst your wife could use any tool to make and give slideshow presentations, it could get difficult working collaboratively on presentations, or sharing them electronically if she doesn't use the unfortunate PowerPoint standard.

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  3. What about OpenOffice??
    I have absolutely no experience with it, but invariably people bring it up as an alternative - so that someone might as well be me :-)

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  4. You could save some of your $849 and just buy iWork for AU$119...

    http://www.apple.com/iwork/

    Keynote is the powerpoint style part and Pages is the word processor bit...

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  5. Thanks, Richard, that looks really good. Both of those say that they import/export the respective MS Office format. Seems ideal.

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  6. As the "throw money at the problem" person, I must say I recommended iWork as an option to investigate... you selective quoter! :)

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