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Why I Passed on a Macbook PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tim Wray   
Tuesday, 13 April 2010 00:00

In February, I had the opportunity to purchase a new laptop for work use. I strongly considered a MacBook, since the price wasn't out of line with what some might spend on a brand new laptop at my full time place of employ. I was also interested in gaining some experience with a modern Mac, though I do have other opportunities at my disposal to work with them.


I agonized for days over this decision. The MacBook was solidly built, and the reviews match. I felt I could deal with the smaller screen size, and I knew it could run Windows 7 for my Windows needs at work. As a matter of fact, I had all but counted on running Windows on it 90% of the time, since I don't see a need to replace all my Windows software that has Mac versions with new copies just to switch to Mac OS X (I have Adobe Photoshop, Premiere, and Flash for Windows, and the Mac counterparts don't really add any sort of advantage as far as performance and such.)


I was nearly ready to purchase one, until I took a close study of the MacBook's keyboard. I have also been in the situation of having to use an iMac, which has a nearly identical keyboard, to edit audio at my Church. I find myself constantly going for keys that simply do not exist on a Macbook, and only exist on other Macs with the purchase of an expanded keyboard, which really should be included with EVERY Mac.


Let's do a case study. Meet the MacBook keyboard:

Now, this is the keyboard on the Dell Latitude E5500 I ultimately ended up selecting, with the keys highlighted that were the deciding factor in it's purchase:

The Macbook does include the Control and Alt keys, though they're arranged in such a way that they're awkward to a seasoned PC user (I usually end up hitting Alt when trying to hit Control, things like that.) My biggest gripe is that most of the key functions in programs that are a combination of "control+key" on the PC are a combination of "Command+Key" on the Mac. Since "command" on a mac is the first key on either side of the spacebar, and "Alt" is the first key on either side of a PC space bar generally, that makes any key combination to a true PC vetran feel like walking backwards in the dark down a stairway (or whatever comparison of awkwardness you can come up with, feel free to insert it here.) Just compare the photos.


Also, since I am a freelance web designer who often builds sites from scratch instead of using WYSIWYG editors (aka: trash code generators), I NEED Delete, Home, End, Page Up and Page Down. Do you Mac people have a CLUE how frustrating it is to not have the delete key!? I mean, really, older Macs (G3/G4 era) still had a delete key. What's up with that? Of course, most Mac users rarely have a need to edit anything like code or use a terminal, so I guess that does away with the need for Insert, Home and End as well. Argh!!!

The Windows (Occasionally called the Flag) key is a huge loss too. I know one of the apple keys (alt/option I believe) can serve in it's place, but it ends up being awkward in some situations, and on Mac OS X, it's useless/doesn't function in the same manner at all. There are so many useful keyboard combinations in Windows that utilize the Windows key, such as Win+R for the run dialog, Win+E for the Computer (used to be My Computer) window, and the excellent Win+Arrow Keys that can move windows about quickly and without the extra seconds it takes to drag a window to different locations (which is sub-par in user friendliness in OS X anyway, particularly to a PC user).


Thus, the keyboard was ultimately the deal breaker.

To appease the Mac Fanboys out there, yes, I could unlearn my PC habits. Honestly, though, for every 100 PCs (if not more) I encounter, I encounter 1 Mac. (No, it's not because they never need worked on.) So, I will (for the foreseeable future) always need the PC habits when I'm in a hurry.


I'm always in a hurry. Apple, please get with the program. Real power users need all the keys, whether it looks trendy or not. I'm so happy with my new laptop. It cost $300 less than the cheapest Macbook, has a bigger, better backlit screen and 5 hour battery life. A much more economical choice.