The catch of using an all-encompassing ecosystem is that once you stop using part of it, the rest seems much less enticing. This is exactly what happened when I ‘left’ Windows several years ago, seduced by Apple’s simplified user experience.
Now it feels like time to go back the other way. Do I look at Windows with great relish? Honestly? No. But things have improved with Windows 10 since they discarded the horrible ‘Metro’ interface, or at least most of it. Aesthetically and in terms of UX, what we have now is pretty much Windows 95 with a contemporary gloss. In the meantime, what have Apple been doing with OSX? Adding new emoji… concentrating on iOS… but basically what we have in terms of the GUI feels old, and outdated. Sure, some things never change with Windows: the endless OS patch updates, rebooting after installing new programs, the lurking threat of downloading a Trojan or malware – but the advantages of comparatively cheap and powerful hardware are difficult to deny.
I’ve shifted away from Apple Photos, back to Adobe Lightroom. Lightroom is a much more sophisticated and professional photo management and editing tool. ICloud sync does work okay with Photos using an ‘automate and forget’ mentality — but it feels like you’ve ceded control of your photo library, plus there are some annoying quirks and limitations of Apple’s holistic approach. Do you really need all your photos synced across your devices? I don’t think so.
I needed a portable device to take notes and write on. That used to be an iPad with a Zagg rugged keyboard, Ulysses app, and iCloud sync. That setup had two problems: an unreliable Bluetooth connectivity, and the lack of a decent file system in iOS which hampered productivity. I glanced at the MacBook Pro, and baulked at the price, and hated the unresponsive keyboard. I wanted an inexpensive workhorse that didn’t feel like jewellery – fashion tech. So, I ended up buying a £199 Acer ES 132 11-inch laptop. It’s cheap, and it gets the job done.
I understand the need to keep things simple, and like many people I enjoy working in an attractive GUI (graphical user interface). That’s what ‘minimalist’ writing apps like Ulysses and Byword are for on the Mac. I’ve considered using Notepad++ with Markdown, but shifted entirely back to Microsoft Word.
Cloud storage and sync
The move away from Apple continues by changing from iCloud back to Google for contacts and calendar (I never left Gmail), and using Dropbox for cloud sync, storage and backup. Writing mostly on an inexpensive 11-inch Acer notebook and editing photos on a desktop (with an established setup) means there’s less need to sync between devices.
Apple’s simplified approach made it stand out during Microsoft’s bad years – Windows 8 and 9 – but now its minimalism and ‘over-designed’ tech-jewellery can make doing simple things a lot more complicated than it should be.