Podcast Audio | Posted by Phil Leigh on June 26, 2012
Background. I’m switching my office computer from a five-year-old XP machine to a desktop Apple, called an iMac. Since about eighty percent of my business involves work in Microsoft Office, I purchased the Mac version of the software. There’s nobody else in my office using a Mac. Instead of using a mouse, I am using a track-pad. My prior experience with Apple hardware has been (1) iPod, (2) iPhone, and (3) iPad. I’m keeping the XP machine available as a backup until I get familiar with the iMac. This update was prepared on the iMac.
Update. The devils in the details are monstrous. There are three reasons. While I anticipated each one, I failed to appreciate just how big they would be.
First, as with any new computer the iMac requires initial configurations. The options are overwhelmingly confusing. The chances of getting everything right are vanishingly small. Moreover, this applies to each application and not merely the computer set-up as a whole.
For example, it took me a week to realize the reason I was not getting all my email on the Mac was because I failed to instruct the XP computer to leave a copy of each email on the server. It’s logical once I understood the process of how computers access email servers. But I never had to bother myself with that before. It was a matter of checking “two little boxes” seven layers down in the Outlook program on the XP machine. This required two phone calls to the ISP technical support. Neither Apple nor Microsoft technical support was of any help. Although Microsoft helped me set-up Outlook on the iMac, they did not tell me about the adjustment required (for me) on the XP machine.
Second, almost every task on the iMac is accomplished with a different set of keystrokes, or track-pad clicks, than used on the XP unit. While I anticipated they would be different, I now appreciate I failed to realize how many steps are involved in even the most routine tasks. Whenever I tried a familiar XP task on the iMac, the chances that I could not “figure-out” at least one of the iMac steps was a near certainty. Consequently, I could not complete the task without a phone call to AppleCare, which provides unlimited telephone support for $170 a year. But it’s an annoyance to phone them owing to the ten minutes or so of required conversation with a computerized voice logic tree at their end with the same questions every time, before even getting put into the queue for speaking with a real person.
Third, the 2011 (iMac) version of Microsoft Office had enough differences to complicate transition from my old version. A lot of this had to do with the voluminous set-up options. For example, I wanted the “Inbox” view to match the one I’ve used for years on the XP machine. However, since the XP view was configured years ago, I couldn’t remember how I set it up. Additionally, matching the view on the new version involved different track-pad clicks than the mouse-clicks originally used. The menus were different. Given the long sequential click-chain required, the chances of encountering at least one incomprehensible option were as probable writing instruments in a pocket protector.
Recommendations. There doesn’t appear to be a satisfactory substitute for “hands-on” training. Instructional videos can help, but they have two problems. First, Apple and Microsoft just don’t supply many. Second, too often they take too long to get to the specific stumbling point, or they fail to address it at all.
Microsoft and Apple appear to have different approaches to “hands-on” training. Once I get through to technical support at Microsoft, the technicians can remotely take control of the iMac to fix the applicable problem in the Office software. This is “good” in the sense that I don’t have to drive anywhere to get someone to show me what I was doing wrong. But it is “bad” in the sense that Microsoft technicians are using it to fix specific problems and evidently are told not to provide more general instruction.
Apple’s approach emphasizes One-on-One training sessions at the Apple Store. For a cost of $100 a year I can schedule as many sessions as there are openings. But getting the most out of them is a challenge. Presumably, arriving with a task list is a good idea. However, if I can’t get passed the third level in a seven level set-up, it is hard to anticipate all the questions. For example, questions about the meaning of the options in each of the remaining levels might help me “relate” to the underlying logic of the navigational structure. The objective is to become like the hungry man who is taught to fish as opposed to the needy man who continually has to be given his next meal.
While getting an iMac desktop to a One-on-One session is a hassle, I’ve decided to keep the desktop instead of trading it in for credit on a more expensive laptop. When I arrived for my first One-to-One an elderly lady simultaneously arrived for hers. But she loaded her iMac in its original packing box and rolled it in with a portable luggage rack. Since Apple does a great job with packaging and I saved my original box as well, I am going to try the lady’s method at my next One-on-One.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the transitional hassles would likely be considerably reduced if there were others in my office making the switch because we could help one another. Presumably the base-of-knowledge would grow exponentially with the growth in the number of people making the switch in a manner similar to Metcalfe’s Law.
Readers are welcome to share their own thoughts and experiences by emailing me or posting a comment below.