I was chatting with some friends yesterday, some folks I hadn't seen in a while. As they were getting ready to leave Donna looked over at my MacBook, propped open and sitting on a table.
Donna: "Ugh. Macs."
She had a disgusted look on her face, as though something unpleasant had just been released into the air. This caught me a bit by surprise. You see, Donna had called me earlier in the year because she wanted to replace an aging XP based laptop and knew I was a happy Mac convert. I talked with her for a while about the benefits of a Mac, telling her about why I liked it and what she could look forward to.
Since switching over to Macs I'm very careful about promoting them to others and my description of them to Donna fell right along those lines. I don't get irrationally exuberant; when switching to Macs from long time Windows use I recognize that attitude and approach is critical to being happy with a new personal computer. I'd rather people be happy using their computer, whatever it happens to be.
Donna: "I hate my Mac! I wanted to take it back it's so hard to use!"
David: (shocked look on face)
Donna: "Nothing works the way I expect it to!"
I couldn't just leave it there so I started to probe a bit. What didn't work the way she expected? Was there something specific? Have you never read my blog?!?
Donna: "When I try to open files from work they simply don't... work. And if I make changes I need to convert my files so that people back at the office can use them!"
This sounded bizarre. Well it turns out when she bought her Mac the sales person at the Apple store talked her into getting iWork. He told her she could open and use all of her MS Office related files with iWork so that's what she went with. Though they sell Microsoft Office for Mac at the Apple store, this particular representative apparently wanted to push iWork.
iWork is not MS Office
Since I run my own company I get to define the standards and I'm using iWork. It's a nice, elegant suite with a great word processing application (Pages), innovative presentation software (Keynote) and a barely serviceable spreadsheet (Numbers). As long as you're not doing anything too complicated with Numbers it's fine, though it's still a pretty rough application. Don't believe me? Try building up a fairly complex formula and using help to determine what certain functions do. It's a major stumbling block.
If Apple is serious about making iWork a contender against MS Office one of the things they will need to do is some usability testing on recent switchers using Numbers. If your knowledge of spreadsheets was built up or refined using Excel then you're in for a rude awakening when you try to be productive with Numbers. More than any application I've used on my Macs, Numbers requires huge pauses when I'm trying to create new spreadsheets that are more than simple ledgers.
While word processing interfaces are pretty well standardized there are a number of interface "innovations" that have made their way along from the ancient days of spreadsheets that have been ingrained into the way people work. In Excel on Windows if you want to copy and paste a series of cells you select them, Control-C (Copy), then move to the cell you want them inserted and press Enter. I personally hate that Excel has modified one of the most common behaviors of the operating system user interface (Copy and Paste), yet that's what people use. It's also something Donna stumbled on.
Donna: "Copying on the Mac doesn't work right. I can't copy and paste like I used to!"
As our discussion carried on it was becoming increasingly clear that Donna didn't hate her Mac, she hated iWork and the empty promises that it would work with her existing files.
Donna: "When I get a file from work I open it and then I have to "share" it back to a DOC file or Excel spreadsheet. I can't just save it like I used to. If I forget then people at work complain to me that they can't open my files."
It was then that it started to become clear that she had transferred her frustration with iWork over to her entire Mac experience, painting it all with the same brush. When I tried to steer the conversation away into other areas she grudgingly acknowledged that photo management, web browsing, e-mail, etc were easy, though it was clear her frustrations with key work related tasks had poisoned her approach.
I suggested that she go out and get a copy of MS Office for her Mac. This is actually the approach I had to take with my wife when I switched her over from Windows. Her school uses MS Office and while I tried to get her to use iWork she just didn't feel comfortable with it; too much change at once. I also told her about the One to One classes that Apple offers through the Apple stores; hopefully she can sit down in that environment and get answers to her questions.
My parting thought with Donna was that attitude was everything when changing to something different, whether it's a computer, a job or a relationship. If you find yourself looking for everything that's wrong you will doom that change to failure. It's OK to be skeptical and question things but when it switches over to a "this sucks" it may just be time to move on.
Hopefully Donna will be able to enjoy her Mac the way I and my family have enjoyed ours.