Your paralegal's six-year-old computer just spontaneously combusted. Or you are still running Windows XP. Either way, it's time for new computers in the office. You've heard bad things about Windows 8, but your office has always run on Windows.
Mac OS X or a Windows 8 PC? Learn a new operating system, or learn a new operating system?
Your best bet is to find a leftover copy of Windows 7, though beware of bootlegs on second-hand and auction sites. But if you don't want to pay extra for an operating system, or accidently buy illegitimate software, your options are limited.
The Case for Switching to Mac
Many would argue that Mac OS X has always been superior -- it's less prone to viruses, it's prettier, the hardware is superior.
But what is it like going to a Mac after decades on Windows-based systems? If you're a keyboard shortcut aficionado, prepare for a lot of pain -- everything, from copy-paste to opening a new tab in a browser, is different. You may also miss Windows 7's Aero Snap feature, which automatically resizes a window to fit the left half, right half, or full screen, depending on where you drag it. The thumbnails when hovering over icons in the taskbar were a nice touch as well.
Also, while Microsoft Office 2011 is available on Mac, it's largely considered to be inferior and it's certainly a bit different than the last few Windows versions. There's also iWork, Apple's own office suite, but as we all know, MS Office is the industry standard for lawyers.
It's an adjustment. But, speaking as a DOS to Windows 7 loyalist, it's certainly doable, and it's a great operating system in its own right. It's stable, visually appealing, there's almost no app gap anymore, and the trackpad -- nothing compares to the magnificence of Mac's magical gesture-based trackpad.
Long-term, Apple has repeatedly reiterated that Mac OS X will not go touch-based, which is a relief for those of us burned by Microsoft's hideous Metro interface (the tile-based abomination used in Windows 8).
The Case for Windows 8
Do you want to minimize the disruption to your office? Buy Windows 8 PCs, come in on a weekend, and prepare to "fix" Microsoft's many backwards steps with their new OS.
If you're buying desktop PCs for your office, you probably won't have touchscreens. Windows 8, out of the box, is a nightmare for traditional mouse-and-keyboard setups -- otherwise known as every desk in a law office. Even longtime Windows users, even the technically inclined types, will find the experience frustrating, even with the Windows 8.1 tweaks.
Why? Full screen "Metro" apps that are intended for touch devices currently lack the familiar "X" button to close. How do you close these apps? You could try keyboard shortcuts, you can drag the app to the bottom of the screen, or you could scrap all of this newfangled crap altogether and give me back my big X button. That's one example, but the entire Metro layer is more tablet than traditional PC.
But that's the secret folks -- underneath the new touch-based layer is a faster version of Windows 7 via the classic desktop. The problem is, until Microsoft releases a few more updates, it's going to remain a touch-first operating system, unless you tweak the heck out of it.
We'll go more into the tweaks later this week, but you'll need to configure Windows to boot to the classic desktop, and you'll want to install a third-party app to restore the classic start menu, if you want your workplace to be disrupted as little as possible. But, once the tweaks are in place, Windows 8 becomes the same old operating system you're used to, which is a strong case in and of itself.
Lesser of Two Evils?
Mac OS X is brilliant in its own right, and doesn't require tweaking out of the box, but if you haven't used it before, it will take some time to learn.
Windows 8 or 8.1, out of the box, are unusable for non-touch PCs, but if you have an hour to spend, you can "fix" Microsoft's fixes.
Whichever path you choose, we'll have tips for making the adjustments and tweaks later this week.
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