Mossberg: Switching from Windows to Mac – software not an expensive proposition

The Wall Street Journals’ Walter S. Mossberg answers questions about computers. One question and answer in Mossberg’s Q&A today offers solid advice and information for Windows to Mac switchers:

Q: I am considering switching to a Mac. However, I have hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars of software for my PC. Are the new G5 Macs capable of running PC software?

A: When you contemplate a switch to the Mac, you have to separate the concept of your data, or files, from the concept of the programs, or software, you currently use to display, edit or play that data on your Windows PC. The Macintosh, out of the box and unmodified, won’t run your current Windows programs. But it will almost certainly handle all of your data using different software or programs designed for the Macintosh. And most of that Macintosh software is free.

For instance, if you have photos on your Windows PC in the common “JPG” format, which almost all digital cameras produce, you may be viewing them in the “My Pictures” folder in Windows, or by using a program like Adobe Photoshop Album. This folder and this program don’t work on the Mac. But, if you copy those pictures to a new Mac, you can view and edit them in iPhoto, an excellent — and free — photo program that comes on every Mac, and which I regard as better than the Windows photo programs in its category.

The Mac doesn’t run the Windows version of Microsoft Office. But all of your Office documents can be viewed and edited, and new ones created, if you buy the Mac version of Microsoft Office. Even if you don’t, the Mac can read and edit Microsoft Word files out of the box. It can also open and create PDF files without downloading or purchasing any software from Adobe.

In fact, for all of the types of files commonly used by mainstream Windows users, the Mac is able to handle them through its own programs that are generally better than their Windows counterparts. And most of these programs, except for Microsoft Office for the Mac, are free on every new Mac.

Mossberg also covers running Windows programs on a Mac via Microsoft’s (formerly Connectix’s) Virtual PC in his full Q&A here.

The new Mac Mini. Still starting at $499. Free shipping from The Apple Store.
Microsoft Office for Mac Student and Teacher Edition – $149.95
iWork. Imports and exports Microsoft Word and Microsoft PowerPoint. Just $79.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple’s AppleWorks provides Microsoft Word and Excel compatibility and Apple’s Keynote (part of iWork) imports and exports Microsoft PowerPoint presentations. Apple’s Pages (also part of iWork) also imports and exports Microsoft Word documents. And Apple’s Filemaker also imports Microsoft Excel files and Access data and instantly converts Microsoft Excel files to FileMaker databases.

Switching from Windows to Mac? Never forget to ask to “crossgrade” your software. That is, if you’re switching to Mac, ask for the Mac version of your existing Windows software for the upgrade price before you just go out and buy a whole new version for full retail price.

People we meet, almost universally, they don’t know a thing about Apple Macintosh. Most certainly don’t know about the Mac’s high level of compatibility with Windows. A few even still ask if Macs can send and receive email or “use the Internet,” for Steve’s sake! Here’s hoping that Apple wakes up and takes advantage of Microsoft’s malaise by actually getting the word out through advertising that the Mac is quite compatible with other platforms and is the better choice for the vast majority of personal computer users.

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Switching from Windows to Mac is easy and liberating – September 14, 2005
More would switch from Windows to Mac if Apple advertised more effectively – September 04, 2005
Windows to Mac switch like repeatedly getting whacked in the face with baseball bat of common sense – September 01, 2005
Students and teachers: going Mac could save you money on software – August 23, 2005
Mossberg offers resources for Windows users interested in switching to Apple Mac – August 18, 2005
Switching from Windows to Mac? Save money by asking to ‘crossgrade’ your software – April 13, 2005


  1. MDN, please stop mentioning AppleWorks. You would be much better off mentioning NeoOffice/J. Its far superior to AppleWorks and you are doing the potential switcher a favor. Pointing them to AppleWorks may in all likelihood scare them off.

  2. I just by accident discovered a neat feature of Safari. If you have more than one browser window open you can switch from one to the other by olding down the Command + ` Key (the one above the Tab key). This might be old news to some of you, but it was a very pleasant surprise for me.

  3. SimpleText for Mac OS X exists and has for some time.

    On Mac OS X Tiger’s install DVD, install XCode Tools and navigate to Developer/Examples/Carbon/SimpleText/

    Double-click SimpleText.xcode to launch Xcode, click “Build,” wait a moment while it does its thing, and in Developer/Examples/Carbon/SimpleText/build/ you will find the 176KB (version 1.6) native for Mac OS X.

    Drag it to your Applications folder like any other application. Classic not required.

    Works like a charm, we use it everyday.

  4. I think some folks are confusing Simple Text (OS9) w/ Text Edit (OSX). Not that it matters very much, but I thought I’d point that out to douse some of the little flames that seem to be flaring up.

  5. So I paid, 1500 bucks two years ago for a PC with a 19 inch monitor and a decent printer.
    I bought PhotoShop for $200
    I bought Illustrator for $200
    I bought Office for $300
    I bought Go live for $99
    I havent ever needed Antispyware and or virus protection becasue I use a firewall and I patch my system regularly, never had a virus or any real problems with the machine.

    So now if I want a Mac with the same power and that will cost me around 1200 bucks for the machine, plus CS2 for $1199.00 and Office for $300

    So my question is, Why would I spend almost twice as much for the same apps and hardware…No real value there in my mind..

  6. It’s simple, it’s Word compatible, and it’s there–you don’t have to download it. And it’s loaded with features, from where I’m standing. Not everyone needs to format an encyclopedia with their word processor.

    Anything beyond what AppleWorks can do is beyond what MOST people NEED to do.

  7. Mac? Maybe, Maybe Not:

    Lack of viruses is hardly the Mac platform’s only advantage over Windows.

    Don’t pay for full versions, if you don’t need to do so. See our article: Switching from Windows to Mac? Save money by asking to ‘crossgrade’ your software

    An Apple Mac mini with Mac OS X Tiger, iLife and much more costs US$499, not “1200 bucks.” Free shipping, too.

    Do it. You can thank us later.

    For your convenience, we’ve grouped together all of the movies available from Apple here with the direct links to the various Tiger-related demo movies:

    Fast User Switching
    iChat AV 3
    .Mac Sync
    Mail 2
    Parental Controls
    QuickTime 7 with H.264
    Safari RSS

    Apple’s online “Mac 101” section of the Apple Support section of is a great place to start if you’re new to Macintosh or thinking of switching:

  8. Mac? Maybe, Maybe Not:

    So you bought an upgrade copy of the Adobe apps 2 years ago for you PC and are comparing that purchasing a new CS2 suite for your mac? Huh?Since Photoshop is $600 by itself. If youve been to this sight at all you would have heard op “cross-grading” which is upgrading to a Mac copy from a Windows copy, will cost you no more than just a regular upgrade.

    Plus you paid $1500 on a PC and are complaining about paying $1200 for a Mac? Interesting. Does your PC already have NO resale value?

    As for Office, try OpenOffice or the iWork suite from Apple for $80, then all that you may need is Excel (I personally never use it.)

    So by getting a Mac, youll spend $200 less than you did 2 years ago (total) and be able to sell your PC for whatever you can get. Sounds like a bargain. And you can still use your Printer I bet.

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