Mac Apps vs. Web Interfaces

It’s weird to think how, these days, mobile is the first platform many people think about.  Instagram was an app first, and a website second.  Even now, Instagram.com is just a place to view your timeline, you can’t even post photos.  There used to be things that I could only do on my computer, not my phone; now it’s often the other way around!  So with all these apps, it can be nice to be able to access their data while using a computer.  This is normally where a company makes a web interface.  These allow people to use the service from any computer, which is great.  But there are certain downsides to web interfaces.  This is where Mac users have another option: Mac apps.  Sure, developers can make apps for Windows as well (and with Windows 8 and the Windows Store, they’re starting to), but for some reason, the Mac seems to get a little more attention here.  Well, I say it gets attention, but that’s not entirely true.  It sometimes seems like developers make a point to make a Mac app, but then sort of let it be.  Mac apps often feel a little out of date and neglected, compared to the shiny new iPhone apps and web interfaces.  So that leaves an interesting question.  Which is better – Mac apps or web interfaces?  I’m going to look at three examples.

Evernote
The Evernote web interface was recently redesigned.  It looks really nice, nicer than the Mac app.  That being said, though, the Mac app is more useful.  It has more buttons everywhere, so it’s faster to use.  This is the downside of having a clean interface on the web – clean means less buttons.  Also, the Evernote web interface can be a little slow.  The app fixes that problem nicely.


myHomework
I wrote about myHomework last month, but I didn’t really touch on the Mac app too much.  The app and web interface are almost identical here, but myHomework shows the single greatest advantage that Mac apps have over web interfaces: they launch faster.  One click on my dock, and I’ve got the app right there.  In contrast, for the web, I have to open Safari, type in the URL, and then sign in.  Not too big of a deal, but the app is certainly a lot easier.


Twitter
Twitter is an interesting one here.  I actually like Twitter’s web interface best.  It’s the most fully functional and it works well.  The only think I don’t like about Twitter.com, or any of its official apps, is that they doesn’t support timeline sync.  Timeline sync, available on pretty much every other Twitter app, means that your reading position in your tweets timeline syncs across devices – no more scrolling to find where you left off on your phone.  This is great, and it means that, for just reading Twitter, I use Twitterrific.  Twitterrific for Mac isn’t all that pretty, and honestly, for anything other than reading, it doesn’t work that well.  This means that when I just want to scroll through my tweets, I use Twitterrific.  If I want to post anything, search for someone, or any number of other things, I go with the web interface.  This means that I don’t really use the official Twitter for Mac app at all, although I do have it installed for some reason.


So as you can see, Mac apps offer some distinct advantages that usually make them worth using.  However, I also sometimes head over to the web interface, for various reasons.  I like having both options at my fingertips, so I can use whichever is best for different tasks (that’s a first world problem right there, isn’t it?).  ••

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