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  Mac apps often feel a little out of date and neglected, compared to the shiny new iPhone apps and web interfaces.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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Gaming: Console vs. PC

I think it’s an undeniable fact that teenage boys like video games.  As most of you probably know, the dominant platform on which to play video games is the console – a dedicated set top box designed for playing games.  The three main consoles right now are the Nintendo Wii U, the Sony PlayStation 4, and the Microsoft Xbox One (although the previous three generations – the Wii, PS3, and Xbox 360 – are all still widely used).  I however, am a PC gamer.  I have a desktop PC that I build myself, which I use to play games (these days, most of my games are from the Steam Store).  I have a group of friends who all use Steam, but I also have a lot of friends that are console gamers.  Most people are very passionate about their platform, and each side has pros and cons.  I’ve picked a few major battlegrounds, in each of which I’ll pit the consoles vs. the PC.

1.  Game Selection
Right off the bat, I’m going to cede this point to the consoles.  PC gamers are in the minority right now, so game studios cater to the majority.  Most games available for consoles are available for the PC, but some of them are ported (brought over to a new platform) horribly.  Some big title games for the PC have frames per second limits, and many lack (or limit greatly) controller support (something I’ll talk more about later).  Despite these setbacks, there are still good games for the PC, so it’s definitely a viable platform.

2.  Controllers
Many console gamers I know say they don’t like playing games with a keyboard and mouse.  I’m divided on this subject.  Some games, like racing games, are awful with a keyboard.  For other games, like first person games, I like to use a mouse; I think it gives more control than a thumb joystick.  However, many people are used to a controller for first person games, so they like using that.  Consoles are designed to be used with controllers, so obviously they have the best controller support.  However, PCs can use console controllers as well, although sometimes the support isn’t as good.  There are drivers available online for the PS3 controller, the Xbox 360 controller (in this case, they are actually official drivers from Microsoft), and even for the Wii Remote.  This makes the controller category look like a win for the PC, since it supports both the keyboard and controllers.  Unfortunately, like I said before, sometimes controller support for PC games is a little spotty.  That being said, this category is a tie; what’s best for you depends on your play style.

3.  Online Community
The online community is a huge part of choosing a console these days.  Microsoft won the last round with the Xbox 360, and it became the dominant platform.  As more people bought Xboxes, more people wanted to play with their friends, so they also bought Xboxes, and the cycle continued.  The Xbox and the PlayStation both have thriving online communities, but so does Steam.  The best way to explain Steam is that it’s like an iTunes Store for games.  But Steam also includes a social aspect that allows you to make friends and play against them online.  A good number of my friends are on Steam, so that community works for me.  However, I think that the consoles win this category by a small margin.

4.  Equipment
Console equipment is pretty simple: you buy the console, some controllers, and you’re more or less ready to play.  This simplicity is very appealing, and it’s a big reason why consoles are so popular.  PC gaming is trickier.  Almost everyone owns a PC, but most laptops are not cut out for gaming.  The easiest way to use a PC to game is to build one; you can build a good gaming desktop for $400-$500.  What’s also nice about desktops is that they can be upgraded.  Got a new game that your current video card can’t handle?  Just buy a new one, no need for a whole new PC.  A shocking stat that I heard is that right before the PS4 and Xbox One came out, all those PS3s and Xbox 360s had hardware that was seven years old!  Now you may not have bought your Xbox seven years ago, but the parts inside were still released way back then.  PC gamers can keep their rigs more up to date with incremental upgrades, instead of spending a big chunk of change every 5-7 years.  So, in conclusion, I’d say this category is also on the fence.  If you’re willing to put forth the effort, a PC can serve you better.  However, consoles are a much easier way to start playing faster, and with less glitches, which is certainly a feature worth considering.

I guess in the end the choice comes down to personal preference.  As a PC gamer, I’m sure this post is biased towards that end of the spectrum.  However, I’m only one person, so I’d like to know what you, as the reader, think about the topic.  Feel free to post a comment and participate in the polls below.  Happy gaming!  ••