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Why Professionals (and Everyone Should) Use Mac
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Apple Mac Mini

Mac Mini: replace your PC for $599! (Courtesy of Apple)

Which Apple computer is best for digital photography?

Extra: A Recording Engineer's Guide to the Secrets of iPod and tUnes


Why do we use Mac? Simple: It just works.

We get more done in less time without any aggravation.

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It's not just how fast it runs benchmarks. It's mostly because it just runs without the viruses, spam, crashes and constant need for support, reboots, upgrades, defrags and maintenance without which Windows simply stops working after a few weeks. I only have to reboot my desktop Mac when I return from a trip during which I turned it off! It runs smoothly for months at a time.

Since I've written this article, all new Macs also run Windows, making the choice of Mac a no-brainer.

Your office and big business use Windows because many IT departments who choose the computers protect their jobs by selecting Windows precisely because Windows requires so much upkeep. This keeps them employed.

I was a senior manager at a multi-billion dollar corporation for many years and had to deal with Windows. When I'd ask our tech support people why they wasted our time with Windows systems, they'd freely admit that most of them would no longer have jobs if they upgraded to Mac.

Independent users are far smarter than that. Mac has always been the overwhelming choice of full-time, long term career photographers, and no, Windows if anything has fallen further behind as the years roll on. If you haven't used Mac lately, you're missing out.

This isn't just my opinion. Read Consumer Reports or these articles here and here. Listen to this typical Windows PC customer service call (we Mac users can laugh at this since this crappy service doesn't happen to us, and even if we had to endure this, Macs all come free with re-installation CDs anyway.)

See Dell's store rating here and the Apple store's rating here. Dell outsourced their customer service to India and it's been their death knell. Astoundingly Dell is outsourcing even more to India as you can read here from March 20th, 2006. Bye-bye to Dell PCs, unless you yourself can service them. Feel free to research other brands of Windows computers, but Dell is the best of the Windows PC makers (Consumer Reports, June 2005, cp. 40.).

That's it all in a nutshell. Just try a Mac and you'll feel this all for yourself exactly as I did when I upgraded in 2000. If you insist, the newest Apple computers run Windows, too!

Mac is built from the ground up for sound and pictures. Apple won an Emmy Award for inventing FireWire which is used today for most video and movie editing and won a Grammy Award for outstanding contributions to the music recording industry. I was at that Grammy Award ceremony and had no idea Apple was going to get this. No PC company had ever been awarded a Grammy!

I've resisted writing this for years because some people will take this personally, like a discussion of religion or politics. I started getting enough hate mail with my Aperture review that I figured it was time to share my personal experience.

I started this site back when computers had nothing to do with photography. Today they have everything to do with photography. I love helping people with photography, and realized that there's a lot to be shared by letting you know what I've learned working with various computers all these years.

If you're happy with what you have don't worry. I offer this page sharing my personal experience since more and more people are asking me for computer recommendations. I also offer a page about which Mac to get.

I, as well as every full-time career professional photographer I've ever met, just happen to use Mac. It's a given, just as Windows is for engineers and cubicle workers. By "full-time" I mean full-time, not the guy in your office who shoots weddings, portraits, stock or sells photos at fairs on the side. By "career" I mean someone who's been doing photography all along, not someone who dropped out of another job. I don't mean to offend anyone with these definitions and I'll hope to find a more delicate way to explain that people coming from other careers often bring baggage. People starting from scratch, as I did when I bought my Mac, have an easy choice.

When I was shopping between Mac and Windows it was tough for me to find anyone who used both systems everyday and could give me a fair opinion. That's what I'm giving you now, since I've used Mac and Windows side by side for years.

Either machine can be used for anything. Mac lets you get a lot more done in less time without the aggravation. A Mac is the right tool for for photography just as a remote control does a better job of tuning your TV than a 10 foot wooden pole. I speak from personal experience of loving working on Mac for years, and having days of my life wasted by Windows problems. Your experience may vary.

I'm just one guy doing all this photography and this website, on nothing more than a 12" Apple laptop built for kids!

When people speak of computer problems like viruses, reloading operating systems, crashes, DLL errors, spy ware etc., they are referring to Windows-specific problems, not computer problems. Mac users hear about these things, but rarely if ever have to deal with them. I'm speaking from experience, not trying to incite hate mail. I'm sure a Windows Jihad member could send me some sort of virus, just that I don't get a dozen a day as I did on Windows. Viruses are the "59,940 reasons to reconsider Macs" (front cover of Consumer Report's December, 2004 issue).

Would you drive a car that died on you while driving and needed to be reset and tweaked every other trip? Not me. There's no excuse for balky computers, either. Remember cars from the 1950s, which needed complex tune-ups every 2,500 miles and even starting and running when cold was never a sure thing? Today cars all start and run perfectly, have twice the power and better gas mileage, too. This is because they are all computer controlled and self-adjusting. They run great because auto makers use their own proprietary operating systems, NOT Windows. Windows has no excuse for not running flawlessly after 20 years of development. Complexity is not an excuse: even the crappiest car today has dozens of networked computers controlling everything and runs great, compared to 20 years ago when cars still used mechanical carburetors. I suspect Windows, in my experience anyway, runs like crud deliberately.

It's not so much the hardware as the software. The chips and hard drives and screens all come from the same places. The problem is that Windows has always been a buggy science experiment that left a lot of problems for users to figure out on their own. Apple has always done their homework to ensure that the computer knows how to do its own internal work so you don't have to. Microsoft always expected people to learn how computers think. Apple teaches its computers how people think. Steve Jobs gave away Apple's secret in a Forbes interview a short while back: it's all about the user experience, which is all about the software which is the Mac operating system, iPod, and everything they do. The people I've met at Apple reinforce how Steve drives it into everyone's heads that it's their job to ensure that you and I have a great time using our Macs and that everything needs to be obvious, simple to use and just work. They're not allowed to stop their design 90% of the way through and hope the users figure it out. It's Windows software that makes PCs so aggravating, not the computers themselves.

Unlike Nikon vs. Canon, Coke vs. Pepsi, Rock vs. Disco or BMW vs. Mercedes dickering, there is a real difference between Mac and Windows when you work on your computer all day. (Apple has a larger share of the computer market than BMW and Mercedes have combined in the auto market.)

You don't need a dedicated support department to keep a Mac running. Computer support departments HATE Mac because Macs don't need computer support departments. You'll never get your company's help desk to suggest Mac because they know they'd be unemployed. Fast. Macs aren't perfect, but close.


Do More Faster

I get more done in less time with no aggravation. My brain doesn't hurt after working on it for hours. It just works. No backtalk, no stupid popup boxes in meaningless technical gibberish, no viruses, no slow operation, no spy ware, no crashes, no complex installations, no reloading operating systems, no taking 5 minutes just to turn off, no nothing except getting stuff done.

I do my entire website, read hundreds of emails, do all my Photoshop CS2 work and catalog hundreds of images every day, all on a two-year-old 12" Apple iBook, the lowest performance computer and cheapest laptop they make! This little 12" laptop is the computer I use all day, every day, for everything! I used to use a desktop (which will be for sale), but the laptop worked so well I never bothered to use the desktop. While I'm working away I pity my wife struggling with her large company's Windows machine and all its problems.

Before I got my first Mac in 2000 I was afraid that Mac users might just be a bunch of nerds who sat around telling themselves how great their computers were. Just like with switching between Nikon and Canon, I feared Macs might have their own set of unique problems that the Mac whim ps chose to ignore. Nope, Macs really just work great without all the problems.

Talk to we Mac users and we talk about what we've made, like this website, with our machines. We don't talk about the machines. Talk to Windows users and you'll just hear about their ratty hardware. Listen to any computer talk show and it's pitiful: all the callers have issues with Windows and can't even get their computers running. When Mac people talk shop it's about neat tricks discovered in Photoshop or whatever that lets us get even more work done. Making an automotive analogy, Windows users have enough trouble just getting their cars started, much less getting them out of the garage, while Mac users are out winning races.

I beat on my little iBook 10 hours a day, every day. It turns on instantly as soon as I open the cover. There is no waiting a few seconds to wake up as Windows laptops.

Windows users have a heck of a time just trying to keep their machines running long enough to check email and surf the internet. These are trivial on Mac and allow us the time to do photography, edit movies and make website's. Movies? Not just home video and prime-time network TV shows; did I mention many Hollywood theatrical releases are edited on Mac, too? Many people use Apple's Final Cut Pro, while more advanced folks use Avid or other nonlinear tools controlled by a Mac.

Instant Wake-Up

My iBook is awake the instant I open the cover. That alone is enough to amaze Windows users. It bugged the **** out of me having Windows laptops that took time to wake up.

My iBook goes to sleep as soon as I close the cover, and has enough power on a full charge to stay ready to work instantly for over a week!

Easy Color Calibration

Every Mac has had built-in software monitor color calibration for years.

Of course I've always set my Macs to 2.2 gamma, which oddly isn't the default. If you leave your Mac at its default of 1.8 things may look too light. Set it to 2.2, which is only a few clicks away (top left blue apple > System Refs > Displays > Color > Calibrate (choose 2.2 gamma when asked)), and everything looks great and matches the rest of the consumer world of sRGB, photo lab printers and the Internet.

I use a hardware calibrator, the Color vision Spryer. Unlike CRTs of old, every LCD ought to be calibrated.

Macs default to 1.8 from their historical use in publishing, long before the Internet and Photoshop went consumer. It's kind of the same reason why railroad tracks are still at the same spacing as the wheels of Roman chariots and the sharpening filter in Photoshop is still called un sharp mask.

Today Macs ought to default to 2.2, but oh well. Pros know better.

Easy Wireless

Wireless? Open an iBook and go, no configuration required.

It will already be ON unless someone deliberately turned it OFF. If so, click the antenna icon on the top right and select ON. It will select the best network automatically. If you want to choose, the list is right there. If you need a password, it asks. It just connects. Easy. I can get a wireless internet signal for free just about anyplace there are people.

For comparison, last night my wife tried to get her company's laptop connected to our wireless. She was given two pages of instructions with over seventeen complex steps! It didn't work. She then wasted over an hour of dinner time on the phone with tech support. It still doesn't work. Her Windows laptop asked us to figure out how to activate and configure its own wireless card! The ON button was hidden six menus deep. Macs are smart enough to activate their wireless cards automatically without giving us the Molvanian mind-fu ck looking for the ON button. Mac is well enough designed to figure out the obvious. Windows and its related programs are so incompletely designed that not even tech support could find where to enter a password to access our network! That was too well hidden. Her laptop remains connected by wire.

Great Battery Life

My three-year-old 12" Apple iBook laptop still runs about 4 hours on a charge in 2007.

I can go away shooting for a weekend and not need a spare battery, much less bother bringing an AC adapter.

I got home from a Death Valley trip in February 2007 and still had over 50% left - I only used my laptop for storage and cataloging; not much sorting.

When I say I got back from a weekend with 50% of my charge left, I mean that my iBook was ON the whole time! I never shut it off. I close the cover and it goes to sleep. The instant I open the cover, it wakes up.

It's not like the crappy $4,000 Windows laptops I used to use that took 15 seconds to awake from sleep or only lasted several hours in standby mode. My iBook stays on for over a week in sleep mode, always ready to awake in an instant!

This is what mobile computers are all about. Accept nothing less; and I'm using Apple's cheapest laptop that was introduced in 2003!

I pity my Windows pals whom I see needing always to haul and plug in their power adapters, even when giving business presentations or working in airports. Don't Windows laptops run on batteries, too?

I can get over 5 hours on a charge if I turn down the brightness and only do one thing (email, internet, etc.) at a time. I may only get three hours if I'm beating on my laptop doing a zillion things at a time.

My Mac's battery gauge is always accurate. When it says I have 4:25 or 0:06 left, that's how much I have left.

FireWire 800

This is twice as fast as traditional Firewire, which is a tad bit faster than USB 2.0.

It lets me transfer files, backup and copy my drives, and download images faster.

FireWire 800 has been standard on most Macs for years.

Target Disc Mode

Any Mac can be turned into a firewire drive for easy file transfers. It's trivial to copy anything from one machine to another, like photos downloaded to my laptop in the field back to my main desktop Mac at home.

Plug a firewire cable into both computers. The computer in Target Disc Mode appears as a hard drive on the other computer. Drag and drop your files. Transfer time is fast via firewire.

You get to Target Disc Mode by holding the "T" key (as in Target) while starting. If the laptop is on, I prefer to go to Apple Menu (top left) > System Preferences > Startup Disc > Target Disc Mode instead of trying to hold the T key while restarting.

More at Downloads in the Field.

Free Walk-in Expert Help

Have you been to an Apple Store? You can carry in your Mac and a very competent expert (OK, Apple calls them Geniuses) will help you with your machine. Free.

Want to learn how to edit video and make DVDs? Want to set up a wireless network? Want to play your home videos on your iPod? Want to record your next multi track record album? Want to do just about anything, and I mean anything? Just ask at the Apple Store. Everybody there knows anything I've every been able to throw at them.

If your machine does have a problem they'll look at it and usually fix it right there. I once asked why my iBook was running a little slow. The Genius took a look and pointed out that I had installed 1,000 fonts in the wrong place. My little laptop has had a rubber foot fall off the bottom and they just replaced it. Free. I've worn out two keyboards and they've just replaced them, too, free. Of course if you're out of warranty or drop it out a window it will cost you. But wait! I had a friend who dropped her brand new Titanium Powerbook and cracked the case. She asked very nicely and honestly about what happened, and Apple pointed out that as a laptop it ought to handle being handled, and they fixed it. Free. I can't vouch for what Apple will do for you if you're as stupid as myself or the the people I know, but I can vouch that the good will and help I've received is priceless.

Consumer Reports also constantly rates them the very best in service. Actually, they rate Apple quite good and everyone else quite poorly.

Contrast this to my poor wife who had a Dell. It died. She had to call India for help. They couldn't speak English, and they didn't know anything about her computer, either. After about three tries and three months they finally mailed her the CDs she needed to restart her Dell. THREE MONTHS? She was without her computer for three months. Every Apple comes with the disks Dell deleted, so if she had a Mac she would have been back up in two minutes. You even can run a Mac from the CD with no hard drive!

While I was writing this article I finally killed the hard drive in my cute little iBook. I've been amazed that it simply hasn't melted down completely since I beat on it 80 hours a week. It wasn't a problem: back ups are so easy I do them all the time as well as before I took it in for service. I simply moved all my work to my other idle Mac and never missed a beat. I brought my iBook to the Apple Store Saturday morning. They sent it out for repair, promising a week to ten days. Wednesday morning the DHL guy pulls up and my iBook's already back. They overnight ed it each way and fixed it the same day they got it. WOW, and this all happened before I even published this article. I'm not getting any special service; they have no idea who I am. This was totally free, including all the overnight shipping for which I didn't even ask, covered under the extended Apple Care warranty I bought. Everything mechanical like hard drives break, which is why I back up and had no inconvenience. What sets companies apart is what they do when something does break.

Connections, Expansion and Interfaces

Macs always have all the newest connections. Apples all had USB back in the mid 1990s while Windows struggled with parallel ports. Every Mac has had Firewire (also called IEEE 1394 and iL ink) since probably the late 1990s.

You'll never have to go out and buy adaptors to use whatever peripherals you might buy in the reasonably foreseeable future.

Did I mention Apple invented Firewire? It was such an innovation for television they won an Emmy award for it!

I'm amazed at how I run so many things with my laptop. It has its own built-in hard drive, keyboard, track pad and DVD/CD recorder. On my desk I connect a CF card reader, two Casio digital camera stands, three scanners, a printer, an external keyboard, monitor and mouse, another external CD recorder and an external DVD/CD recorder as well as a couple of Firewire hard drives, all at the same time, in addition to the drives inside the iBook! All this stuff just works as soon as you plug it in. I use a 7-port USB hub and daisy-chain the Firewire items. When I come home I just plug in the power, one USB and maybe one Firewire plug and I'm done. Someone on Windows would still be trying to set jumpers on just one new hard drive.

Trivial to Upgrade

I Upgraded the Hard Drive on my Quad G5, and I had everything installed and transferred over in just a few minutes. Easy!

No Viruses: It Just Runs

We all know people whose Windows PC or data has been fried by a virus. Just as a virus may have led to the extinction of the dinosaurs, so may viii lead to the end of Windows. Windows is wide open for viii by what many point out is its sloppy design: it defaults with open ports. Mac requires a password to install software, which means that viii can't become active unless you click OK. Mac is based on UNIX, the professional operating system that runs most of the world behind the scenes. Macs also default to keep doors closed to prying outsiders. It's not just that Mac's a smaller target; it's designed to be resistant instead of having been designed as part of what I suspect is a silent collusion among virus writers, the software companies that employ them and Microsoft. As a comment in one of the really bad viruses that swept most of the world a few years ago said: "Bill (Gates), why do you make this so easy for us?"

I'm sure a Windows Jihad member could send me something bad, just that I used to get dozens a day when I gave up on Windows years ago. I'm not asking you to change or guaranteeing Macs will never have problems. They will, just a lot less in my experience.

Does it strike you as strange that virus and security patches seem to be updated on Microsoft's website for current products, but not past ones? I suppose Microsoft intends older products to be shut down by viruses, requiring you to buy new ones.

Of course updates for Mac are free and automatic; you never have to go looking for them.

Apple's page about this is here.

No Viruses Caught from Sony Music CDs

Viruses are everywhere - even on Sony music CDs! Sony is recalling about 5 million CDs because Sony deliberately hid spy ware that installs itself secretly on your Windows computer, hides itself and then transmits information without your knowledge or permission from your computer back to Sony. Sony did this to you to try to prevent criminals from copying Sony's CDs, but all it really did was give hackers yet another way into your Windows PC and hijack it for illegal purposes without your knowledge. Who gave Sony the right to damage your computer based on their fear of what others might do? No one. See more articles about this fiasco here, here, here, here and here.

The best article is from the NY Times on November 16, 2005 which you may be able to read here. The NY Times article said "Several security and anti virus companies, including Computer Associates, F-Secure and Semantic, quickly classified the software on the CD's, as malicious because, among other things, it tried to hide itself and communicated remotely with Sony servers once installed. The problems were known to affect only users of the Windows operating system." and "...the copy-protection feature was particularly pernicious because it was nearly impossible for typical computer users to remove on their own."

Even worse, Sony's first botched attempt at fixing the problem they caused on your Windows computer made things even worse! Do you want strangers messing inside your computer without your permission? Did you know that when a hacker "hijacks" your computer that your computer might be used to send illegal span and child pornography, and that you might go to prison if it's tracked to your hijacked computer?

I would suppose Sony has committed a felony under a 1980's era federal law which makes unauthorized access to a computer network a crime, although they probably gave themselves permission in a click license somewhere.

On November 22nd the NY Times also reports here that Sony is now being sued by the EFF and additionally the Texas Attorney General. The State of Texas is seeking $100,000 per violation of Texas' new Consumer Protection Against Computer Spy ware Act, which became effective in September.

Of course this Sony fiasco doesn't apply to Mac.

No Need for Performance-Robbing Virus Protection Software

Mac just runs.

On Windows you always have to run something like McA fee or Norton anti virus software, otherwise you quickly catch all sorts of things. The problem with virus software is it's just like cancer treatment: they all nearly kill the patient in their attempts to kill the viruses first. Windows PCs slow to a crawl with anti virus software because the software keeps its fingers in everything the computer does, even disc reading and writing. Because it's playing traffic cop it also gets in the way. It also gets in the way of your own legitimate software installations and you need to know to turn it off if you're wrenching on your computer.

Thankfully the only reason I can fathom for buying Mac anti virus software is if you're running Virtual PC to run Windows on your Mac, or if you're silly enough to forward emails containing viruses to your friends on Windows.

Viruses are fun: the latest have been arriving in my in box marked from both the FBI and CIA with a file of my supposed visits to banned porno sites. If you open the attached zip file it opens on your computer and you're infected, unless you have Mac. If you actually believe this stuff and you're on Mac you just feel stupid for believing the FBI is sending you email.

Brilliant Simplicity

Everything just makes sense on Mac. This becomes even more obvious after learning the Mac properly and forgetting the six-finger Windows work-around's you used when you first upgraded.

When I first tried a friend's Mac in 1999 it hurt my brain a lot less after working on it, and I didn't know even how to use it properly. Like most new Mac users I was still trying to do all the silly things needed to jerk around Windows computers. For instance, to copy an image illegally from a website in Windows you right click on the image, drop down to the "save" option and tell it where to put the image. Mac had no right mouse button so I had to learn to opt+click to get the same menu. Then I learned on Mac all you do is drag the image wherever you want! It saves in one click without any menus!

As another example, Apple's remote control for their Mac needs just five buttons. Their iPod has just five buttons and even plays video. Look at anything designed for Windows or other consumer products and you see remote controls with a hundred or more illegible buttons no one can figure out.

Microsoft does exactly what a bad photograph does: adds junk for no reason which hides any true message or meaning. See this funny video. It gets much better after it starts. The video is funniest to people who understand good design. It might not be funny to engineers who don't realize that too much information winds up saying less.

Does More

Others explain all this better than I will. Using the Mac I'm always astounded at how it just does things that never happened on Windows. My latest epiphany was on OS 10.4, where simply tapping the scroll button on my Apple Mighty Mouse brings up a new screen (called the Dashboard) which I've easily set to give me current weather and forecasts for the coming week for eight cities around the world, time in nine cities, stock quotes and a dictionary and thesaurus, all on the same screen!. Just wait till I get a bigger screen!

The clock sets itself automatically. To get your Windows clock to set itself requires some sort of Ph.D., unless you have certain version of Windows. My version doesn't. On Macs the clocks automatically and continuously set themselves over the Internet to atomic references. I did this on Windows, but I had to pay for special software. On Mac it's just another free part of the computer.

There are a Brazilian other things it does and I'll leave those to someone else to describe. You have to use it to understand just how powerful all this is to helping you get more done.

Trivial Photos, Video and Sound

You already know this. Mac has done all this since about 1986, while Windows today still has to take out ads implying you can do it on widows. Good luck.

Even in 1999 when a friend bought the cheapest computer Apple made (a cute little blueberry mAc) it came with iMovie video editing software already installed, free.

Everything about Mac just makes it trivial to do anything in media. This frees you to create something worthwhile, instead of trying to get a balky Windows machine to work at all.

Free Real Software

Windows PCs often come with trial software that dies in 30 days, or pesters you to buy upgrades to make it work.

Macs come free with real video and movie editing software (iMovie), photo editing software (Photo), sound editing software (sound studio and Garage Band) and disc burning software. I forget about all the other cool stuff that's inside as well.

You've got real software with free updates, all ready to go.

Fast, Free Upgrades

Every Mac automatically searches Apple's website and asks you if it's OK each time it finds upgrades. Just say yes and it automatically updates every piece of Apple software, including the operating system! It's all free, although every couple of years when Apple comes up with a major operating system upgrade it'll cost you $100 if you want it. Even then all you do is pop in the upgrade DVD and hit GO, unlike Windows which requires some geek to hover over your computer for hours after which, on Windows, nothing works anymore.

This way you always have the latest versions of Tunes, wireless software, web browser, Quicktime, etc. etc. There are no mental gymnastics having to go sort out if you need any upgrades and then trying to do them. With Apple, just click OK.

Beautiful Menus and Lovely Screens

Everything looks great on the Mac. Its user interface is designed by artists to look great and work well. Windows tries to copy the feel two years later, but never quite gets it right.

The Apple user interface is animated and three-dimensional while Windows is flat.

Far More Legible Text with Natural, Anti-Aliased Fonts

Type is smooth and natural (anti-aliased) and not rough and jagged as Windows users are accustomed to seeing.

New Mac users often confuse the natural, smooth type with being fuzzy. Quite the opposite; they are just not used to seeing type without all the jaggy diagonals of Windows. This reduces brain fatigue.

Skip this paragraph if it's too technical. Windows text seems sharper at first because of its primitive aliasing artifacts. In Windows all the text has jaggy diagonals and every pixel is either completely white or black, never gray. Mac text appears softer because the fonts are anti-alias ed, which means they go through a lot more processing to look perfectly smooth, beautiful and natural. Text on Mac has round curves while Windows can only approximate curves with pix ely zing sags."O" on a Mac is round. On Windows an "O" is boxy and pix ely Windows lacks the graphics potency to render type correctly: pixels are either on or off. On Mac the fonts are first rendered as vectors, sp lines and curves. These are then mapped to the bit plane and rendered accordingly. A real letter needs to slide in between the boxy screen pixels to look smooth. Screen pixels only occur in jumps while letters all have little curves. Shades of gray are used to make the letter look perfect and show all its parts in the exact locations between pixels. This is anti-aliasing, not blurring. This renders the exact look of letter shapes with sub-pixel precision and accuracy while Windows gropes along on whole pixel chunks.

NEXT: Why Pros Use Mac, Page Two

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