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Windows Vs Mac software crossover bias to Mac?

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Posted by MadaboutDana
Dec 2, 2014 at 12:20 PM


I have to agree. As one who only recently transferred to Mac and worked on PC for years previously, I’m actually quite surprised by how little software the two platforms have in common. There’s been a lot of stuff carried over to Windows (mainly as a result of the near-death of Apple a couple of decades ago - viz. Adobe, Quark, Autodesk). But otherwise – nope, not a lot in common at all, really.

Outliner enthusiasts (presumably like most of us here!) will bemoan the fact that so many great outliners/info managers on the Mac have never made it over to Windows. But there are a couple of really rather good apps on Windows I occasionally find myself missing on Mac (the full version of OneNote, for example, including all the nice little folding/tagging touches! Not to mention the more polished version of Microsoft Office – the Mac version is a bit of a kludge. Note all of those Microsoft products were Windows-only to start with).

There have been laudable efforts, like Scrivener and Scapple, two of my favourite cross-platform apps. And, of course, a growing number of task management apps (many of which were designed for either Mac or Windows first of all, but have grown to be cross-platform).

So I don’t think there’s much evidence of a one-way flow. But if you really want to see something like DEVONthink for PC, it’s always worth contacting the developers! DEVONthink Pro Office does, of course, generate websites that can be accessed from any platform. But okay, that’s cheating… ;-)


Posted by Simon Bolivar
Dec 2, 2014 at 09:18 PM


Thanks for the measured responses to my ‘impression’. On reflection I retract my comment that software developers ‘bend over backwards’ for Apple users. Many thanks.


Posted by Alexander Deliyannis
Dec 3, 2014 at 05:13 PM


My personal impression is that nowadays most ‘software’ development by far takes place on the web and/or for mobile devices. Where once try-before-you-buy allowed many independent developers to reach a broad market, this is now happening online / via app stores. But there is a crucial difference: nowadays a large number of ‘customers’ is not willing to pay at all. So it is more a use-with-no-obligation-to-buy model, based on generating income from the small percentage of users who are willing to pay for premium services—either via subscription (in webware) or via ‘in-app purchases’ (in mobile applications), as well as via pro versions of ‘classic’ desktop software.

As a result, it is a numbers’ game; the more users one can have, the higher the number that may end up paying. In this context, multi-platform can increase the odds, provided the additional effort is not too great. Thus, multi-platform programming languages/frameworks may provide a significant advantage. The number of cross-platform desktop applications (mainly Windows/Mac but also Windows/Mac/Linux) is, I believe, quite significant, if we don’t limit ourselves to information management. A search for “cross platform office suite” should bring several interesting options; in fact it seems to me that there are many more cross-platform office suites than there are for single platforms.

In brief, I think that the question of Windows to Mac or Mac to Windows is becoming more and more irrelevant in comparison with the broader trends out there.


Posted by Robin
Dec 5, 2014 at 12:58 PM


A great question! As the creator of a Mac-exclusive outliner that has been discussed here, I of course wondered about this phenomenon.
In my opinion there are three major reasons that can explain most of it:

1. The technological border

Developing applications for the Mac does not require to use Apples Objective-C language and frameworks - but after all this is the way to go. 
While it is achievable to create a decent user experience using cross-platform frameworks that power many applications on Windows anyway, it is in reality not possible to take an Objective-C code base and port it to non-Apple platforms. Even sharing code between OS X and iOS apps can be a great challenge. And why should you start out with something like QT when you have the whole power of Cocoa in your toolbox?

2. The economical incentive

After all, in many cases it comes down to being profitable. At least for smaller productivity applications, Mac users are an audience that likely fits, while it is a bigger risk to assume comparable revenue on Windows. With the Mac App Store, Apple introduced a seamless and cost-effective way to distribute applications to a wide range of the Mac user base - and even with Microsoft catching up in quality of service and user numbers of their store, there is still a long way to go.

3. The cultural origin

Last, there is the thing that makes the Mac a Mac: it is possible to achieve such great design and user experience, which is the reason for many people (including me) to create an application in the first place. This does not mean that there are no plans to develop a version of many apps for Windows or other platforms - but following reasons one and two, it makes the decision a lot easier for many. Especially for independent developers, who create Mac apps mostly for fun and secondly for some earnings on the side, this will break the equation when being asked to design a Windows port.

A Windows version of OutlineEdit has been requested countless times.
But being a passionate creator, I think it is a lot more interesting to look at iOS first - and, of course, making the Mac app better.
There are so many opportunities on today’s post-PC platforms that it is hard to look back at supporting ‘just another’ desktop.

Best regards,



Posted by Paul Korm
Dec 5, 2014 at 01:40 PM


Thank you for your thoughts, Robin. It’s always helpful to hear from someone who has been there/done that. 


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