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Every now and again, I am asked this question from a new student. He or she is going to invest in a new laptop and must decide which is best. PC or Mac?

I must confess that I am a Mac user. I use an iMac for most of my daily work, and I have a Mac Book Pro laptop for those times when I travel. I also have an iPad Pro which I use to read, write and various other things. And of course, I have an iPhone. I like the fact that everything is synced on all my devices. Having said all that, I admit I am biased.

Even so, I must say that a PC may be a better fit for an online student. Here’s why.

As an online college student, you will need to use Microsoft Word, and sometimes PowerPoint and Excel. And while Apple does have similar programs (Pages, Keynote, and Numbers), they do not always work well for an online student. There are a couple of reasons for this.

The first is many schools have a policy that requires students to submit their papers in Microsoft Word format (.doc or .docx). The reason is the Learning Management System (LMS)* can read a Word document but not a Pages document. This is important because your instructor can grade your papers online within the LMS and provide feedback without having to download the paper.

Another reason is many schools now offer a free subscription for Office 365 to their students. This gives you free access to programs such as Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, and others. Now, it is true that you can get these Microsoft applications on a Mac, but for some reason, they are a bit different and don’t always work the same.

For instance, I suggest to my students that they write out their discussion posts in Word so they can do a spelling and grammar check. Once they are happy with their post, they can copy and paste their post into the discussion board. Microsoft Word for a PC works very well. However, Word for Mac does not. The spacing is altered, and it is nearly impossible to fix without typing the whole thing over again directly into the discussion.

Those of you who are familiar with the Apple programs are probably saying to yourself, “but you can type it out a paper in Pages, and save it as a Word document!” While this is true, the document does not always convert correctly. When you are required to write a paper in APA or MLA Style, there are certain formatting requirements.  I have found that the format does not always appear correctly when a paper is written in Pages and then saved as a Word document. This can cause frustration and perhaps a loss of points.

By the way, if you are struggling with formatting your document in APA style, check out our Udemy course, How to Set up Microsoft Word in APA Style. I take you step-by-step through the process of setting up your paper in APA Style.

Here is another thing to consider. It is my opinion that Mac’s are better built machines. They are more expensive, but they last. What you may not know is you can run Windows on a Mac. There are a couple of ways to do this, which I won’t get into here, but it is a relatively simple process. In fact, I am typing this blog post on my iMac using Microsoft Word for a PC. I have the best of both worlds; I have what I consider to be a better computer using the better version of software.

So, what is the answer to the question, PC or Mac? Well, it really comes down to your budget and personal preference. Whatever you decide, I would recommend you subscribe to Office 365 and use Microsoft Word for PC.

You might also be interested in the blog, Frustrated with Formatting?

*The LMS is how your course is delivered to you online.