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Windows 8 vs OS X Mountain Lion: which is the better operating system?

We pit the latest OS from Microsoft against Apple's

Window 8 vs Mac OS X: Documents

Opening up documents to read or edit should be an easy enough task, after all it’s one of the most common usages of a computer. Clicking on a .docx file in Windows 8 brings up a dialog box for installing Office. You can circumvent that by using Open With and choosing Wordpad instead. This allows you access to the document and a decent amount of options with which to alter the content. PDFs are finally supported by the Windows Reader app, and .rtf files can be opened in Wordpad without any issues.

Windows 8 Wordpad

Mountain Lion has a built-in app called Preview which allows you to view all common document file types. The Text Edit app supports .doc, .docx, .rtf, .txt, and .html files. Using this you can open, edit, then save the documents. If you’ve received the file through email then you can use the Quick Look option to open the document while in Mail, then click a button to open it in Text Edit if you want to make changes.

Mountain Lion Preview

Window 8 vs Mac OS X: Social Media

Facebook and Twitter have become standard features for many people's digital life now and both Windows 8 and OS X have native features which tie into the social media behemoths. We mentioned before how Facebook contacts are used by both, but there are other examples too. In Windows 8 the Messaging app can be connected to your Facebook account, meaning messages sent on the site appear as IMs in the app.

Messages Windows 8

Sharing photos is also quite easy from the Photos app. First you need to connect your Facebook account then choose the Share option on the Charms bar. Videos proved to be less efficient, with the app often telling us to select a video even after we had already done so, which soon became annoying.

There are no dedicated Facebook or Twitter clients for Windows 8 included, or indeed even currently available, so tablet use isn’t as smooth as it could be. Of course you can always use the relevant websites or trust your details to one of the many third-party apps in the Store.

Apple has worked hard to integrate social media into the heart of Mountain Lion. Once you’ve connected your accounts you can post directly to either Facebook or Twitter from the Notification Centre that can be accessed from anywhere via a simple trackpad gesture.

Mountain Lion Social Media

All direct messages and mentions from the sites also appear here so you can see who’s talking to you without having to visit the website. Just like Windows you can share photos directly from the app, video sharing is also a breeze with options for Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo built in.

Twitter has built a dedicated app for OS X, but Facebook isn’t represented, although it matters not on a system which still behaves as a traditional desktop all the time, the website is perfectly fine.

Window 8 vs Mac OS X: Cloud Integration

The Cloud is a big deal these days and both operating systems offer their own online data storage and synching service.

Apple’s iCloud is one of the central pillars of Mountain Lion, with contacts, calendars, mail, photos, music, bookmarks, apps and documents all linked to the online servers so whenever you make a purchase or take a picture with one Apple product, it will also automatically appear on the others.


Of course, for all this to work in the way that it’s designed all your devices need to be made by Apple. So if you have an iPad or iPhone then the slick way in which iCloud moves your data around is very impressive. However, if you own an Android or Windows mobile device then you won’t really feel the benefit.

Apple gives users 5GB of free storage but also sweetens the deal by not counting your photos or purchases from the App and iTunes stores against it. If you’re immersed in the Apple universe then iCloud really is quite special. You can even track your portable devices whereabouts using iCloud.

Not to be outdone, Microsoft has crafted SkyDrive to be a robust and easy to use service. It works in a very similar way to Dropbox and Google Drive in that any file you save in the special folder becomes available to any other computer or device that has the SkyDrive app installed.

Microsoft SkyDrive

Unlike iCloud, SkyDrive is available on Android, iOS, Windows Phone 8, OS X, and all the versions of Windows back to XP. You get 7GB of free storage and you also have the option to share folders you create with friends, and even create Office documents in the cloud via the SkyDrive website (www.skydrive.live.com) on which friends can collaborate. (By contrast, you can't create a document on the iCloud website - merely view those created in an iWork app.) So if you prefer to keep to the Windows side of the tracks, or have devices running various operating systems, then SkyDrive is an excellent service that offers impressive tools.

Window 8 vs Mac OS X: App Store

For the Modern UI to really work it needs apps that are designed specifically for this new environment. As we’ve seen with Photos, Music, Mail, and Contacts, this can be hit and miss even when Redmond’s finest are creating apps themselves, and it’s notable that Microsoft hasn’t released a touch-based version of its flagship Office suite yet.

The Windows Store should be the heart of the eco-system, but so far it remains a hotch-potch of clients for social media sites, a few decent games, and a dearth of quality software. There are a few gems, such as Fresh Paint, Evernote, Netflix, and Audible, but even several months after launch there’s very little to make the inconvenience of a whole new UI seem like an acceptable price to pay. Switch to the traditional Windows desktop, though, and you can run the wealth of software e that you’ve enjoyed for so many years.

Windows Store

After its success with the iOS app store it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Mac version is well designed, well populated, and generally feels like a more developed marketplace. It's noticeable that many of the top-selling apps are Apple's own, but you’ll find Adobe Photoshop Elements, Wunderlist, Scrivener, Twitter, Pocket, and good deal more when you browse the various charts and categories.

There still remains the option to download directly from a developer’s website, but the range of software on offer, when combined with the ones Apple includes with a Mac, suggests that unless you need specific apps for specialised tasks, you should be covered.

Mac App Store

Next page: Window 8 vs Mac OS X - Web browsing, File sharing, Security

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