Macs have a long tradition of "just working." Windows stuff is often considered unreliable and unworkable by dedicated Mac users. Some of that is a myth and the reality is probably a little more complex.
I recently spent a little more time on my Mac than is normal in my multi-platform world. I had three things on my plate, doing a mini-review of Pages 5 for ReadWrite and working on a new mailing and an email newsletter for WideOpen Networks, the company where I work.
In the world of businesses, WideOpen is a rarity, we are a Mac shop. While we have other platforms available, we do all of our proposals in Pages 09 and most of our work is done using Macs. I cheat a little since I handle most of my email correspondence from Thunderbird running in Xubuntu Linux which runs on VMware's Fusion 6 on my MacMini with 16GB of RAM.
One task that I tackled for WideOpen brought home the complexity of today's computing environment. We wanted to export some contacts from Highrise, which is a great cloud-based CRM solution that we use to stay in sync from multiple locations. Someone else had tried to get what we wanted out of Highrise and decided that there was no easy way to do it. That is when the old Mac guy, that would be me, got called in to look at the situation.
Moving contacts from one place to another has never been a favorite task of mine. The way Google handles contacts while not perfect has continued to keep me a fan of their platform. Apple's address book on the other hand has always been a little challenging when trying to get things in or out of it.
Our goal at WideOpen was to have the ability to print address labels for a limited set of contacts that we tagged in Highrise. It seems like a simple enough task but as might be expected getting the results we wanted gave us a few surprises.
I first hoped get a clean .csv file that would let me import the file into my Dymo LaserWriter 400 Turbo software's address book and print from my Windows 8.1 machine. I moved my label printer to my Windows desktop when my iMac died an untimedly death. I had so many early challenges with my MacMini that I never moved it back. Somehow I had managed to carry the old address book from my Mac over. I cannot remember how I did it and it now appears to not be very easy.
First off exporting as a .csv file from Highrise was not much fun since the platform has so many fields which are not needed in address label printing. If there is a way to choose what fields are exported, I have been unable to discover it.
After looking at the .csv file in Excel and trying a few things, I stumbled on the Highrise suggestion that I export my tagged contacts as a multiple-person vCard. I tried it and much to my surprise the contacts came over to my Mac address book. It showed as a Last Import and so I saved it as Smart Group with the name of First Mailing. I then printed it to my regular Brother HL-2270DW using a standard Avery Label format. It worked perfectly.
However, when I sent the instructions to my boss who has his Dymo Turbo LaserWriter label printer hooked to his Mac, the printer was not happy and screwed up the printing. It was late in the day so we gave up.
At dinner that evening, I wondered if my label printer was hooked to one of the very accessible front USB ports on my Lenovo tower or the hard to reach ports on the back. It did not take me long to wander up to my office that evening and discover the label printer was hooked to a front port. I unceremoniously unhooked it and plugged it into the USB port of the Mac keyboard on my Mac Mini. I added the new USB label printer, changed the page setting to Dymo and Address labels, and my test set of labels printed in under a minute.
The whole operation of switching the printer from my Windows computer to my Mac had taken less than five minutes. I was pretty excited and sent a screen shot of the settings to my boss.
When we talked the next morning, I found he had been unsuccessful in using my settings. Even after fooling with it for 45 minutes, he had not been able to get it to work. We have both been serious Mac users since 1984 so there probably little that I could have done in his situation to change the results. Our offices are six hours apart so he finally figured out that the Dymo software can be used with the Mac address book. However, there is a problem with tags in the Dymo software that makes it an imperfect solution. It will be an issue that will take more time than it deserves.
There was a time when Apple made everything from printers and scanners to cameras and almost all the software. There was also a time when the choices in the world of technology were limited. I started with an Apple II+, an Epson MX80, and AppleWriter II. There were not many other choices in those days. Making a few things work well is relatively easy. Making a lot of things work well is much harder. It has always been one of the reasons that the Windows world is more complex.
As Apple has moved to a company that does not make everything, things have become more complex like the Windows world. Back in October 2006, I bought an HP AIO printer and eventually got it working on my Mac and even my Linux computer using Ethernet.
Until this past summer, the HP AIO printer has worked fine on whatever Mac I used. However, when I upgraded to Mountain Lion, the printer would show up but the computer could never connect to it. The printer is on an Ethernet network and four Windows computers have no problem printing to it and they represent Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1. When I upgraded to Mavericks the HP printer worked fine for two days on the network and then stopped again. I tried removing it and adding it back with no change in the problem. Finally I hooked it up using the USB port and everything is fine and the Windows computers still work via Ethernet.
There are mysteries in the computer world and sometimes they are just not worth solving. When I upgraded all three of my computer operating systems recently, the built-in SD card reader stopped working on my Lenovo Windows tower when I took it to Windows 8.1. I chose the easy way out, I just plugged in an external USB reader. That task, just like hooking up the HP printer by USB took seconds and figuring out either problem could take days.