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Androids and Macs, Solid-State Disks and Office for iPad

Answers to this week's tech questions.

You have some tech questions, I have some answers. Every Friday, I try to resolve these mysteries, succinctly and in plain language. Please send questions to Note that I won’t be able to diagnose your personal tech glitches and problems. I also reserve the right to edit questions for length or clarity, and to combine similar inquiries.

Q. Our family uses Android phones, but we are thinking of switching our computers from Windows to Macs. Will there be any problems with compatibility between Android and Mac?

A. There shouldn’t be. Android devices are primarily designed to back up their key contents to the cloud, not to a local computer, and to stream content from the cloud via Google apps. Many of these services, which sync via the cloud with your Android phones, use the company’s Chrome browser and Google Drive, which are available in excellent Mac versions. Services on your phone like Gmail, Google contacts, Google Calendar and Google+ are all available on the Mac, and all synchronize with your Android phones. And Apple’s own built-in Mail and Calendar programs also synchronize with Gmail and Google Calendar.

In fact, if you were to visit Google headquarters, where Android is based, you’d see Macs everywhere.

If you do wish to manually transfer content between a Mac and an Android device, Google offers a Mac program called Android File Transfer.

Q. For an extra $1,000, one can purchase an iMac with one terabyte of flash storage. I like the idea of flash storage instead of a moving hard drive, but $1K is pricey. What are the advantages of flash storage over a hard disk?


A. Flash storage, typically called SSD for Solid-State Drive, is faster, and far less likely to fail, because it has no moving parts. It’s also quieter. Its biggest downside is that, as you note, it’s much more expensive than a standard hard disk, and it also typically maxes out at lower capacities. Also, in the early days, there were concerns that writing data to SSDs would be a problem over time, for technical reasons, but this issue seems to have been worked around. There are also some hybrid drives that place frequently used items, or those loaded during boot-up, on flash storage, but store most other things on a hard disk.

Q. Can the new Microsoft Office for iPad do everything that Office for Windows or Mac can do?

A. While I find Office for iPad to be a very good productivity app (I wrote this column using it), Microsoft says it didn’t try to duplicate every feature of the computer versions. In fact, the app includes a comparison chart in its help section showing the differences. For instance, in Word, the iPad version can’t print, can’t check grammar, and doesn’t allow you to add or update endnotes or citations, among other things. But, other than printing, I’ve found that the most-used features are present.

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