Monday, February 22, 2016

Learning to love in a dual-platform relationship (Part 2)

In part one of this two-part series, I explored the features of the Dell XPS 15 Touch laptop computer. I was given the laptop by Dell to review and figure out the best way to integrate it into my workflow as an educational technologist. 
Dell XPS 15 Touch
I have been a Mac user for the past seven years, and was excited to both set-up and use the powerful Dell XPS 15 Touch and also investigate the updated features in the new version of Windows.  Many workforce users have two phones-- a work phone and personal phone. And others work on one computer operating system at work or school and on a different operating system at home. Can I learn the best way to use either my Dell XPS 15 Touch or my MacBook Pro Retina to get my work done?

After spending time learning about the Dell XPS 15 Touch, I started getting it set-up with the tools and apps that were necessary to me.
Of course, Windows 10 comes with a Snipping Tool that I will use regularly for screenshots. I installed my main collaboration tools — a Twitter client and Skype. I installed Adobe Premiere Elements and Photoshop Elements and various Adobe Creative Cloud applications. The rendering time of videos in both Adobe Premiere Elements and Adobe Premiere was super speedy on the Dell XPS 15 Touch.

Microsoft 10 Snipping Tool

Adobe Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements for Windows

I have a subscription to Office 365 on my Mac, so installing it on the Dell XPS15 Touch was a given. I am also a huge OneNote user on all of my other devices, so I had t omake sure that was available. And, because Office 365 for Window includes Microsoft Publisher, I was re-united with this great program! I have yet to find something to rival it for the Mac.

Microsoft Office 365

In addition to having access to Microsoft Publisher, I was also happy to again be able to use some of my favorite (legacy) Windows software apps. I quickly downloaded Microsoft Photo Story 3 and Microsoft Movie MakerI was also able to try out Office Sway, a great creation tools for Windows and which is also available for iPad (but not available on the Mac).

Test of Microsoft Sway

I was pleasantly surprised to see how easy it was to sync all my Microsoft Office documents using OneDrive. Everything stayed in sync across the Windows, Mac, and iOS platforms. The easiest solution to the sharing of files between the Dell XPS 15 Touch and the MacBook laptops is to use either the OneDrive or the Dropbox online file storage sites. I already have documents in both online services, and there are clients for both computer platforms and my mobile platform, so it will be a workable solution to use both.
I am also a user of Google Drive through the Web browser, and I was easily able to get to my stored and shared files by using any of the Web browsers I had instgalled on the Dell XPS 15 Touch. I also installed the Google Drive app on the Dell XPS 15 Touch since I had just moved all my photos into Google Photos.

Google Drive
To be able to project my iPad screen to the Dell XPS 15 Touch for presentation purposes, I installed Air Squirrels’ Reflector 2 app on the laptop. This Windows (or Mac) program turns your laptop into a wireless AirpPay device for your iOS devices. Since the laptop in a classroom is usually attached via a cable to a projector, Reflector 2 allows you or a student to project their iPad for the rest of the class by mirroring it onto the laptop and you are not tethered. Reflector 2 also allows you to record the projected iPad via the computer, so it is a great tool for creating an iPad tutorial or demo.

I am not setting my iPad to backup to this Windows machine, but I did install iTunes to have my music library on the Dell XPS 15 Touch and to be able to move files from the desktop to the iPad if necessary. In addition, I can access Apple's iCloud through the browser to view and present my  Pages, Numbers, and Keynote documents.

iCloud via the Web browser

iTunes for Windows on the Dell XPS 15 Touch

I am a big Keynote user and my presentations are often huge, complex, and include lots of videos. When I try to save the presentation out of Keynote as a PowerPoint presentation, I am often disappointed with the look, the slide layouts, and the rendering of some of the videos. (Simple presentations easily move from Keynote to PowerPoint.) And, if I create the presentation in PowerPoint, it transitions a little better when opened in Keynote, but it is still not perfect. I will create and present in PowerPoint when using the Dell XPS 15 Touch, and, when using the Mac, I can use PowerPoint for Mac (instead of Keynote) showcase the presentation created on the Dell, and vice versa.

PowerPoint for Windows

I often create podcasts and audio files for videos, and the best local solution for success in a dual platform world is to use Audacity. Audacity is an easy to use, open-source piece of software that works great on both the Dell XPS 15 Touch  and the MacBook.


The extremely high resolution on the Dell XPS 15 Touch allows me to have two browser windows open. This is just perfect when I need to grade my graduate students' papers and view their online work at the same time! It is so nice to have that bright, 4K Ultra HD touch screen with the 3840 x 2160 resolution

Two browser windows open on the Dell XPS 15 Touch

Most of my other work is done via online tools, many of which can be found on this page of my site, Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything. The Dell XPS 15 Touch worked perfectly with all of the tools and via all of the major browsers. Having the touchscreen available when working with the online tools really made the use of these tools easier and much faster! 


Can I learn the best way to use either my Dell XPS 15 Touch or my Macbook Pro Retina to get my work done? I really believe, since many of the major tools are available on both platforms, with the prevalence of online file storage sites, and more and more online tools, it no longer really matters whether I pick up my Dell XPS 15 Touch or my MacBook Pro Retina to complete a task. I can get my work done on either of them and can easily share documents between the two machines, too.  

However, with most specs being pretty equal between my two laptops (the Dell XPS 15 Touch and the MacBook Pro Retina), the Dell XPS 15 Touch still comes out ahead due to its great feature set.  

The Dell XPS 15 Touch's bright UltraSharp 4K Ultra HD touchscreen makes it easier and more efficient to use than the MacBook Pro, and, combined with the longer battery life and the single USB adapter for hooking up to multiple projectors and Ethernet, the Dell XPS 15 Touch is a winning combination of speed, build, and usability for a road warrior like me!