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Apple Changes Portable Mac Descriptor from “Notebook” to “Laptop”

9to5Mac reports that Apple appears to have had a change of heart—or at least of style guide—when referring to its lineup of portable Macs. Years ago, the company standardized on referring to its portable Macs as “notebooks” or “notebook computers” and deprecated the more common “laptop” term. (Google shows 24.4 million search results for “laptop computer” but only 4.1 million for “notebook computer.”)

The July 2022 version of the Apple Style Guide is quite clear about Apple’s previous preference.

"notebook" computer definition

"laptop" computer definition

Now, however, 9to5Mac has documented numerous instances of “notebook” being replaced with “laptop” in Apple Support articles. We have long resisted the “notebook” term because you don’t use a portable Mac like a physical notebook in any way—if anything, an iPad in a case is far more notebook-like. Plus, the entire point of a portable Mac is that you can use it on your lap!

Count us as fans of this change, and we’ll continue to use “laptop” in favor of “notebook” or even “portable,” which the Apple Style Guide grudgingly allowed.

"portable" computer definition

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Comments About Apple Changes Portable Mac Descriptor from “Notebook” to “Laptop”

Notable Replies

  1. Many “Laptops” are hot enough to cause slow burns , perhaps Apple are confident that their new laptops don’t have this problem.

  2. I agree with Ian Eiloart. Apple Silicon processors run so much cooler it’s now safe to put a MacBook on your lap even in summer.

  3. So if the “Book” in “MacBook” referred to a “notebook” computer, what will they call a Mac “laptop”?

  4. I wonder what term Apple used back when the PowerBook 100/140/170 came out? The Mac Portable was portable but wasn’t much of a laptop.

  5. Googling a few old ads, it appears the Apple-preferred term was “notebook computer”.

  6. It appears that the Mac Portable was just called a “Portable Computer”: Macintosh Portable Ad “Hit The Road Mac” (1989).

    Which makes perfect sense to me. It was far too big and heavy for either “notebook” or “laptop” to be applicable. Note how in the ad, it is sitting on a table and is consuming most of its surface area.

  7. So, will the “MacBook” nomenclature be changed to “MacLap” or “LapMac”? :wink:

  8. I was specifically told by AppleCare that Apple did not call them “laptop” computers because they did not support using them on one’s lap.

  9. Your reasoning certainly makes sense. Can’t argue with that. However, I still prefer the notebook term personally. For one, because the MacBook (like formerly the PowerBook) is called MacBook and not MacTop or MacInYourLap or any other name that makes it sound like a cheap and greasy fast food joint. For another, notebook always seemed to be the more specific term, the term used by Mac aficionados. Laptop IME is the word used mostly by geezers who think it’s an 8-lb PC with a 30-min battery and that the company “Windows” also makes Microsoft Office run on it.

  10. I’ve always found the claim that portable Macs weren’t “supported” for use on the lap to be utterly ludicrous and likely the invention of too-cautious lawyers. Yes, some models over the decades have run pretty hot, but I’ve used absolutely every Mac laptop I’ve owned on my lap regularly. If one got uncomfortably warm during a long session (and I can’t remember the last time that happened), I moved it or put something under it.

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