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  • Do Mac Users Care Too Much About the Little Things?

    November 10th, 2010

    If you think the media can sometimes be too harsh on Apple, spend a little time with a long-time Mac user, and you will hear a surprising amount of complaints. No matter that they are intensely loyal to most anything with an Apple logo on it. When it comes to the shortcomings of any particular product, they will have a long list to offer.

    Certainly, I'm no exception, but I make my living complaining about Apple. There's no love fest here.

    Take the iPhone. As much as I admire Apple's efforts to build the best smartphone on the planet, minor lapses in the interface infuriate me.

    Take scrolling in Safari. You click the title bar to zoom to the top, but what about the bottom of a long page? You're fingers may have to do an awful lot of walking, but wouldn't it be better to be able to just click on the bottom to take you there? Or is Apple afraid you might accidentally strike one of the page/site buttons instead?

    Indeed, the entire scroll bar system is broken. You have to touch a page to see gray scrollbars, so you know whether it extends horizontally or vertically beyond the narrow display boundaries (assuming that's not already obvious). Maybe Apple believes you don't need to know just by looking at the screen, or maybe they want to save a few prevoius pixels except when you need to navigate. But why not inform you of that before you touch something with your dirty fingers with full-time scrollbars? This can be particularly irritating when I'm eating something, but Apple would be right to say I shouldn't be touching the iPhone or iPad unless my hands are clean, as if anyone is going to listen.

    What irks me most are the rumors that a similar misbegotten interface decision may migrate to Mac OS X Lion. I sure hope not.

    When it comes to Mail for the iOS, I just wonder why you're saddled with one system-wide signature, forget about rules. Now I realize Apple wants to keep iPhone apps lean and mean, and not add resource-consuming features. Maybe that's why there's no spam filtering, although it doesn't matter so much if your email service does most of the heavy lifting. But a signature? Why can't you apply a separate one to each email account, or is Apple so wedded to the "Sent from my iPhone" default, which I have altered by the way, that they won't consider why you'd want other options?

    When you are dealing with the narrow confines of a mobile gadget, you'd certainly want to be able to automatically funnel your messages to specific folders, or treat them in a specific fashion, which is why a rules system makes sense. At the very least, Mail for the iOS ought to recognize the ones you've configured on your desktop Mac, assuming you're using Mac Mail of course.

    On the Mac, the printer queue app has a long-time quirk. If you dare to click on the icon to observe the progress of your jobs, it won't quit manually once the jobs are complete. You have to close the window to exit, even though auto-quit works fine if you don't bring up that window. Now maybe Apple believes this is appropriate behavior. I don't. Also, the age-old ability of the Classic Mac OS's PrintMonitor to drag and drop jobs to reorder the queue has never been duplicated.

    I have the proverbial love/hate relationship with Spaces, the Mac OS solution to multiple desktops. In theory, whatever you place in a particular slot or position should remain there. In practice, some apps don't cotton to Spaces, such as Peak Pro, our preferred audio post-production software, and they might unexpectedly switch position. Infuriating? You bet it.

    Unfortunately, I never took to Expose to keep tabs of open document windows, and the Mission Control alternative promised for Mac OS X Lion seems overkill. Having to put up with multiple windowing displays on the same screen is bound to confuse even the experienced Mac user.

    When it comes to Apple's apps, Pages remains credible alternative to Microsoft Word, although the 2011 version of the latter has successfully "borrowed" a few ideas from the former. Unfortunately, after you print a Pages document, before you quit the program, you have to Save, even if you didn't change anything. Now maybe that's a glitch for a 1.0 product, but as of version 4.0.4 (iWork '09), the problem is still there. Oh well, maybe next year.

    I realize no operating system or app can be perfect. But the little things ought to count, and Apple delivers the promise of superior spit and polish. Steve Jobs is infamous for being tough on product designers and engineers to make sure everything is as perfect as possible. But far too often, he's letting glitches persist that should have been eradicated long ago.

    Besides, these suggestions, and others I'm sure you readers can produce, shouldn't be all that difficult to implement. But does Apple really care?



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    5 Responses to “Do Mac Users Care Too Much About the Little Things?”

    1. Arnold Ziffel says:

      With the advent of iOS 4, scrolling to the bottom of a lengthy webpage is much faster than before. When I flick my finger quickly in succession, each flick accelerates the rate at which scrolling proceeds, thus I can get to end of very long pages in just a few flicks. I've not seen anyone acknowledge this, but it's a big improvement. Give it a try if you haven't yet discovered this little "trick."

      Gene Steinberg Reply:

      @Arnold Ziffel, Better. But clumsy. Why not a single click?

      Peace,
      Gene

    2. Arnold Ziffel says:

      Gene,

      I agree it'd be better with a single touch, but having accelerated "flicking" works OK for me.

    3. Peter says:

      Mac users definitely care too much about the little things. This is mostly because the big things have been solved, so the little things jump out at you.

      Actually, one of my big bug-a-boos was shutting down a computer. You choose "Shut Down..." from the Apple menu and it comes up and says, "Are you sure?" Yes, I'm sure--that's why I chose the menu. Then every application pops up and says, "Are you sure?" Yes, I was sure before. I'm still sure. That's why I chose the menu item!

      We know why this happens and it's "correct" behavior. Each application receives a quit event and it asks whether the user would like to save their work before exiting. So why does the Finder have to ask you if you really want to shut down? If I hit "Cancel" on any of those application dialog boxes, it will stop shutting down.

      The reason, of course, is that Apple is trying to push developers away from the old document model. Newer applications keep track of their files themselves and automatically save as you go so that you don't worry if something crashes or the power goes out. So when you choose Shut Down, things just quit (and asking "Are you sure?" isn't necessarily a bad thing).

      Another little thing was that my roomate used to choose Shut Down, confirm she wanted to shut down, and once all the windows had disappeared from the screen, she would close the top of the laptop. The computer would immediate decide that it should go to sleep. When she next opened up the top of the laptop, it would wake up and finish shutting down. This was sometimes funny and sometimes bad--if she left her laptop for a couple of days, she would find that she couldn't turn her laptop on because the battery had died. As soon as she plugged it in, it would happily come up and then shut down.

      As for whether Apple cares? It depends. I actually snagged one of the Apple UI guys a few years back at WWDC and asked him about my roomate's issue. My solution was that the laptop should be smart enough to know not to go to sleep if the user is shutting down and closes the screen. His solution was that shutting down shouldn't take so long. I think everyone would agree that his solution is probably better than mine. Of course, it's taken a good three or four years to get to that point. So while it appears that Apple "doesn't care" about things, it can also be that Apple is trying to solve these problems and get third-party developers on board and that can take a long time.

    4. Rider says:

      Forget it.

      You just don't get it.

      What are "little things" to you may not be so little to others.

      What you might need to see to reassure yourself may be clutter to others.

      Stay with whatever OS you prefer, and quite whining about Apple. If you don't like it, don't use it.

      If you need to share your opinion, share it with friends, over a drink, and stop polluting the attention of people who are looking for useful information.

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