• Yet Another 10.5 Wish List

    May 28th, 2005

    A little less than a month since Tiger was released, I’m sure some of you aren’t satisfied and you’re looking for more. Of course the real changes may not come until the end of 2006, in time to trump Microsoft’s Longhorn, if that is ever released. So there’s plenty of time for Apple to consider the changes it wants to make for 10.5, and perhaps do a few in a Tiger maintenance update.

    Now it’s true that maintenance updates, like the recently released 10.4.1, are designed mainly to fix bugs and make things run better. But if you recall Panther, and the memory is fading I’m sure, you’ll remember that an irritating shortcoming in the login dialog brought up when you clicked Network in the Finder was fixed. The shortcoming? That it didn’t have an option to remember passwords for the next session, for example.

    Already I’m hearing complaints here and there about two of the centerpieces of Tiger, Spotlight and Dashboard. When I interviewed author Matt Neuburg on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, he was naturally delighted to promote his new e-book, “Take Control of Customizing Tiger,” but he also had some pointed criticisms to offer. It just goes to show that authors of computer help books don’t have to be cheerleaders.

    Spotlight, for example. He loved the idea, but not the look, which he thought had an interface that wasn’t Mac like. He wasn’t a fan of Dashboard either, and felt that widgets should exist on the normal application layer, so they could pop up right next to a regular application window. Of course, third parties are addressing that limitation, if you consider it a limitation, but you can see that there are going to be lots of opinions of what what works and what doesn’t.

    I’ve already weighed in on the lapses in the Open/Save dialog boxes, with my fervent wish that Apple would look to SuperBoomerang, Action Files and, of course, Default Folder for inspiration as to how it should be done.

    The Mac OS X Finder still remains a point of contention with some, who long for the way it was handled in the Classic Mac OS. Personally this is one area where I prefer things the way they are, with one big improvement. And that’s the ability to remember size and view settings. Sure it’s gotten a lot better if you compare the Tiger Finder to the one that first premiered in Mac OS 10.0. But it’s not quite there yet. I prefer column view, and have selected the option in Finder preferences to open all new windows that way, but more often than not, those new windows will appear in icon view. Stubborn little thing.

    One of the Tiger Finder’s shortcomings is an obvious bug. Here’s how you make it happen. Perform a Spotlight search and save it as a Smart Folder. Now click on the Smart Folder and give it time to build a list of relevant files. Now click on a regular folder icon in the Finder’s Sidebar. Even if that regular folder is set to column or list view, there’s a strong chance it’ll switch to icon view. Switch it back to column view and try again, and the problem is apt to reappear. I’m sure it’s a bug and not a feature, but you do get the idea.

    The Apple menu remains undeveloped, and many of you prefer the Classic Mac OS version that first premiered in System 7, with the ability to add items, such as links to applications and documents, in a jiffy. True third party developers have addressed that shortcoming, but it seems to me Apple has done nothing more than spruce up the icon. It’s time to revisit the Apple menu and see where it can be improved. Just adding that one feature, the ability to customize, may be just the ticket, but perhaps some imagination is called for.

    In past articles, I’ve also suggested some or all of the functions of the Go menu might be merged into the Apple menu. However, I’ve come to accept the logic behind it, that its features relate primarily to Finder functions, such as direct access to folders.

    Moving further, it still seems to me that Mac OS X’s fax feature remains incomplete, which is why I only use it to send faxes of documents that I do not plan to actually print. One particular feature, touted as a Tiger improvement, just doesn’t work for me. The Help menu, for example, states, “To view the Fax List, click Set Up Fax Modem. From there, you can view and edit a fax modem’s information, including its name, location, and available options. You can double-click a fax modem in the Fax List to see its queue and view current and completed jobs.” Not quite. I still can’t make it display completed jobs. For now it appears that the developers of Page Sender, my favorite fax application, have nothing to fear from Apple.

    In the scheme of things, perhaps my quibbles are minor, and it’s also true that some can be addressed in a Tiger update. No reason to wait till 10.5, where I really believe Apple ought to do something to truly amaze us. You still interact with your Mac in essentially the same fashion as you did 20 years ago. Isn’t it time for a fundamental change? And I’d like to see Apple again lead the way.

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