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  • The Leopard Report: Last-Minute Wishes

    December 8th, 2006

    I’m going to be realistic here. There’s little doubt that Apple has finalized the features for Mac OS X Leopard, and no chance that much will change beyond spit and polish between now and the actual release. What’s more, I also think there’s no chance it’ll be ready for Macworld Expo in January, except, perhaps, as fuel for a fascinating demo.

    When Apple says it’ll be out in the spring, I believe them, although precisely when is another question entirely. However, I anticipate a release some time in March, perhaps the sixth anniversary of the original Mac OS 10.0, or in late April, two years after Tiger hit the store shelves.

    So whatever I say right now isn’t going to count for much, except perhaps as grist for further comment on the subject. But from what I’ve read, I look forward to the system-based backup application, Time Machine and Apple’s fancy implementation of virtual desktops, known as Spaces.

    I’m sure the added 64-bit support, improved Spotlight searching, and the eye-candy for iChat and Mail will certainly count for a lot, although the latter two aren’t high on my list of priorities.

    Most of all, I want Mac OS X’s plumbing fixed as well. Such things appear at the bottom of the bulleted points for new features, and they really don’t demo well, but there are things down deep that cause system slowdowns at the wrong time. Take the way the Finder handles multiple copy requests. Sure, there’s a lot that’s demanded there, including reading and writing data to one or more drives and/or network servers. But is it necessary for the Finder to come close to a dead stop even on the speediest Mac? Isn’t it supposed to be multithreaded? Surely, all this stuff can be done in the background, while allowing the Finder to do its thing at a reasonable pace.

    In fact, just try it, and then open an application, and prepare for a long lunch break or a nap until things settle down. Ditto for the time it takes to figure out when a network share is unavailable because it was disconnected or crashed.

    I’m not about to say the Finder is solely responsible here. That’s something for the brilliant developers at Apple do deal with. I’m not concerned with the nuts and the bolts. I care about results.

    Sure, some out there may still long for a true spatial Finder approaching the one available in the Classic Mac OS, rather than one that has browser-like attributes and imitates some of the behavior of the older Finder. But I’m long past such considerations. Just make it fast and efficient.

    The same holds true for the arguments about brushed metal, dark gray, Aqua or whatever. It looks nice to me as it is.

    I’ll also repeat my fervent wish for better Open/Save dialogs. Certainly graft more of the Finder’s capabilities on it, such as being able to trash a file, and rebounding to the last used file or folder, in the fashion of Default Folder X, is certainly long overdue.

    Yes, I do want the third parties to be able to benefit from developing products that enhance Mac OS X’s look and feel. But there are some things Apple ought to do for itself.

    The other concern is lack of interface consistency. An Aqua window moves from the top, the brushed metal can move from whatever end bears the metallic sheen. Certainly Apple trounces Microsoft in this regard, but is that enough? No, it can be better.

    If you want an example of how it shouldn’t be done, take a look at the latest Microsoft applications, and Windows Vista. The menu bar is replaced by icons, although the former can be restored via an optional setting (if you can find it). I hate to be at the other end of the phone when people start calling about such foolish interface alterations.

    Apple supposedly has the better ideas, and I hope the final version of Leopard will eliminate some of the confusion and repair some of the performance hangups.

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