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  • The Leopard Report: Can We Dump Interface Silliness?

    March 21st, 2007

    Aside from the massed demands for a better Finder, my attempts to expand the scope of a Leopard wish list haven’t brought much in the way of innovative ideas. Well, I suppose we’ll all know soon enough just what Apple has in mind.

    On the other hand, I suppose I might as well take this opportunity — since this is my soapbox — to rant about a few things about the Mac OS that have upset me for many, many years. To be sure, there are almost always third party solutions to these and other shortcomings, as you’ll see if you browse VersionTracker for a while. But there are some things that are better left to the operating system to manage, even though I have to admit that I don’t really feel good taking away someone’s opportunity to make a little extra cash.

    So, in no particular order, let me complain about the clipboard. So why is there just one? Sure, applications have multiple clipboards, and there are system add-ons that afford such features, but it would seem to be that this has been ripe for that special Apple treatment for an awfully long time. But it has to be done with simplicity and elegance, with a simple way to manage each storage slot so you can easily get what you want to place it where you want.

    Wouldn’t it be nice, for example, to Shift-click on multiple locations and have all of the appropriate items automatically appear in the proper order? As I said, please don’t point me to the specific third-party utility that does this already.

    An old bugaboo for me is the lame Open/Save dialogs. When did SuperBoomerang first appear? What about Default Folder? Why did Apple deliver Finder-like attributes to these dialogs, and then omit the ability to modify the Sidebar or provide elementary file management, such as the ability to move or delete a file or folder?

    What about rebounding to the last document you opened? And why not be able to rename a file? Let your imagination run world, yet Default Folder X does all this and more, and I’m glad it’s around. I don’t want to see St. Clair Software deprived of an income opportunity either. But, at the same time, all they’re doing is filling a gap that Apple should have provided long, long ago.

    Now do you remember when Microsoft once touted its multiple selection feature as a wonderful innovation in Word? Well, most of you probably know that Nisus was there first. Again, it’s nice to be able to select multiple elements in a text document that are in disparate locations and edit them in some fashion. But, again, why aren’t such capabilities provided by the operating system?

    I suppose that one could argue that offering too much in the way of choices would only confuse the novice Mac user. That perhaps explains why the two-button arrangement on the Mighty Mouse can be used as a single button by default. This way you have the best of both worlds, and you don’t force someone accustomed to the one-button way of doing things to adopt a new method of mousing around — at least not until they’re ready to expand their horizons.

    At the same time, all of the basic power user features I’m writing about here could also be switchable in some fashion in System Preferences and/or Finder preferences. You could, in fact, have an optional “Power User” mode in Mac OS X that would trigger all sorts of extra features that are buried deep within the core of the system.

    Sure, the third parties already offer that to some extent, with such products as TinkerTool. Here, at least, I’m not suggesting that someone be deprived of earnings, because TinkerTool is free.

    Then again, I suppose Apple could hire some of these people to labor on Mac OS X and graft their crown jewels directly into the operating system. Alas, Apple is rarely inclined to do such things, as the authors of certain utilities that are no longer relevant can attest.

    Now when Apple tells us about all the new features in Leopard, and I believe they’ll number of 200 when the list is fully compiled, I would hope that some of my humble suggestions will appear.

    But, as I’ve said before, don’t ask me to take bets on any of this, because I already know that the outcome is not going to be very promising.



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