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  • The Snow Leopard Report: The Irritants Remain

    June 16th, 2009

    This article is based on several assumptions, the main one being that Apple won’t be making any significant changes to the announced Snow Leopard features — I mean refinements — before releasing it in September. As a result, some questionable decisions of long standing will remain unchanged.

    With that in mind, I’m inclined to start ragging again on the features that have been missing from Mac OS X since Day One, some of which were actually there in the Classic Mac OS. In other words, the things Apple did at least ten years ago have yet to be duplicated today.

    This disparity first came to mind when I read how Apple restored the capability formerly known as Put Away and relabled Put Back. Yes, I know it’s supposedly a refinement and not a feature, but I’ll leave it to you readers to argue over which label is appropriately applied.

    But if Apple is going to consider revisiting the past in devising new functions for the next versions of Mac OS X, consider that we really have a long way to go before there’s feature parity with Classic. That becomes all the more annoying now that support for Classic has become an historical event.

    Look closely at the Apple menu, for example. In the old days, you could configure it the way you want merely by dropping a file or alias into the Apple Menu Items folder. Within seconds, it would appear in the menu. Nowadays you can certainly do this with a third-party system hack, but the only thing you can otherwise change is the number of listings displayed in the Recent Items menu. That’s done courtesy of the Appearance preference pane.

    Short of restoring everything, perhaps Apple could devise a contextual menu command that lets a specific Recent Items listing stick there, regardless of how many entries you want displayed. This is similar in concept to the way it’s done in the Top Sites display in Safari 4. There you click Edit, and then the stick pin icon next to the the site you want to keep.

    Don’t assume that the contextual menu is the only way to accomplish this task, but it would be faster than having to, say, invoke a list of Recent Items from a preference pane. Feel free to use your imagination to consider the possibilities.

    When it comes to the Print icon that displays in the Dock when a job is being processed, it essentially behaves similar in fashion to PrintMonitor from the Classic days. When the processing portion is complete — even before the document is actually output — the application icon goes away. However, if you click on it, it sticks until it’s closed, which seems a bit of a stretch as far as interface conventions are concerned. Perhaps Apple assumes you might want to look at one of the other functions in the apps toolbar, and therefore it should be up to you to dismiss it. Or perhaps, with no activity after a few minutes, it’ll can be set to go away all by itself.

    A controversial issue is the method in which applications close. Single window apps, such as System Preferences, quit when you close the window. Regular apps require choosing Quit from the File menu whether windows are open or not within that program. This is normal behavior on the Mac platform, but it can confuse Windows users, who are accustomed to an application closing down when its last window is dismissed. The concept that the application is still running has to be learned. Logical? Depends on your point of view. Maybe a simple preference setting would allow you to choose which behavior you prefer.

    It’s safe to say that a properly behaved application isn’t going to use a whole lot of system resources when you’re not doing anything with it, but on a Mac constrained of RAM, it could present the choice of having to endure virtual memory page swapping or a reasonably snappy user experience. So quitting unused apps is a must.

    When it comes to location sensing, Mac OS X is getting smarter, though there are limitations, since Macs don’t ship with GPS — at least not yet. Besides, I wonder if I really want someone — anyone — knowing where I am at any particular point in time, but so long as you can turn off the feature, I suppose I wouldn’t object.

    With Snow Leopard, your time zone can be sensed automatically. According to Apple: “Using Core Location technology, Snow Leopard can use known Wi-Fi hotspots to set the time zone — perfect for world travelers.”

    I read into that sentence that you must have Wi-Fi enabled for this feature/refinement to work. All well and good. But why not take this location sensing bit a little further. When the operating system knows you’re at your office, for example, based on location and what’s on your network, how about changing your setup to better support the sort of work you do there, compared to the things you might engage in at home?

    So, for example, the icons in the Dock would be altered to reflect that difference. Today, your location configuration is strictly limited to what you can do in the Network preference pane and nothing more. In the old days, specifically Classic, you had more options. If Apple wants your Mac to know where you are, perhaps the system can take better advantage of the situation.

    Or should we just start our 10.7 wish list?



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