A Few Apple Annoyances

November 18th, 2009

So I was writing an email to a friend about something or other on my iPhone 3GS. I needed to refer to some printed notes before completing the letter. So when I put down the phone, after a few moments the letter was sent without being finished and without any further intervention on my part.

On another occasion, I simply switched to a Web site to reference an account number, but when I returned to the Mail app to finish the letter, the window was closed, the letter sent. So what gives?

It’s not as if there is a preference to automatically send incomplete emails after an idle period, or when you switch to another app. This is surely not a “feature” in any way I can justify logically. It simply means that the recipient receives unfinished emails and, no doubt, begins to assume I’m either a spammer or crazy, or a little bit of both.

To be fair, maybe I’m missing something, but I find no preference setting for Mail on an iPhone that addresses this irregularity. I can’t believe it’s supposed to work that way.

Now I do understand Apple’s logic about prohibiting most multitasking functions on the iPhone. The more stuff that happens in the background, the more performance — and battery life — are negatively impacted. They have, however, found a way for you to use the telephone and access other features on the iPhone at the same time with an active 3G connection. This is something that you just can’t do on Verizon’s and Sprint’s CDMA network, even though lots of people are urging Apple to release a version of the iPhone for the former, the USA’s largest wireless carrier.

In all fairness, the iPhone is still fairly young in its development process. Surely there are items about the fit and finish of the software that will be mostly addressed over time, assuming anyone else has noticed this problem, and that Apple can be made to believe it’s something they need to address.

But looking at a far more mature product, Mac OS X, I have to expect better. So I wonder why the Finder is still dragged down with minor irritants. Sure, the original Carbon version might have been flaky because of the limitations of that programming scheme. But the highly-touted 64-bit Cocoa Finder ought to be relatively free of the problems of the past.

But it’s not.

Take the basics of Finder memory, recalling your preset viewing options, placement and window size. The first is usually correct, but the next two aren’t. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t and I find no predictable pattern of closing Finder windows, moving Finder windows or restarting that triggers such symptoms.

The 10.6.2 update doesn’t change a thing. But at least they got rid of that nasty Guest account bug, which threatened to zap the files of your Users folder, when switching between accounts. It’s not that I know anyone who was truly impacted, but a single victim is one victim too many.

In addition, on my dual quad-core Early 2008 Mac Pro with 16GB of RAM, I still see a slight delay in the appearance of icons in a Finder window, and we’re talking about column and list view. That, to me, makes very little sense in light of the promise of Snow Leopard.

Understand that my desktop Mac runs with minimal system enhancements, other than software for my Logitech input devices, plus ASM, a utility that recreates the Classic application window sensibility, including auto hiding of the apps you’re not using. I opted not to use Spaces, because some of my critical programs, such as Bias Peak Pro, an audio editing application, don’t play well with Apple’s native window switching feature.

These issues are not necessarily matters of preference or feature enhancements. They are all about basic functionality. Indeed, I wonder why the Finder engineers seem to have ongoing problems with fine tuning what is surely the most important application on a Mac, just as it’s been for the past 25 years.

What makes these issues far more important is how things differ on the Windows platform. After spending a decent amount of face time with Windows 7, I can tell you that Microsoft hasn’t a clue about delivering elegance. It’s not even close. When you look at the little things, such as the smoothness of mouse and window movement, you can see where Microsoft fails and Apple succeeds.

Under the surface, Windows 7 is basically just a refreshed version of Vista, but Microsoft has, with the past two system revisions, basically continued to tamper with the interface, largely to tout new features rather than make things work better. Yes, there’s a Dock-like taskbar that seems more sensible than its predecessor, but that’s not sufficient to make the Mac convert return to the Dark Side. Even the highly-touted speed improvements are so slight that most of you wouldn’t notice without a stop watch at hand.

But Microsoft is getting better and delivering mediocrity, so Apple needs to stay ahead of the game and get the little things to work more consistently.

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6 Responses to “A Few Apple Annoyances”

  1. Hello Gene,
    I just wanna say that I agree with you about that Apple annoyances. They are trying to deliver the product quickly to the market and than missing some basic stuff development. Of coutse that usually change when the new update hit the shelves, but at the beginning we can always find something weird and not designs so well. My big concers is Mail.app. The whole line of Macbooks has widescreens, so why Mail.app does not have wide screen mode? Have you ever seen Letterbox by Aaron Harnly? This is how Apple should design or what Apple should add rather to the Mail.app – at least as a option! So, there are some areas where they can improve Mac OSX, but maybe it’s good.

  2. dfs says:

    Yes, there are a few stupid little Mac interface annoyances, minor things but, like a stone in a shoe, ones that manage to irritate me on a constant basis. Gene’s gripe about the way Finder fails to open windows right is one. A second involves menu icons, which seem to open in a semi-random order not dictated by the order in which the user sets programs to launch on startup. This means that you always have to hunt around for a particular icon, you can’t rely on muscle memory to take you automatically to the one you want. A third is the “hair trigger” action of the Dock when you have it hidden. If your cursor accidentally grazes the bottom (or appropriate side) of your screen for even a millisecond, up comes the Dock, this happens to me dozens of times a day. Compare the old Classic utility A-Dock which required the cursor to be in contact with the screen edge for a user-defined length of time before it activated. No doubt other readers can mention their own personal gripes. All of these are instances where, no matter how polished OSX is in general, their interface engineers have fallen down on the job. And, although a lot of other minor interface deficiencies can be fixed by using third-party gadgets, these are particularly irritating because there don’t seem to be any ways to fix them.

  3. Andrew says:

    My favorite love to hate it Apple annoyance is the inconsistency of connecting to shares. Most of the time it works just fine, but sometimes it just gets confusd, tells me that a working share (one that connects fine to other Macs and PCs) isn’t available.

    Runner up goes to Apple’s implementation of Active Directory. Its nice that a Mac can bind to Active Directory, but once it does, it adds a minute or three to logon times when not connecting; very annoying to laptop users.

  4. Tim A says:

    There are a myriad of annoyances:

    Windows that can’t be resized so you are forced to scroll needlessly
    Apparently no common Update locale guideline for developers
    No common key shortcuts of maximizing windows
    No built in editor for Services
    No way to “nudge” icons
    Being forced to use third party fixes such as multi layer copy/paste
    Execrable TextEdit – unusable Tables, windows that refuse to go behind the active text, etc. etc.
    But my favorite annoyance is no Universal Language System Pref so that needless language components of software need not be bloating the system.

  5. MichaelT says:

    I still find the inconsistency of the result of closing a window to be annoying, especially when trying to teach people how to use Macs. “Sometimes when you click the red button it quits the application, but most of the time it just closes the window.” Why? How do you know which one you’re doing? As the above posters have noted, it’s another minor thing. Inconsistency in a UI from a company famous for designing the most user-friendly interface. What gives?

    Finder issues, little and big, have had MANY years to be corrected. Yet the Finder continues to be my biggest gripe. Fortunately I use the finder less and less as the software advances.

  6. DaveD says:

    I have always thought that the software engineers from Microsoft should be forced to use their work 40 hours a week for one month. Those that worked on Word should use Word. After that month-long hands on, he or she could easily see the bad parts of the software. Well, it is past time for Apple software engineers to do the same.

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