A Perfectly Silly OS X Claim

April 5th, 2016

So there was an article in a certain blog claiming that we are nearing the end of OS X as we know it. If true, that raises all sorts of fascinating possibilities about what Apple might do, and how Mac users might be impacted. Indeed, when I first saw the article, I expected to read speculation on future generations of the operating system.

Imagine how I felt when I discovered, instead, it was all about a name, about branding.

The logic is pretty basic. The operating system for the iPhone, iPad and the iPod touch is iOS. The operating system for the Apple Watch is watchOS and the operating system for the fourth generation Apple TV is tvOS. Indeed, when Apple was in danger of being forced by the courts to create an operating system that would allow the authorities to unlock an iPhone, they referred to it as govOS.

The upshot is that this article was all about rebranding OS X as macOS to keep with the prevailing style for other Apple gear. That’s all!

I could not help but feel disappointed. If anything, the new name would be the least of it. Rational, yes, but it wouldn’t change how it works, or the feature set. Instead, I had hoped to read suggestions on how Apple might flesh out the features of macOS and perhaps improve the ones that are already there.

That’s where there’s plenty of meat and potatoes (or whatever solid food you prefer). I can start with Mail, which remains foolishly ignorant of handling even ordinary account settings. So, yes, it’ll figure out the server configuration for such services as iCloud, Gmail, Outlook and some others. But it can’t begin to guess the proper setup for other email systems, even ones with “autodiscover” and “autoconfig” directives that should allow for automatic configuration.

Worse, Mail usually fails to automatically map local folders to server folders when you set up IMAP email. What this means is that the mail you send would ordinarily be placed in the corresponding mailbox on the email server and so forth and so on. It’s quite elementary, but Mail usually forces you to do it manually using the Use This Mailbox As command in the Mailbox menu for such options as Drafts, Sent, Junk and Trash. If you don’t follow this simple step, you may find that messages aren’t correctly synced, which is especially important if you check your email on different devices.

Despite the fact that I am not enamored of Microsoft Outlook for Mac, it usually manages to correctly map local to server mailboxes without manual intervention when you set up an account.

Another problem with Mail: If you want to change some settings, such as the incoming mail server, it has to be done in the Internet Accounts preference pane. The setting is grayed out in Mail’s preferences  Alas Internet Accounts only lets you adjust a few account settings, so you have to go back and forth between the two when you reconfigure an account. Does this make any sense?

Yes, it’s nice to be able to annotate an email, and to send attachments of up to 5GB regardless of the limits of an email system. But more attention needs to be made to existing functions that remain incomplete or buggy.

I could go on and on about Mail. It is usually fast and fairly reliable, but little feature glitches such as the ones I’ve mentioned prevent it from being the best of the breed. So whether future operating system versions are branded as OS X, Mac OS, Mac OS X, macOS or whipped mashed potatoes, Mail still needs work.

How Apple handles the next version of OS X becomes more important because the lid will be off in a little more than two months, when the 2016 WWDC is held. As per custom, you’ll no doubt learn all about the new OS for Macs, i-gear, and perhaps Apple Watch and Apple TV. Developers will get early access to betas — which will later go public — so they can bring their apps and other products in line to exploit the new features.

Whatever name Apple chooses, the real question is how OS X will change. Will the looks be further refined, will it take on more iOS features. Indeed, will it be another major feature refresh, or will more efforts be made to shore up reliability. Clearly El Capitan hasn’t received a lot of love from Mac users even though it was supposed to be the refinement release that would only have a small number of new features and enhancements.

Just sitting back and going feature by feature to see what’s missing and what can be improved, without doing a lot that’s altogether new, would make for a compelling OS upgrade. Indeed, iOS could use some fixing as well. Mail for iOS may be a tad smarter than Mail for Mac, but not to a large degree. It needs work too.

So an article focusing strictly on naming conventions was hardly worth reading.

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8 Responses to “A Perfectly Silly OS X Claim”

  1. DaveD says:

    Your article about the current state of Mail needs to be read by Apple. It has dragged its feet on their apps for too long. How many times has Apple done an app reboot and it’s never as good as the original? It is like Apple has a short attention span, thereby never finishing the apps.

    My Mac is still on OS X Yosemite. I had to wait beyond the 10.10.5 update to get a stable system. It is great to not experience a spontaneous restart in over three months. One of the new features in Yosemite that had my interest is iCloud Drive. I couldn’t use it as there is a strict requirement. However, Apple took away Documents and Data from iCloud. So, my iCloud documents are in name only stored on the hard drive. It would have been thoughtful if the iCloud Drive upgrade couldn’t happen, the old way would still work. At least I can do AirDrop to/from the iPad.

    Why can’t Apple just focus on the lessons learned? Such as ease-of-use, system stability, great user experience and it just works.

  2. Rainy Day says:

    I’m sure nobody at Apple uses Mail.app, because it has long standing unresolved bugs, and each “improvement” to the UI seems a step backward. I’ve grown so dissatisfied with it that i’m ready to migrate to something else and never look back. (I’m thinking Airmail for macOS and iOS might be a good choices, but haven’t tried them yet.)

    It’s such a shame, too, because ClarisMail was the best eMail client i’ve ever used. When Apple spun Claris back into itself, they killed off ClarisMail because they had Mail.app (from the NeXT OS). ‘Twas the wrong choice, in my opinion. One doesn’t choose bronze over gold! A Steve Jobs fumble, for sure.

    One unfixed bug which has existed for at least 7 or 8 years is a drag-and-drop error found only in Mail (thus it’s not an OS nor frameworks level bug): when composing a message with more than a couple lines of text in a paragraph, if one drags a small selection farther down in the paragraph, it copies rather than moves the text (going in the opposite direction, or with a very short “paragraph”, it works correctly). I don’t know how an error like that can exist for so long if ANYBODY at Apple uses Mail.app as their eMail client. Maybe they have a version of ClarisMail they use internally?! 😉

    • Rainy Day says:

      I see the iOS Spark eMail client now has a macOS counterpart.

      Apparently, though, the Mac version isn’t capable of archiving to local folders on the Mac’s HD. Years ago, i saw a Mac app designed just for archiving eMail. At the time, i thought it a bit senseless/redundant, but now am beginning to see some wisdom in that approach. One problem i can envision, however, is searching through current and archived messages might become an awkward two-step process.

  3. Rainy Day says:

    Oh, and another problem: Mail in macOS Sierra will filter good mail as SPAM and move it into the Junk folder; there’s no way to turn this off, even though there are preferences to disable SPAM filtering (i don’t need SPAM filtering and have never even turned on, but an update did this for me). Even with SPAM filtering disabled, it still filters! So frustrating, because i’ll mark a message as “Not SPAM” and move it out of the Junk folder, only to have it remarked as SPAM and moved back into the Junk folder a few seconds later. And it’s not consistent, because sometimes i’ll let some of the mail remain in my Inbox, and after repeated attempts, sometimes it’ll let previously recycled mail remain in the Inbox, but never will it let all the mail stay where i put it. Thought maybe a Rule was causing this, but alas, turning off Rules didn’t help. Mail is just a buggy piece of crap, and i’m sure nobody at Apple uses it! 🙁

    • My experience is different. I do see the over-eagerness to flag spam. But when I turn that feature off, it does stay off. I still use the spam folder for messages my email provider flags. After having these email addresses for years, I get too much not to have it quarantined.


      • Rainy Day says:

        When i turn the setting off, the setting stays off, but the behavior doesn’t change (i.e. it still filters SPAM). So the setting is ignored. Have tried closing Mail.app, rechecking the setting, and even rebooting, all to no avail. It’s very vexing, to say the least.

        When i installed macOS Sierra, i did a clean install, but did use Migration Assistant to move the eMail over. No doubt it’s a bug of some kind, one which probably doesn’t affect everyone (or if it does, not everyone will see it, owing to differences in mail servers, SPAM filter headings, other settings, etc.)

        But my gripe is this: Mail.app is just a buggy POS and there’s really no excuse for it. Something unfortunate has happened to Apple’s software engineering and QA processes. When i worked for Apple as a software engineer, these kinds of bugs never would have made it into beta, let alone a shipping application. Now they’re all over the place.

  4. gene says:

    That’s not been my experience. My problem is that, when I flag a message as Not Junk, the setting doesn’t take, even though I used Reset in the Mail settings pane.


    • Rainy Day says:

      Gene, that sounds like the problem i’m having: I mark a message as Not Junk, it briefly moves out of the Junk folder, then is reflagged and immediately placed back into the Junk mail folder. Effectively, the setting doesn’t take. Maybe your Mac is faster than mine, and you don’t see it move out and back in?

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