Mac OS 8.0 and Classic Cars comment


I feel that MacOS 8.0 is like a classic Jaguar (the car, not the animal): Great to look at, good performance, but still quite a few rough edges. Everywhere else on this site I discuss different ways of doing things. This article is doesn't. It's simply a critical look at the current Mac OS implementation.


The new Finder windows. They look nice, but they update way more slowly. Is this an improvement? I have read that the priority of the new OS was responsiveness- how quickly the user gets back control, not speed. That is an improvement, the copying is definitively less obtrusive than before. But folders, because they list 'dynamically' can give you a list which changes right as you click on an icon, giving you the wrong selection. I have three, count them; three folders on my main drive; applications, utilities and System. In small button view (very nice for top levels like this) they list themselves in the wrong order, and then snap to the right order as I've been dumb enough to ask them to list by name. Three items! Don't you hate trying to click on a file only for the Finder to decide to re-list the file and you end up selecting a different file?! This happens most often when a file has been saved and the window is listed by modified date. The file is where it always were, then snap, it's at the top!

The new improved thicker edge windows tend to fill the entire screen when expanded. Completely fill the screen I e; no more click on the side of your screen to return to the Finder. Not very Mac like. More on windows: Why in the world can't I choose the order and width of the columns? Why does the date column insist on being that wide? I often need to switch between name, modified (nice addition, great job there), and size. This means one folder takes up more than half my screen. And I'm using a 17' monitor! What's the great benefit of being able to move a window from any side anyways?

Finder windows are no longer guaranteed to include all the items in a folder even when there is enough space, I e; it's as if you've scrolled too far down, when the window is opened. This happened rarely before, now it's almost normal

Collapsing windows don't stay collapsed through a restart. Would be nice if they did.

Aaron and Kaleidoscope had what I thought was a bug with their windows; when you reseized them, the inside of the scroll bar didn't draw, so it was hard to tell just where the inside of the window would be- aligning the window with the columns were a hit and miss affair. I might seem anal, but I think it's nicer to have the window cut between the words in the date column, not randomly across them. The Mac OS windows behave the same way; they can't draw the inside of the scroll bar like any System 7.X version could. Not very elegant.


The Context Sensitive Pop-up is kind of cool. Kind of like holding down the right mouse button in Windows (what, Mac copying Windows!). Why should we have to hold a mouse button down anyways? Why not let the user choose to have it appear after a set delay of clicking? As we have already started to copy Windows features here, why not copy this feature completely while we're at it, like the ability to copy files and not just their files names this way. Saves an awful lot of dragging. Why not give us a list of applications with which the clicked file can be opened with, there are many a time when the same file has to be opened interchangeably by HTML Editor and PageMill in my work for instance. Turly's FinderPop does this. Why does Apple rely on so many third parties to full it's information environment holes? The third party is there to add value, not fix bugs. The ordering of the functions which pops up are also debatable. You don't agree? Well at least we should be able to resize them. Why is the Context Sensitive Pop-up 1D? Research at MIT shows people have a problem remembering where things are on a flat, one dimensional list. I'm not saying we need a fancy circle popping up around your cursor, but a cross or a square might help, one direction per type of function; view and listing modes etc.


Half assed color picker. The crayon box is nice, I find myself using it a lot more than I thought I would when I first saw the preview screen shots- it's nice to be able to select the same color time after time consistently without having to remember RGB values. But why can't I add a couple of my own color choices from the RGB picker to some kind of scratch area? And why couldn't it include a nice WEB safe color pallet where you can look at colors and choose what you like, like Pantone's ColorWeb, as opposed to having to create colors numerically and having them snap to the WEB palette.


Talking of third parties; why are so many of Apple's new 'innovations' simple copies of third party utilities? The threaded Finder; can you say Connetix Speed Doubler? Hierarchical Apple menu (will Apple's version ever support icons?); Now Utilities and others. I'm not saying this copying of third party ideas is wrong. On the contrary, I'm saying; if it's cool, if it helps you work better, then shorten the nerd to average consumer cycle; go buy the utilities and put them on the OS installer. Why waste resources building them from scratch all the time? Make this a simple process. After a certain level of Beta testing, the third party's logo comes of, Apple's come on. Money is exchanged, and everybody, especially MacOS users who (as far as I can tell from Apple's business plan) are mainly non nerds.


The Open/Save dialog boxes. Don't get me started...


Why can't the Chooser be hierarchical? Again, comparing it with third parties, in this case Now Utilities it just looks flat. Having the wonderful ability to mount a remote volume by clicking on its Alias or an Alias of a document on the volume is great. That's definitively not for novice users though. A hierarchical Choose would be intuitive and fast, benefiting all levels of users.


Scary memory management. I've read that the new memory management scheme is both faster and more stable, which I have not seen anything to imply that it isn't, but when the Finder runs out of memory now, it gives users a dialog box asking them to 'Cancel' or 'Restart'. You'd think 'Restart' could mean restart the task it was trying to accomplish right? But oh no, this means restart the machine! Without even letting you save open work! Technically it might be better, but it sure gets scary when the user has to make a decision when something goes wrong. We still have to manually allocate memory to applications. How un-Mac like is this? And guess what, you don't even have to do this under Windows!


Claris Emailer ships with 8.0 but isn't integrated very well. Whatever happened to PowerTalk? Pared down to only support simple e-mail functionality with hooks the way (dare I say it?) windows integrates e-mail would be good. Why not include the tiny start up application included in the full Emailer which runs in the background and tells you whether you've got mail, without having to launch all 2.7MB of the Emailer mother ship? Why can't filing actions run after you've read a message, as opposed to before? That's when you need them filed, not before so that you have to hunt through your folder for new mail. Refer to for many more Emailer thoughts, if you are at all interested, this could easily fill an article by itself...


Spring loaded folders. Quite nice, but in an environment of super slow listings, why not stick to Now Utilities simple click and have a list pop up... Why have to hunt around the screen as the folders open? And why wait? Why not a keyboard modifier for those who wants to go immediately? Setting wait time to zero might help, the shortest wait currently possible isn't all that short.


The Control Panels are still a jumble. It took me quite a while to figure out which one would have the pop up or plop up or spring loaded folders (what's their official name anyway?) timing preference in it for example, and it isn't even a Control Panel! It's under the Finders Edit menu. Explain that one! While we're on the subject of Control Panels; why can't all network Control Panel options be in one Control Panel?


Why do System Folder folders (Extensions, Preferences etc) look like regular folders? Obviously (to us) they are not, so new users can easily begin to store files in them and drag things out of them. Scary. Why not give them a new, different, more 'techie' look to keep new users out?


The Setup Assistant gets much press and advertising. It's pretty good. So why not provide us with a Customize Assistant (thank god they're not refereed to as 'Wizards!) which a novice user could go to with no fear of having to figure out the Control Panel mess and other arcane system related mumbo. Want Applications added to your Control Strip (OS 8.0 can't do this, but as I said above; third party developers shouldn't be bug fixers, they should be adding value, so I'm going to assume for this tiny paragraph that Apple's managed to plug a couple of holes), just choose that option from your Customize Assistant, and it'll ask you, through a simple Open dialog box to select the applications you want. Same goes for (Turly's) FinderPop Contextual application menu. No more figuring out how to put Aliases in all kinds of folders. At least Turly provides a button in his Control Panel which you can open his Alias window from.


The Mac obviously knows when it's reawakening after a crash. After all it tells us not to shut it down improperly (excuse me? You're the one who crashed!). The Next OS, OpenStep knows when it's reawakening after a crash, and does something about it (Good purchase Apple!). Why not have the Mac run an invisible version of Disk First Aid when it knows it's just crashed? A simple; please wait, you're drives are being put back together again, would be less intrusive than having directory troubles later. Should even casual user have to figure Norton Utilities just to keep their machines from deteriorating?



After all is said and done though, I DO like it. The new look is fantastic, the Context Sensitive Pop-up is great, Internet integration is tighter and many details such as relative dates definitively add to the whole experience of using the Mac OS.

I only hope Allegro will have all the sharp angles sanded down, making using a Mac an even smoother experience.


©1995-2001 The Liquid Information Company