Waiting for an 21GB game to install, I found time for a short burst of blog posts about really cool stuff you can do to customize your Mac OS X experience. I wish I had known this stuff earlier, so here you go with part 1.
Let’s customize the Desktop with dynamic data. This is mine:
Apple is not perfect, and I know it. I’m not trying to be a Fanboy, even if some people have a hard time distinguishing between Fanboys and and people who like things that are well-designed. No real ordering for my criticism:
Apple supports these, and the built-in support in the iPhone is better than any other app in the AppStore out there as far as I can tell. But I’d still like it to be better. I want to be able to subscribe to podcasts and have them download in the background when there’s WiFi. This feature is clearly missing (and please don’t tell me to 24/7 run my computer for this). Why do I have to do that manually?
Steve Jobs said that iCloud’s purpose is to lock people into Apple’s ecosystem. This is not the best for the consumer, unless to turn the argument around and say it’s better for the customers to go with Apple’s products only. Apple, open up an API for external software.
Another lock-in argument is that other times, the compatibility with computers running Windows is not great. For example, if I connect to the computer of my girlfriend, copying files is kinda slow and using her printer doesn’t work instantly (which differs to using some networked printer).
Window Borders in Lion
Yay, we can now drag windows on every side to with the mouse pointer to make them bigger or smaller! Sadly, most of the OSX windows were not programmed with this in mind and have zero pixels of borders. This means while I drag the pointer over the border a very short time the icon changes and I can grab the border, but often times I don’t hit this time-window. Apple, how about adding 1px of border on the outside of the window when I hover in it’s direct surrounding, so I at least have a change of grabbing it?
The AppStore is your only hope to make money on Apples platforms as a developer. So, if you don’t get featured, you’re most likely lost. This is a lot of power on Apples side, and it should be more obvious how to get featured in the app store other than to make great apps that Apple’s employees like. You should also get more statistical data about the usage of the AppStore, so you don’t have your marketing guys spam keywords all over the place.
It would also nice, if the Appstore would rank abandon-ware and very poor software lower in searches if was was a) seldomly downloaded b) poorly rated or c) not updated for a very long time. Maybe it should even forget thing that are too bad.
Network connections in Hotels or Academic Networks
Oftentimes, I connect to Hotel networks, free WiFi networks or networks in academic institutions and it just works. About 50% of the time, it doesn’t work and there’s a lot of fiddling with network specific settings involved before I get it to run. How about making this better, as usually Windows is king here.
Next generation programming language
Apple sticks with its old programming language Objective-C without having a contender for the next decade. For example, C# with .NET 4.0 is such an advanced language, that I barely have the heart to compare them. Please don’t comment this. I know you know better than me, but Apple has no solution for stronger machines other than making the devices more competitive by making them smaller.
The iOS ecosystem is pretty locked down, with apps having only hacks to communicate to each other. How about stealing contracts from Windows Phone and Windows 8?
That being said, Sandboxing is pretty bad for app developers if you forgot some entitlements that are necessary to run the software.
Preview doesn’t always work very good if the PDF is very big. Why, Apple?
Ergonomics vs. Looks
When there’s a design decision between the looks and the ergonomics of an Apple product, the looks win out (explained by John Siracusa on Hypercritical). Apple, please give us bigger arrow keys and better mice! (And Samsung, please don’t copy the questionable design-decisions from Apple!)
iChat / Messages / Twitter
Why is Twitter not integrated into Messages? Why is iChat not integrated with the iOS messages?
Apple is not perfect, and this is what I criticize. I’ll try to fill this list with more that I don’t like about Apple stuff, and remove things that get better. If you have comments, please leave out the price debate, as copying companies like Samsung show that the hardware in Apple-quality cannot be done cheaper.
With Mac OSX Lion, the default setting for scrolling in Lion is that you don’t move the scrollbar, but instead you’re moving the content. This means the scrolling direction is inverted. Many people said they didn’t like this, but I guess they’re not using the touchpad – I grew completely accustomed to it within about three days, because it really feels more natural, especially when the scrollbars are hidden. Touching the webpage and moving it around feels more as if you’re in control.
But Apple won’t stop here. If you’re looking at Safari’s new way of moving back in the history by moving the active page to the right (effectively scrolling to the left further than possible) so that the last page in the navigation history appears below the active page shows where this could lead. If you try this left and right-scrolling in iCal and do it really slowly, you get an effect like in iBooks where a new calendar page slowly flips over. This kinda semantic way of moving things is also followed with mission control, where you push everything away from you (four-finger-swipe up) to get an overview of everything running and do the opposite to get back close to the windows. I believe this kind of semantic movement of windows and content will sooner or later work in a lot of menus, the finder, the AppStore and anywhere else where “back” usually would be a button.
If this is the course of the OS, I wonder why Apple didn’t go further with this. In the new iCal, you can move forward and backwards with this new side-scrolling. So, if you move the content (for example the month August on a sheet of ‘paper’) to the left, on the right side ‘September’ slides in. In my opinion, this is exactly the natural way it should work. Why then, if you use three fingers and make the same gesture (three finger swipe to the left) it moves the other way round, back to July? Because three finger swipe left is defined as ‘back’. Putting the ‘back’-command on three-finger-swipe right sounds silly, but I think this is the way it should work as you’re always moving the content to the right when you’re going backwards, and vice versa. This would also give a sign to third party applications like Twitter, where in a conversation the same confusing three-finger-swipe to the left actually moves the content to the right side to return to the stream.
What I would like additionally is a three-finger-down gesture for minimizing or closing a window, or better some way to define gestures as triggers for actions in programs, as possible in BetterTouchTool (with that you can remap and define new gestures for touchpads and magic mouses).
This WWDC gave us a lot of features. MacOSX gets better and better and iOS too. I believe that the next “bubble” that techpeople fear might be the near-perfection, that Apple aims for. In Windows, you always have a lot to make better via 3rd party software, but Apple just builds in everything that is making it’s OSses better. What happens to Software producers when there’s nothing that you can do better?
Just listened to the Hypercritical poscast of this week where @danbenjamin and @sicacusa seem to think that Apple might get iMessage wrong. Two reasons why it really must be the all-in-on messaging solution that Apple is looking forward to:
They won’t have the SMS icon and the iMessage icon and the Twitter icon on the default screen – this would look stupid and I believe Steve wouldn’t like it. For the same reason Facetime doesn’t have it’s own app/icon.
Additionally, they didn’t deep-include Twitter for no reason – as it also was the service that was founded to solve SMS.
I believe (let’s say hope as I didn’t take a look at the iOS5 Betas) they need to unify it, and I would like to see a segmented control in iMessage that let’s you choose where to send that message if your Contacts app knows more than one connection, like SMS (still ubiquitous), Twitter DM (reach a lot of other people) or iM (the Blackberry BBM usecase).