Back on Mac

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m back on a Mac. I’d been thinking about a new PC for a while, thinking I would get a cracking laptop, but as I prefer using my computer at my desk with a full-size keyboard and mouse, not to mention two monitors, and I was thinking of replacing my desktop I decided it was a better idea to get a new desktop and just keep my existing laptop. Looking around I wanted something powerful (I transcode videos quite often and wanted to convert my VHS collection to digital) and, most especially, quiet. I also liked to idea of running OS X and Windows, which the new Intel Macs can do.

I didn’t want an iMac, I didn’t need the screen and they had no upgradeability, so plumped for a Mac Pro. Oh yes.

So I now use a machine with quad Xeon cores, upgraded to 4Gb of RAM, with a 500Gb HDD. To be honest, the difference is negligible in terms of raw speed, although it can happily transcode a video and still remain perfectly usable.

Here’s a few things (mostly gripes) from my experience over the last couple of months:

  • Good God is OS X sluggish. I would put this down to me using a Windows mouse and keyboard, but it’s no better with the keyboard and mighty mouse that came with the system. Seriously, point and click is anything but, I even tried third-party apps, but I’m not sure how much of an improvement they were. (I’m not the only one to have noticed this.) I’m the kind of guy who switches back to the classic interface in XP to give me better performance, I can’t switch off the graphic
  • No proper UK keyboard layout! WTF! Seriously, how hard is this? I had to locate a third party ruleset for the keyboard to get my keys in the right place.
  • No focus follow. Although you may not notice it in Windows, when you put your mouse over an open application window, it changes focus to a window, so, for example, all you have to do to paste text into an address bar on a web browser it click in the address bar and paste. Not in OS X, no, you have to click once to select the app, then again to select the address bar, then paste. This is a serious waste of time and a bad usability flaw IMO.
  • Home and End keys don’t work. One of my most used functions, especially when copying URLs from the address bar. In OS X though, I have to push three keys together to select a line of text and two to go to the end of a line. I’m using DoCommand to fix this (although it only does it when you’re using it without SHIFT and it occasionally decides to forget your settings).
  • No inline PDF reading in a browser. Adobe’s PDF Reader is bloated, but it’s still much better than having PDFs I only want to look at once scattered all over my desktop.
  • I thought editing media and creating DVDs was supposed to be easy on a Mac, but it’s not. Now, I’ve not put much time into learning iMovie or iDVD, but God are they not intuitive. I use TMPGEnc DVD Author to create a burn DVDs with simple menus. It has a logical and easy, step-by-step process. iDVD is so structured I can’t just knock up a simple DVD with a black menu and a play button. No, it has to be a masterpiece, and so take up unnecessary MBs on my disk.
  • No maximise button. Every time something decides to resize a window (javascript, for example), or you want to drop the size of a window while you work on something, you can’t then get back to full size in one click. I’ll admit that neither Windows or OS X get this right, what you should be able to do is specify a default max and min size and then have buttons to switch between the two, but Windows is closer, with OS X you’re forced to drag it back to the right size. Larger screen resolutions and increased use of multiple monitors means this will only get more important.
  • Finder. A terrible app, Windows Explorer leaves it in it’s wake. Yes I can make it bigger, but it doesn’t remember that setting and resets itself to the default small size each time. It sorts everything by name, which makes navigating to subfolders slower in folders with lots of content, Windows version of folders first and files second is much better. No delete button support – why do I have to push two buttons to delete a file? Enter renames a file, not opens it, which is stupid. Again, two buttons to do that.
  • The dock. Oh, it looks lovely I’ll grant you, but I want to see all my open windows and be able to select them in one click. Yes, I can use expose, but it’s another button press/click. Everything seems to be more clicks/button presses away on OS X, get out of my way. It’s an impractical way of launching applications. I don’t want them all there, and there’s no easy menu to get to my applications folder to launch less-used apps.
  • Close button doesn’t close. Why the hell would I close all windows of an application and not want to exit it? I can’t see it, but hey, I might not have finished with it. No, that’s crap behaviour.

Overall, I’d quite happily switch back to XP, I find OS X slow and unintuitive to use. Partly the hassle of shifting is stopping me, and also, Scrivener. What a great piece of software that is, if you’re writer of any kind, I urge you to give it a try. Anyway, my level of respect for Windows has gone up, maybe it’s just the way I work, but OS X is far from perfect and fails on so many basic things you wonder why anyone uses it and just how much productivity is being lost by people using a system that, frankly, doesn’t work very well. My ideal would be to run Windows and access OS X via a parallels-esque virtual machine.