After much trepidation, I “upgraded to OS X”:http://juniorbird.com/archives/000008.html a little more than three months ago. An expert user of the Classic Mac OS, I braced myself for more than ten years of detailed knowledge about that OS to become immediately obsolete, and for various problems to become difficult and even unsolvable. I worked up my nerve to rely on a command-line interface, to keep track of obscure file locations and decode one XML-based preference file after the other. In return, I expected to get a moderately stable OS that gave me Bluetooth, hot new games and software and a built-in Web development environment.
Turns out almost nothing I expected about OS X was right. I didn’t have to delve into its UNIX underpinnings to get the darned thing to work; the system wasn’t moderately stable, it was rock-solid; fixing problems was easy; and I’ve only just now begun to touch the Web development features.
Where do I start with this review? Well, first let’s look at “the things I loved, hated and didn’t know what I thought about”:http://juniorbird.com/archives/000009.html when I first installed X.
h3. Things I Thought I Loved
*Bluetooth:* Yeah, this is great. What I said before.
*New Apple And Application Menus:* Ditto.
*The Look:* Ditto Ditto
*ODBC:* One of those things I expected I’d love, I haven’t touched this. Probably a side effect of not using the Web development features.
*Terminal:* Also barely touched this.
h3. Things I Wasn’t Sure I Liked
*Safari:* OK, I’ve changed entirely on this. I love Safari! It’s got all the features I need in a Web browser. Fast, stable, pop-up blocking, and I love tabs. I’d like better compatibility with some banking Web sites, and the whole ability to work with the window behind the active one is annoying, but it’s a great app.
*Those Buttons In Finder Windows:* Oddly, I think I use the Finder less now, so I rarely notice the buttons. Not useful items. More on the Finder later.
*iApps:* I tolerate iCal, which has the disastrous interface flaw that you need to tab from a field before it will keep the value you just entered in it. This means, for instance, that if you enter the starting time for an event and don’t tab away, the time will be reset to the time at which you entered the event. Since the single most important thing a calendar has to do is get the time and date of an event right, this is entirely unacceptable. iTunes is, of course, wonderful. Address Book and Mail are minimal and thus minimally acceptable, if at least free. iPhoto is a lot of fun but needs an “export” command badly so that you can adjust a photo in iPhoto and then save it to the Web or e-mail it to a friend.
h3. Things I Knew I’d Dislike
*The Dock:* I knew I’d dislike it, but I’ve tamed it to my needs. It’s actually not bad for switching apps and I like that apps in the dock (like my memory monitor) can show data and others (like Mail) can show state. I’ve abandoned it for application launching, and am happy enough.
*Those Flat Microsoft-Style Buttons:* What I said before.
*Buttons Without Tooltips:* These are awful and have caused me to make serious errors in the past. If you’re not going to have a label, you must have a tooltip. The automatic display of some sort of tooltip for every button must be built into the system.
*Brushed Metal Interface:* I hate to say, but it’s pretty pretty. It’s OK with me.
Of course, there’s plenty of things that I’ve discovered that I hadn’t anticipated:
h3. Things I Miss From OS 9
*Pop-Up Windows:* If you’re working, it’s convenient to have windows at your fingertips. It’s kind of too much to have tons of folders in the Dock, but I suppose I can try it.
*Extensions And Control Panel Folders:* It used to be, if you installed something that futzed with your system it went in these. Now, it goes in one of several Library folders or subfolders. Centralizing everything makes it easy to manage.
*Extensions and Control Panels Showing At Startup:* Not only did it make long startup times less boring, but it provided a lot of info about what was going on. The current spinning clock at startup doesn’t tell you what’s happening, which means that, if something goes wrong, you don’t know where, and it doesn’t pass the time, which makes it seem like startup takes even longer.
*Extensions Manager:* This let you turn various control panels and extensions on and off. Still necessary, because there’s all sorts of things you can install to tweak how your system works.
*Location Manager:* The old Location Manager really let you change location: internet access, printer, even the behavior of some apps and some system defaults could be changed based on where you are. The current Location Manager lets you change only network preferences. A lot more changes when you move around!
*Chooser:* I’m probably the only person in the world who will cop to this, but the fact is that the current location of the Network Browser is just too obscure, and Print Center is also too well-hidden. Both should be, at the very least, in the Apple menu; then they might replace the Chooser.
*Pull-Out Control Panels Menu:* Up through System 6, the Classic Mac OS had a single Control Panel application that let you cycle through various different things you could control. In System 7 and later (and in Windows ME and later, hint hint), you got a pull-out menu of all the control panels. Let’s be clear about this: when I select Control Panel, I never ever want to go to the main Control Panel application, I only want to go to a single Control Panel. There’s therefore no reason to drop me into the main app. In addition, the organization of panels is not as intuitive as it might be, which means that I often have a hard time finding the one I want. The old alphabetical organization worked well, once you were even slightly familiar with the system.
*Control Strip:* While I could see that this is just another place to secret settings, to me it was convenient way for power users to manipulate features they often fooled with. Plus, it could be made compact. Perhaps some sort of in-Dock application could replace it. The ability to put controls in the menu bar is not an adequate replacement, because there’s only so much space there and my apps need it.
h3. New Things I Love
*Stability:* I knew this would be good, but I didn’t appreciate how rock-solid X would be. I’m running at just over two reboots a month, and most of those come from installing apps. I’ve had maybe 3 real needs to restart in the last 90-some days.
*Transparency:* Not just eye candy, this gives things another way to set a visual hierarchy. Visual hierarchies are good.
*Shareware:* The release of X has definitely reinvigorated the Mac shareware community. Yay small clever apps!
*System-Wide Address Book:* I will never use an e-mail app that doesn’t use the Address Book, because having addresses available everywhere is so useful.
*Services:* Universally-available tools are great. Now if they were just there for Carbon apps…
*Real Multithreading:* The ability to really do work while you do things like large file copies, emptying the trash and even launching applications is great. X’s ability to enable you to work while an app launches surpasses, in my opinion, even Windows XP’s.
All in all, I’m impressed with X. It works well and it does what I need. Best of all, after working in it for just 90 days, I already feel like I’m as efficient in it as I was in 9, with all the years of experience I had there. It’s a gimme of an update, and I’d recommend it to anyone.