Switcher annoyances

Mark posts an whine about Mac Book Pro annoyances.

Now it is my time to harsh.

Conventions are the mother of invention

The main issue I notice is a prospective switcher fails to realize Mac conventions are not Windows ones (and vice versa, when Mac people denigrate Windows).

For instance, full keyboard access is available on the Mac (through Universal Access), but it is not used in the way Windows users do, which is many times more powerful for the power user. In other words, Mac keyboard access is for handicapped access, Windows keyboard controls are power user controls.

It is because there is no full keyboard access that Mac users invent things like LaunchBar and Quicksilver to get around (some of) it. Convention becomes the mother of an invention.

I think that stems from a fundamentally different way of doing things. An example: Macs, their operating system, and applications are far more “drag-n-drop” oriented than their PC counterparts. That syntatical structure (this-moves into-that) is something hard to mimic with keyboard controls. Similarly in order to support drag-and-drop, Mac users do not maximize the real-estate of their screens, do not operate in an application modality (they drag between apps and/or desktop), do not want menus to be bound to the window, and thus prefer menu commands over toolbar items (because their menus have a better Fitts’s law issue).

On the other hand, it is highly likely that the shitty Fitts’s law properties of Windows menus are why Windows menus are much easier to navigate via keyboard than Macs are. Convention is the mother of invention.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that Mac users like wide screen displays. It works well in that drag-and-drop system. On a Windows box, it’s simply a nice to have. How many times have you seen a Windows user drag their browser window to fill the entire screen on their Mac? Or complain that the maximize box “doesn’t maximize” (to fill the entire screen)? How silly is that—how readable is such a browser window on a wide screen display?

A simple convention causes all sorts of inventions.

That dang second mouse button

The first thing I need to get off my chest is where in the hell does it say that two mouse buttons is ideal? WTF? The original mice had three buttons and Apple reduced it to one. It is because some Microsoft engineer decided to be clever and put in two that everyone wants two of them.

Having said that, I think that notebook users (and only notebook users) have a point. There needs to be three (not two) trackpad buttons. Perhaps they should all be programmed by default to be a single button like on the mighty mouse. But Unix users need three and Windows users need two.

As for Mac apps (that aren’t X11 ports)? Well the control key is close and there is always the “click and hold”=control click modality. But in reality, let me tell you, Mac users don’t use contextual menus all that much. The first reason is the features in a contextual menu are buried UI and Mac zealots tell me “buried UI is bad.” The second reason is once you become proficient in an application, you cannot tell me that a contextual menu is faster than a keyboard shortcut. The third reason is the contextual modality (subject-verb) is caught between a menu/keyboard shortcut (verb, implied subject), and that dang drag-and-drop modality (subject-verb-object). In other words, contextual menus never caught on in the Mac world like they did in the Unix and Windows world.

Most Mac users have gotten used to leaving both hands on their keyboard when using their notebooks, so the control key is easy reach. I know this can be a problem if you want to control-click to save that picture of Jenna Jameson using one handed operation. Of course, in the Mac world could always click and drag the image to the desktop and still have that hand free. (I’ll refrain from guessing what the free hand is doing.)

Now you might argue and say that the reason for that is because Apple’s obsession with a single mouse button. I’d agree. But I’ll point out that you have a decade of Windows experience and yet have become pretty proficient in the Mac in a couple weeks. I guarantee the same can’t be said for a Mac user with two decades of Mac experience using a Windows box. The same can be said for watching a child use a Mac v. Windows for the first time.

Why advocate multiple buttons on MacBooks? Because if you ever expect a Windows user to switch and use shit like Boot Camp, they’re going to need the keyboard and buttons that they get on a Windows notebook. Besides, I happen to like at least six buttons on my mouse, and if I can’t get six, give me at least three. 🙂

The MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro is a very special case. First, it is causing too many switchers. Second, there seems to be some serious hardware and software issues with it. Just take a look of how busy the discussion at Macintouch is.

For instance the grey overlay Mark is complaining about is a kernel crash (equivalent to a Blue Screen of Death in the Windows world). The only thing that has caused this on my 17″ Powerbook two years of use was a hardware failure. However, I used to get this a lot in earlier versions of Mac OS X1 when certain system level hacks (like injecting menu items) caused it.

The MacBook Pro and other Intel macs are that all over again. Some programming shortcuts seem not to be working perfectly.

I still get the SPOD Mark describes, but it is nowhere near as bad as on Mark’s Intel Mac. In general, his computer handily outperforms mine and then freezes in weird ways reminiscent of my early transition to Mac OS X. If I had to guess, I’d say there is an resident system application (probably Quicksilver) that isn’t playing nice with the intel build of Mac. I am only guessing Quicksilver because I had to switch back from Quicksilver to LaunchBar in the beta builds of Tiger because of bugs in Quicksilver.

1 The first two versions of Mac OS X didn’t even have this gray overlay. When Apple added it, I joked that Mac’s user interface had to be so slick that event it’s BSOD had to be pretty.

2 thoughts on “Switcher annoyances

  1. AppleMatters has an editorial about the Human Interface Guidelines con.

    The problem I have with the article is that I never believed, nor espoused either myth. In fact, I think Apple HIG is a joke since Mac OS X as it is an evolving standard in which the most blatant violator is Apple itself.

    I bring this up because people might read my article and half-hearted defense of the one button mouse as bashing people with Apple HIG. If you read that article, then this one again, I hope you see that it is not the case at all. BTW, he’s full of shit when he writes: “So why did the one-button mouse survive over 20 years? Because Apple wanted it to, so it wrote the HIG to ensure it would.” The one-button mouse survived because Apple wanted it to, but the HIG guideline for it predates two button mice becoming dominant (1995). It’s fine to be all offended about zealots, but that doesn’t excuse having the cart lead the horse.

    (Having said this, HIG is not a OS-relative set of conventions. There are some sets of conventions that are demonstrably better than other sets no matter what the conditions. “Yes” “No” “Cancel” from the Windows world is fundamentally inferior, and you are going to be fighting an uphill battle if you going to argue that this semantic is a good thing.)

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