Developer. Gamer. Yo-Yo Thrower.

Everyday use of OSX

At my new job they’ve given me a brand new MacBook Pro and OSX 10.7. I really am not liking it (surprise!), it feels like I’m crippled (more accurately, like my OS is crippled). I really have given it a chance (and in the interest of being OS agnostic I continue to) but honestly, I can’t understand why OSX gets the praise that it does; some things actually are intuitive and well implemented. Other things will make you grimace and wonder ‘WTF?!’. ESPECIALLY if you prefer to use the keyboard more than you use the mouse. The first and most painfully stupid complaint I have is to do with pressing “Enter” or “Return” on an icon in “Finder” – in every other OS since the dawn of computers pushing “enter” on something means to execute, implement, or start the selected item — not so on OSX. On OSX pressing Enter on an icon renames it, frigging renames it!! WTF!? (CMD+O opens it)

As a programmer, I write a lot of little words and short ‘sentences’ that need to be edited or modified frequently. I use advanced keyboard commands and little-known text manipulation functions. Try this in the text box below: Place your cursor at the end of the line (just after ‘amet’), while holding down CTRL use the arrow key to move left – you’ll see the cursor jumps to the end of the word! If you hold CTRL + SHIFT and then use the arrow keys it will highlight one word at a time. Unless of course you’re using OSX, in this case you must hold ‘option’ rather than CTRL to achieve the same result — worse — holding CTRL and using the left/right keys in OSX sends you to the start or end of that line (this is what the HOME/END keys are supposed to do! Again, OSX bungs it up and HOME/END keys bring you to the very top or very bottom of the document).

I’ve found a nifty program called KeyRemap4MacBook that allows you to remap much of this functionality to make OSX key-bindings work more like they do in every other OS known to man. The problem with this app is that it’s universal to the OS, and some apps I use actually bind keys properly – using CTRL in the terminal for example works exactly how you might expect (so if your keys are remapped using that software – it no longer works right). I’ve now got a toggle switch for quickly switching between OSX and normal key-bindings – but it is a major annoyance, I hope in time to work out a perfect solution.

Another straight up bizarre behavior of OSX is the new “Maximize” button. It doesn’t really maximize the window… it makes it taller, but not wider (and in some cases will actually shrink the width of the window you’re trying to maximize). Double clicking the title bar in Windows and GNOME will also maximize the window – in OSX this action minimizes the window (*sigh*). Why would anyone not want to use their whole screen for a program?

Yet another seemingly minor, but ultimately major usability fail is when you have multiple windows of the same program open. If you attempt to ALT-TAB (CMD+TAB actually) it only shows you one instance of that app – so if you have 4 Google Chrome windows open, the ALT-TAB menu will only show you one – and give you no indication which one you will be switching back to (the last used one). This is wildly annoying because the only way I’ve found to see all open windows for a given program is to click and hold on that programs dock icon – there is no way to do this (AFAIK) with the keyboard (EDIT! You can do CMD+~ to switch between app windows, or pay $14 and use a piece of software called Witch).

You should be able to use a computer without a mouse – in fact – after getting used to key commands you should be able to use a computer faster without a mouse. This appears to be impossible with OSX – some actions require the use of your mouse, not to mention that keyboard shortcuts are completely proprietary to OSX. This means if you learn to use Windows without a mouse, you’ll be able to use Windows, GNOME, KDE, BeOS (etc) all without a mouse. If you learn to do this in OSX … you’ll be able to use OSX without a mouse and be completely frustrated with every other operating system (which I believe is intentional – after all; why would you ever need to use anything other than Apple blessed OSX?).

Ultimately I want to be able to use any operating system at close to the same level of efficiency. When I’m working in Linux or Windows I feel like I’m running, using OSX makes me feel like I keep tripping. It’s not all bad, I’ve always said the hardware is beautiful, the MacBook itself is really good looking and well designed. I enjoy the trackpad (the gestures are neat) and the keyboard is solid. Don’t get me wrong though, I’d still never actually buy one unless Apple decided to open up a bit.

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