10 usability lows of Mac OS X

This article worshipping at the temple of Mac OS usability has garnered a lot of attention recently. While I agree that the Mac is generally pretty easy to use, it’s by no means perfect. So in the spirit of rational debate – and, frankly, because I’m a bit grumpy this morning – here’s my top 10 list of Mac usability disasters (in no particular order):

  • Menus unforgiving of mouse slip-ups. A menu disappears if you accidentally click the separator bar between two menu options. Grrr.
  • Dialogs hard to use with the keyboard. Not being able to type a shortcut key for all of the buttons in a dialog (a la Windows).
  • Terrible keyboard control in general (try using iCal with just the keyboard).
  • Horrid mouse acceleration. First thing I did with my new Mac was whack the tracking speed up to the max, and even then it’s not as nice as in Windows. And no way to control the acceleration either.
  • Only one menu bar on multiple monitors. Results in frequent RSI-inducing mouse marathons from one display to the other. (Though you can at least choose which monitor displays the menu bar.)
  • Nasty keyboard navigation of text documents. Having to use the fiddly Command-Left and Command-Right keyboard shortcuts to do the extremely common tasks of going to the beginning and the end of a line. Yet the easy-to-press Home and End keys jump you to the start or end of the document without moving the caret, which is next to useless in my book. And I don’t think this is a “coming from Windows/Linux” thing either, as I switched to the Mac 2 years ago and this behaviour still pisses me off. Windows and Linux have simply done it better.
  • Hamstrung open/save dialogs. Why can’t I do even basic things like rename a file or folder?
  • No cut-and-paste in the Finder. You can only copy and paste stuff. Uggg.
  • Non-intuitive Print dialog. How do I print multiple copies? Oh, I have to click a little arrow to the right of the currently-selected printer – which you’d have thought would change printers, but no, it brings up the hidden print options. And talking of the Print dialog, why can’t you move focus to the “PDF” drop-down menu with the Tab key?
  • Shift-clicking to select a range of files in the Finder doesn’t work in Icons view. You have to switch to one of the other views to do this.

There we go! That’s set the world to rights. 😉

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42 Responses to “10 usability lows of Mac OS X”

  1. Robert Says:

    I’m sorry, but this is mostly a “coming from Windows/Linux” thing. You’re used to Windows (which KDE on Linux copied; other environments also copied some elements from Windows).

    I’ll grant you these two:

    – Keyboard-only navigation needs improvement in most places in Mac OS X.
    – Menubars aren’t ideal for multiple monitor situations. On classic Mac OS, there were utilities you could use to get the menubar to pop up directly under your cursor via a special key combination.

    Everything else is just a difference from the way you’re used to working.

  2. markb Says:

    Man – you hit (some of) them on the head. Actually, user interface convenience and speed remain much worse than pre-OSX, and the annoyances you mention are all that. I look at the spinning-wheel-of-death more than I’d like (G5 with 2.5G RAM!), too!

    Finally, for a little MS bashing, I have found Excel 2008 almost unuseable!

    Whew! Rants over!


  3. James Katt Says:

    Looks like you are coming from a Windows-Centric way of doing things.
    Because the paradigms used are very different, you are having conceptual misunderstandings of how things are done on the Mac.

    For example, mouse acceleration on the Mac is THE BEST and most intuitive between both operating systems. On the Mac, acceleration depends on how fast you move the mouse. It is exponential as opposed to linear as on Windows. Thus, if you move a mouse very quickly, it will move a much longer distance than if you move a mouse very slowly. This allows you to save on having to move your entire hand a long distance to move the mouse a certain distance on the screen. You can flick the mouse with your wrist to move it across the entire screen. This makes it so much easier and less exhausting to use the mouse on the Mac than on the PC.

    The icons view on the Finder is a dimensional view as opposed to a linear view. Again, you show your keyboard/Windows centric bent. If you want to select a group of files in the icons view, simply select them with the mouse. By holding the mouse button down, you can draw a box bounding a group of icons. Since the icons can be in any spacial configuration, including a jumbled mishmash, it makes far more logical sense to use the mouse to select a group. When you jumble the icons on the screen, the order of selection can be arbitrary. Thus a shift-click selection in this view does not have a clear expectation of what should be selected.

    In Windows you can “cut” a file and paste it elsewhere. This is illogical. Where is the file when this happens? In the ether? If you cut a file’s name out, you leave a file without a name. This is also illogical. Thus copy and paste of filenames is what can be done on the Mac.

    The Mac has the main menubar on the top of the window. In multimonitr setup, one monitor has this menubar. The user can select which one has it. Having one main menubar can be confusing to a Windows-centric user. But it makes it a lot easier intuitively to use the Mac. The user knows to look at the top of the screen to see what their options are for the selected application. Closing a window in Windows usually means the application has stopped running. It thus confuses them that it does not do this on the Mac. In the Mac Paradigm, an application can run without open windows.

    I see many of your “usability” problems on the Mac as a result of having been lost flexibility in conceptual shifts and having a misunderstanding of the Mac paradigm for the user interface. This results from having obviously used Windows for years and having been indoctrinated in the Windows way of doing things – which tends to be more keyboard centric than on the Mac.

    However, once the paradigm shift is understood, one can accomplish far more on the Mac than on Windows. I would rather give a Mac to my grandmother than a Windows machine since the interface is fare more easily understood and the OS more easy and productive to use.

  4. Don Says:

    These are “disasters?” LOL!

    The war in Iraq is a disaster. The destruction of New Orleans by Katrina and the lack of a viable government response to it was a disaster. The destruction of the Twin Towers in New York was a disaster. All of your disasters are nothing more than VERY minor inconveniences to the way YOU work.

    The real “disaster” of this blog, beside its useless approach to a few minor inconveniences, is your total lack of understanding of the meaning of words in English and your attempt to further destroy a glorious language to fit your warped sensibilities.

    Disaster? Damn! If you don’t like these things just use Windows.

    But please, learn that words really do have meaning.

    And quit whining.

  5. Steve Says:

    Okay, I’ll bite… let’s play devil’s advocate for a minute…

    1) Terrible keyboard control in general (try using iCal with just the keyboard).

    Of course, that begs the question…. why? The mouse/trackpad is there for a reason. Generally speaking, GUI based applications were designed to interface with a mouse primarily.

    2) Horrid mouse acceleration.

    Just curious, how do you qualify that? You make a vague claim suggesting it’s not as nice as Windows, but I don’t see that. Further, the double buffering in the Mac GUI visually makes mouse movements much smoother as well.

    3) Non-intuitive Print dialog.

    The “little arrow” you refer to is called (surprisingly enough) a “disclosure triangle”. Huh, imagine that, it does what it’s name implies… The point of Leopard’s dialog box is to keep things simple and not display unnecessary clutter. If you want to see all of the print options, just click the disclosure triangle. It makes sense and is easy enough. My 5 year old daughter had no trouble figuring out how to use it. I can’t imagine others would either. Likewise, I don’t get the unintuitive description of this feature.

    4) Shift-clicking to select a range of files in the Finder doesn’t work in Icons view.

    Nor should it. Unless all of your icons are snapped to a grid, this metaphor doesn’t even make sense. Based on your list of gripes, you seem to have an issue with using a mouse. With the mouse, you can easily and actually more quickly select a group of icons. So, it’s not like you have to switch views to select multiple icons as your complaint suggests.

  6. Redblek » 10 usability katasztrófa Mac OS-en Says:

    […] (Matt Doyle cikke) Értékelheted ezt a bejegyzést. Kattints a csillagokra! (Szavazz te elsÅ‘ként!)  Loading … Téma: Mac, Usability […]

  7. Andre Says:

    “Yet the easy-to-press Home and End keys jump you to the start or end of the document without moving the caret, which is next to useless in my book.”

    Yep, I second that. In general, I love Mac OS X but someone needs to sit them down and describe how useful this think called the “keyboard” is for moving around the GUI.

  8. Morten Says:

    Right on the spot! This list should hang on the wall of OSX software engineers.

  9. Richard Says:

    You must have just arrived on the 2:10 from Microsoft.

    Those aren’t deficiencies (for the most part). They’re differences. I have the opposite take on Windows mouse control.

    Then again, anything can be improved.

  10. Joe Says:

    Hmmmm…Apple must produce products that are pretty bad in the usability department. I’ve read several other sites talk about what they hate about Macs, iPhones, iPods, and Apple in general.

    What is your main computer? I might want to buy one just like it.

  11. Peter Says:

    Well said, Richard.

    Menus unforgiving of mouse slip-ups. Sure enough, you’re right. This surprised me. You also get the same effect if you click on a dimmed menu item.

    Dialogs hard to use with the keyboard, Terrible keyboard control in general Personally, as a Mac user for years (my first Mac was a Macintosh), I have no problem with the concept that I actually have to use the mouse. So the inability to use the keyboard to select radio buttons, for example, doesn’t bother me one bit.

    Horrid mouse acceleration. Again, I think this is something that I am used to, so it’s tough to say. It’s “different” from Windows, but I like to think it’s “better” than Windows. I find Windows extremely frustrating with regards to mouse control.

    Only one menu bar on multiple monitors. This one I actually do agree with. While I hate Windows’ menus in the windows (Fitt’s Law), if I have a debug window on one display and my app on the other, accessing the menus are a bloody nuisance. I would love it if Mac OS X would move the menu bar onto the appropriate monitor.

    Nasty keyboard navigation of text documents. Use the mouse.

    No cut-and-paste in the Finder. Remember that the clipboard is System-Wide. I cut a file, receive a phone call, copy and paste some information, come back to the Finder and…oops. There goes my file.

    If you really want to move something…use the mouse.

    Hamstrung open/save dialogs. This one has me a little lost. Why would I want to rename a file or folder in an open dialog?

    Non-intuitive Print dialog. Apple is consistent with it’s controls (ie, the same “Show more” control in the open/save dialogs is used in the Print dialog), so I’m not sure your complaint that you would expect the contol to let you choose a different printer is valid. But I do agree that printing could use some work. Go back to Mac OS 9, Apple–it made far more sense.

    Shift-clicking to select a range of files in the Finder doesn’t work in Icons view. Shift-clicking to select a range of files in the Icons view doesn’t really make sense when you figure that there is no visual range unless all your files are automatically kept “clean.”

    For example, open your Applications folder. Switch to Icon view if you are not already in Icon View. Now start dragging applications around willy-nilly. Notice that the icons might overlap and it might not make much sense? Now how is it supposed to figure out a range from that?

    So in Icon View, since things are kept spatially, you use a selection rectangle. Try this: Click and drag somewhere where there is no icon. Notice that little rectangle? Notice that as you drag across icons, it selects them? That’s how you select a range of items in a spatially oriented system.

  12. Tonio Loewald Says:

    I’ve used Macs, PCs, and Amigas for over twenty years, and the Mac’s mouse control is far and away the best — in my opinion. But then my first mouse was a Mac mouse. I’ve always disliked Windows’ jittery mouse movement (I do a lot of precise graphics work) but I know people who swear by it.

    I think many of your other complaints are valid. Obviously you like to use the keyboard a lot — it may seem faster, but in general using the mouse is actually faster. The print dialog thing is the same as the save dialog thing — the default is retarded but works for total newbies.

    Renaming stuff in open/save dialogs would rock… but I would do away with them entirely and use Finder as my open/save dialog (if I ran Apple’s HIG). That said, I use Default Folder which isn’t free, but it’s fabulous and solves this problem and many others besides.

  13. chris Says:

    I think many of these are spot on. Here’s two more – treating folders the same as files in Finder views and only being able to resize a window from the lower right corner.

    And before the fanboys say “go back to Windows” I have never owned a Windows PC in my life.

  14. Jeff Mincey Says:

    I think the author of this blog has some valid points and I’m disappointed to see some Mac proponents respond out of reflex with their Mac-centric dogma. A good UI is about giving options to the user. Sometimes a menu is most effective, sometimes a key sequence, sometimes a dialog box, toolbar, floating palette, or command line.

    Of course I’m all for implementing in OS X the best UI approach in each of these cases, but I still oppose a one-size-fits-all UI. Hence this author’s call for more robust keyboard navigation of GUI objects. Hence is call for the option of more than a single, fixed menubar.

    It’s astonishing to me that one individual in this thread actually asks why anyone would want to rename a file or folder from within a standard list dialog box. This isn’t the kind of “stand pat” thinking that got the Mac where it is today. Why rename a file in a dialog box? Why NOT?

    There are times I find that this comes in handy. And under the Mac, my only option is to cancel out of the dialog box and then rename the folder — after which to re-invoke the dialog. Not terribly elegant or efficient.

    As for cut and paste in the Finder, I’m all for it. The user above who speaks of getting a phone call in the midst of the operation doesn’t understand how this works. Under Windows, the cut operation of a file behaves differently from copying text or images into the paste buffer. If the user is interrupted and forgets he had just “cut” a file, and if he then copies some additional text into the buffer, the file is not lost.

    It’s quite simple really — all Apple need do in its code is ensure that the original file is not removed from its original location until after a paste of that file has been done.

    I perform cut and paste in Windows all the time — it’s very handy.

    The UI of OS X has room for improvement, and we should open our minds to that.

  15. Heraclides Says:

    My pet peeve by a large margin is that Finder STILL cannot reliably show the contents of folders. I suspect this is only a problem for those with large folders, but its ridiculous that I can add files and not have them show up, then have to jump into Terminal and run off an ‘ls’ to get the correct result.

    Menus can be a little “slippery” sometimes: it’d be nice if there were user-options to ask Mac OS to be a little more forgiving for some users (usually I find them fine, but if my hands are cold or I’m in a hurry, they can be annoying; it’d be nice to tweak some settings to an alternative for those times).

  16. Heraclides Says:

    Should add, any one to compare with the Finder alternatives? (e.g. PathFinder, XFolders) My impression is that these are really designed for more experienced users. I hope to look into these again over the next few weeks, so I’d welcome comments.

    Jeff: I seem to remember that PathFinder does drag’n’drop. Or it might be XFolders! Its been a while, but my point is I think the alternatives support this–might be worth your checking them out?

  17. JS Says:

    Dialogs hard to use with the keyboard.

    In the open/save dialog box use the Tab key to navigate to different sections
    of the dialog box.
    Tab until the first item in your sidebar is highlighted.
    use the down & up arrow keys to navigated the sidebar.
    When the desired sidebar directory is highlighted press tab again
    (it will still be highlighted but dimmed).
    Press the right arrow key to navigated within that directory.
    use the arrow keys to navigate to sub folders.

    Command 1,2,3 and 4 changes the Finder view.

    Command D will target the desktop in any open Save dialog box.

    Command .(period) will cancel anywhere. anytime.

    To turn on Full keyboard access press F7 or go to system preferences,
    Keyboard & Mouse, Keyboard shortcuts, click on the radial button that
    says all controls. This will allow you to highlight all the elements within Finder windows & dialog boxes.
    There are plenty of other keyboard shortcuts for opening & viewing
    folders from within the Finder. I suggest that you check the help files,
    under the help menu. Hope this helps.

    Horrid mouse acceleration.

    I can actually draw with a Mac mouse in image editing programs (masks etc.)
    In Windows the mouse is to erratic & inaccurate for these functions.

  18. Jim Says:

    If you like keyboard commands, System Preferences is your friend.
    Keyboard & Mouse > Keyboard Shortcuts

    You can even trigger the entire menu bar and menus for it. I have. The mouse is kind of annoying once you get used to doing this.

    I am surprised at home much I can use my keyboard, once I learn the shortcuts, and not use the mouse. They do exist, it’s just a matter of learning and finding. Which was the original purpose of menus and mice: to show easily where to find and to eventually allow a user to learn.

    Once touch screens start allowing for this sort of “exploring”, I can see a return to even more keyboard commands. OS X has more than OS 9 ever had, and each release brings more.

  19. Bernie Says:

    You missed one. Selecting a file in the finder using the keyboard and then hitting the return key renames the file instead of opening it.

    Yes, opening a file on Return, is a Windows function, but it makes so much more sense. I open files far more often than I rename them.

    There was a cool OS9 utility called “Return Opens” which fixed this behaviour in the Finder, but I’ve found nothing for OSX

    I know I’ll be flamed for being a “Microsoft” centric person. It’s true I still have my original 400k floppy version of Microsoft Word or Mac around the house somewhere, but I don’t own Windows, and I was an Apple SE for 5 years. So save the fan boy taunts for someone else.

  20. germ Says:

    Pretty weak article. True, OS X GUI, and the Finder in particular, can improve. But not in the ways the author suggests. I will just pick mouse acceleration and keyboard navigation. Mouse acceleration is horrible in Windows, where you have to set the mouse speed so high that it becomes all jerky.

    I am a keyboard junkie and find keyboard navigation much easier on the Mac.

  21. Thomas Says:

    I agree with the original article (and I’m amused at some of the “explanations” by very hard-core, apologetic mac users). I’ve been using Macs at home for about 5 years, and the home/end key thing is still pissing me off. yes, Windows works differently, but guess what, it’s *better* in that respect. Mac users who think OS X just works differently but not worse have probably just never used Windows for more than 5 minutes (oh spare me the stupid jokes).

    Why use keyboard navigation when there’s a mouse? well simply put because sometimes that’s *faster*. You know, for example when your fingers are already on the keyboard because you just edited the filename or whatever. Windows has excellent keyboard navigation support and that sometimes just makes you more productive (ouch, isn’t that word *only* to be used in conjunction with the superior Mac?).

    And yes, mouse acceleration is a lot better in Windows (uhm, for the guy who thinks it’s linear in Windows – try using Windows before commenting on it). I tried to use the original Mac mouse for years, and at one point the pain in my arm and hand became so strong I switched to a Logitech trackball that has its own mouse driver (with adjustable acceleration). on my Windows machine at work I can still use the mouse for 8 hours a day without problems – the acceleration is very comfortable.

  22. Brian Says:

    In Windows the paradigm has to be different because there is no guarantee that your system has a mouse or the user has any clue how to use one.

  23. Former PSE Fan Says:

    I utterly, completely, _despise_ Home/End for text navigation!!!

    1. Why move your right hand to change the distance instead of adding modifier keys? Everything you might need (shift, option) is all right there.
    2. Having a destructive key RIGHT next to a nav key is stupid. Many bothan characters died to have that stupid placement. When using Mac Home/End to scroll the window, I do that far less often so nothing is killed.

    There is a freeware mouse tool that let’s you modify Apple’s numbers (no special code) to go beyond their max and set the accel.

    I’ve used Windoze in all it’s flavors but started using it daily around when WinNT 4 came out as my job required it in 1999. I’m a power user out of necessity. So, Windoze Home/End is still pissing me off 9 years later. I win. 🙂

    @Jeff Mincey: no need to cancel anything. Just change to the Finder and rename.

    Another thing I despise in windows: resizing from _tiny_ Window edges. I don’t care if you can or can’t resize from all sides, but I hate winApps that don’t bother to offer a reasonably sized target in the lower right corner. I’ll spare you all the rest of the things that WinXP sucks at.

    Yes, the bugs and other problems should be fixed but not at the expense of elegance and simplicity. iTunes is already pushing that limit as an example.

  24. Matt Says:

    Wow, what a lot of great points of view! Thanks to all who have posted comments.

    Just to address a few:

    @Don: OK, “disasters” was a bit strong! How about “gripes”? 🙂

    @Steve and Peter: You’re right that the GUI was designed with the mouse in mind. However, personally I can work quicker – and with less fatigue – using the keyboard rather than the mouse most of the time. Also your points about Shift-clicking are spot-on – I always have my icons in a grid, and forgot that the Finder also lets you have icons randomly positioned (which of course would make Shift-clicking confusing as anything!).

    @Steve: By “horrid mouse acceleration” I mean that it’s never felt as smooth to me as it does in Windows – I believe it’s because because you can’t adjust the acceleration like you can in Windows, only the tracking speed. It’s just never felt right to me like it did on GNOME and Windows. At low tracking speeds it’s glacial and results in arm-ache; at high tracking speeds it’s hard to keep the cursor under control. This is probably a very subjective thing though.

    @JS: I’m aware of full keyboard access and already have it turned on. But pressing Tab 10 times followed by Space to activate a button on the Mac is a lot fiddlier than pressing Alt and a shortcut key in Windows.

    @Jim: Great point. I must confess I still haven’t learnt the shortcuts for things like accessing the menu bar. I really should.

  25. Dave Says:

    True, I’m a long-time Mac user and the lack of keyboard control annoys me no end. Like most tech types who use the computer I resort to keyboard control simply for speed and doing everything upto and including quit – and then having to move to the mouse to NOT save, for instance, bugs me. I’d rather just move two lefts with the arrow key and hit enter in all of .5 seconds instead of recovering the mouse from between my cushions 🙂

    And I think it’s obvious people might want to rename/move/create folder and file structures when they’re opening/saving files during dialogs, it’s part of filing isn’t it?

  26. tman Says:

    > A menu disappears if you accidentally click the separator bar between two menu options.

    Don’t click twice. You’re supposed to drag down a menu and *release* on the required item.

    > Dialogs hard to use with the keyboard. … Terrible keyboard control in general …

    Sounds like you need to learn how to use the “Full keyboard access” option in the Keyboard & Mouse preferences. If you don’t know how to use a feature you can’t really criticise it.

    > Horrid mouse acceleration.

    Can’t agree with you on that one … trying to get fine mouse control on Windows is unbearably frustrating, and I’ve never found a decent Windows mouse driver in all my career.

    > Only one menu bar on multiple monitors.

    Yep, the single menu bar is definitely not suited to today’s large multiple screen setups. However, Spaces does go some way to nullifying that: bring the work to you rather than you moving to the work.

    > Nasty keyboard navigation of text documents.

    Yep, you can’t please everyone with those for sure. You can reassign keys in many apps and there’s numerous keyboard utilities easily available.

    > Hamstrung open/save dialogs. Why can’t I do even basic things like rename a file or folder?

    Good point. I use Default Folder. It may be some consolation to know you can use Cmd-R to reveal the item in the Finder, where it can be easily renamed (you can also use Cmd-I to Get Info and rename that way).

    > No cut-and-paste in the Finder. You can only copy and paste stuff.

    That one’s been dealt with to death I think. Cutting and pasting a file doesn’t make sense when a shared clipboard can be overwritten easily by another application: there’s no way out for a user who loses a file inadvertently. The whole point of a GUI is that you drag the icons around. You have the Desktop to place things in the interim while you navigate to another folder, or you can simply rely on the Finder’s spring-loaded folder feature.

    > Non-intuitive Print dialog. How do I print multiple copies? Oh, I have to click a little arrow to the right of the currently-selected printer.

    That arrow is quite distinct from the standard popup menu. But I’ll grant that the Print dialog, after many years of stuffups, still needs improving. The main problem is that many developers, seeing that the standard dialog was poor, wrote their own and continue to use them, even after the Leopard one finally does a decent job.

    > And talking of the Print dialog, why can’t you move focus to the “PDF” drop-down menu with the Tab key?

    See above re. Full keyboard access.

    > Shift-clicking to select a range of files in the Finder doesn’t work in Icons view.

    Shift-clicking relies on a sort order: click the first, then shift-click the last. But icon view doesn’t have an inherent sort order the way list and column views do, so how do you determine which items are “in between”?

  27. CharmedQuark Says:

    Anyone daring to suggest the OS X isn’t perfect is hit with the “oh you just don’t get it” argument.

    People – OS X isn’t perfect. Windows isn’t perfect. Linux isn’t perfect.

    BTW, I moved from OS X back to Vista after just having had enough of OS X and I swear less now.

  28. Darryn Smith Says:

    I have to agree with the article.

    And I’m not interested in comments like ” Windows-Centric way of doing things.”

    Here’s the thing. I use Linux 85% of the time and I like Gnome for the most part. But what I like most is CHOICE..

    You do it your way, and your happy. So let me have the ability to do it my way as well.

    I use the cut/paste all the time. (linux) I’ve never lost a file, I’m not even sure how a file could be lost. If I select a file and cut it. But forget to paste it… shut the system down etc.. it’s still in the original place. Why is that hard to grasp? Either way.. provide the option.. if you have no use for it fine, but I do and my opinion should count as well.

    My iMac came with a mouse that even with tracking at the highest setting took two arm lengths to move from lower right to upper left (which I also hate doing). When I added the second monitor this became completely unacceptable. I found the mouse difficult to use. So I switched it to a Logitech VX Revolution. Thankfully I’m not FORCED to use the Apple mouse… and I made a choice that suits me.

    Renaming files — why and why not — because I have the need to. That’s why. Again this is about me. Not about everyone else. Who owns this machine anyways? Me. Give me the ability to decide what features I want to turn on or off. Instead of telling me .. the standard apple fan boy chatter. Lock in and this size fits all isn’t helpful or comfortable.

    And another feature I’d like. tear away bars, that I can move, or bond to windows.. or place where I find them most convenient.

    Linux isn’t perfect either. But it’s nice to have community driven innovation. And when your needs differ from the masses the ability to change it.. locally or in small groups. 10% might not be a majority. But 10% of 3 million installed units certainly isn’t something that should be ignored either.

    Just my thoughts..

    Not that anyone asked for them 🙂


  29. Rich Says:

    “Having to use the fiddly Command-Left and Command-Right keyboard shortcuts to do the extremely common tasks of going to the beginning and the end of a line.”

    Er, that’s not a sentence. 🙂 But anyway, it also supports Emacs navigation, so you can use the incredibly handy control-a and control-e for this. You get Mac-style (command-arrow), Windows-style (home/end), and Linux-style (emacs), all at once, for free. This is the best keyboard navigation support of any system I’ve used, and something I miss dearly whenever I’m on another platform.

  30. Matt Says:

    @Rich: So you can! Still not as easy as just hitting Home/End though… 😉

  31. Ben Says:

    You’ve hit most of these issues on the head, OSX certainly isn’t perfect.
    >Menus unforgiving of mouse slip-ups.
    Yup, right you are. This has got to be a bug.

    >Dialogs hard to use with the keyboard, Terrible keyboard control in general
    Can’t really comment too much on this, though they didn’t put a ‘del’ key on my laptop so I have to use two hands, wtf! I found an app to make my right alt into a forward delete, but it doesn’t repeat. It’s unbelievable what apple will cut from their products to make them look good.

    >Horrid mouse acceleration.
    Can’t say I’ve found anything wrong with it, it would be nice to have more control over it, but as usual macs a dumbed down and one slider is easier.

    >Only one menu bar on multiple monitors.
    Yup, this is really stupid. On large and/or dual monitors fit’s law does not work in apples favour, distances are longer, one must click an inactive menu before clicking it’s menu. It’s a huge hassle to drag my mouse 30 inches to the left to click on the file menu. WTF!! Fix this apple.

    >Nasty keyboard navigation of text documents.
    I’ve never had a problem, I use komodo edit for most of my work.

    >No cut-and-paste in the Finder.
    Mac fans will say this is to prevent loss of files, bullshit. Windows/Linux manages this fine. Why must everything be dragged in osx, would be nice to have both.
    How is this hard to understand, the file doesn’t move at all until you paste.

    >Hamstrung open/save dialogs.
    I agree. I’ve wanted to rename, add columns, sort properly etc and the open/save dialouge has only a small subset of the finder functionality. Sometimes I find a file with a silly name and I have to drudge up finder to rename it. Useless!

    >Non-intuitive Print dialog.
    Looks okay to me. The printer option is clearly in a seperate dropdown select widget. It would help if they used a label here like, ‘advanced’ or something.

    >Shift-clicking to select a range of files in the Finder doesn’t work in Icons view.
    Not really a huge problem for me, Icons view sucks anyway. Tree view or column view is more helpful.

    There are a lot of mac users on here saying that the author of this blog is used to windows/linux. This does not mean these usability issues can be excused. Quite a few of these are different from windows/linux, and by different I mean wrong.
    That is not to say that windows or linux don’t have faults. I’ve seen advantages/disadvantages in all of them.

    I tend to look at these things from a productivity view. I use my computer for work, it pisses me off when things get in my way, functionality is missing or inconsistent, or I can’t identify some icon without a label.

    -Buttons/icons should be easily recognizable. Dock fails at this for example when multiple finder windows are minimized, they all look the same! Search for ’10 reasons apple dock sucks’
    -If possible there should be keyboard shortcuts to speedup repetitive tasks, and let less used features be clicked on.
    -Things should be consistent, if I bring up a context menu for a file in finder and it has the option for rename, that same option should show when bring up that menu in the open/save dialogue.
    -Fits law, things should be grouped well, and large enough to click. I understand that the menubar has virtually larger buttons because of the screen edge, but I imagine on a 30″ monitor it would be quicker to have the menu on your windows.

    These are usability basics and as with all the operating systems, osx doesn’t follow them as well as I’d like. I think in places these have been ignored in favour of flashy looking stuff that will sell well on the shop floor. It took me a day or two to discover these issues that I didn’t see while I was using it in the shop.

  32. Matt Says:

    @Ben: Thanks for your comment – some good points there. I agree that list/column view is more useful than icons view, though there’s something nice and cuddly about organizing your files in icons view! (And does anyone ever use the Cover Flow view, pretty though it is?!)

  33. Kaan Says:

    James Katt How cut/paste is illogical? Dont you cmd+x while you wordprocessers? I dont want to copy/paste and then come back and delete the original one.

    I really find finder awful. It doesnt let you order things according to size/date if the finder is used by another program. (Lets say you are on Firefox and try to upload a file from your document folder ) For me it is a problem. You can call me Windows-Centric I would call myself logic-centric.

  34. Matt Says:

    @Kaan: Thanks for your opinion on cut/paste. I can understand both points of view. As James says, there is something strange about the fact that you “cut” a file on Windows, yet it doesn’t really get moved to a clipboard like cutting text. OTOH I too find it a pain that you have to copy/paste a file then go back and delete the original (stupid!). I’m not sure there’s a happy compromise between the two unfortunately — if there was then someone would have invented it by now!

    However you can order things by date in the file chooser (though, for some insane reason, not by size). Just click the “list view” button top left, then click the Date Modified column header.

  35. Tony Chung Says:

    Errg… Matt — you have HOME and END buttons? As of this year’s MBPs, those buttons are now gone, gone, gone! I’d classify it another UI #FAIL. Fortunately my external keyboard was a carry over from Windows, so those buttons exist. There’s also some fancy fn-cursor trick but that’s kind of a waste. HOME is HOME. END is END. Way back on the UNIVAX. LOL.

    Also, why label a BACKSPACE key “DELETE” … BACKSPACE is common from the days of typewriters. It made sense that BACKSPACE deletes characters before the cursor (hence, backwards movement) whereas DELETE removes characters after the cursor. This isn’t OS centric. It’s truly universal.

    And I second or 3000000 the request to expand application panes from all sides. Come on, Apple, ADOBE gets it right in ALL their apps. It should be DEFAULT behaviour. Period.

    And Ben hit TMan on the head with the cut-and-paste within the file system myth. Cut files don’t move until you paste them. That should be another default file system option. Add to this the non-expanding folders while dragging files. I find it a a wasted step to drag the destination location to the Places bar, navigate to the source, and drag files from the source to the destination. Some say it’s just a different way of working. I say it’s inefficient.

    I’m glad to know others out there share my frustration that Apple is consistent in their inconsistency. Even still, I’m having the best experience working on Mac vs. 20+ years in the DOS/PC world. If these are the only things I can complain about, Apple’s done really well. One would hope it can only get even better.

    Thanks for this post.

  36. Matt Says:

    @Tony: Thanks for your comments. I’m amazed that Apple got rid of the Home/End keys on the MBP! At least there are still key combos for them. And I agree with your last paragraph – Mac OS X may have some usability issues, but it’s still the nicest-to-use OS out there 🙂

  37. Maciek Says:

    and here is my list 😉


  38. Matt Says:

    @Maciek: Some good points there, especially regarding the green ball button. I never know what’s going to happen when I click that!

  39. connectionfailure Says:

    Haven’t read all the above comments yet but many of these foibles can be overcome with more utilities.
    For example DejaMenu lets the menus appear whereever the cursor is, which could be invoked with a key combo or one of the mouse button clicks, if you configure it correctly.
    like @tman, I use DefaultFolder is a wonderful fix to Apple’s Open/Save Dialogs. I own a copy of it and it’s great.
    FinderPop or FolderGlance are feature-packed contextual menu utilities you should check out too.
    ReturnOpen allows you to use the return key to open files in the Finder.
    RightZoom ‘fixes’ the green button to maximize like people expect it to and while you’re at their site they make a Start Menu if you miss that from Windows. also uBar does that too.
    There is also a new util to put the menu bar on both monitors but its still in beta.

  40. Matt Says:

    @connectionfailure: Thanks for your great comment. That’s a fantastic range of utilities – I’m off to check them out now. 🙂

  41. Mike Schinkel Says:

    A really excellent article. Thank you. The only low point was the Macultists attacking you in the comments for making all your legitimate criticisms. They obviously have far too much of their self-esteem tied up in the selection of their Mac.

  42. Sacha Vorbeck Says:

    It seems that you can only resize a window via clicking on the bottom right corner. Would be better if you could resize the window on all the borders and corners.

    I also miss the path to the current location in the finder.

    When you dive into a sub-folder in the finder and then use the back-button, the folder isn`t highlighted any more.

    There must be a reason for software like PathFinder to exist.

    I also work with Ubuntu and Windows. Mac has some advantages but not everything is as great as the fanboys say.