Wednesday, March 07, 2012

On The Desktop, Changing from Linux to OSX

I wanted to make an immediate, I switched to OSX blog post, but I didn't want the takeaway to be too temporal.

After using OSX full-time for atleast the past month as my primary desktop, I've gotten to know what I like and don't like about the switch. Hopefully some desktop developer stumbles upon this an implements the improvements, otherwise kudos to those who've built the good parts.

What I immediately and still desperately miss after having left Linux (primary distribution is Ubuntu), is that OSX does not have a tier one blessed software repository. I can't explain how nice it is to be able to install all of your software through something like: apt-get install package-name. I don't want to install git by going to their website, downloading a disk-image, and launching an installer. I believe that a package manager is mandatory for an OS. I guess the App Store attempts to approximate this, but its so far from impressive. When you launch the App Store, then search bar isn't selected by default, and the App Store should work from the terminal as well. How about:

sudo app-store install photoshop

Now, what I really really like about OSX, is how stable it is. Apps don't crash, and if they do, I'm very surprised. So much so, that you almost feel compelled to complain about it to the developer (which as an ecosystem, probably helps to fix bugs). On Ubuntu (especially the post-10.10 era), apps and core services crashing is so common that I disabled feedback reporting because even that too would crash, and cause more popup windows to report bugs.

I also like how easy most of the system is to manage. Top left-corner Apple Icon with all the bells, knobs, and whistles are easy to click and change most things. Very excellent. Command Space to launch Spotlight so I can easily search to find apps, and all the results show up nicely grouped, with the one I'm most likely to click on being the top hit, and hitting Enter then launches that, ohh yes!!

I don't know if there are patents protecting those works-really-well parts, but its just behavior. If I were Desktop Linux, I would copy that verbatim, and frame a picture of the designer at Apple who created it. I might even buy him a beer, a Trappist Ale, or perhaps even a Framboise.

Another big win in OSX, is how well the gestures work. All Apps should allow for back-button support with a simple swipe. Also, the hardware is nice. I really like the keyboard (I have the wider keyboard with  Home / End and delete buttons, which is great since I hit those buttons all day long)

That said, theres still plenty of unexpected, un-intuition in OSX.
How does one always show hidden files and folders in Finder?
- (Edit a system variable in terminal, or get An-app-for-that).

How does one browse their filesystem, when all Finder is doing is showing me a coverflow of all of my images?
- (Hit Command UP, until you get to your /Users/myusername directory)
I would prefer having a location bar at the top, so I can atleast type in the directory path that I'd like to be at. I kind of see how "The End User" would like meta-displays the abstract folders, and just show them their music, pictures, and documents, but I'd like to opt-out of that.

How does one open an application that updated itself when it shut-down?
- (You can't use the Spotlight quick find, because it now has the translucent crossed-out circle around its launcher. So you have to open the Application's list, and click it and allow the "From the Internet" app to run yet again. Even if the update caused this app to be "From the Internet", it still should have showed up in Spotlight. You can keep the crossed-out-circle icon to show its currently disabled, but Spotlight needs to always work.)

How do I get my Home key to go to the first character on a line, and End to the last character on a line, as opposed to first character on page, and last character on page?
- (There an app for that. There built-in configuration doesn't allow remapping...)

How does one see all the messages in a email thread in from the sender and all others in the thread, and my response inline as well? You know, I'd like to see all my responses to a client within the email thread...
- (Command click to select Inbox, and Sent ?? really?!?. I guess that would follow the Apple design guide, but I would say that Gmail has quickly claimed the title for best email interface, especially with its immensely fantastic threading. In that case, the Gmail way trumps Apple standards, and awesome-threading should be the default view.)

In the end, I'm happy on OSX, its a very solid Desktop Interface that "just works", so I can be productive. I suppose some of this rant is just someone coming in from outside-of-Mac, and they're "used to the old way", but its a case where I'm convinced that certain conventions are just better.  I'm not sure you could measure it up precisely to say that this action that I do 47 times a day is 0.32 seconds faster on OSX thus gaining me x hours a year in productivity to justify the higher cost. But its very much like a nice car, nice bicycle, or even a nice wheelbarrow, and it does what you'd expect it to very well. So much so that its now my preferred tool.