Mac OS X Pet Peeves: Readers Offer Their Own

Computerworld's editors aren't the only ones with suggestions for Apple

Last week, Computerworld editors Scot Finnie and Ken Mingis offered up a list of "15 Things Apple Should Change in Mac OS X." Judging from the deluge of comments, critiques, downright nasty e-mails and helpful hints, we're not the only ones with suggestions for Apple -- nor, apparently, the only ones with pet peeves. (When you're done with this story, be sure to check out "How to Make Mac OS X Better: Readers Show the Way" for answers to some of these OS X problems.)

We've culled those reader e-mails and compiled their suggestions for Apple's developers. Those pet peeves, in our readers' own words, follow:

1. The old close-windows, close-apps bugaboo. Closing a window does not close the application. I got over this pretty quickly, but I can't tell you how many times I've talked family and friends into switching [from Windows] to OS X and hearing complaints about this. The biggest problem I see is that the user actually thinks the application is closed and their systems start to slow down because they end up with 10 applications running and they never even realized it.

2. Opening a new Finder window. It's harder than it has to be to open a new Finder window on the Mac. You can click the Finder button in the dock to open one Finder window, but once you have one Finder open, that trick no longer responds. You can add the New Folder button to the Finder toolbar or resort to the Finder's File menu. You can also use the Cmd-N keyboard combination. But the easiest thing would have been for Apple let you open more Finder windows by clicking the Finder button.

3. Keyboard mapping. Why doesn't Apple allow user keyboard mapping so that key functions can be changed. As an international user (U.K.) my special beef is that Shift-2 is the @ key whereas Shift-single quote is the quotes (") key. On a U.K. keyboard, these are the opposite way round and there are several other keys that operate differently than the keycap engraving. I struggled when I first bought my Mac Mini to discover what these were, which even prompted me to e-mail Apple, as this machine was supposed to be for switchers. I wasn't impressed when I got no reply!

Another problem I have with Mac OS (or rather, the Apple hardware) is [its] custom keyboard layout (at least for European Macs, I don't know about the American ones). Pressing alt+L to get an @ is just inconvenient.

4. Multiple default printers. Apple, please let me set my default printer depending on the application I'm using. I have, for example, a Dymo label writer. It'd be nice if I didn't have to go through the setup menu and also select a printer every time I use it. (I never want my shipping labels to go to my laser printer.) It'd be nice if iPhoto would default to my ink-jet and Word to the laser printer.

5. Burning confusion. Dragging a file to a blank CD on the desktop doesn't actually copy that file to the CD; it puts an alias to that file on the CD. That's darn near useless and confuses the heck out of a lot of the Mac users I support who don't understand that the little arrow on the icon means "I'm not really copying this file for you." So they "back up" their files to CD, delete the originals ... and end up with a useless coaster. Yes, I know that Option-drag will do what they want ... but just-plain-drag should be the default behavior.

6. Two problems with the dock. First, it's very inefficient in terms of screen real estate, especially [when] positioned at the bottom. Since new windows won't overlap it by default, it in effect truncates the whole bottom of the screen. Since the screens are typically wide, this is a lot of real estate. Positioning it on the side is much better use of space, but Apple should let you pin it to the top or bottom without having to use a third-party add-on. I understand you could auto-hide it too, but it's nice to be able to glance at it to see what's going on without having to move to the edge of the screen to make it appear.

Secondly, a bigger problem is that Expose needs to show windows that have been minimized to the dock, instead of only the open ones. This could be a preference setting if desired, but without it, to me at least, Expose is much less useful than it could be.

7. Where's the uninstaller? I know you're supposed to drag the application to the trash and be done with it, but it does leave remnants in a couple of places. I use App Zapper to take care of this, but it seems like something that should be built in.

8. Same-name folder copying. When attempting to "merge" folder trees by pasting an identically named folder in the same location, OS X completely obliterates the original contents. I have lost so much data to this terrible behaviour. (Ken notes: Mac OS X does at least open a dialog window asking if you really want to copy over the original folder.)

9. Keyboard navigation. You can't use the keyboard to completely control fields in dialog boxes and HTML forms. The tab key only jumps between text fields -- completely ignoring checkboxes, radio buttons and (most annoyingly) pop-up menus. This is a symptom of the age-old mouse-centric attitude of the Macintosh. (Scot notes: I've noticed this too. In Windows, you can tab to a drop-down in a Web form. On the Mac, if you try to tab to a drop-down, such as your U.S. state name, it just skips the drop-down. That difference requires a mouse movement. Under Windows, you can access all Web form options entirely by the keyboard, which is much quicker.)

10. The Finder, FTP and SFTP. FTP and SFTP in Finder is read-only. We have had read-write in Linux (Nautilus and Konq) for going on eight years, and Windows has had it for at least four. Then there is the Finder locking up the computer when a network share disappears. Apple needs to let disk arbitration be disk arbitration, the Finder be a file browser and finally do away with the last vestiges of OS 9's Finder.

11. Security slowdown? When I made my home account secure (encryption), every time I shut down I have to wait an extra 30 seconds to confirm that I want to securely delete files that I've already emptied from my trash. ... If not, the system just stays on. ... I hope to God this gets fixed. It's annoying as hell.

12. Font smoothing style. On every LCD monitor I have ever seen Mac OS X run on (and that includes MacBooks and PowerBooks), one has to select "Standard - best for CRT" so the menu text and file text isn't blurry. Also in this category, a font smoothing style change only takes place when relaunching the applications, so the Finder will only display those changes when you log back in.

13. Spotlight in the spotlight. The fact that the Spotlight icon isn't like the other menu items and thus can't be dragged off the menubar ... annoys me, especially when using my 12-in. PowerBook. I use the menubar to keep other menu items, and they get hidden in some applications because [those applications] have too many menus.

14. Full keyboard access. The system preference [for keyboard and mouse] says we can change the keyboard access from "text boxes and lists only" to "all controls" by using F7, but that doesn't work. "All controls" is useful for reaching dialog buttons easily, but it's annoying when using Safari that I have to press tab a million times when all I want is to use either the URL bar or the Google bar.

To review and add your own comments about the article, please visit Sound Off: Mac OS X pet peeves.

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