How to Make Mac OS X Better: Readers Show the Way

Readers offer tips and tricks to solve pesky Mac problems

Last month, Computerworld online news editor Ken Mingis, who also handles our Macintosh coverage, and I published "15 Things Apple Should Change in Mac OS X" and a reader-response follow-up, "Mac OS X Pet Peeves: Readers Offer Their Own." In this new article, we bring you several solutions to minor but annoying Mac problems -- including some that were suggested by readers. We also debunk some misconceptions about solutions that seem to help but really don't.

With even a cursory reading of the previous article, you should have come away with the realization that both Ken and I think Mac OS X is a great operating system. Why? Because none of the problems we brought up were in any way significant. They were all simple niggles or nagging annoyances.

Some Mac users didn't understand; they e-mailed us scathing remarks that questioned our intelligence or wrote impassioned arguments that the Macintosh can't be improved because it is already perfect. Others got it and passed along useful tips and work-arounds. Still others agreed with us and offered their own pet peeves.

Altogether, we received well over 500 e-mails, almost 300 comments on Computerworld's Mac OS X Pet Peeves sound-off blog, more than 800 diggs at Digg.com (with a long list of comments) and more than 900 comments on Slashdot. Several other Mac blogs and forums were outraged in typical rabble-rousing Internet style. It was great!

It's worth noting that even the best of the reader tips included in this story aren't easily discoverable, and they assume previous knowledge on the part of the user. OK, so you can find most of them fairly quickly by Googling. But that wasn't the point. Our intent was to point out some things that Apple Inc. might target for refinement in OS X 10.5, Leopard, which is due out this spring.

If the OS X user interface doesn't help people find shortcuts, most users aren't going to take the time to find them for themselves. (Of course, "most users" doesn't describe either Computerworld readers or the kinds of folks who post comments on Digg.com or Slashdot.) We strongly believe Apple would do well to consider most of the 15 points made in the earlier story.

Mac Tips and Work-arounds

Displaying Today's Date. Several readers sent us links to various Web sites displaying instructions that made the date display next to the Mac clock as we suggested in Thing No. 15 from our list of problems. The site with the best explanation, including pictures, is PaulStamatiou.com's How To: Display Date in OS X Menu Bar.

Mac OS X default clock
   
revised Mac OS X clock with date
 
The menu bar clock before... ...and after adding the date.

This tip is a work-around that Apple didn't extend to users as an option, but it works exceedingly well. And it delivers exactly the display we suggested. You can even customize it to your liking. Although it makes a very small change, this is a great tip.

We've seen some Mac power users scoff at the notion that having the date display on the menu bar is useful. They're probably the same guys writing postdated checks at the store. What is it about the Mac that inspires its fanatic adherents to wear a virtual hairshirt to show their support for Apple? You're not attending an Oakland Raiders football game. You're using the best desktop computer operating system on planet earth. Don't be afraid to help improve it.

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