Mac OS X dreams

By Grant Jacobs 21/10/2010

First I must apologise to regular readers for the writing hiatus. I’m being buried in work. It’s late at night here and following the mood I am writing lazily off the top of my head.

Today is one of ‘those’ Mac event days. I’ve read of so many over the years, I’m now fairly blasé about them in some ways, but stepping back a bit they’re fun excuses to offer what you’d wish to see in the new version of Mac OS X and chance to gossip.


Of the few lists of ideas I’ve read, most are pretty scatter-brained. This one from MacWorld at least seems to have it’s head screwed on. (Mostly.)

I’m not going to speculate myself, as much of the speculation centres around stuff I’m not familiar with. I’ve never used iOS, but people are talking about stuff being added to Mac OS X from there. Haven’t clue what that might mean. There’s talk of cloud computing features, but I see that as a little further down the track. I personally wonder at the choice of ‘3-D’ Apple in the logo used. A 3-D Finder? Hmm… others can speculate on that.

With a mere hours before the event, few will see my feeble ’requests’ before the event itself. Most New Zealanders will read it after the event, which no doubt will leave me looking the poorer for it. I’m going to further make myself look a mug by focusing almost entirely on the desktop aspects, rather than devices, networking, cloud computing, etc.

So, I encourage people to offer what they would like to have seen in Mac OS X that was not shown in the event! (C’mon surely this is an original twist to this? Besides this way I stand a better chance of getting something right…, erm, wrong. Whatever.)

On my wish-list is:

Better access to ‘advanced’ features Apple’s software generally targets the typical consumer, leaving more advanced users to their own devices in some ways. I would like Apple to include optional ‘advanced’ features that might be not displayed by default, but can be made visible by advanced users. There is a bit of a concept thing here: an interface that can differ for different target audiences while retaining a common core.

Tabbed Finder Seemingly every man, woman and their laboratory animal (or pet) are asking for a tabbed Finder, so I will too. I’m not sure if this is the best solution for window clutter, but some solution would not go amiss. (Anyone remember Window Shade?)

More ‘Unix’ power in Finder In many respects the current Finder, etc., is not making particularly good use of the power of the underlying operating system. I note that development on PathFinder has stopped a little over a year ago. You could dream that the product has been absorbed into Mac OS X. (I’m not holding my breath.) Another alternative is TotalFinder.

Make aliases (and soft links) work in Dock folders Apple’s aliases are ‘smart links’: if you move a file, the link is not broken, as in the case of Unix soft-links. You can create your own hierarchies of content, by placing a folder into the dock. However you cannot navigate through links or aliases this way…

Alias / link inconsistencies in Finder (This one is for command-line geeks.) Finder doesn’t have a good ‘understanding’ of soft links. These can’t be made to be entirely the same as aliases, but the two should be perceived by the user to have the same referencing effect. Some of us use links and/or aliases to have files physically located according to their installation or backup needs, but accessed through a structure consistent with their use. For this to work properly, links or aliases to folders must be treated exactly as actual folders are from the user’s point of view.

Likewise, links are more convenient for command-line users, where aliases are not very practical at all. The file system ends up being treated in two different ways from the GUI (Finder) vs. the command-line as a consequence.

More power to Time Machine I would almost expect this. This relates to my first point: ‘advanced’ features can be laid on as additions that can be hidden from users who don’t want to be exposed to them. (I’d like to see this thinking applied system-wide.)


Moveable Save as panes Please, please allow a means to move those drop-down Save (etc.) panes. (I’ve forgotten their proper name, sod it. It’s too late at night to look it up…) But if you’re in Safari, for example (see above), and type command-S, a big Save-as pane drops down hiding all the content. This makes it rather hard to see the content that you are trying to name… Dumb, dumb, dumb. One option would be to allow these to be ‘torn off’ the titlebar they are suspended from.

True sand-boxing in Safari, so you can nuke offending tabs. Yay!

Spotlight searching tidy-up I still don’t think the proper power of this has been brought out: too many small points here and my bed is calling me… You know it’s late, and for sleep, when you have a talking bed.

As you can see my list is rather limited to comparatively modest and unimaginative tweaks. There are networking and synchronisation, etc., features I’d add if it weren’t that I already have solutions through other applications and I’m not sure Apple’s style of solutions will help my needs there.

Now… I’m willing to bet the event has nothing to do with any of this! 🙂 What was I saying about a 3-D Finder again?

Other articles on Code for life:

iPads for the disabled

Web browsers (part 1)

LyX for free word-processing

Backups, part I

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