In November last year I bought a MacBook Pro.
After a dozen years as a Windows user (and fifteen more on Amigas, various flavours of Unix, IBM Mainframes, OS/2, AS/400, C64 and VIC-20) I decide to replace my aging Dell laptop.
What pulled me in to the Apple offering was the sheer quality of the industrial design. There are lots and lots of innovations in a MacBook that other laptops still lag far behind, including
- The MagSafe power connector
- The clean, lightweight but strong aluminium body
- The large multi-touch trackpad
- How standby and hibernate modes work when you shut the lid
- Exposé, Spaces, Dashboard and Stacks
It is also evident how each piece of software in the operating system and in iLife was designed to make it as simple to use as possible.
As a user experience designer I can appreciate how intuitive Apple have managed to make the operation of their gear.
But as what you might call a power user with many years of computing experience and somewhat higher demands on functionality I find myself frustrated on many occasions.
Allow me to illustrate with a few examples:
Reduced hardware buttons
- There is no key to delete characters to the right of the cursor. I know you can do it by pressing Fn+delete, but that takes both hands
- As a power typist, I am really missing the home, end, page up and page down keys. Again, I’m sure there are key combinations involving propellers that I could use but if you want to select text and thus combine them with the shift key they become just silly
- Apple’s stout refusal for a decade and a half to acknowledge that people may be comfortable with using a second mouse button. Yes, there have been tentative concessions to that obvious improvement such as the Mighty Mouse, the trackpad gesture and now the hidden RMB on the new MacBook glass trackpads, but Apple always takes the utmost care not to make it a visible right mouse button
OS X v Windows
- The maximise/restore button (green plus symbol) works inconsistently across applications. In iTunes for example the maximise button actually contracts the window to a mini player
- A maximised window in Windows remains just that – maximised. On the Mac you can move even these off the screen
- On the Mac, windows can only be resized from the bottom right. This can mean as many as five manipulations to get a window to where and how big you want it. On Windows it will only ever be two
Apple Mail v Outlook Inbox
- When filing emails into mailbox folders, the Message menu only remembers the last folder used. Outlook remembers the last half dozen or so
- Even in plain text mode, Mail insists on embedding attachments such as PDF files into the flow of the message. Sometimes you just want to attach a document to the message as a whole
- You cannot drop web pages, URLs, images, documents and other items into mailboxes. Not even notes. This diminishes the usefulness of mailboxes as project-related storage
iCal v Outlook Calendar
- Selecting a date for an appointment is done by typing numbers into boxes. This is ridiculously inflexible. The entry fields won’t even tell me what weekday my chosen day is and there is no option to choose a date from a pop-up calendar
- You cannot move an appointment to another day by dragging and dropping it onto the calendar days in the month views on the bottom left. Again, the only way is to enter numbers
- There is no way to make visually apparent whether an appointment is tentative or confirmed
- You cannot alter a calendar entry someone else has sent you as an invitation, not even to change the alert. My iCal is full of “Meeting with Tom” meetings I cannot change
All of this was just for me to get it off my chest. In the end I still prefer the general “feel” and focus of the Mac OS interface, but I won’t chime in with the fanbois.
Have you recently switched from PC to Mac or vice versa? What are your experiences?