Mac vs. PC

It wasn’t until I silently entered the blogging community some year ago, that I noticed just how saturated it is with love for The Mac. Browsing weblogs, I see the influence everywhere. The Aqua look – drop shadows – iTunes playlists and a most surprising zeal in following new Apple products and keynotes. Specifically, the Mac Operating System — OSX — is hailed all around as the best OS yet.

In this article, I will explain why I respectfully prefer the obvious alternative.

First I must admit that this article is way overdue. Whenever I reveal that I use PC/Windows and even prefer it to Mac, people stare at me in disbelief. Or, at least their emoticons do. Also, while I don’t own a Mac myself, I truly enjoy reading John Gruber‘s articles on mac nerdery, but I suspect this has more to do with quality of writing, rather than the fact that he’s writing about The Mac. With this out of the way, let’s begin.

OSX vs. Windows

Both OSX and Windows are Operating Systems, meaning they are the interfaces with which you control all aspects of your computer system. This is an important detail, because controlling aspects of the hardware such as sound, visuals and input devices should be as straightforward as possible. Other aspects, such as the hardware ports, IP addresses etc. need to be tucked away, but still in a logical way so as to be there for the power user.

These things are handled differently by the two OS‘s. Even the smallest details can make a huge difference.

“Windows”

The word, “window”, has become a metaphor for an open folder or quite simply an open application. Such a window usually has a close button for removing the window, a minimize button for hiding the window, and a maximize button for utilizing the maximum amount of screen real estate. While this method of displaying content may be flawed, it has become the de-facto standard way of presenting information on massive operating systems. Standards mean concepts, and concepts mean generally accepted norms and practices. For better or worse, Microsoft Windows has fine tuned this practice. While some would say they’ve stolen their ideas elsewhere, this fact is something we have to deal with when designing usable interfaces; meaning: if a design decision breaks the norm, it has to be for the better, and not just to be different.

Here are some of the things about Mac OSX that strike me as odd and annoying.

  • Buttons for Close, Maximize and Minimize are in the left of windows

    This is not only the opposite side of what Windows does, but the reverse order. My problem with this is two-fold.First of all, it’s a learning curve for new users who will, with probable Windows experience, press the top right button of a window, which rolls it up to fill only the header.

    Secondly, and more importantly, in the western world, we read from the left to the right. That means we start on the left, and end on the right. It is illogical, and I don’t think the decision to place the close button to the left was to accommodate the middle-eastern way of reading.
    Update: Michael sent me a screenshot of the Mac buttons. I added in the PC counterparts for comparison.

  • The symbol for the Maximize button is a plus

    To me, the plus symbol means Switzerland, first aid, or the mathematical concept of adding numbers. While Jonas explains that plus is also increase, I think the Windows icon reads better.

  • The button colors for Maximize and Minimize are yellow and green

    I can’t argue with the red color for Close: it means “stop”, that makes sense. But yellow means “wait”, and green means “go”. What do these colors have in common with expanding or contracting a window?Additionally, these colors have to stand on their own since the symbols for close, maximize and minimize aren’t visible until rollover. My analysis: the design team got a little too focused on “less is more”; this decision sacrificed some usability in favor of style.

  • Applications have no boundaries

    This is a core issue. Applications on Windows have their own window and header. Beneath this is the menu bar: “File – Edit”, etc. The window can be maximized to fill the entire screen save for the Task bar. It is easy to distinguish what is Windows, and what’s the application.On the Mac, however, an application is a little less tangible. Basically an application is one or more floating Windows, and a custom title bar. Especially the title bar is confusing. Click the app, and the topmost, permanent title-bar changes to fit the active application. Click outside the application, and the title bar changes back to the default OSX title bar.

    It gets worse when you close the application, because “Quit” and “Close” are two different things. For instance, closing iTunes with the close button will not exit the application. It will only remove the iTunes application window — the iTunes title-bar will remain. To exit iTunes you must in fact click File > Exit (_or click Cmd +Q on the keyboard_). Needless to say, I find this rather confusing, as do new users I’m sure.

    Finally, the fact that there’s usually no “background” for applications — no framing or borders, adds to the confusion of which is active: the application or the desktop. This also makes the effect of the Maximize somewhat strange, since the application may vary in extent / amount of windows.

  • Replacing a folder erases the old folder first

    This has been discussed at length before, John Gruber with the most insight. Simply put, on Windows “Replace” means “Merge”. I lean towards the “Merge” method because that’s what I’m used to, but I see Gruber’s wisdom that moving replaced files to the trash instead of instantly deleting them would make the most sense. Either way, the current way of replacing folders does more bad than good.

Hardware

Since both Macs and PC essentially have the same interior hardware (more-so when Mac switches to Intel processors in the future), it is crucial just how the operating system treats the hardware. Here are some of the things that annoy me the most about how Mac treats the hardware.

  • No touchpad gestures on the Powerbook

    I expect to stand corrected once the keen Mac reader reaches this point. I expect him/her to point me in the direction of some clever software that will add touchpad gestures to the Powerbook. I will still mention it here, because gestures were not present by default on the Powerbook I tried.A touchpad gesture is a gesture with the hand that has a desired result in the OS. One such gesture could be gently tapping the touchpad to produce a click, or gently double-tapping for a double-click.

    In my honest opinion, such gestures should be enabled by default.

  • No right click on default mice

    Timing is crucial. As of writing this, Apple has just announced a deliciously looking multi-button mouse. Even so, for decades the Mac has generally been without both the right-click button and lately, the scroll-wheel. My kudos to Apple for finally getting with the program.

  • No Eject button

    I realize the Powerbook has an eject button in the top right of the keyboard, but generally, the Apple has no physical eject buttons next to their CD/DVD drives. The method with which to eject media is, instead, to drag the media icon present on the desktop, to the trash can. This is a huge usability blunder, considering we’re working with physical media; at least supply a physical eject button. Another problem is when a Mac crashes due to the media inserted: how to remove the media when the OS won’t boot? I’m sure there’s an “emergency eject maneuver”, but this is clearly not user friendly.

Afterthoughts

While this entry has focused mostly on the flaws of the Mac, it is prudent to mention the fact that Mac has many great things going for it. In general, the hardware is a delight to look at. The visual design is top notch, even inside the operating system it’s a feast for the eyes. The design of the Mac is a reason in itself to own the hardware.

There are also many aspects of OSX, where usability shines. For instance, complex operations such as setting up networking is a breeze. It just works, the way it’s supposed to be.

In the same way as the Mac has it’s pros and cons, Windows has it’s own share of problems.

In the end it comes down to a mix of considerations. Which OS does one prefer: OSX or Windows. How about the hardware: elegant but pricey and sometimes slow and hard to upgrade? Or ugly, sometimes noisy clunky and impractical, but also cheap, fast and easy to upgrade? How about the software cycle: is it worth running OSX, knowing that software, especially games may take months longer to reach the Mac (if ever)?

For me, the choice is as easy as the Powerbook is nice. I’m with the PC all the way.

66 Responses to “Mac vs. PC”

  1. Nik says:

    I agree with the majority of this, especially the usability issues… however I’m easily sold on aesthetics and as a result will be sticking with my powerbook! :)

  2. Chris says:

    Understand, this is not a reply to counter your every thought and somehow manage to get you to an Apple store by day’s end.

    I won’t make any counters regarding the placement of the close/min/max buttons as that’s just moot. Apple came up with them and Windows just put them on the other side. But, like I said, moot if you’re coming from Windows, the Apple way is just backwards.

    Regarding the coloring of the close/min/max, also moot. Mine aren’t stopllight colors, they’re all graphite. Also, I don’t think I ever use those buttons at any rate. I use the keyboard shortcuts (cmd-m, cmd-h, cmd-w).

    I think that points up a range of responses to some of your other issues. I find the OS X interface immensely keyboard navigable. I don’t eject discs by hitting the eject button or dragging things to the trash. I just hit cmd-e. I don’t switch from app to app by using the mouse, I just hit cmd-tab.

    As for closing or quitting an application, something I think you’d find with extended use of an Apple is that often, you never quit your apps. Textwrangler, my editor of choice, hasn’t been quit in something like 3 days. There are times when I note that iTunes has been running for over a week. My current system uptime is over 16 days. I’ve no idea the last time I launched Mail.app, it’s just always running.

    I think, for the most part, some of your software issues are solved with time. The issue with the universal menu bar made me bonkers when I first started using a Mac. Eventually, I just got used to it and now see it as superior. I think the reason for that thinking is that on a Mac, the application menu, file menu, edit menu, are always in the same place. But, again, I never look at those menus as I just use key-shortcuts.

    Final words on software, the argument regarding game porting is valid. However, other apps, there’s no need for an argument. I can’t think of a single application for Windows that I wish I had on my Mac. Wait, I can think of one, Google Earth. That’s it.

    I think the best thing about OS X, for me, is that I find often that if I try something because I think that’s how things should work, usually, that’s exactly how it works. Drag and drop alone is imminently more intuitive and lovely than in Windows. Then there are all the myriad things built in to OS X that are just not a concept in Windows (universal spell check, universal dictionary, scripting and automation, etc…)

    Now, hardware. You’ve reached the halfway point in this treatise. :)

    Gestures, by this you mean just tapping the mousing surface to make a click as opposed to clicking the button? If so, its in the System Preferences.

    The mouse, yes. I actually use a Logitech that I’ve had for years with my Mac Mini, but when I switch to my iBook I don’t miss the other buttons. I really don’t. The only time I’ve ever missed a multi-button mouse was when I was playing Halo or messing with Blender. Though, I’m very excited about the new Mighty Mouse and I’ll be getting one post haste. 1. I’m a gadget freak. 2. It’s purty.

    CD eject, I can’t recall ever having a problem getting a CD from the drive. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, I just can’t think of a time when it was a problem I had to deal with. Perhaps it says something about my PC that I kept a paperclip handy at all times.

    At any rate, we’re never going to agree. That’s fine. I’ll still be your friend. and, you’re right, there are just as many good things as there are bad things about the Mac. I’ve my own list of things I’d like to discuss with Steve Jobs. However, the list for Bill Gates is longer.

  3. Thom says:

    BRAVO! I get very tired of the blind rhetoric constantly spewed from so many blogs that Macs are by definition better. I have never found the Mac to be as intuitive as claimed, and actually prefer using Windows. While curious about OSX, there are enough quirks I’ve read about me to doubt that I could ever fully switch.

    For the record: I’ve used PCs since the early 80s. In that time period I can only recall one serious virus infection, and I don’t remember losing any data to it. I have had numerous BSODs, but most have been due to faulty hardware/corrupt drivers. I do not struggle on the computer with my daily routines. It does not take me twice as long to do things than it would on a Mac. I enjoy using my computer.

    If you like Macs – bully for you. But don’t act superior because I choose differently.

  4. Chris says:

    Thom, as an obvious Mac nutcase I must agree with you that the zealotry surrounding the Mac is tiresome. I don’t consider the Mac best for everyone, it’s just best for me. I too used PCs for a very long time before going to the Mac.

    I didn’t switch because of viruses or spyware or any of that. I’d never had a problem with that to begin with. I switched because the Mac was just lustily appealing and since then I’m very happy with it.

    As for Mac people saying they get things done that they can’t with a PC, for me that’s true. But, maybe it’s not a deficiency of the OS but more my own deficiency. See, I’m not superior. :)

  5. Andy Hume says:

    I think Chris above makes most of the points I wanted to highlight.

    One thing he alludes to is to do with the opening/closing/minimizing of apps in OS X. I never minimize or maximize anything in OS X – and the concept of opening and closing applications is kind of different. My powerbook sits happily with every app I will need open all day. Mail hasn’t been shut for weeks; likewise Firefox, Safari, NetNewsWire, bbEdit are constantly open, and I don’t really think of them as seperate apps. It just seems like an overall work environment – there is no switching between apps (not conceptually anyway).

    Likewise the max/minimize buttons. I actually don’t like them either, but then I never use them.

    Windows seems clunky when I use it – although for somethings it is better. Anyone found a decent command line tool for OS X? Terminal, iTerminal all pale away in comparison to something like Putty. Shame.

  6. Chris says:

    I think Chris above makes most of the points I wanted to highlight.

    I write the long comments so others don’t have to. :)

  7. Thom says:

    @Chris – It’s good to hear from a “sane” Mac zealot :) Too many people just don’t get it – what works for some doesn’t necessarily work for all.

  8. I’m not here to argue with you, I’m done arguing OS X vs. Windows. All argue’d out so to speak :)

    I do have a few notes though. First of all, I agree with you on the window size controls. Though it should be noted that Apple’s UI crew is luckily rather unconcerned with the learning curve of switchers. By which I mean, the window controls being on the left side may be ever so slightly confusing to new users, but they put them there because they felt it was the best place for them.

    “On the Mac, however, an application is a little less tangible. Basically an application is one or more floating Windows, and a custom title bar. Especially the title bar is confusing. Click the app, and the topmost, permanent title-bar changes to fit the active application. Click outside the application, and the title bar changes back to the default OSX title bar.”

    One smart thing about the menu bar on OS X, is the fact that everything on it makes use of Fitt’s law. That is to say, you can simply keep your cursor pressed against top of the screen and only be concerned about the left-right movement. And the Apple icon on the left and the Spotlight icon on the right are accessible be simply moving your cursor all the way into either corner and clicking, which is of course even better.

    Furthermore, having the titlebar stay in one place makes it easier to find and work with, and at any time, should you be in doubt (though the shadow under Windows helps with this) you can look to the top left and see what app is currently the active one.

    As for Quit vs. Close, it’s confusing, but dead God is it nice! Used in combination with Hide, it makes for a slightly different workflow from Windows, and it’s something of a personal preference, but I do like it quite a lot.

    “Finally, the fact that there?s usually no ?background? for applications — no framing or borders, adds to the confusion of which is active: the application or the desktop.”

    I’m a bit unsure what you mean by this? Are we talking applications like Photoshop for instance? Because if we are, OS X wins, hands down, no match :)

    I agree with you both on maximize and replace behavior (which is retarded).

    “No touchpad gestures on the Powerbook. I expect to stand corrected once the keen Mac reader reaches this point.”

    Consider yourself corrected. It has gestures, though they are not enabled by default, I guess so as to not confuse people. Which I think is a good thing.

    “I?m sure there?s an ?emergency eject maneuver?, but this is clearly not user friendly.”

    There is indeed :)

    Chris said: “I write the long comments so others don?t have to. :)”

    Damn…

  9. brian says:

    While its been some time since my last comment here, I cant help but agree completely. You vocalized some issues that have always irked me to no end when using mac’s. Windows has plenty of its own flaws, but what really bothers me is the haughty elitism that exists in the small hip trendy culture of “the Mac”. At times the white heated zeal of the Mac community is so overwhelming I cant help but think how cultish it is. Then comes the initiation rite of “switch” Its like youre trapped once you get in. All new software, new friends, new hardware, its like its some weird fanatical devotion to a computer corporation.

    These people obviously all ‘think different’ in the cult of mac2

    (note: in a few minutes I wasnt able to find any windows tattoos, but im sure there are a few out there) 1 2

    But hey, who am I to say anything, I just dislike the elitism and being looked down upon by or stared at in disbelief as you noted simply for preferring a PC. All OS’s have their flaws, and essentially they are all about equal its just your personal preference and what youre comfortable with. Ill use what I find to be most useful for me, whether thats some distribution of Linux or windows or Mac. Right now its Windows.

    It frustrates me that if I wanted to use their beautiful hardware (which I would have no problem doing if it were comparably priced to PC hardware and I could run my OS of choice on it) But as it is I would have to go through this whole “switch” process and thats the deal killer for me. (Ive considered several times but the issues you noted make it too hard for me)

  10. Chris says:

    I suppose if I wanted to mention the one most maddening thing about OS X I’d have to pick highlighted text selection.

    F’rinstance, cursor at beginning of line. Shift-down arrow… oops, one line too many, up arrow, CRAP! now its selecting lines above where I started selecting text and I still have the bottom line selected that I never wanted to select in the first place… ARGH!!!

    See, that shit is maddening.

  11. David Emery says:

    Um, surely this post boils down to:

    Macs are different to PCs.

    I like PCs.

    Hence, I don’t like Macs.

    The two platforms both have their strengths and weaknesses, but the little differences aren’t worth sweating over – they’re the sort of thing you get used to within a month or so of use. There are, of course, lots of big reasons to use each platform, though.

  12. khaled says:

    I’ve got to say that I was actually seriously shocked when I found out you were a windows user as well. It seemed that every where I looked people were singing the praises of the mac.

    I’ve got a post about this as well, except I actually approach it from a completely different pov. It’s not so much the OS system that I talk about it’s more about company culture and mac culture, at least what I’ve noticed.

    I’ve got to say that I find myself swearing at microsoft on a daily basis when shit doesn’t work or whatever. Ideally I guess I’d like some linux OS, that lets me play all the software I want without slowing down everything, and without turning me into a programmer just to burn a disc.

    The hardware issue is a double edge sword in my opinion. It’s very nice to look at (usually) but it’s not something I can get into so to speak…kind of going back to the whole company culture issue…

  13. Stefan says:

    I’m on Apple since May? And I’m fine 😉 It’s fast, hardly never crashed (my Dell didn’t, too), I do not know how I could work all the time without Exp?se. Open 50+ Pictures in Photoshop? Cruel on Windows ? nice on a Mac. My Mac returns from hibernate in 3 seconds. It’s easy ? if you didn’t want to care ? or powerfull (as a Unix geek).
    I didn’t sell my Dell, but hardly use it anymore.
    My grandparents (80+) where on a Windows machine 6 long years ? this was a rough time for my nerves. Now I bought them a Mac mini and they use the Computer everyday, chat with iChat, use Safari and Mail. It just works?

  14. Joen says:

    It’s a delight to read such intelligent responses. It surprises me every time — not that I would think any less of you commentators, merely the fact that you care to spend the time it takes to write here. Thanks.

    Now, even though it’s late here, I’ll jump in.

    *In general*,
    I’m glad we can so easily agree to disagree. I wasn’t expecting this, and it’s very welcome. I can easily accept responses that the hardware is so nice that this alone is a reason for liking the Mac. After all, the PC is as ugly as the Mac is nice. My girlfriend has a Powerbook, and would never switch back.

    Another important point I’d like to stress before responding individually is that I don’t particularly like Windows, or Microsoft. I won’t defend them if you attack Microsoft’s lack of innovation. My choosing Windows is because it’s the _best deal_ for me, currently.

    *Chris*,

    bq. I won’t make any counters regarding the placement of the close/min/max buttons as that’s just moot. Apple came up with them and Windows just put them on the other side. But, like I said, moot if you?re coming from Windows, the Apple way is just backwards.

    This is worth responding to because there’s a more general issue at it’s core.

    I completely trust that Apple came up with the buttons, the placement, heck the entire Window concept first. The point is, Windows does it _better_ by placing the buttons to the right. This can be argued, but to me it just makes more sense having the _title_ to the left and the _action buttons_ to the right.

    The general issue being: it’s not about who came up with it first, it’s about what’s most usable.

    *Chris, Michael, Andy and others*,
    The argument that you have your applications open always, well, I’m buying that. I hadn’t thought of it, and it does make sense.

    More so your argument about Fitt’s law, Michael, that does putt Apple’s application handling in a better light.

    However, imagine the fusion between Apple and Windows on this point. Imagine a maximized window like Windows does it, but instead of a huge blank title bar, having File, Edit etc. right there next to the title, but still with a maximized window. I guess this would require the permanent removal of the topmost Apple title bar, and perhaps adopting one of the methods other operating systems use, such as Windows or KDE. I think it would work better, to be honest.

    However, I still stand by what I said about by how applications are handled. The fact that the close button doesn’t exit the application does seem like a huge usability blunder. It might be okay if there was a “master close button”, but I don’t buy the keyboard shortcut argument.

    The fact that one might *get used* to how OSX works in a month or so, doesn’t defend things that have usability problems at their core. I can’t say Windows is perfect in the examples illustrated in this article, but I think it works better. In the end, you shouldn’t _have_ to get used to it, and you shouldn’t _have_ to use the keyboard to get the most of your OS.

    As for the *touchpad gestures*, Chris and Michael: I stand corrected. You are right, it should be off by default.

    *Thom*,
    I’m also glad I’m not the only one on this side of the fence :). That said, most of the Mac zealots that “stare at me in disbelief” are mostly doing so gently joking, and only slightly prodding me to a switch. Mostly.

    *Michael*,
    I must disagree with you on the close button placement. I find the right side a much better placement, not because it avoids a learning curve for switchers, but for the same reason the “Enter” key is in the right side of the keyboard. It’s the “end of the line”.

    bq. I’m a bit unsure what you mean by this? Are we talking applications like Photoshop for instance? Because if we are, OS X wins, hands down, no match :)

    I do mean like Photoshop, and I would _love_ to hear why you think OSX wins there :)

    *Brian*,

    Agree completely. There are some total nutcase fanb0is out there. Sure Mac is nice and Windows less so, but we never improved anything by blindly accepting all aspects of it. Fix these problems with OSX and I’m one step closer to considering it, but cults and zealots never did any good :)

    As for their beautiful hardware. I predict: The day you can buy Intel based Macs, not only will you be able to run Windows on them (give it a week and a patch will be made available), but you’ll be able to run OSX on PC hardware as well (this might take a month). The legality of it is a different matter entirely.

    *Chris*,

    bq. F’rinstance, cursor at beginning of line. Shift-down arrow… oops, one line too many, up arrow, CRAP! now its selecting lines above where I started selecting text and I still have the bottom line selected that I never wanted to select in the first place… ARGH!!!

    Yowza, I do remember reading about that somewhere. That’s another blunder right there. Oh, and I realize some people might like this way, but sometimes you have to go with the logical / usable way instead of the slightly faster way.

    *David*,

    bq. The two platforms both have their strengths and weaknesses, but the little differences aren?t worth sweating over – they?re the sort of thing you get used to within a month or so of use. There are, of course, lots of big reasons to use each platform, though.

    You’re new here! Thanks for leaving a comment.

    Well, I somewhat disagree. I do believe that OSX could be infinitely better of the small quirks were “sweated over” instead of becoming used to. Or rather, if they were fixed, it is my opinion the OS would be better: probably better than Windows – and I do believe these issues could be fixed.

    *khaled*,

    I’ll look forward to reading your article. You’re in my linklist now, btw, and way overdue if I might say so.

    Oh, and I am also swearing at Windows on a daily basis. Yet, I roll with the punches. I work it better than I work my girlfriends Powerbook. I’m quite simply crippled there.

    Phew! I hope some of you read this far, if not so atleast jumped to the *bold’ened* parts. Now for the hay.

  15. Chris says:

    bq. You?re new here! Thanks for leaving a comment.

    Should we teach him the secret handshake?

    bq. I do mean like Photoshop, and I would love to hear why you think OSX wins there :)

    I think, for me at least, the broken up nature of an app like Photoshop lends itself to my flow more easily. I never really used PS on a PC but I think if I did so now I’d be stymied by having all my PS windows constrained in a box. Things like Expos? change the way you think about applications as separate things. Instead of seeing myself in one app or another it’s more all one giant smoothly moving app that I feel I can dance around with ease and grace.

    bq. The fact that one might get used to how OSX works in a month or so, doesn?t defend things that have usability problems at their core.

    I don’t think it took me a month to figure OS X. More like a week but that’s likely more my past experience with multiple OSs. I’ve used everything from the Amiga to OS/2, Linux, Windows, OS X and a bunch of other niche systems.

    I don’t think in any case I was ever held up by usability issues so much as I was held up by internal engineering issues. Just comparing Windows, Linux and OS X: Windows was always getting me with some memory problem or crash (even in XP), Linux always struck me as a great toy if you don’t want to get anything done (unless you like editing text files in order to hear music), OS X just gets out of my way and lets me work.

    I think the clincher is the number of times I’ll do something with OS X, some simple little task, and have this little dialogue in my head, “That was simple and intuitive. Something I just wouldn’t be able to do in any other OS.”

    All that said, I don’t look down my nose at someone using another system. If there’s shock in my emoticon’s stare its that at times it’s hard to fathom why a certain type of person isn’t using a certain type of tool. I’d look on with shock in the same manner if someone told me they were a hardcore gamer but didn’t own Windows or a PS 2.

    Little story to end this soliloquy. A friend of mine is a Windows SysAdmin. He uses a Powerbook when he’s at home. I have no idea why. He never does anything with his Mac that he couldn’t just as easily do with his PC. The things a Mac makes easy and enjoyable to do he just never does. There are times I actually think his Powerbook is wasted on him. Not that it’s more machine than he needs, it’s a different tool that he doesn’t use.

    So, if my eyes go googly when you remind me you use a PC to do all the wonderful things you do it might be because, to me, it sounds like you’re using a hammer to screw something together.

  16. Claude says:

    I disagree and will write a response article in my blog.

  17. brian says:

    So civil, so pleasant. I like. :)

  18. Joen says:

    *Claude*,

    Looking forward to it! Please send me a trackback or a pingback!

    *Chris*,

    bq. So, if my eyes go googly when you remind me you use a PC to do all the wonderful things you do it might be because, to me, it sounds like you?re using a hammer to screw something together.

    Well, thanks.

    I can only interpret from this comment, it is _more_ of a personal matter, than I initially expected. Both are tools that do the same, some like one, some like they other. Apparantly the “why”, is not only related to usability, design or price. This makes it a whole lot trickier to figure out, of course.

  19. bq. “I must disagree with you on the close button placement. I find the right side a much better placement, not because it avoids a learning curve for switchers, but for the same reason the ?Enter? key is in the right side of the keyboard. It?s the ?end of the line?.”

    I’ve got to disagree. The idea of the buttons being at the top left, is that most of your primary navigation and operations is always located at the top left. When you’re looking for something, you go top left and then move right from there.

    It’s a nit pick. Either way really is fine by me.

    Which reminds me, for those who haven’t tried this yet, try on Windows, to place your Start bar at the top of the screen for a week or two. It makes SO much more sense. Suddenly everything you need is always at the top of the screen, all toolbars, all programs, everything.

    Oh and by the way, regarding the Enter key, here’s a nice little detail in OS X: In ‘OK/Cancel’ dialouges, Windows is usually OK and then Cancel, but on the Mac it’s the other way around. Know why? It’s because ESC == Cancel and Enter == OK. So by placing Cancel to the left, ‘near’ the Escape button and OK ‘near’ the Enter button, our brains figure out the connection a bit faster.

    bq. “I do mean like Photoshop, and I would love to hear why you think OSX wins there :)”

    Because you can move individual PS windows onto other monitors and you can Expos? them (which is the best feature EVER!). And if you don’t want the confusion of the desktop, you press F and it fills out the screen.

    bq. “I predict: The day you can buy Intel based Macs, not only will you be able to run Windows on them (give it a week and a patch will be made available), but you?ll be able to run OSX on PC hardware as well (this might take a month).”

    The problem for the ‘wannabe’ users that are bound to try and run OS X on a normal Dell or whatever, is that OS X is so married to its hardware, that it will be a small miracle if it can ever be used properly on 99% of the PC’s out there.

    As for the ‘select down, ups, select up, fuck!’ behavior, it only (AFAIK) happens in list views, and it is… infuriatingly stupid. Like, mind blowingly so.

    bq. “Should we teach him the secret handshake?”

    … There’s a handshake? Why didn’t anyone tell me?!

    bq. “Things like Expos? change the way you think about applications as separate things. Instead of seeing myself in one app or another it?s more all one giant smoothly moving app that I feel I can dance around with ease and grace.”

    Well said.

    By the way, a final note on ‘zealots’. There are zealots for every OS out there, and I’ve dealt with them all. Hell I still hang around people who will bring up the Amiga in any OS discussion. Judging a platform on its extremists… Isn’t that a bit early 90’s? Shouldn’t we have moved on from there by now?

  20. khaled says:

    Quick question for the uninitiated. I’ve only played with a mac helping a friend out with her design project. How are fonts chosen in PS on the mac? Is it the same way as on the pc? For some reason I keep getting this feeling in the back of my mind that on the mac fonts have to be done outside the program or something like that. Am I talking rubbish (which I generally do anyway), but on this subject as well?

  21. Chris says:

    bq. Judging a platform on its extremists… Isn?t that a bit early 90?s? Shouldn?t we have moved on from there by now?

    I think perhaps many of us have. At the least the folks that hang out on noscope have moved beyond that. Perhaps this has to do with the people who in the 90’s were ranting lunatics have gotten older, matured, and now they’re us. I know I used to be a ranting lunatic (against the Mac) but I grew up and got over myself.

    Totally tangenital, but I think over the years the web itself has matured greatly, the look, the feel of the web. This, has to be closely related to the fact that many of the folks that were lunatics back in the day are older and wiser now. It’s the same people running the web, we’re just not so full of ourselves anymore. Script kiddies and their ilk we shall always have as new waves come in but now there’s an entrenched generation that have moved beyond that stage and set a standard for those that come behind us.

    Not trying to specifically put myself into this older echelon but I am older and wiser and can manage a conversation about OS differences without foaming at the mouth.

    Khaled,

    bq. How are fonts chosen in PS on the mac?

    From the font tool in PS. Just like on Windows I imagine. No, it’s not a stupid question, just a question. Perhaps, you may have confused turning fonts on and off in Font Book or some other font management program, done to save memory when you have thousands of fonts.

  22. Matthew says:

    Damn, I got here too late. Anyway, Im sure Ill repeat people, but here goes anyway, and bear in mind Ive had little use of Windows so I may have some misconceptions.

    As Michael said, the close/minimise/enlarge window buttons are on the top left as that is the way the west work, left to right, top to bottom. This is a system which was pioneered pre-OSX and which OSX has generally kept to, but not completely. This is also the reason why the Trash is on the bottom right of the screen (well, bottom right of the dock). I have read a fantastic article on the web somewhere analysing the way this works with Mac Vs PC, but I believe it predates OSX and I cant find it anyway.

    Yes, the colours are a bit of an odd choice, I use the graphite theme, but I still think it generally needs work. OS9 handled these in a far more sensible way.

    “Applications have no boundaries” – well, that title says it all really, I dont want boundaries damit! I want to drag stuff from app to app and back again. Im still surprised at some of the drag n dropping you can do in OSX. Ive always found the Windows “app in a window” idea rather odd and restrictive.

    Quit and Close? Well, clearly one is quit and the other is close, I fail to see the confusion.

    “Replacing a folder erases the old folder first” – yup, weve had this discussion. the Mac way makes sense to me as its what Ive grown up with, but an additional “merge these folders” tick box would certainly be a bonus.

    “No touchpad gestures on the Powerbook” – as others have point out, you can turn this on. As a Mac user of 15 years + Id maybe consider myself a power user, but I still have the tap n drag, or double tap n drag off as it annoys the hell out of me. However, I have got a hold of iscroll2 to implement Apples natty new 2 fingered scolley action on my Powerbook.

    Right clicks – well, an oldie this one. It really is NOT NECESSARY to have a 2 button mouse on the Mac, the OS integrates ctrl as a contextual click quite happily. However, I do prefer 2 buttons and even have a scroll wheel. You just plug a 2 button/scrolley mouse in and it works, so its not much of an issue.

    Emergency eject at boot is done by holding down the mouse button as you boot.

    Sure, a Mac isnt for everyone, and neither is Windows, lets also not forget its geekier less well-known cousin *nix – its a personal thing of course, use whatever works best for you.

  23. Joen says:

    *Chris*,

    bq. Should we teach him the secret handshake?

    Hehe. Teach me while you’re at it 😉

    *Michael*,

    bq. Which reminds me, for those who haven’t tried this yet, try on Windows, to place your Start bar at the top of the screen for a week or two.

    Another friend recommended this. I tried it. Unfortunately I ultimately didn’t like it — problem was that I couldn’t jog my mouse to the upper right of the screen to the “Close” button. It seems I’m using the Close button quite a bit more than you guys :)

    Nice detail with the OK / Cancel buttons, I didn’t notice that.

    As for judging based on the zealots, I wasn’t doing that.

    The fact is, and the reason for this very article — some of the people I respect the most (you included), use Mac, and praise it. I’m not stupid so there must be a reason. On the flipside, I have good reasons as well. That’s why I feel so much more enlightened with the responses posted here; I understand what the deal is.

    Hardware/price/software all those arguments aside: there are two distinctly different but very effective workflows at work here, and ultimately I’m sure it’s a question of which one we individually think works best.

    *Matthew*,

    bq. As Michael said, the close/minimise/enlarge window buttons are on the top left as that is the way the west work, left to right, top to bottom.

    Well, it does make a little sense. I guess I could get used to it.

    I still prefer the other way, though, and I find the right side/end-of-the-line argument more logical. I guess it’s a matter of taste.

    *Michael, Matthew*,

    bq. “Applications have no boundaries” – well, that title says it all really, I dont want boundaries damit! I want to drag stuff from app to app and back again.

    bq. Because you can move individual PS windows onto other monitors and you can Expos? them (which is the best feature EVER!). And if you don?t want the confusion of the desktop, you press F and it fills out the screen.

    Hmm. Thinking about it, it’s not that far from Windows, hence my initial argument is sort of outdated. Fact is, I can do exactly the same thing on Windows, drag palettes to the other screen, “outside” the boundary.

    I guess my biggest qualm (which remains) is the flip-flopping OS/application titlebar. I understand Fitt’s law etc, but I find it more confusing than helpful.

    *Matthew*,

    bq. Quit and Close? Well, clearly one is quit and the other is close, I fail to see the confusion.

    Well, this ties with my response above. In Windows, an application is a background, a header, a title and max/min/close buttons. On the Mac, an application, say iTunes, is really just represented by the change in the titlebar. Obviously the iTunes main window is opened by default, but you see where I’m going.

    In the Windows version, there’s only “Close”. Click the application close button, the application exits. On the Mac, in iTunes to continue our example, click the main window close button and Windows users would expect the application to exit. Not so, one has to click File > Exit iTunes. That’s confusing.

    bq. Emergency eject at boot is done by holding down the mouse button as you boot.

    I knew there had to be a way. Still, I’d prefer a physical eject button, even if it would look a little less nice on the hardware.

    bq. Sure, a Mac isnt for everyone, and neither is Windows, lets also not forget its geekier less well-known cousin *nix – its a personal thing of course, use whatever works best for you.

    I agree with that conclusion :)

  24. Thom says:

    This was way too civil for an OS debate :)

    bq. By the way, a final note on ?zealots?. There are zealots for every OS out there, and I?ve dealt with them all. Hell I still hang around people who will bring up the Amiga in any OS discussion. Judging a platform on its extremists… Isn?t that a bit early 90?s? Shouldn?t we have moved on from there by now?

    Michael, I really wish we could move on from that. Unfortunately, OSX and the success of the iPod has renewed the zealotry with vigor, and made it something difficult to look beyond. When I read a site like yours, I know you use a Mac and like it a lot. No big deal. The way you write about it would make me consider the switch. And then I run into a co-worker of mine who chuckles everytime we have a problem with our system at work because he seems to think that since he can do that on a single Mac at home its silly that we have problems scaling it to 80 PCs and 3 servers at work.

    This discussion has been very levelheaded but that is, sadly, the exception rather than the rule. Anytime I see someone asking about problems with their PC it seems that the first few responses are “Buy a Mac” or a link to the Apple homepage. But when a Mac user posts a problem, it’s never considered a big deal.

    I’d like to write more on the topic, and when I do I’ll post a link over here. But let me just say that outside of the cost, I’d really love to try out OSX (I just came from looking at a mac mini in CompUSA), but most of my encounters with MacHeads have made me shy away from the culture that comes attached with the purchase.

  25. Chris says:

    bq. but most of my encounters with MacHeads have made me shy away from the culture that comes attached with the purchase.

    I’m sorry to hear you say that. It would be nice if we could speak well of our platform choices without, in the process, denigrating others. Suppose we still need some time to evolve.

  26. Jeff Croft says:

    Joen-

    First off, nice article. Your points are well-made and not at all trollish. Thanks for making a reason Mac vs. PC discussion instead of a flame war.

    My thoughts: I find it interesting how so many of your “complaints” about OS X (applications not having boundaries, close/quit difference, open/minimize/maximize buttons on the left, etc.) are actually considered “plusses” of the Mac by many Mac users. It just goes to show that the two operating systems are more different than they are “better or worse than one another.” The Mac generally guides you towards working in a different workflow than Windows. I would certainly never claim that it is better or worse, but it does seem, at least, to resonate with a lot ofcreative types.

    Finally, I’ll say this: I totally agree with your assessment of the maximize/minimize colors and icons — utterly idiotic.

  27. Caleb says:

    As if you might read this in the mess of comments ….

    The problem with you comparison of OS X to Windows is that you start with Windows and compare the Mac to it. There’s a HUGE bias here (especially about the close button, come on). Close is on the left because it’s most important as we read from left to right, eh?

    Don’t judge a lot of the Mac UI because it’s different and you had to learn something new. At one time you had to learn Windows, and that probably too a while to learn what the X and the _ do (is that more logical than the RED for stop?). So much of the UI is what we learn, so what you have to “relearn” some things.

    Also, all you examined was basically the UI, nothing about the core. Windows XP is so jacked up inside, it’s pretty sad.

    Don’t tell me how “logical” XP handles internet connections, I hate wizards.

  28. Chris says:

    bq. As if you might read this in the mess of comments ….

    Fear not my friend. We read everything around these parts.

    As for Joen’s bias, I think that goes without saying. There’s just no way to not be biased when doing this sort of comparison. Even if you use both systems equally, there’s still bias.

    I agree that there’s a number of things about OS X’s core that outshines Windows. But, I think what Joen was intentionally focusing on was the look and feel as that’s the part you’re struck with and stuck with day in, day out.

  29. I am a bit annoyed about the mac hype, in the way that people often are when something is being over-hyped. I get to be extra critical of it.
    So I was expecting something I could really agree with when I read the intro to the title, but you ended up almost entirely listing things that I disagree with or that are plain wrong.
    I could find plenty to say about annoying aspects of the mac, but the ones you listed I believe to be due to your ingrown computing habits more than anything else.

    So here goes my list of disagreements (and a few agreements thrown in for good measure).

    I have skimmed over the comments, but there are a lot of them, so excuse me if I repeat anything that’s already been said:

    Buttons for Close, Maximize and Minimize are in the left of windows

    This was due to usability testing performed by Apple on fresh computer
    users.
    Yes, they actually did this.
    It’s also the same reason why they have “Yes”/”No” reversed as compared
    to Windows.
    Hence, I argue that this is a result of you getting used to Microsofts
    de facto standard, and as such can’t be described as “bad usability”.

    The symbol for the Maximize button is a plus
    The Windows icon for maximize is arguably less intuitive than Apples.
    The icon you show reads “square” to the untrained eye, and to the one
    who can recognize the Window in it, it reads “Window”. As such, only a
    trained user can correctly read this button, and in that case, either
    “plus” or “window” is equally usable. “Plus” at least has connotations
    to “grow” while “Window” does not.
    I will boldly claim that you are biased due to your habits, and that the
    “plus” is not a worse choice than “Window”.

    The button colors for Maximize and Minimize are yellow and green
    I don’t think this is more significant than the fact that the titlebar
    in Windows has a color fade. It’s a visual design thing.
    I turned off the colors because I thought they were ugly.
    The much more important fact you pointed out is that they don’t show the
    symbols until your roll over them, and as we all know saturnic
    navigation is an actual problem.
    So there you have an actual usability problem.

    Applications have no boundaries
    I agree totally with you on this one, and I will make no claims as to
    whether this is just a habit or not. I think it probably is.
    I especially agree with applications like photoshop that open a million
    little windows.

    The window can be maximized to fill the entire screen save for the
    Task bar

    I really wish this was what the + button was for on Mac. Their way of
    doing it makes me annoyed, because it requires me to manually fiddle
    around with the size grabber to get it properly maximized, if some
    schmuck programmer thought that I would like the + button to mean
    something other than “maximize entirely”.

    The topmost, permanent title-bar changes to fit the active
    application

    As Michael explained, this was designed like that because of Fitts law,
    and it’s a good decision.
    It also helps to form definitive habits as to where you navigate to find
    a function, whether the window is maximized or not.

    ?Quit? and ?Close? are two different things
    As other users have pointed out, this is due to a different usage pattern.
    As an added thought, try and consider why you load and unload
    applications at all?
    I’ll give you the answer: It has to do with computers not multitasking.
    Back when they couldn’t do this, you simply had to close one program to
    use another.
    When operating systems suddenly had swap space and really good memory
    management, people didn’t really consider whether it was necessary any more.
    Mac OS – unlike Windows – is pretty good at using all it’s memory and
    using swap properly, which means you can easily have all your
    applications open all the time.
    If you close all the windows of an application in Mac OS, but don’t
    close it and don’t use, the program will get swapped out, and you wont
    feel it’s there.
    I am guessing that the only reason they left “quit” in was to avoid
    scaring people, and maybe because BSDs swap/memory management is not
    100% as good as I say it is, so you can still get into situations where
    you have to close all applications. I suspect it’s the exception rather
    than the norm though.
    Truly new users (not ex-Windows users) should have no problem
    grasping this. They will probably never quit an application, if someone
    experienced doesn’t teach them that bad habit.

    Replacing a folder erases the old folder first
    I agree. This is retarded.

    No touchpad gestures on the Powerbook
    I am pretty sure they turned this off by default, because if people
    don’t know what gestures are, they are probably going to activate them
    without knowing it, and be very confused.
    Thus it’s better usability to leave them off. If people know what they
    are, they are also smart enough to turn them on.
    Personally, I hate gestures on touchpads – I keep activating them by
    accident.

    No right click on default mice
    This is the single most annoying bit of obstinance on Apples part. Their
    argument for one button mice is prehistoric, and even the guy who
    decided that it should be one button instead of two (because he forgot
    to question Bauhaus design principles) has since denounced that choice.

    No Eject button
    This has a historical reason, actually.
    When Apple designed the Macintosh, Jef Raskin was wondering how to cope
    with the problem that people might eject the disk while the computer was
    still writing to it.
    I am sure we all remember copying something to floppy, and watching and
    listening for when the drive was really done writing, and only
    then ejecting it.
    Raskin decided to get around this by moving the ejection into software,
    thus making it possible for the OS to eject it when it was ready to be
    ejected.
    I think this was a smart design move. I think the gesture they chose to
    activate it with (dragging to trash) is stupid, although they fixed it
    somewhat in OS X by changing the trash bin to an eject symbol.
    I am guessing that they persisted with this behaviour for media that is not prone to errors if ejected mid-operation to please their users that had already gotten used to this scheme.

    In closing, even though I am annoyed at Apples fans gushing about their stuff, I generally think Apple goes for some better solutions than Windows does, and they did go quite far when breaking backwards compatability for OS X (in fact, most of the things that really suck in OS X are from OS9, I think).
    They tend towards design where you don’t add a new button to a toolbar without having a good long pause to think about it. In Windows, it seems they just add the button and decide to think about it later.

    That said, I will disagree entirely with Chris’ point and say that in general, Mac OS X is not as universally accessible with a keyboard only as Windows is. For one thing, you can’t open a menu and navigate it with they keyboard alone. I don’t understand why they decided to do this – I am guessing it might be the same pigheaded pride that made them decide, that when they finally released a >1 button mouse, they’d at least hide the buttons, so it looks like a 1 button mouse.

    I also thing that the stability of Mac OS X is somewhat of a fable. I think Finder during network problems is less stable than Windows XP.
    I have had Mail.app close on me without warning several times.
    I have had more crashes on my powerbook per hour usage than I have on my Windows XP machine at work.

    I could go on, but I can’t be bothered :)

  30. Good writeup Brian (though I prefer ‘Mystery Meat’ to ‘Saturnic Navigation’).

    bq. “That said, I will disagree entirely with Chris? point and say that in general, Mac OS X is not as universally accessible with a keyboard only as Windows is. For one thing, you can?t open a menu and navigate it with they keyboard alone.”

    I have to disagree here. OS X’s keyboard navigation is eons better than Windows. You can in fact, set up keyboard shortbuts for pretty much anything from within a native OS X preference panel (go to the Keyboard & Mouse preference panel. Go to Keyboard Shortcuts. Press the plus at the bottom left. Choose an application and type the full ‘command’ that you want to perform; these are merely the names of the commands you pull down in the menus. Assign a keyboard shortcut. Voila.

    Beats the living shit out of Windows :)

    Another ‘minor’ thing is, you can remap (again, natively) your modifier keys if you want. Great stuff if you’re hooking up a Windows keyboard, on which they modifiers often get moved around.

    Furthermore, many times OS X has more keyboard shortcuts or works better than you’d think. For instance, if you CMD-C a group of files in the Finder and CMD-V in the Finder, it will paste the files themselves. If however you CMD-V in a text document, it will paste the _names_ of the files…

    As for ‘walking’ the command line, OS X doesn’t allow you to press ALT and then have you enter a pseudo-mode of being ‘in the command line’. Luckily!!

    I work with 3ds max every day, and one of the most used commands in max is ALT, for rotating objects in 3D space. Imagine how often I’m caught unaware in the menu while trying to do something else.

    By the way, you ‘walk’ the command line by pressing CTRL-F2 :)

    The ‘command line’ being the menu of course :)

    Just a note: OS X’s Samba support is horrible. Also, sharing individual directories isn’t possible without third party software, which is just infuriating, and makes setting up a small network with neighbours nailbitingly annoying.

    Also, you can walk the Dock by using CTRL-F3. And you can of course remap _any_ key combination in OS X, natively.

  31. Michael, in light of your comments, I totally retract my statement about mac and keyboard navigation.

    Is ctrl-f2 new to Tiger?

    If not, I don’t understand how 8 separate Mac owners that I have asked about whether that was possible didn’t know about it.

  32. Chris says:

    bq. By the way, you ?walk? the command line by pressing CTRL-F2 :)

    HOLY SNOT!

    I had no friggin’ idea about that one. Heh, fun to learn about your OS on a post written by someone that doesn’t like your OS. :)

    Joen, we’ve turned your site into a Mac User Group.

  33. Chris says:

    Now, that I’ve regained my composure. I think the reason many of us don’t know abour ctrl-f2/f1 is that for the most part we know all the shortcut commands for many of the most commonly used menu commands.

    It’s a rare day anymore when I need to look at the menu.

    Incidentally, all of this information, such as, “keyboard shortcuts for copy/cut/paste” are handled by the baso-ganglia where all your habit-memory is kept. Hence, another reason OS X is nice, so many things are universal that you don’t have to re-train your brain from app to app.

  34. The Masked Marvel says:

    All you PC users out there…

    Ever had a virus, trojan horse, mall ware, spy ware ? whatever the latest thing is to comprosmise the security of your machine? I haven’t. That’s one thing the PC will never do, stay virus free.

  35. bq. Is ctrl-f2 new to Tiger?

    Not that I know of.

    bq. If not, I don?t understand how 8 separate Mac owners that I have asked about whether that was possible didn?t know about it.

    They failed to RTFM :)

    And Masked Marvel, OS X isn’t safe from viruses or hackers, it’s just less exposed. Seriously.

  36. Thom says:

    It’s cool to see the number of people here willing to discuss these things “intelligently” – I’ve already added Chris’s site into my feed reader. Unfortunately, the uninformed will always be represented:

    bq. All you PC users out there…
    Ever had a virus, trojan horse, mall ware, spy ware ? whatever the latest thing is to comprosmise the security of your machine? I haven?t. That?s one thing the PC will never do, stay virus free.

    I had a virus once. I think it was around ’97 or ’98. Had to repair my boot sector. Very annoying. So that’s one in about 2 decades of computing and a dozen or so different systems and only 1 virus.

    But wait, I do tend to have some bad malware on most of my systems. It constantly installs and starts up unwanted services no matter how many times I uninstall them. It adds software I don’t want. It tries to take over how my system works. And, on top of all that, it has the gall to constantly ask for money so that it can do even more things I don’t want it to. Unfortunately I still need to use Quicktime in order to view trailers, so I’m stuck with this terrible piece of software. 😛

  37. Joen says:

    Some really excellent replies here. Great.

    Brian, specifically your comment had me thinking. I’ve had to revise a few opinions based on it. I’ll note down some of the biggest “revisions” here.

    bq. *Buttons for Close, Maximize and Minimize are in the left of windows*
    This was due to usability testing performed by Apple on fresh computer
    users.
    Yes, they actually did this.
    It?s also the same reason why they have ?Yes?/?No? reversed as compared
    to Windows.
    Hence, I argue that this is a result of you getting used to Microsofts
    de facto standard, and as such can?t be described as ?bad usability?.

    I can see from several other comments that this is indeed up in the air. If Apple did indeed conduct usability studies, I can’t argue with that, and I’ll accept that the left side is better. As for being used to the de facto standard, it may be true for other aspects of this article, but I assure you when I wrote it I really thought the right side was more logical: “end of the line”.

    bq. *The symbol for the Maximize button is a plus*
    The Windows icon for maximize is arguably less intuitive than Apples.
    The icon you show reads ?square? to the untrained eye, and to the one
    who can recognize the Window in it, it reads ?Window?. As such, only a
    trained user can correctly read this button, and in that case, either
    ?plus? or ?window? is equally usable. ?Plus? at least has connotations
    to ?grow? while ?Window? does not.
    I will boldly claim that you are biased due to your habits, and that the
    ?plus? is not a worse choice than ?Window?.

    A bold claim indeed.

    You may be right. It may also be a case of the plague vs. cholera (a danish expression), that neither are good. I certainly still don’t like the plus, yet I buy your argument that the small square may not read well either.

    Perhaps a small icon with 4 arrows pointing to all corners would be better? A bad example is available on my old site: Scale Up

    bq. The topmost, permanent title-bar changes to fit the active
    application
    As Michael explained, this was designed like that because of Fitts law,
    and it?s a good decision.
    It also helps to form definitive habits as to where you navigate to find
    a function, whether the window is maximized or not.

    I definitely see a (healthy probably) trend on part of Mac users opening applications once and letting them reside in memory. But I still think there is a more readily understandable alternative that takes the best from both worlds. It could be interesting to make such a mockup.

    bq. *No touchpad gestures on the Powerbook*
    I am pretty sure they turned this off by default, because if people
    don?t know what gestures are, they are probably going to activate them
    without knowing it, and be very confused.
    Thus it?s better usability to leave them off. If people know what they
    are, they are also smart enough to turn them on.
    Personally, I hate gestures on touchpads – I keep activating them by
    accident.

    I agree. This is the right thing to do.

    bq. *No Eject button*
    This has a historical reason, actually.
    When Apple designed the Macintosh, Jef Raskin was wondering how to cope
    with the problem that people might eject the disk while the computer was
    still writing to it.
    I am sure we all remember copying something to floppy, and watching and
    listening for when the drive was really done writing, and only
    then ejecting it.
    Raskin decided to get around this by moving the ejection into software,
    thus making it possible for the OS to eject it when it was ready to be
    ejected.
    I think this was a smart design move. I think the gesture they chose to
    activate it with (dragging to trash) is stupid, although they fixed it
    somewhat in OS X by changing the trash bin to an eject symbol.
    I am guessing that they persisted with this behaviour for media that is not prone to errors if ejected mid-operation to please their users that had already gotten used to this scheme.

    Very interesting. However, much as I understand this argument, I see no reason why the physical button wasn’t just directly connected to the software instead of just being a mechanical button. That way you could press the eject button, the software would pick it up and check if stuff was being written, and respond accordingly.

    Dragging it to the trash is just dumb.

    bq. In closing, even though I am annoyed at Apples fans gushing about their stuff, I generally think Apple goes for some better solutions than Windows does, and they did go quite far when breaking backwards compatability for OS X (in fact, most of the things that really suck in OS X are from OS9, I think).
    They tend towards design where you don?t add a new button to a toolbar without having a good long pause to think about it. In Windows, it seems they just add the button and decide to think about it later.

    I think you’re right. After all, usually “underdogs” do better just because they’re underdogs. The very fact that Apple has been pushing *design* has been their saving grace. Design also encompasses usability, to a point, hence I buy that argument.

    Now imagine if they fixed their remaining usability problems! I’d only have the hardware left to bitch about :)

  38. bq. Perhaps a small icon with 4 arrows pointing to all corners would be better?

    Actually I think it’s worth describing the actions of the OS X’s Green + button in more detail.

    It is in fact a multi-function button of sorts. A few examples:

    *Safari:* Open a site in Safari and press +, and the browser window will fit itself to the size of the site being viewed. Press it again and it will return to the last size you had it set up for.

    *Finder:* View a folder and press + and the window will adjust itself to the contents of the window. The Finder will AFAIK never widen itself, but instead shrink down to fit the width needed to show what you’re currently showing. This is a bit hard to explain, but basically it’s a ‘smart resize to fit’ function of sorts. Pressing it again will resize back to the original size

    *iTunes:* Pressing + in iTunes will turn iTunes into a ‘miniplayer’. This is kinda odd, as iTunes is a program which could surely use a proper maximize function, what with all the metadata and what not. Pressing it again will revert to fullsize.

    *IPhoto:* iPhoto will actually maximize to the entire screen when +’d. And as with the others it will revert to its original size when +’d again.

    And so on and so forth. Many apps are the same, some aren’t, but in general the idea seems to have been that smart functionality for the individual app is more important than consistent behavior. Whether this was the right way to go can be discussed. Personally I like OS X’s behavior, especially for the Finder windows, but when I first started using OS X full time I was a bit confused, until I started experimenting to figure out what the devil was going on.

    Either way, + != Maximize.

    That said, many third-party apps, like NetNewsWire or Camino, actually use the + as a maximize button, for good or bad.

    PS: No Textile preview?

  39. Joen says:

    Michael,

    I see the benefit of such a button, thanks for explaining the details. But I do think such a button should be added to applications only when such a button would be useful, such as the Finder or whatever. Instead, there should be a “regular” maximize button, imho. As you said, consistency is key. If the button does different things, it’ll “scare” all but the power users like yourself.

    bq. PS: No Textile preview?

    Huh? It works here …?

  40. Odd, now textile preview works here as well…

    A few other niceities in OS X I feel must be mentioned:

    * When doing a find (CMD-F), the find string is ubiquitous across the system. So search for “cheese” in TextWrangler, switch to Safari and open your find dialog, and it will already have “cheese” typed in.
    * Systemwide as-you-type dictionary and look up of any word by hovering it and using CTRL-CMD-D
    * Services menu. All apps can (and normally do) tie into each other. Hard to explain, powerful as hell.
    * Applescript.
    * Automator; which is Applescript for the masses (and a hell of a nice rename utility on its own).
    * Unique File ID. Open a text file in an editor, change something. Now rename or move the file, and the editor won’t loose track of the file.
    * Also you can replace the icon of any item, and the icon will be stored ‘inside’ the file, allowing you to move a file around, yet have it stand out (I use this a good deal).
    * Also individual files can be told to open in a specific application, different from the default.
    * All files and folders can be given comments, which are searchable by Spotlight and can be used with Automator.

  41. luxuryluke says:

    There is one little thing (sue me for bringing it up, if you like):

    Worm strikes down Windows 2000 systems
    CNN, New York Times, ABC report crashes

    “Tuesday, August 16, 2005; Posted: 6:28 p.m. EDT (22:28 GMT)
    WASHINGTON (CNN) — A computer worm shut down computer systems running the Windows 2000 operating system across the United States on Tuesday, hitting computers at CNN, ABC and The New York Times.”

    …I don’t think these boxes were running MacOSX is all I gotta say…

  42. Thom says:

    bq. …I don?t think these boxes were running MacOSX is all I gotta say…

    I don’t think they were running Windows XP, either.

    Of course the truly telling point of the article are these two quotes:

    bq. …automatic security updates would have protected most home users…

    bq. “How it’s spreading is it’s looking for machines that are unpatched and running itself,” she said.

  43. Joen says:

    There is an interesting interview with John Gruber, that is somewhat relevant to this discussion. Check it out:

    http://www.guidebookgallery.org/articles/interviewwithjohngruber

    Edit (admin privilege):

    Look extra carefully at Gruber’s responses in the section called
    *Let?s say you?re appointed as a Chief UI Designer at Apple. What would be your first five orders?*

    He makes some very good points, and if they had been implemented, I’m sure I’d have had a much harder time writing this article.

  44. Chris says:

    I’m glad you saw that interview. I was going to point you at it anyway.

  45. I just dropped by here to link to that very interview. Some good discussion going on there (and some nice things highlighted, like what OS X does when two files with the same name but different origins are in the ‘recent items’ menu).

    By the way, I don’t get my subscription mail from this or other of your entries (also, for whatever reason, the live preview isn’t working right now).

  46. Joen says:

    Michael, a great interview indeed. It highlights some of the great things about mac osx as well, which are indeed there. In fact, based on this entry, and thoughts derivative of here, I’m preparing an article on the Windows UI.

    bq. By the way, I don?t get my subscription mail from this or other of your entries

    I managed to solve my own problem with subscription emails. Maybe yours is similar? Check out the support question: http://wordpress.org/support/topic/42002 – let me know if it works.

    bq. (also, for whatever reason, the live preview isn?t working right now).

    That’s right, actually. How strange. I’ll fix it right now.

  47. Shadowhand says:

    I agree (and I’m annoyed) that OS X has become the ultimate in the desktop experience simply because it looks fantastic (and it does, especially compared to OS 9).

    In reality though, OS X isn’t better because it looks fancy, it’s better because it’s simply a far superior operating system than DOS/Windows/Avalon/Vista/whatevernewnameMShasforDOSnow. If you have never used a *NIX based system, there’s no way to understand how much of a difference it makes.

    I’ve been using Linux exclusively for about 2 years now, and I couldn’t be happier (minus the fact that Adobe has yet to release Photoshop for Linux ;-P ). I can leave my PC up and running (and online) for days, weeks, months, possibly years (but the dust might kill it) and when I return, it will be running just as smoothly as the day I turned off the monitor. That’s why any system based on UNIX is better. BSD, Linux, OS X, they are all superior to Windows on the kernel level (note: this isn’t an opinion, it’s a simple fact. Bill Gates might like to disagree, but he’d be wrong too).

    Google around a little and read about the differences between the design of DOS/Windows (monolithic) and *NIX (userspace/modular). You might be suprised by what you find.

    PS – Did you know that it’s far more difficult to write virii for *NIX based systems? Depending on user permissions, an infected system might not be able to cause any damage. Windows…. well… think Blaster. Or Klez. Or Slammer.

  48. Brian Henry says:

    I switched to the PC (ironically) about the same time Apple was running the Switch campaign. I loved all my MAC’s, but I also needed a PC for 3ds max. 2 computers is fine when the company you are working for is buying, but when I started my own business it was more practical to just buy one.

    The PC runs ALL the applications that I use, and the MAC is missing just a few.

    I have no UI issues with either, they are both very intuitive and easy to use IMO.

  49. Fab says:

    Finally someone defending the case for Windows. I usually get frowned on when I mention I tried WinXP and OSX and say I like XP better. But then: I’m probably biased having used a PC all my life. Anyway, good to see some people standing up for the PC. The technology deserves it.

  50. The technology perhaps; the GUI is another matter entirely 😉

  51. Fab, I’m curious; please explain what technology it is that deserves it?
    Is there something special about x86 PC technology compared to other types of computers?

  52. Joen says:

    Well, in defence of Fab, the software itself can also be “technology” :)

  53. ” standing up for the PC. The technology deserves it.”

    I understand that as it being the PC technology we are talking about.
    Otherwise I’d expect:

    ” standing up for WinXP. The technology deserves it.”

  54. Joen says:

    Found via Technorati, and interesting blog post with counterarguments to this article — thought it was worth linking up.

  55. Asad says:

    Which reminds me, for those who haven?t tried this yet, try on Windows, to place your Start bar at the top of the screen for a week or two. It makes SO much more sense. Suddenly everything you need is always at the top of the screen, all toolbars, all programs, everything.

    Wasn’t that how it was on the old Windows by default? 3.x?

    Although i don’t place the start bar at the top, i do place the shortcuts i use most at the top in a horizontal line.

    And i’m at college, but i don’t own a computer myself, so i use NT, XP, and OSX regularly – with restricted privileges unfortunately, and on old PCs and eMacs – and i would consider myself fairly neutral. I don’t own an iPod and i don’t play video games, so those are not an issue, but i do have a personal website and a modest blog [using Kubrick =)] and i prefer to maintain them, and use photoshop, on an eMac.

  56. In Windows, if you open an application and while it’s loading switch to another app, the opening application will, when it ‘opens’ so to speak, become the topmost active application. Effectively interrupting your work with whatever you chose to do while waiting for it to open.

    In OS X the opposite is true. The application will load in the background and not interrupt you.

  57. bob says:

    well your right abou a lot and wrong about very little

    i am a mac user and have compaired windows to mac

    i have found that a windows cost more in the end

    gives less and is detrimental to society as it even allows

    other users to delete files belonging to the master user

    and there are several links to say the same but i will refer

    to a debate curently going on with at

    http://www.overclock.net/showthread.php?t=17973&highlight=mac

    and i was hopeing you could help her explaine macs better

    becouse she is having a tough debate here grammer and spelling

    were a little bad in the first few posts but thats changed now

    and i was hoping that you could partisapate in the disscussion

    P>S sont forget to read all the posts it make excelent reading meterial

    and its very informative

  58. You love that enter button, don’t you :)

    Joen, I’m just adding stuff as I come up with it, as this seems a good place to keep a list of these things.

    Safari is, with the 10.4.3 update, the first non-beta browser to pass the Acid2 test.

  59. kendo says:

    you say:

    “No touchpad gestures on the Powerbook

    I expect to stand corrected once the keen Mac reader reaches this point. I expect him/her to point me in the direction of some clever software that will add touchpad gestures to the Powerbook. I will still mention it here, because gestures were not present by default on the Powerbook I tried.

    A touchpad gesture is a gesture with the hand that has a desired result in the OS. One such gesture could be gently tapping the touchpad to produce a click, or gently double-tapping for a double-click.

    In my honest opinion, such gestures should be enabled by default.”

    this definitely was true, but the current model of notebooks now does offer touchpad gestures – i’ll point you to the Powerbook G4 15″ for example. in the tech specs at the bottom of the screen, listed under “keyboard and trackpad,” is this:

    “Solid-state trackpad provides precise cursor control; supports tap, double-tap, drag and scrolling capabilities”

    -move one finger to scroll this way and that; user enables tap, double-tap, and drag; i believe the scrolling capability is on by default (use 2 fingers to scroll a window up and down or to the side)

    this feature has been present since one generation before the current model.

    :)

  60. Joen says:

    this feature has been present since one generation before the current model.

    Damn! I have less and less cards on my hand. If this trend continues I’ll have nothing left to argue!

  61. Long Nguyen says:

    Almost a year after this was written, I read it for the first time and all the things there, including all the comments, are valid today.

    The Intel-based Mac did happen and it wasn’t long until Mac could run Windows, but the Mac on PC thing won’t happen for a while apparently.

    Also, in Windows, Photoshop CS2 allows its Windows to be moved outside of the main window. From that aspect, aside from the menu bar, it pretty acts the way it always did on a Mac.

  62. David says:

    I don’t see anyone talking about the PC’s ability to run Mac OSX. I guess not many Windows users care for Mac OSX, as do Mac OSX users for Windows. Ironic isn’t it?

  63. Joen says:

    David said:

    I don?t see anyone talking about the PC?s ability to run Mac OSX. I guess not many Windows users care for Mac OSX, as do Mac OSX users for Windows. Ironic isn?t it?

    Isn’t OSX on Windows pretty much a hacker thing?

    But personally, no, I do not care for OSX.

  64. I think that you analysis has a big bias: you look at the OSX interface in “some” details that you think are worse… just because you’ve tried Windows first.

    Examples.

    (1) While I could agree on the rollover for the three icons of the window, I greatly disagree on anything else.

    You talk about usability. Ok. Usability tells us that we read from left to right. Due to this, it’s better having the control buttons in the top-left corner. Also, the window controls are usually in the top-left corner: your mouse is already there and you can close the window faster. So, it’s logical to place those keys in the top left, because it’s faster and cleaner. Any other opinion is due to any Windows experience.

    (2) The “” icon isn’t clear? The symbol “” means more, add. So, it has already a matching meaning with “bigger”. What’s the meaning of a rectangle with a bigger top border, as maximize in window? Don’t be biased: no meaning. A rectangle has clearly no meaning. And even if you recognize it as a “window”, why a “window” should mean “maximize”? “Hey, I’ve already a window, why should I click window again?”. You notice how the Windows icon is clearly worse?

    (3) While it’s true that “yellow” and “green” doesn’t mean anything related to minimize and maximize, you clearly notice that’s better than… no distinctive color, as in Windows. And “yellow” and “green” aren’t so bad choices. Also, if you don’t like it, just use the Graphite skin that uses the same color for all the three buttons. In any case, Windows is worse.

    Applications.

    (1) The bar on top has clearly disadvantages, and it’s the biggest problem for a switcher, for sure. But it’s a compromize. First: you know clearly what’s the top window. Second: you maximize the reachability of the buttons: top. Fitt’s law tells us that this means infinite height. And exactly, the Mac menus are WAY faster than any Windows menu, where you have to AIM at a few pixels.

    (2) The no-frame windows are one of the best features of OSX about windows handing: no frame, no wasted pixels. The window is distinguished without any waste of space.

    (3) The active window is clearly distinguished: bolder shadow, colored taskbar. Add to this that the titlebar matches the Application name and any other application needs to be activated, because… drums …OSX is Application based, while Windows is window based.

    That’s because…

    (4) The red X for the window means “close window” and not “close application”. Usability, again: why in a multiple window application the last X should close also the application? That’s giving two meanings to the same button: one for “close window” and one for “close application”. This is common in the Windows world, on OSX only some applications, usually single-windowed ones, use the “x” as “close application”: that’s because it’s its only meaning! No modal operations!

    (5) Notice also that this means having effective control on the application: if I use Firefox all the day, is plain stupid that each time I close the last window Fx closes as well. Raargh. On OSX you choose to close the application, if you need to.

    About the rest…

    (A) Gestures are an “addon”. There are application that gives this feature. Get Quicksilver on OSX (free) and you’re done.

    (B) Eject “it’s a problem if something goes wrong” is plain Windows behaviour: why something should go wrong? In an extreme situation, there’s a way (not “easy”, but there is) to remove the media. In other cases, you’ve got 4 ways to eject (right menu, Command-E, keyboard, trash).

    © Apple in the last MacBooks and with a free application on the previous notebooks added “two fingers rightclick”. That, again, while it’s surely worse as usability, once learnt it’s faster: touching with two fingers and clicking a big button is faster than using two hands or twist the hand to right click.

    In the end, there are surely some problems, but at the same time many of your compliants are due to your windows experience, not because “usability” issues, as you are saying.

    And still, many things are missing about OSX vs Windows (that I hate to do, because, you’ll see, there’s always something wrong :P). I’ll give you a little usability detail to think about: the position of “up-down” arrows in the scrollbar under OSX. Clearly better. Think 😉

  65. (1) Ok. Usability tells us that we read from left to right. Due to this, it?s better having the control buttons in the top-left corner

    Ah, but the often-used scrollbar is always on the right. Certainly on browsing the web or mail, it’s the most-used part of the screen. Thus, your mouse is already on the right side, ergo, it makes sense to have them on the right.

    (1) The bar on top has clearly disadvantages,

    In my mind – not having a Mac myself – it’s actually one of the biggest advantages, as it’s always there. Always in the same position. Always the same metaphores. It leaves the window itself clear to have window-specific icons/menus.

  66. James AkaXakA said:

    Ah, but the often-used scrollbar is always on the right. Certainly on browsing the web or mail, it?s the most-used part of the screen. Thus, your mouse is already on the right side, ergo, it makes sense to have them on the right.

    Sure. The meaning was that any point of view has its pro and cons. 😉

    We could also add that OSX has the scroll arrows on bottom, that we (means: any pc or mac) have a mousewheel or touchpad two-fingers scroll, or many other things. Or also that OSX is very keyboard wise (Command-Q,W,,M, etc). So, include these factors and you could favor or not one choice or the other.

    It’s a mere matter of choices. :)

    James AkaXakA said:

    In my mind – not having a Mac myself – it?s actually one of the biggest advantages, as it?s always there. Always in the same position. Always the same metaphores. It leaves the window itself clear to have window-specific icons/menus.

    Yep: those are the pros. Surely, the top bar has MANY pros, but also a few cons. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is perfect for anyone. :)