Since I'm into creating comedy videos and recording my own music, I thought I'd try shifting to the Mac platform for my creative pursuits. I made the move in late 2007, and in general I've been quite happy. However, as this stuff is created by humans, it's not without imperfections. Here is a list of my top gripes regarding the Mac and some of the ways I've addressed them.
The mouse doesn't feel right.
This one's hard to explain in words, but most Windows users will know what I'm talking about when they experience Apple's idea of mouse pointer acceleration. The mouse pointer just doesn't move the way you'd expect. Before migrating to a Mac, I highly advise trying out the desktop mouse action in an Apple store. If you agree with my sentiments, then please complain to those sleek tshirt-wearing cult-like Apple store sales “consultants.” Apple might be king of hi-tech fashion and style, but their ergonomics really suck sometimes.
Fortunately, being a top gripe among Mac users, some decent solutions do exist:
If you own a brand-name mouse (e.g. Logitech or Microsoft), then the included driver software often overrides Mac's default mouse behavior and allows far finer tuning of the settings. I suggest starting here because it's a free solution that comes with your mouse. This is the
solution I use, and thanks to this post by an IT god, I did not chuck my Mac off Tokyo Tower (yet). My Mac's mouse action now feels exactly like Windows, and that's a very good thing.
Steer Mouse – free trial / $20 to buy
This software simply adds some mouse acceleration and pointer speed settings allowing you to get much closer to a more ergonomic acceleration curve.
USB Overdrive – free trial / $20 to buy
Another often-mentioned Mac mouse-setting software. I haven't tried it, but it seems very similar in function to Steer Mouse.
In your googling adventures, you may also stumble upon a free solution known as MouseFix. I used to use this; however, it stopped working come Snow Leopard.
The buttons are too damn small.
Why are the close, minimize, and maximize buttons (red, green, and yellow circles) at the top-left of each window so damn small? Why can't I figure out how to make them bigger? Combine crappy mouse acceleration with microscopic buttons, and you have the recipe for “throw the computer out the window” frustration. I still haven't found a solution for this one.
The Finder sucks.
The Finder is Mac's Windows Explorer, and sadly, its poor design, lack of basic functionality, and single-pane setup make it near useless. A few examples:
Why can't I move files? I always have to copy, then delete. What a pain in the ass. Apple cultists say “Oh! It's dangerous to move files, so the Apple gods have disabled that in your best interest.” It's also dangerous to pummel this f'in $3000 brushed aluminum shit ball with my bloody fists, dude.
To rename a file you can right-click, then click “rename,” right? NOPE! It's not there. You either click it once praying that you didn't click too fast and inadvertently open the file, or you right-click, click “show info,” then edit the file name. Yeah, that's intuitive.
Why can't I save directly to my network volumes sometimes? I know it's Unix, so it doesn't have those windows-y drive mappings, but why do I often find myself having to save to my home folder, then later copying, then deleting? I have 3 TB of storage on my Netgear ReadyNAS, and I wanna use it, dammit! Safari always saves to “Downloads” in my home folder, and I still haven't figured out how to map my home folder directly to my NAS. I've just been told that it's dangerous to do that. Windows, on the other hand, always let me save directly to the NAS. I could even configure Windows to use the NAS as default and map “My Documents” to a NAS folder.
Needless to say, I searched, researched, and tested a myriad of Finder alternatives. Most of them were crap. These 3 are glittering diamonds in the rough:
Pathfinder – 30-day trial / $40 to buy
Damn, this one's good—fully customizable, multi-pane, and maintains the Mac-like design while expanding greatly on functionality. The genius that single-handedly created this software holds a deep understanding of all the missing functionality of the finder and answered just about every feature request there is. This is everything that the finder should be. Apple should hire this dude. His mad IT skills are not of this earth.
Regrettably, I have not yet purchased it as it has issues with my ReadyNAS. I sometimes get permission errors when trying to move to or delete from network volumes. Googling these errors pointed me to articles on changes in Snow Leopard that were at least partly to blame. I even found a workaround for the NAS, but could not get rid of the errors 100%. I still found myself at times having to open the Finder when dealing with files on my NAS.
However, it's so very close to perfection that I will most certainly buy it after working out the NAS issues.
Forklift – 15-day trial / $30 to buy
Forklift is another rock-solid contender, and it has a very cool batch renaming feature that's not easy to find in such a feature-rich file manager. Although I personally found Pathfinder to have a slightly more intuitive and customizable interface (e.g. Pathfinder picked up all my Finder shortcuts automatically), Forklift is surely worth mentioning as others might prefer it over the other 2 champion options listed here. Unfortunately, 15 days is a little short to really give the software an all-encompassing trial run, so hit it hard from day 1 to see if it's for you.
This is a free option, and considering that, it's pretty good. But given the issues I had with getting it to work with my ReadyNAS, I soon gave up on it. If you're simply looking for a multi-pane alternative to the Finder, then MuCommander could very well be your ticket.
All 3 of these options are either free or have free trials, so there's really nothing to lose in trying them all out—especially if you agree that the built-in Finder sucks.
Preview kinda sucks.
I say “kinda sucks” because it's got a lot of functionality for a mere image previewer. But 2 things annoy the crap out of me:
Why don't the arrow keys open the next picture?
I have to highlight all the pictures I want to open, then double click. I freakin' hate that. I wish I could just open 1 picture, then press the right arrow key (→) to open the next picture it finds in the folder. Sometimes Windows really is better.
Loss-less image rotation is lame.
When you rotate an image, Mac does it “loss-lessly.” That is, instead of rotating the actual pixels and adversely affecting image quality, it writes the rotation as information in the file header. Any modern image viewer reads this header and displays the correct rotation. That's the idea.
The problem with this idea comes when uploading the image to a web page. Many web-based image viewers ignore the header or strip it out during upload. Although I rotated the image and saved it, the rotation is lost when displaying on my website. I want lossy rotation—I want it hard-coded, dammit! But it's not there as an option (a common Mac “theme”). I have to use other software (like Gimp) or use Windows. I notice the same problem when emailing photos. Not all software reads that new-fangled rotation information in the file header, so lossy rotation is a much-needed compatibility option.
Generally speaking, Mac takes the minimalist approach—a minimum amount of buttons and settings will untangle the user experience and make the computer more user-friendly overall. You look for a setting or control, but it's simply not there.
One look at Windows Vista's control panel will tell you that Microsoft takes the opposite approach. So many settings and controls indeed complicate the OS, but the setting you want is most likely in there somewhere.
I know. I know. I could always dig into Mac's config files to find a plethora of undiscovered settings. But if I was going to do that, I might as well save 3 thousand bucks and use Linux, which is ironically what powers the netbook I used to compose this article.