While I have no experience using any of the previous versions of MacOS X on a regular basis, I have been using Leopard since receiving this laptop on Tuesday. Here are some initial thoughts after using it for a couple days.
First thing is what’s on my mind right now – the wireless network configs. I don’t like the default settings, nor do I like how it was the only part of System Preferences for which I had to hit Apply to have the new settings take effect. The default settings have it ask you to connect to a wireless network everytime AirPort turns on (generally when the computer starts up). While that’s nice and all, I use a wired connection at work, the primary place I’ll be using this laptop. It’s just one thing I don’t need to see popping up. I like how in Windows, it does let you know wireless networks are available, but it’s just a small bubble that goes away on it’s own. In OS X, you have to click Cancel to get it to disappear. Another default setting, which was a default in Windows XP that they got rid of in Vista, is how it automatically adds any network you connect to to your preferred networks list. That not only forces it to connect to wireless when it sees a network with the same SSID, but it can be a security issue, if someone creates a network with that SSID to get people to connect to it. Luckily, there was an option to disable automatically adding them. I turned that off as soon as I found it (and it turned back on because I didn’t hit Apply, thinking that hitting OK in previous window was enough). The preferable way is how Windows Vista handles connecting to a wireless network. When you connect to it, it asks you if you want to save it to your preferred networks list.
Another thing I’m really used to with Windows is the Start Menu. While many Apple users probably depise it, I think it’s helpful for someone who has a lot of programs that they run often, but don’t keep running. I could make my Dock super long, but that can get ugly. We’ll see how it goes though. I have the most common programs I use in the Dock and the rest I access through Finder in Applications. It takes a few more hits to get there, but I get there. The Start Menu puts everything I use regularly at much easier access with fewer clicks.
That leads me to discussion of the Finder. There are things I like about Windows Explorer which are nicer than the Finder. The first is how I can expand and collapse directories in the left pane (though there is a view with the Finder that allows you to do something similar, though not quite as nicely, if you ask me). The second is how when I drag a file into a directory, it just puts it where I drop it. I’m anal and like organization. I have to go and say sort by name to organize things alphabetically. The last thing I’ll pick on Finder about is when you arrange by anything, it puts the directories in with the files. I like the way Windows puts the directories at the top of the list, making them easier to find (though I can see myself getting used to the Finder way at some point). I did a sort by Type and it put the directories at the end. That’s something I don’t ever see myself getting used to.
It’s very easy to pick out the flaws in anything. In fact, it’s far easier to pick out the flaws than it is to pick out the nice features. I like Leopard. It’s doing a great job at what it’s supposed to do, even though it is different than the Windows way. I like the Dock. It’s fun, it’s slick looking, and it makes sense. It’s an easy way to get around some of the things that are flawed about the Start Menu and taskbar in Windows (though Microsoft would piss off their customers if they changed things that drastically). I am also getting used to the menu bar and am starting to like how when applications are written specifically for the OS, certain aspects are kept uniform. For example, finding the options/preferences/customization menu for different pieces of software could be like finding a needle in a haystack in Windows applications. Here, it’s always called “Preferences” and always found in the menu with the same name as the application (perhaps that menu has a more general name, but I don’t know it). I also just discovered while writing this that I can access recent items (which includes applications) from the Apple menu. This removes my specific need for the start menu.
Back to some flaws/frustrations. One thing I use in Windows all the time is Alt-Tab to switch between different windows. The nice thing about using that in Windows is it switches between actual windows. There is a MacOS equivalent using the Apple key and Tab. However, it doesn’t have the same functionality. Instead of switching between windows, it switches between whole applications. This isn’t so bad except when I have a smaller window hidden by a larger one. I realize I could just use the Window menu, but it’s nowhere near as fast as what Alt-Tab does. This happened a couple times to me today when using Firefox.
Another thing I like, though I had something similar with Vista, is Spotlight. It’s a great way to find what you need and find programs quickly without having to go through the Finder. The search function in the Vista Start Menu does the same thing though, so I was used to it. I don’t know it Spotlight also searches metadata, but the one with Vista did, which was a nice touch.
Expose is cool, though nothing super special (I like the switch between windows thing that Vista has, which is a bit more fun). The Dashboard is cool and a bit nicer than the Windows Sidebar in Vista (which needs a bit of work to be more functional). I’ve heard the Parental Controls in OS X are nice, though I have no kids and no reason to ever try them just yet.
So, a conclusion… since I know this has sounded mostly bad, my experience has been anything but bad. There have been a few frustrations, but the experience is really not a whole lot different than using Windows. I know all the Apple folks are gonna be like “just wait a couple months and you’ll see that it’s a gazillion times better than Windows”. Maybe for you all, but I really doubt I’ll feel that way. It’s another tool. It’s nothing special. I like it, I like Vista, I like Ubuntu (which someday I’ll get on my home computer to use exclusively on that and give me something else to write about). Regardless of all that, this is a nice computer and a worth replacement for my previous laptop (which I did really like, even though it wasn’t as sexy looking).
And to just ward off any naysayers about what I’m calling this computer (an Apple, not a Mac) in this article and in response to the comments in the previous one, I call computers made by Apple, Apples. My reasoning for this is in part the silly television ads that Apple had with the PC guy (John Hodgman) and the Mac guy (some really unfunny guy). PC stands for Personal Computer. This definition could mean any computer used for personal use, desktop, laptop, office workstation, whatever. It means “not a server”. The term PC (not “Personal Computer” but PC) came to mean IBM-compatible. It has an x86 architecture. A Mac was a computer with Motorola hardware and then PowerPC. However, upon switching to Intel x86-based hardware, the Mac was now a PC. Thus, I don’t call a new Apple a Mac as that is now a misnomer. If Apple stopped perpetuating this silly PC vs. Mac thing, this would be a non-issue, but Apple decided to perpetuate it with their silly commercials (and a really crappy actor to play the role of the Mac). So to anyone who thinks that these computers are still called “Macs”, that’s not the case. Do people that walk around with a Dell laptop call it their PC or their Inspiron? Do people who walk around with HP’s call them their Pavillion? No, it’s their computer, their laptop. I get the feeling that people call their Apple computers “Macs” because it makes them feel better, like a higher class of computer users, not a lowly Windows user. It’s a PC because it uses PC (IBM-compatible) hardware. For those of you calling me a switcher, that’s not the case. I use it all… Windows, Linux, and MacOS (and I know there’s more and I’ve used more… like BeOS (which I like better the OS X) and I briefly toyed with QNX).