Smashing Magazine had a post yesterday called Top 10 Usability Highs of Mac OS. The article makes some great, valid points: Apple has a lot of things right in Mac OS. They also have gotten a lot of things right with the Mac hardware. However, they also got a lot really wrong. As someone who has owned a Mac for about three weeks, I feel perfectly justified in criticizing Mac OS, so here’s my own Top 5 list (it’s only 5 because I’m in a hurry and don’t feel like writing a lot today):
1. Lack of Intuitiveness.
Yeah. Epic FAIL here. Despite what Juul Coolen may think, there is plenty about a Mac that is not intuitive. Intuitive means obtained through intuition rather than from reasoning or observation. By that definition and applied to a software interface, I shouldn’t have to read a manual or study a screen to figure out what to do. Let’s take installing/uninstalling an application. Let’s assume someone was a n00b and tried to install Firefox on their new Mac without reading any directions or anything. What do they get? A box with a Firefox icon and a folder icon. And that’s it. Apparently I was supposed to drag the Firefox icon to the folder icon to install it. How is that more intuitive than a button that says "Next" exactly?
2. One Menu Bar – Fitts’ Law FAIL.
Juul Coolen must be using a different Mac OS than I am or something, because Mac fails miserably here. Because the menu bar for every window is always at the top of the screen, you can have exactly one menu active at a time regardless of how many windows/applications you have open. And the menu bar isn’t even attached to the window, so there’s a good chance you’ll be moving the mouse further to select a menu item than if they had just put the menu bar on the window. And forget about trying to go straight to the menu of another window. You have to first activate the window, then move your mouse back to the menu bar at the top of the screen. There is absolutely no way Macs perform better according to "Fitts’ Law" under typical usage.
3. DINGing on boot
Let me paint a picture for you: I’m sitting in a lecture hall filled with people. The lecture has already started, and we’re going to find out the meaning of life or something else equally grand. All is quiet except for the lecturer. I decide to dig out my Macbook to take some notes. I quietly take it out of my backpack and power it on. DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING! I forgot to mute it when I turned it off! Now everyone is looking at me! Oh crap, the lecturer has been derailed just as he was about to reveal the all-important secret of life and save humanity! NOW WE’RE ALL DOOMED, AND IT IS ALL BECAUSE OF YOU, MACBOOK! And why? The noise is not a "nice" noise. It’s an annoying noise. For all the eye candy that Macs have, why not give them some ear candy and ditch this noise from the 1980s?
4. The Dock
Personally, I think the dock is a terrible combination of start menu and task bar. Sure, it looks pretty, but that’s about it. Usability != pretty. If I need to get to an application I don’t use often, I have to go up to the menu, open the Applications folder, then find it. Compare that to Vista’s out-of-box experience: tap the Windows key, type part of the name, then hit enter.
5. One. Mouse. Button.
Apparently desktops actually come with some sort of pressure-sensitive one-button mouse that is supposed to behave like a two-button mouse, but I’ve never had much luck with the things. And the laptops still have exactly one button. Don’t fret though, you can still right-click! You just have to put both fingers on the trackpad, then click, but be careful not to move either finger or you’ll trigger a scroll. Yeah. THIS IS SO MUCH BETTER THAN A MOUSE WITH TWO BUTTONS AND A WHEEL.
Overall, I do like my Macbook, but combined with Mac OS, it is definitely not a superior package to Windows. Each has some cool features, and each has plenty of flaws.
Disclaimer: The above represent my personal opinions and experience after having used Macs on-and-off for many years. I have only owned a Macbook for about three weeks now, so I’m hardly an authority, but so far, I do not see any reason why I would switch from XP or Vista.
I could’ve sworn SOMEONE told you that Apple was full of shit. Someone who used it *every day* for at least 8 hours a day, for over 2 years. Gee, who could that have been…hmm…..
Oh, and about the mac startup sound, it could’ve been worse: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mt1bgsvsWms
What evs. Loud obnoxious sounds for trivial events FTW. I personally wish I could make my crappy* Lenovo T61p go "NURRRRRRRRRRRR" everytime I open it… and maybe make random rude noises when I hit keys like that old Monty Python Windows 98 app. Man, that’d rule.
For what it’s worth, I still love 64 bit versions of Vista so much that I’d rather punch a random armed thug than switch back to XP.
Don’t get me wrong, I still like my Mac, just not Mac OS. Aside from the aforementioned lack of two mouse buttons (and the annoying startup sound), I don’t really have any complaints. It’s very lightweight, has a beautiful screen, has better battery life than my Inspiron, and is much, much sturdier than my any non-ruggedized laptop I’ve ever seen. That’s probably what’s surprised me most about this Macbook: I’m pretty sure the thing could stop a bullet. Contrast that with my Inspiron, which will explode into a mess of plastic if you even look at it the wrong way.
Although I am by no means a Mac apologist — far from it — I think some of your issues are a bit of a stretch. I wholeheartedly agree with issues 2 and 5, but I think you’re grasping at straws for the rest:
1) While drag/drop installing is not directly intuitive without knowing that you have to drag and drop to install, it actually is much simpler and much more intuitive than the alternatives offered by Windows or *nix.
I think in this case it may be simply that you’re more familiar with one system over another and it’s therefore less intuitive to you because you are trained around Windows. I’ve seen this many times with users coming from one system to another, especially when it comes to keyboard shortcuts. Microsoft has the same problems right now with Vista — everyone is scared of it simply becuase it’s *gasp* different from Windows XP.
3) I’m not certain (I don’t actually own a Mac) but I’m 95% sure you can change that ding or even remove it entirely.
4) This one is 100% po-tay-to po-tah-to. I agree that Vista’s WindowsKey -> Type is a faster, better way to load a program, and I use it all the time at home. However: if you actually have to *hunt* for the program (either because you don’t know about the WindowsKey -> Type functionality or because you have an aversion to the keyboard) the Dock as a GUI program directory shines better than the Vista’s accordian-style GUI.
And on a side-note: I’ve hated the one-button mouse since, like, forever. I thought it was amazingly hilarious that Apple debuted their two-button mouse to much fanfare a year or two ago and we Windows guys were like "hey, great, but you know, my windows mouse has 5".
But recently, it hit me that Apple may start saying things like "Hey, we told you so! One-button mice were the way to go all the time!" when we start using multi-touch screens as our primary input form. I was playing with Safari on my buddy’s iPhone and tried to right-click on a site that actually used right-clicks for something; I think it was google maps. Yeah, I know, the iPhone has the mapping program; it’s just an example, don’t look to far into it! 😀
Anyway, my point is that right-clicks are pretty much impossible on a touch input. I haven’t used Tablet PCs very much yet, but I think Microsoft solves this with a pen that allows you to do a different click if you’re holding down a button on the pen. The problem with *that* is that you have to have a pen, not a finger; the extra tool reduces flexibility.
Perhaps somebody can come up with a finger-combination that grants a context-heavy click, but until then it’s quite possible that we’ll be stuck with the equivalent of single-button mice.
It’s very possible that the ding can be removed, but so far, all I’ve seen are hacks that mute the system sound at shutdown, and apparently that only works on certain models. 🙁
I still disagree on the dock vs. the start menu. The dock only shows a subset of your installed apps, so it’s really the equivalent of the "most recently used" apps section of the Windows menu. As you noted though, I guess it is a matter of preference in the end.
Concerning the shift to touch displays, hopefully multi-touch interfaces will incorporate some sort of solution that supports right-clicking (multi-touch trackpads haven’t gotten there yet), but I seriously doubt they’ll ever replace the keyboard-mouse combo anyway. A mouse resting on my desk by my keyboard is a much closer and more comfortable input device than my monitor.
I’m a Mac user and most of the things you mention have struck me as a nuisance on my Mac.
1. The first one is the weakest. I’ve never had any problem installing on a Mac and I didn’t need a manual to find out what to do. Most software downloads tell you to drag-and-drop the file to the applications folder (either in the read-me or at the website). Mac is definitely better on this one.
2. Yes, the menu bar at the top is counter-intuitive. The philosophy of a Mac is that your windows don’t have to fill the whole screen, unlike Windows, where a full-screen format is almost a preferred option. Well, if the window doesn’t fill the whole screen, why does the menu bar extend right across the top? It’s fine once you get used to it, but really, it is rather strange that even if your application only has a window open right at the bottom corner of your screen, the menu bar for that application is still way up the top. (Can Windows really show multiple menus? That sounds like a good idea, although when I use Windows I find myself not knowing where to go to do things. Guess I’ve just got used to the idea of having one single menu up the top, which doesn’t, however, detract from your point).
3. The only workaround I’ve found for the startup DING is to plug some earphones in — then at least no one can hear it! It’s really annoying that everyone can hear you in the middle of an insomniac night when you start up your computer.
4. I can’t compare with Vista, but the Dock is definitely an annoying feature. It gets in the way and constantly pops up when you’re doing anything at the bottom of the screen. It gets full easily. And even with the new "folders in the Dock" system (you can put your applications folder in the Dock and gain instant access to your applications), it is still annoying to hunt around for programs.
5. I HATE two-mouse buttons. I hate right-clicking and left-clicking because whenever I click the wrong button, some window with all kinds of weird options suddenly appears on my desktop. Single-button mice are definitely simpler and easier. This is one where I agree with Apple. KISS. You may become a two-button virtuoso, but just about anything that can be done with two buttons can be done with one, or with keyboard shortcuts. I always use Command C for cut, Command V for paste, etc. Why use right-clicks, left-clicks and screentop menus to do all that kind of thing? Anyway, for the most part, when you want to do things that need right clicking, you hold down the Control key. And Macs will take a two-button mouse (even laptops). (You just have to go out and buy one.)