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.