Mac Thoughts...

Jul 14, 2004 twenty five to five pm

I've been playing with my Powerbook for a couple of weeks, and I thought I'd share some of my impressions coming from Windows for so many years.

Overall, I could not be happier.  The Mac has a style all it's own, a style Windows seeks from a distance.  It's small things, like anti-aliasing and fluid screen savers, that make the Mac so... creamy.  Nothing on the Mac looks like pixels, everything is colorful and smooth, you forget that you're looking at a screen.  It really reminds me of how movies portrayed computers several years ago, everything moved and spun in ways that were unrealistic.  I used to laugh.  But the movie future is here.

But, there are problems, things that drive me crazy, and it wouldn't be a Grumpy Gamer article with out a list of things I hate:

1) No two button mouse with a scroll wheel.  Now, I know we're getting into religious territory with Apple on this, but they need to wake up.  A one button mouse is next to useless.  I hate having to hold down the control key every time I want a contextual menu to pop up.  And, one of the greatest inventions of our time has to be the scroll wheel.  Apple's reluctance to make a spiffy Mac mouse with these two features boggles my mind.  Has Steve Jobs ever used a real mouse with a scrolly wheel?  I assume he uses an Apple mouse on his Mac.  Someone should give him a two button mouse with a wheel, and tell him to ignore the bad industrial design and crappy plastic, because when Apple makes one, it will be great and win all sorts of awards and cost too much.

2) Windows that are not in focus don't seem to get any mouse events until they are clicked on, but the click event is not sent to the Window.  What this means is, if you click on a window that is not in focus, you have to click twice to get something to happen.  The first click (even thou you are clicking on the button) brings the window into focus, but does not activate the control.  I find my self waiting for something to happen, then clicking a second time.  This is complicated by the fact that title bar of windows in focus and out of focus are very similar.

3) No first run games.  Everything new that I want to play is on Windows, include lots of good stuff on the web.  This is the only reason I still have a Windows machine.  This really isn't the Macs fault, the machine is more than powerful enough, it's Apples fault for not recognizing the power of the game market years ago.  Microsoft did, and they built great tools, had huge game developer conferences and supplied us with a lot of support and hugs and kisses (well, maybe that was just our contact, he was kind of strange).  Apple, on the other hand would send the "Game Evangelist" of the week to our office to tell us how much they believed in games on the Mac.  Two months later, someone else would show up and introduce themselves as the new "Game Evangelist".  It became a joke after a while.  I don't know if anything has changed in the past 3 or 4 years.  They might be better.  A goal of mine is to have my next game release on the Mac and Windows simultaneously.  We'll see.

4) The one huge improvement that Microsoft made when they ripped off the Mac was moving the menu bar to the top of each window, rather then the top of the screen.  While sitting at my desk, I run with a 1600x1200 monitor, and it's a long way for my eyes to move from the current window to the top of the screen.  It also means that you have to change window focus in order to see what options exist on the menus of other Apps.  What is double annoying is that most Apps use toolbars, and they are attached to the window, so they're splitting their functionality into two areas.  Ick.

5) What do those three buttons do?  I find the three stop-light buttons to be very confusing.  The Red one with a X in it, that is OK.  You click that when you're done with the window and you want to use your changes.  The Yellow is for minimizing the window and the Green one is to look pretty.  I guess.  Not sure what it does.  Seems like it would be the OK button, and the Red X would be the cancel button.

6) I really hated the Dock, but now I love it.

7) It's very annoying that when you close the window of an application, it continues to run, with the only indicator being the menu at the top of the screen.  Based on my Windows experiences, I expect the App to quit when the last Window is closed.  Now, in fairness, it doesn't really matter that the App is running, UNIX is really good and dealing with memory issues and dormant programs, so I guess I should just get over it.

Oh, and speaking of UNIX, it is so nice to have a real OS under the hood.  I love being able to move from a luscious GUI to a down and dirty CLI.  I struggled to get jobs to run under Windows, but now there is cron.  And bash, and rsync.  I do worry that Apple's "Computer for the Rest of us" is not any more.  I do wonder how a computer novice would deal with UNIX if they ever had to drop into it.  Maybe they never will.  Me, I have a floating transparent Terminal up all the time.

But I'm a geek.

If you're a true Windows fanatic, understanding the Mac can take a while.  It's kind of like your first day in Paris.  It's strange, scary and no one speaks your language.  But after a few days, you start to recognize the beauty and sophistication of it.  Windows is like going to the Paris hotel in Vegas.

Other people's comments:

Posted by asdf on Jul 15, 2004 five to one pm


Posted by Thomas on Jul 18, 2004 half past three pm

Hey, you've finished half of your journey to become a mac zealot ;-)

BTW, the mouse wheel is one of the best worst inventions ever done. Most people use this to scroll 20 pages in a document - neglecting navigation tools, like scrollbars, goto-function, search functions. And there are still these old and reliable page-up and -down keys. They work like charm.

Posted by Spaff on Jul 19, 2004 ten to noon

dude... shh.. mousewheel is great.
scrollbars are annoying.

i agree with you on pretty much everyhting.. mac os can be a real pain the ass but is also beautiful.
hold down shift when performing an animated action like minimizing a window.... only an os made by show offs would have a function to make stuff work in slow motion :)

Posted by on Jul 22, 2004 twenty five past six am

hey, we have our terminal styled the exact same way.
change it our i'll sue your fat but!

Posted by StevesBaby on Jul 23, 2004 twenty five past ten am


Have Fun with the Mac!



Posted by neffs on Jul 23, 2004 eleven am


some additions:
2) some apps actually behave different. i.e. textedit (first cmd-r to view the ruler) and itunes (first press the green button in the top bar)

5) the green stoplight button is for changing the window size to the best value
sometimes fullscreen (i.e. safari), sometimes the smallest possible size to view everything (i.e. ichat)


Posted by Udo on Jul 24, 2004 quarter past three am

You can be sure Steve uses a multibutton wheel mouse. But for computer iliterate people more than one button can be confusing. My mother never understood why she had a second button on her PC mouse . She's happy with her iMac mouse now.


You can attach any USB-2-button+wheel-mouse to the Mac. No drivers needed at all.

Maybe there should be a BTO option, or multi button mouses on Pro PowerMacs ...

Posted by Udo on Jul 24, 2004 twenty past three am

Re: Mouse focus. Well, yes, this is an age old Mac design decision and we Mac user are very confused and annoyed when working with i.e. Linux :)

Unfortunately it seems that different apps on Mac OS X behave different rgearding mouse focus :/

Posted by Udo on Jul 24, 2004 twenty past three am

"A goal of mine is to have my next game release on the Mac and Windows simultaneously."

Hear, hear. I bow before you. In fact I'm getting down on the floor to shout: "I'm unworthy". It worked with War/StarCraft, so it is possible ...

Posted by Udo on Jul 24, 2004 half past three am

Re: Menu bar at top of screen. I love it, I always know where the mouse has to go. I almost don't have to look to copy or save. So even if I have to move farther this saves time.

Re: Closing window closes app. We Mac users think this was the most stupid MS invention ever :) Back in the day it had to do with apps that could have only one window under Windows. Led to the ugly Photoshop port where all the windows had to be in one big grey background window. Ick. :)

Oh, and you have the black transparent terminal with green text. Love you.

Posted by Christian on Jul 24, 2004 twenty five to four am

Try out SideTrack. It uses part of your PowerBook's trackpad as a scroll area. I use it all the time.

Posted by rofl on Jul 24, 2004 twenty to eleven am

To send the MouseFocus to a background application, hold down "apple"-key and you can work in the background, without taking it to the front...

Posted by Juergen on Jul 25, 2004 twenty past four am

Many of the annoyances you pointed out are deliberate design decisions with good reasons behind them. Some comments from my UI designer/Mac programmer perspective:

1. No two button mouse with a scroll wheel:
Less savvy users are often confused with 2 button mice. This is because there is no inherent, real world difference between left and right. Power users simply go and buy that 2 button scroll wheel mouse and live happy ever after.

2. Windows that are not in focus...:
As a Mac programmer you have the option to decide which of your UI elements will get this "click through" behavior you are missing. The idea is to limit the "click through" behavior to actions which are less in danger of doing some harm or confusing the user when initiated unintentionally.

4. The one huge improvement that Microsoft made:
The idea here is that there is a main menu at the top of the screen which typically controls global aspects of the program, where a toolbar specifically acts on the window it is attached to. It makes no sense to proliferate the same menu item across the many windows of a document oriented app when that menu item has no specific connection with the window it is attached to

6. It's very annoying that when you close the window of an application:
Some apps do quit, when to close the last window ("Calculator" for example). It depends whether you are working with a document oriented app or not. If you close the last window of a text editor for example, you don't want the app to quit, since you might next want to open a new document.

Posted by Yufster on Jul 25, 2004 five to noon

BTW, the mouse wheel is one of the worst inventions ever done

Was that sarcasm? The scroll button is an extremely useful time-saving feature.

The standard mouse that comes with the macs kills me. It looks pretty, yeah, but it's a horrible shape and the one large button? Pointless design.

Something that Apple would probably benefit from more than a Game Evangelist, is a Sales Evangelist... no salesperson I have ever met has known anything about Macs, and they haven't tried to sell me one.

Posted by lemming on Jul 27, 2004 five to three am

2. As Juergen said already, the Window which is in background must be bring to foreground by clicking once at it. This is called �Fit's law�. It should protect you against missclicking. After some days using your Macintosh you get accustomed with this �feature�

4. The one huge improvment that microsoft made is not bringing the menubar nearer to the user. They made it harder to hit it. This is also �Fit's law�. If you speed up your mouse to the top of the screen, you don't have to stop it and target precisely the menupoint you want. You will just be breaked by the screen border. On Windows, you have to target presicely the menu. The same is with the Dock vs. the Taskbar. On Mac OS X you can just speed up your mouse in the direction your app is you want to run and click it after the mouse cursor hits the screen border. On Windows, there is still one pixel border between QuickLaunch or Taskbar. So you have again to target precisely the app or quick launch icon you want.

This has also something to do that Apple holds a aptent for the menubar on the top of the screen.

As you know on Mac OS Classic is the Application Menu on the right top. You can reach it by speed up your mouse in this corner. You'll be stopped by the corner and so you have just to click to reach this menu. On Windows you can't hit the corner and click the Start button. There is also one pixel between the button and the corner.

Some things make sense on Apple, some things make no sense on Windows ;)

Posted by ricket on Jul 27, 2004 twenty five past nine pm

RE: #4
The menubar at the top of the screen is one thing that the Mac spanks Windoze on. On Windoze, I have to move to the top of the screen and then back down again because the menus do not extend to the top of the screen. On the Mac, I can close my eyes and click open a menu. The same exact problems exists in the Windoze Start menu. I can open the Apple menu with eyes closed. Not so on the Start menu. Try it, if you don't believe me.

Posted by Shawn on Jul 28, 2004 five past ten am

(Hey Ron!  Although you probably don't remember me (

Re #2:  I know I've experienced this behavior with some Windoze apps too, so I think it's like Juergen points out - on both sides of the fence.

(BTW, the Text syntax for links doesn't appear to work.)

Posted by chad on Jul 28, 2004 eleven am

Someone already mentioned SideTrack, but I actually prefer uControl [] for that purpose, and a few others that will be familiar to old UNIX users.

As for the Menu Bar at the top, I sometimes get annoyed at it myself (not so much on the 1024*768 12" PowerBook screen, though), but it's the result of lots of early human interface testing that says that the top of the screen (and the corners, particularly the top corners) are the easiest places to reach - people just intuitively `slam' the mouse into the top, the corners, etc.

The `closing last window closes the app' functionality is well worn in CHI circles; there are instances where each is clearly better, and clearly worse.  For my part, I generally only care becaue of the Finder, and I find that I sometimes keep open a finder window just to avoid the occasional confusion when the Finder is active but the screen in dominated by, for example, Safari.

And, finally, the gumdrop buttons.  Sigh.  Apple abondoned the moral high ground with this one in favor of the more familar and much prettier gumdrop buttons when they moved from OS9 to Mac OS X.  Blame Windows ubiquitity, if you need a target.

Posted by darv on Aug 5, 2004 twenty five past four am

On usefull applications:
SideTrack has been mentioned, also of note are:
TinkerTool which I use mostly to customize the Dock's appearance (Hidden applications become transparent, Dock position is at lower right corner etc) but can also be used to customize the Finder, Safari, Fonts and other things.
Xshelf is a usefull application that provides a kind of breakpoint between drag and drop (Drag a document to the shelf, you can then search for the place you want it to be stored, then drop it).
If "the long way to the top of the screen" is worrying you you might want to try DejaMenu from the same author that gives you the menu at a convenient right-click.
MouseZoom to make your mouse faster or slower.
MenuMeters to monitor network traffic in the menubar.
Litttle Snitch is a nice way to control outgoing connections.

For the mouse focus thingie: macosxhints has an article on how to enable it in at least the terminal.

Posted by Jens on Aug 17, 2004 ten past eleven pm

I think you forgot the most useful feature: Expos�! I love to get all windows out of sight with only a short move of my mouse. I realy miss this when I'm in front of a Windows machine.

Posted by loud33 on May 25, 2005 eleven am

check out WinPlosion for windows! It rocks!

Posted by Thomas on Aug 18, 2004 five past one pm


That wasn't ironic. Look, there is no fixed amount of space that is moved once you turn the mouse wheel. In one application the windows settings (e.g. three lines per movement) work, while in other applications there seems to be a completely different speed setting. In most cases the mouse wheel even works like a dumb digital gadget - not even trying to emulate a analog feeling.
This leads to the fact, that navigation with a mouse wheel is either too fast or too slow. Precise movement isn't possible. If you want precise movement, you need to grab the scroll bar and drag to the right position. This technique combines fast AND precise navigation. And, surprise, doesn't need a second, third or fourth mouse button. And no dumb wheel, of course.

Posted by Dave on Jul 11, 2005 half past one pm

I also like writing with a point system:

1) I'm sure Apple were developing a wheel-less scroll wheel a while ago.  Did you find that your Powerbook lets you use two fingers as a scroll wheel.  That iPod technology should pay off in a fancy new mouse soon I would have thought.  The bluetooth ones are really cool but obviously you're still stuck with one button.  How do they do two without putting a nasty split in the plastic for food and congealed finger sweat?  It's not rhetorical - you sounded like there was a solution.  You should have a Wacom tablet anyway - it would help you draw those hand-drawn cartoons.  If you do in fact draw them yourself.

2) Wow - never even acknowledged that window focus thing.  Now it's really going to piss me off.  Thanks.

3) You can do something about that.

4)  I used to like the way on an Amiga you could bring window menus up with the right button.  Don't know why, just did.  I guess it's a bit like context menus.  Another thing that passed my notice because I've hated Microsoft for too long and find it difficult recognising anything good that they do.

5) Ignore em.  Use apple+W, apple+H and apple+M.

6) Been using Mac since before OSX but still don't think the dock is quite there.

7) You get used to that.  It's not  a problem.  Just check on what's open with apple+tab.  Don't keep going to dock or whatever..

Useful things I've found in OSX.  Apple click something in the dock to reveal it in the finder (find target to a PC user).  Apple click the titlebar on your menu to show the route to that location.  You can drag favourites into the title bar as well as the sidebar of menus.  Alt clicking desktop hides your current app.  Ctrl+eject brings up shutdown menu (doesn't work on Powerbooks - naturally hit the power button).  Modifiers with dragging let you copy/make shortcuts.

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