Mac to the Future

I've Seen the Future, and It Is Aqua

Part 1

Kel Taylor - 2000.09.29

Due to length, I've divided this into two articles. Part II will be posted soon. I just don't want to get you too bored or hurt your eyes. I can't stand reading long articles on the internet, so I won't force you to.

Wow. That's really all I can say. It is amazing.

I've never been so amazed since I first used a Mac. It's beautiful, easy to use, and, most of all, very powerful - and I'm just talking about the beta version. There's just so much that I don't know where to start. How about from the beginning?

I picked up the package at FedEx, because I had missed the delivery and wasn't going to wait another day. It came relatively fast: I ordered on the 18th and got it on the 23rd, so Apple made their two day expected shipment promise.

I hurried home, popped the CD in my iMac DV+, and restarted holding down C. I'd say it took about three minutes to start up from the CD and bring up the Installation window. It seemed like forever!

I decided to install OS X over OS 9 instead of on a separate partition, mainly because I don't feel like burning 5 GB of data to CDs so I can erase the disk and repartition it. OS X uses OS 9 for the Classic environment, and I can start up directly into OS 9 anytime I want - in case I want to print or use AirPort. The setup assistant took some information, and then I restarted.

Wow. Mac OS X is everything I thought it would be and more. Let's look at some differences.

Menus

Before using X, I was very curious about how the Apple and Program menus would be replaced. Well, they weren't really replaced; their functions were divided and put where most appropriate. I believe the new Application menu does an excellent job, holding everything that deals with the application. It contains the "About" command, which was in the Apple Menu; the Hide commands, which were in the Program menu; and the Quit command, moved from the File menu. That last one really makes sense - the command quits the application, not the file. You would be surprised how many people are confused by that. Anyway, if the user finds that the application's name seems awkward in place of the old Apple logo, it can be replaced by the app's icon instead, making it look just like the Program menu.

Another excellent menu addition is the "Go" menu. This also helps replace the Apple menu. I contains the same things as the button bar in the Finder and also recent folders. However, it does not support any further submenus as the Apple Menu did, which is the only complaint I have.

The menus also seem more fluid. After all, this is Aqua. They are semitransparent, they cast shadows, and they fad away as they close. Anyway, once you get used to the new menu arrangement, you won't want to go back.

Finder

The new Finder takes disk navigation to a new level. I just wish it had spring-up folders like OS 8 and 9. The icons look beautiful. You will really be able to tell classic icons from OS X icons. It's like comparing a compressed mpeg movie to a DVD movie.

The Finder is also very operational. Opening folders in the same window really speeds things up, but if you want it the old way, just change it in System Preferences. You can also have folders spawn new windows by holding down the option key and double clicking them, in case you just get a hankering to once in a while but don't want to all the time. You might find, however, that the new way is better in just about every case - unless you need to move files from one folder to another. Well, actually, the column view might do that even better than the old way.

The column view starts out looking like the list view. When you click on an item (say the hard disk), a column appears to the right showing it's contents. If you click on a folder in the second column, another one appears to the right showing that item's contents. If you select a folder in the third column, everything slides to the left and another one appears, keeping three columns visible. A scroll bar appears at the bottom so you can scroll back to see and move things to the other columns. All this is in the same window.

The button bar is fantastic, taking care of things that might clutter your desktop or Apple menu. Click on docs, and it goes to your documents folder. Click on apps and it goes to your application folder. Click on Favorites and the contents of your Favorites folder is displayed. You can get to exactly where you want to be by clicking a single button.

The Dock

This one is the most loved and most despised. You either love it or you hate it.

As you might guess, I love it. It is fully customizable. You can put everything in it - or just the Finder and the Trash. You can move anything around in it (except the Finder and Trash), so you can order your apps from most important to least important, something the Apple Menu didn't provide.

Many people don't like it, because they think it can become easily cluttered and the name don't popup until you put the mouse over the icon. Let me address both of these.

First of all, I would like to see these peoples' Apple Menus and see how organized they are. I don't know about other users, but mine contains everything from AppleScripts to old files, from programs I never use to Key Caps. I have never used Key Caps in my life! I don't even know what it does, but there it is. Why? Because I'm too lazy to navigate down to the Apple Menu Items folder, find it among the dozens of other icons, and drag it somewhere else. Where would I even put it?

I believe there are at least a few out there that share my situation. Something goes in the Apple Menu and it never comes out, resulting in having to scroll down a screen and a half to get to Sherlock 2. Either that or you keep selecting a program out of the recent programs folder because you are too lazy to put an alias of it in the Apple Menu. Then you don't use it for a while, and it's gone! You have to dig through your hard disk to find it, but you can't. So you have to use Sherlock! Ahhh!

The Dock more than solves this problem. First of all, it's much easier to get things into. Just drag programs or applications to the bottom of the screen, and poof! You can even put it where you want. To take something out, just drag it out of the dock, and poof! (It really does go poof!)

While I was a heavy user of popup windows, they can be replaced. Simply drag a folder to the dock, and poof! Of course, then there's just a picture of a folder, and no name until you point the arrow to it. I have a solution! You can change icons in Mac OS X the same way as in OS 9. Just change the icon to a picture that will remind you what it is or copy a text box out of AppleWorks and paste it in, there's your words right there!

One small problem I do have with the Dock isn't the Dock at all, it's what's behind it. If the dock is visible, you can't get to anything behind it (even though you can see right through it). So if a scroll bar gets behind there, you can't get to it unless you resize the Dock (by just dragging it up or down) or resize the window with the inaccessible scroll bar. Either way, it isn't that big of a problem. However, being able to hide the dock temporarily, such as by control-clicking it, would be desirable. And yes, I have responded to the Mac OS X Public Beta feedback, so if that is available in OS X 1.0, you know who to thank.

There are many more things that the Dock has over the OS 9 counterparts. You just have to use it to find them all.

Classic Environment

This is slightly different than I had expected. There are currently some limitations with the Classic Environment, but this is a beta version. Right now, no classic apps can access the Mac OS X PPP connection. This means that if you want to use any classic apps online, you will have to startup in OS 9 (that includes AIM!), and if you use AOL, you will have to wait for a Carbonized version. Don't worry, though, I'm sure it will be fixed before the final release.

Besides that, I can find no hampering in their operation, although some report much slower speeds. I haven't tried any processor-heavy classic apps from OS X yet, so I probably just haven't experienced them. You will notice that the windows and the menu bar in the classic environment are platinum in appearance. And, if you have a classic app active (on top), you will have your good-old Apple and Program menus right where you left them.

The first time you use a Classic app, you will have to wait for OS 9 to load, which could take some time depending on your configuration. Once loaded, however, you can start classic apps as usual. You can even close the Classic Environment application and leave OS 9 running, so you can startup other classic apps without restarting the Classic Environment.

Solid

Four days in OS X operation and no crashes, freezes, or other problems. This is the Beta version of the OS and the Beta version of some of the software running on it. Seems solid enough for me!

To be continued.

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