Mac Lab Report

10 Things I Like Best about OS X

- 2003.09.25

Fast on the heels of my whine-fest about annoying things about OS X comes another list of things I've really become accustomed to and enjoy about OS X. I use OS 9 in my classroom, and I have OS X on my machine and one student machine as an experiment.

So here I list not only little things I like in OS X, but things I like better than OS 9, and potential motivating reasons to switch operating systems.


The first thing that comes to anyone's mind is the stability of the operating system and its reliability when running programs that are native for OS X. The only time I have difficulties are with programs running in Classic. The only time the operating system ever freezes for me is when I try to open a document attached to a Microsoft Outlook message with a Microsoft Office application. I can't force quit; a restart is required. On the other hand, my OS 9.2 machines freeze on a regular, if not frequent, basis - often enough that I tell my students to save, save, save. Any individual machine might run fine for days, but one of them locks up for one reason or another almost every day.


Column view in the Finder. It's nice when you need it. It helps you understand the maze of files associated with the root user and other users. It's nice that you can also avoid it if you want.


Services. I am becoming a big fan of using services in the application menu (this is the one that has the application's name in it) to enable functions between applications. For example, I can open a selected block of text in TextEdit even in programs which normally don't print. I select URLs and activate iBlog's "Paste selection into body of new entry" function to make a blog entry for an interesting website. The more I use services, the more I like the idea and the implementation.


The Dock. I know lots of people don't like the Dock, just as it is popular to criticize the one-button mouse. But I like the Dock because I can use it to hold the things I use frequently. If you try to put everything in the Dock, you're defeating it's purpose. And if you put them in a logical pattern (such as all word processors together), you can zip down there and open a document pretty quick. And my Windows-blinded students ooh and ahh over the Dock magnification effect.


Lack of viruses. OS X has even fewer viruses than OS 9. Smile while you can.


iApps. The iApps work together well. You can share documents between them so easily, it reminds me of when you could first start to copy text in one program and paste it in another. That was a revolution in productivity. The ability to use iTunes music, for example, in iMovies and iPhoto with a virtually identical interface is just as significant and remains one of the Mac's primary advantages over its Windows copycat competition. Despite the existence of iApps for OS 9, the integration seems tighter to me in the OS X versions.


Continuous access to iDisk files. You can leave your iDisk connected all day if you wish, instead of having those annoying loss of connection message warnings you get in OS 9. (Insert the usual "Don't you know about Goliath for OS 9?" paragraph here. Goliath is not bundled with OS 9.)


Big icons. Getting old. Need bigger icons. 'Nuff said.


The Go menu. Logical organization. All the places you can "go" in one place, divorced from the Chooser. When I first learned to use the classic Mac OS, the Chooser was the most intimidating step. If only the Print Center were so clear and intuitive . . . and reliable.


Access to Unix applications. For example, OpenOffice, which I am seriously considering adopting. My district requires Office format documents now . . . maybe I can escape the Redmond juggernaut this way.

Well, that's my list. Like before, I invite you to send your own in. As is the usual practice here, any email you send me is subject to publication unless you specifically request otherwise.

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is a longtime Mac user. He was using digital sensors on Apple II computers in the 1980's and has networked computers in his classroom since before the internet existed. In 2006 he was selected at the California Computer Using Educator's teacher of the year. His students have used NASA space probes and regularly participate in piloting new materials for NASA. He is the author of two books and numerous articles and scientific papers. He currently teaches astronomy and physics in California, where he lives with his twin sons, Jony and Ben.< And there's still a Mac G3 in his classroom which finds occasional use.

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