Charles Moore's Mailbag

Attractive and Ugly Macs, Discontinued MacBook Pro Value, and Writing with TextEdit

Charles Moore - 2008.10.30 -Tip Jar

Attractive/Ugly Macs

From Scott:

Thank for writing the article about the attractiveness ofMacs! I've been waiting for something like this for a while now,especially because I'm particular about the appearance of the Macs Iuse and/or appreciate!

A few comments I had while reading it:

  1. I still use an SE on aregular basis and am glad to see it as one of the most attractive! I'malso glad to see the MacBookup there. Do you prefer white or black (or the new aluminumscheme)?
  2. tangerine iBookThe "interesting, yet not reallypretty" label on the clamshellseems to be a gender preference. Girls have told me the my clamshell(which is tangerine) is "pretty", while guys have said it's "coolbecause it's orange". (I bought it because orange has always been myfavorite color.)
  3. I beg to differ on a few models. I find the Mac Pro/Power Mac G5 to be hideous! I thinkit looks like a cheese grater! Also, I would say the original pizza boxLCs look infinitely better when you put the 12" monitor that matchesthem on top - I always think of my LC as a "big compact" with its 12"monitor (perhaps because it has a similar resolution to the 9"screens). I also noticed my PowerBook170 listed as an ugly Mac! I don't think it's that bad, but itprobably is the ugliest Mac I have (compared to the SE, LC, Clamshell,and Black MacBook, not to mention the Classic sitting in mycloset).
  4. I noticed the IIsi andPower Mac 4400weren't on the list. I'm guessing the IIsi is lumped in with the LCs onyour list (since it looks like a tall LC), but I'm curious to hear whatyou think of the 4400. I think it looks sort of cool myself, but a lotof people have said it's the ugliest Mac Apple has ever released. TheeMac also wasn't there- I'm guessing it's on par with the iMac, or does the white plastic andlarge speaker design put it down lower in your book?

Time magazine cover with G4 iMacI personally find the iMac G4 the most attractiveof all the Macs ever produced. I'll never forget picking up Timemagazine when it came out! I gave mine to my mother two years ago whenI went completely mobile but still get to check in on it now andthen.

Thanks again for writing an article about the attractiveness ofMacs!


Hi Scott,

My pleasure.

Were singing from the same hymnbook on mostpoints.

I like the look of the clamshell iBook, and tangerineis my second-favorite color after Key Lime, but I stand by mycharacterization. It's attractive - but just too funky-looking to callbeautiful.

The Power Mac was one I equivocated about placing, andperhaps I did put it higher in the pecking order than wasjustified.

Bang-on point about the LC with the 12" monitor.Remember when a 14" CRT was a "big monitor?" I really didn't like thestyling of the PowerBook 140 through 180 though.

Power Mac 4400I haveto agree with your cited friends about the PM 4400 (right) I'm afraid,but we're more or less on the same page with respect to the G4 iMac. Idon't think it's the most beautiful Mac ever, but it's my favorite iMacfor looks.


Good, Bad, and Aesthetically Challenged

From Matthew:

G'day there Charles,

I have just read your latest ramble, and, as always, it is superblywritten and incisive. I would agree with most of your categorisations.The only Mac categorization I disagree with is the Mac Color Classic. Youplaced it in the "Interesting but Not Really Pretty or Elegant"category.

Color ClassicI used to ownone (back in '99) and found it to be the ugliest Mac I had ever owned.It is true that one man's meat is another man's poison, but of all myfriends, family, acquaintances, and odious strangers that dared clumptheir feet past my threshold, all of them either grimaced or grunted atthe thing in disgust.

It was easy to understand why. The poor thing (to my mind anyhow)always seemed to want to be a beautiful, original 1984 chassis all inone Mac but could never summon the enthusiasm. It's oddly proportionedscreen, ungainly weight-to-size ratio, and mutated front bezel sadlycast its sickly spell over me. It's odd that of all the Macs I havesold to people over the years, I cannot remember what happened to theColor Classic. Every other Mac I can account for. It's funny, but tothis day I still have dreams of a classic first generation gestalt Machaving a colour screen, something that will, unfortunately, remainunfulfilled.

Once again, please let me reiterate, Charles, that your judgmentsand subsequent categorisations of the aesthetic qualities of variousMacs over the years was pretty well spot on. Like you, I love myPismo, despite itsincreasing age and lack of a G4 upgrade.

Please keep up the great work, take care and God bless,
Beerburrum, Queensland, Australia

Hi Matthew,

original MacintoshThanks for your comments.

Re: the Color Classic, you're absolutely right thatit's an ugly duckling compared to the beautiful original compact Macs, ButI'm a sucker for small computers, and notwithstanding its odd styling,I was moderately charmed by the Color Classic.

Now my LC 520 -styled by the same designer if my recollection serves me - there was ahomely computer!

I wonder if anyone has seriously thought of grafting a9" TFT display from a PC netbook into a classic compact Maccase....


Great Article on Good, Bad, and Ugly Macs

From Peter:

Hi Charles,

Great article on the Good, Bad, and Ugly Designs of the Mac. Inoticed some interesting choices in each of the categories. In theAttractive/Elegant category, you listed the Quadra 605 and Performa/Power Mac 6100 series,but then listed every other beige model in the Boring category. Whatstands out about the 605 and 6100, besides being an LC with four legsand an oversized pizza box?

Here is another for the ugly category: the 3rd Generation white iPodwith dock connector. The four navigation controls moved off the touchwheel was such a dumb design.

20th Anniversary MacPersonally, I think the Cube G4 was the most boringdesign. A gray box with an Apple logo. It was an overgrown Mac mini. Ihave one on my desk, but it is a Kleenex Box. Why do you consider the20th Anniversary Macto be one of the ugliest? That was one of the most impressive designsand ultimately led to the current iMac design with the componentsmounted behind the LCD. Both the Cube and TAM are elegant designs, butthe TAM was a better looking Mac, something out of the future. The samegoes for the PowerBook 1xx series. The design of that laptop changedthe industry forever, compared to the PC counterparts made at thetime.

I agree that the ugliest Mac would be the All-in-One Power Mac G3. Thatwas the most bizarre looking computer. At least the LC 5xx series hadsome character to the case. The All-in-One G3 looked like it wasswollen at the top and it would pop. Here is another "beauty" for theugly list: the Power Mac 4400 using the cheap PC case.

I think the PowerBook 500series should be in the elegant category. The curves of that designmade it stand out, whereas the 5300 series returned to a more dullrectangle.

I loved my black PowerBook G3 WallStreet II.The Titanium G4PowerBook was an impressive design coming off the G3s. However, theAluminum PowerBook G4 and initial MacBook Pro models were a boring spinoff. I have not seen the new MacBook/Pro model yet, but I think that isconsidered the most impressive design for a laptop yet.

The best looking compact Mac has to be the SE/30. I love the description of theSE/30. "Essentially a Mac IIx in a compact case, but Apple couldn'tcall it the Mac SEx." The MacIIcx/ci would have to be thebest looking in the beige category.

I also loved my Mac Centris650. Although it was a boring case, it was rock solid, and the casewas extremely reliable, made of metal. No vibrations at all. When I gotmy Power Mac G3 Beigedesktop, I had to do some custom noise dampening to keep theplastic parts from vibrating whenever the 24x CD kicked in. However, itoffered great expansion for a desktop design.

Macintosh TVAnd you can'tforget the black Macintosh TV withthe Beige CD Caddy door, since Apple did not want to spend money onblack-bezel CD units.

Anyway, it was fun reading your article, and you pretty much nailedit for most choices.


Hi Peter,

We seem to agree on a fair bit, but then part companyon some styling motifs.

I liked the pizza boxiness of the 61xx series and605.

The Cube/TAM seem to be a particularly sharp point ofdivergence. I owned a Cube for a while in 2001 and loved itsaesthetics, at least without the peripherals hooked up, but I wasrepelled by the look of the TAM initially and never warmed to it.

I was quite smitten with the styling of the 500 SeriesPowerBook initially but grew tired of it (one of my kids had a 520).OTOH, I liked the 5300's looks from the get-go and grew more fond of itwith exposure during the years it was my workhorse.

I prefer the look of the aluminum PowerBooks to theTiBook, but am not in love with either. Still reserving judgment on thenew ones, but I think I like them.

Agreed on the SE/30 and you're right about the 4400 aswell.

iPods aren't Macs, but another ugly duckling iPod isthe 3G nano.


Pretty Macs

From Marion:

You missed one of my favorite Macs: the Twentieth Anniversary Mac.The first time I saw the photos of it, it took my breath away. It iselegant and at the time was certainly "forward looking". I believe itstands the test of time. Granted, it was never in wide release, butthat doesn't negate its high style. It might be true that at theoriginal price, it should have had more power, but that doesn't negateits high style either.

Otherwise, you've really come pretty close to picking the rightmodels.


Hi Marion,

Glad we see eye to eye on most models, but for somereason, we part company rather radically on the Twentieth AnniversaryMac, which I always thought looked ungainly and ungraceful - and wasn'tup to much performance-wise either.

However, there are no "wrong" preferences inaesthetics. Whatever looks beautiful to the beholder.


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of AppleDesign

From Chuck:

Hey, here is my 2 cents.

  1. Sort of surprised by the difference between the Quadra 605 and theLCI/II/III. While the exterior were different, the differences were soinconsequential to be considered trivial. Both were pizza boxes. Ithought there were innovative, but I would have lumped them alltogether.
  2. What about the Newton? Love it or hate it, I would have expected onthe list somewhere (I would put it as Attractive and Elegant)
  3. I think the iMac G5 andthe Intel iMac are at best Mediocre. The CD/DVD access out theside for a machine that is intended for use on a desktop is dumb andoverly restrictive. The ports in the rear are hanging up in the air, ifyou use several ports you end up with a rat's nest that looks plainugly. Several other manufactured have followed this approach, but it isstill bad.
  4. What about the MacPortable, both innovative and ugly.


Hi Chuck,

I think my recollection may have been faulty regardsthe Quadra 605 - LC I/II/III distinction.

I agree with you about the Newton's looks, but it wasnot a Mac. The Newton eMate would charitably go in the Mediocrecategory.

You make a solid point about the cable issue with therecent iMacs, but I still like the looks of the glass and aluminum iMacwhen the ports aren't occupied.

About the Mac Portable - agreed.


Unibody MacBook vs. Discontinued MacBook Pro

From Dan Knight in response to New Unibody MacBook orDiscontinued 15" MacBook Pro?


We all have our own work styles. Much as I like the size of the13.3" MacBook, I need a higher resolution display. My choice would bethe 15" MacBook Pro with its 1440 x 900 display. With the refurbished15" 2.4 GHzPenryn model selling for just $50 more than the new 2.0 GHz UnibodyMacBook, I'd say it's a no brainer.

In addition to the larger display, 20% faster CPU, and all thoseextra ports, you also have the option of getting a matte display, whichis still my preference.


Hi Dan,

We seem to be pretty much on the same page here.

Basically, what you said. I've gotten too used to 1440x 900 resolution on my 17" PowerBook to be sanguine about going back tolower res for production work.


Writing with TextEdit

From Dan Palka:

I'm sure any Low End Mac user will appreciate my latest article onusing TextEdit to it's fullest potential: TextEdit: My First Choice for Everyday Word Processing

Dan Palka

Hi Dan,

Nice article.

I'm a Tex-Edit Plusdevotee myself, but TextEdit certainly has its virtues, and the pricecan't be argued with for OS X users.

Thanks for the link.


Editor's note: TextEdit can also be used to open .doc,.rtf, and .txt files and then save them as HTML files - or you can cutand paste text into TextEdit from almost any source and do the samething. It's very rudimentary (you can't even add links), but itproduces much cleaner HTML (or XHTML) than exporting to HTML from Word,Pages, and most other apps. See ConvertFormatted Text to Valid HTML Using TextEdit on Mac OS X Hintsfor a lot more details. dk

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at and a columnist at If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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