"What happened to my Excel?" my panicked wife asked.
Tools were missing, and things just didn't look like they had before. Had some gremlin messed up her Excel settings?
Not me. I don't use Excel unless I have to (AppleWorks' spreadsheet module is all I need), and nobody else uses her computer.
When I looked at the screen, I knew what had happened - she had double-clicked an Excel file as always, but it had opened in Apple's Numbers spreadsheet app instead.
Why? Because with Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, Apple had undone its legacy of double-clicked files launching the program that had created them. And I'd just recently installed Snow Leopard on our newest Macs.
Double-clicking an Excel file would automatically launch Numbers, and a Word document would open in Pages, both installed long ago so I could check them out.
I can understand Apple's reasoning. By making its apps defaults for Excel and Word files, it's going to get people to try them - even if they never intended to. These apps come in the Mac Box Set and many Mac users have downloaded trial versions, so when an Excel or Word user double-clicks a document, odds are pretty good that Numbers or Pages will launch, not Excel or Word.
Sorry, Apple, but this simply isn't a good idea. People are going to panic when Excel or Word looks wrong, because their Mac gives them no warning whatsoever that it's going to open their files in Numbers or Pages. This is a rude as that mess three years ago where Software Update on Windows installed Safari without ever asking permission.
The Apple mantra is "It just works." However, the experience of having your Mac launch a different app than the one you expected undermines that goal. It just messes people up.
Sure, Mac cognoscenti know all about Snow Leopard ignoring creator codes, but my wife is just a Mac user, not a geek or nerd or hacker or IT type. She wants a computer that just works, and it was frustrating enough making the transition from Windows to Mac in the first place.
Fixing her problem was something any self-respecting Macaholic should be able to do without a second thought:
- Find an Excel file, single-click it, and Get Info.
- Under Open with, change it from Numbers to Excel.
- Click Change All so every Excel document will open in Excel instead of Numbers.
- Close the Get Info window and repeat the process for Word.
Not Excited About Lion
Apple is going to throw an even bigger wrench in the works for longtime Mac users when OS X 10.7 Lions ships later this year. Microsoft Office 2004 isn't going to work any longer. Photoshop 3 won't run. I'll have to say good-bye to AppleWorks if I switch to Lion. And who knows how many other reliable old programs that I've used for years won't run because Lion abandons Rosetta, the tool that lets Intel Macs run PowerPC apps in OS X 10.4 through 10.6.
I'm not going to switch to Numbers and Pages. I've tried them, and I don't like them. My wife isn't going to switch from Excel and Word, so we'll probably keep Snow Leopard on her Mac. I dislike Word and Excel as much as Pages and Numbers, so I'll probably go with Bean for word processing when I get around to installing Lion. I'll probably continue to run my spreadsheets in AppleWorks under Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger on my 2002 Power Mac G4 rather than switch to a new app.
I probably won't buy Photoshop Elements, losing Adobe another user (I've been using Photoshop since version 2.5 or so). As Charles Moore points out in today's column, Preview does a lot of the things I've been using Photoshop Elements for, except for redeye reduction. iPhoto does a mediocre job there, so I may have an excuse to find another image editor, but it's not going to be a high-end one.
I like a lot of what I read about Lion - built-in server, fullscreen apps, interface changes in line with iOS. But the way Apple changes what's familiar and breaks things makes me leery of switching to Lion, at least right away.
Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.
Recent articles by Dan Knight
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