Mac Panic

“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?

It wasn’t me. I don’t use Excel unless I have to (AppleWorks’ spreadsheet module is all I need), and she’s the only one who 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.

Blame Apple

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 two Intel-based Macs.

Double-clicking an Excel file now automatically launch Numbers, and a Word document opens in Pages, both installed long ago so I could try 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 when using Snow Leopard, odds are fairly good that Numbers or Pages will launch, not Excel or Word.

Sorry, Apple, but this simply is not a good idea. People are going to panic when Excel or Word looks wrong, because their Mac gives them no warning whatsoever that Launch Services is going to open their files in Numbers or Pages. This is as 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 with people.

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 when her PC died some years back.

Fixing her problem was something any self-respecting Macaholic should be able to do without a second thought:

  1. Find an Excel file, single-click it, and Get Info.
  2. Under Open with, change it from Numbers to Excel.
  3. Click Change All so every Excel document will open in Excel instead of Numbers.
  4. 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 Lion 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 keep Snow Leopard on her Mac.1 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.2 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 W 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.

  1. Update: It’s January, and she’s still using Snow Leopard on her MacBook Pro, which has been upgraded to 3 GB of memory.
  2. Update: I never did upgrade to Lion. I’m still using Snow Leopard on my Mac mini, which has 3 GB of memory and a 256 GB SSD. It keeps me happy. (I do have a Late 2008 Aluminum MacBook with Snow Leopard, OS X 10.9 Mavericks, and 10.11 El Capitan installed, but it’s not my primary production machine. I find Mavericks pretty useful and use it often, but I haven’t taken to El Capitan at all – but at least I’m familiar with it.)

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One thought on “Mac Panic

  1. I have never used Photoshop instead using Graphic Converter. It is shareware so you can try it extensively to see if it works for you. I have been using El Capitan for a while and it seems fine on my 2008 iMac but I really don’t see much difference between versions besides a few icon changes, I guess I am just not a “power user”.

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