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 of Macs! I've been waiting for something like this for a while now, especially because I'm particular about the appearance of the Macs I use and/or appreciate!

A few comments I had while reading it:

  1. I still use an SE on a regular basis and am glad to see it as one of the most attractive! I'm also glad to see the MacBook up there. Do you prefer white or black (or the new aluminum scheme)?
  2. tangerine iBookThe "interesting, yet not really pretty" label on the clamshell seems to be a gender preference. Girls have told me the my clamshell (which is tangerine) is "pretty", while guys have said it's "cool because it's orange". (I bought it because orange has always been my favorite color.)
  3. I beg to differ on a few models. I find the Mac Pro/Power Mac G5 to be hideous! I think it looks like a cheese grater! Also, I would say the original pizza box LCs look infinitely better when you put the 12" monitor that matches them 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 PowerBook 170 listed as an ugly Mac! I don't think it's that bad, but it probably is the ugliest Mac I have (compared to the SE, LC, Clamshell, and Black MacBook, not to mention the Classic sitting in my closet).
  4. I noticed the IIsi and Power Mac 4400 weren't on the list. I'm guessing the IIsi is lumped in with the LCs on your list (since it looks like a tall LC), but I'm curious to hear what you think of the 4400. I think it looks sort of cool myself, but a lot of people have said it's the ugliest Mac Apple has ever released. The eMac also wasn't there - I'm guessing it's on par with the iMac, or does the white plastic and large speaker design put it down lower in your book?

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

Thanks again for writing an article about the attractiveness of Macs!


Hi Scott,

My pleasure.

Were singing from the same hymnbook on most points.

I like the look of the clamshell iBook, and tangerine is my second-favorite color after Key Lime, but I stand by my characterization. It's attractive - but just too funky-looking to call beautiful.

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

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

Power Mac 4400I have to 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. I don't think it's the most beautiful Mac ever, but it's my favorite iMac for looks.


Good, Bad, and Aesthetically Challenged

From Matthew:

G'day there Charles,

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

I used to own one (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 my friends, family, acquaintances, and odious strangers that dared clump their feet past my threshold, all of them either grimaced or grunted at the 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 in one Mac but could never summon the enthusiasm. It's oddly proportioned screen, ungainly weight-to-size ratio, and mutated front bezel sadly cast its sickly spell over me. It's odd that of all the Macs I have sold to people over the years, I cannot remember what happened to the Color Classic. Every other Mac I can account for. It's funny, but to this day I still have dreams of a classic first generation gestalt Mac having a colour screen, something that will, unfortunately, remain unfulfilled.

Once again, please let me reiterate, Charles, that your judgments and subsequent categorisations of the aesthetic qualities of various Macs over the years was pretty well spot on. Like you, I love my Pismo, despite its increasing 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 that it's an ugly duckling compared to the beautiful original compact Macs, But I'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 a homely computer!

I wonder if anyone has seriously thought of grafting a 9" TFT display from a PC netbook into a classic compact Mac case....


Great Article on Good, Bad, and Ugly Macs

From Peter:

Hi Charles,

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

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

Personally, I think the Cube G4 was the most boring design. A gray box with an Apple logo. It was an overgrown Mac mini. I have one on my desk, but it is a Kleenex Box. Why do you consider the 20th Anniversary Mac to be one of the ugliest? That was one of the most impressive designs and ultimately led to the current iMac design with the components mounted behind the LCD. Both the Cube and TAM are elegant designs, but the TAM was a better looking Mac, something out of the future. The same goes for the PowerBook 1xx series. The design of that laptop changed the industry forever, compared to the PC counterparts made at the time.

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

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

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

The best looking compact Mac has to be the SE/30. I love the description of the SE/30. "Essentially a Mac IIx in a compact case, but Apple couldn't call it the Mac SEx." The Mac IIcx/ci would have to be the best looking in the beige category.

I also loved my Mac Centris 650. Although it was a boring case, it was rock solid, and the case was extremely reliable, made of metal. No vibrations at all. When I got my Power Mac G3 Beige desktop, I had to do some custom noise dampening to keep the plastic parts from vibrating whenever the 24x CD kicked in. However, it offered great expansion for a desktop design.

Macintosh TVAnd you can't forget the black Macintosh TV with the Beige CD Caddy door, since Apple did not want to spend money on black-bezel CD units.

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


Hi Peter,

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

I liked the pizza boxiness of the 61xx series and 605.

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

I was quite smitten with the styling of the 500 Series PowerBook 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 it with exposure during the years it was my workhorse.

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

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

iPods aren't Macs, but another ugly duckling iPod is the 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 is elegant and at the time was certainly "forward looking". I believe it stands the test of time. Granted, it was never in wide release, but that doesn't negate its high style. It might be true that at the original price, it should have had more power, but that doesn't negate its high style either.

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


Hi Marion,

Glad we see eye to eye on most models, but for some reason, we part company rather radically on the Twentieth Anniversary Mac, which I always thought looked ungainly and ungraceful - and wasn't up to much performance-wise either.

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


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Apple Design

From Chuck:

Hey, here is my 2 cents.

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


Hi Chuck,

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

I agree with you about the Newton's looks, but it was not a Mac. The Newton eMate would charitably go in the Mediocre category.

You make a solid point about the cable issue with the recent iMacs, but I still like the looks of the glass and aluminum iMac when 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 or Discontinued 15" MacBook Pro?


We all have our own work styles. Much as I like the size of the 13.3" MacBook, I need a higher resolution display. My choice would be the 15" MacBook Pro with its 1440 x 900 display. With the refurbished 15" 2.4 GHz Penryn model selling for just $50 more than the new 2.0 GHz Unibody MacBook, I'd say it's a no brainer.

In addition to the larger display, 20% faster CPU, and all those extra ports, you also have the option of getting a matte display, which is 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 1440 x 900 resolution on my 17" PowerBook to be sanguine about going back to lower res for production work.


Writing with TextEdit

From Dan Palka:

I'm sure any Low End Mac user will appreciate my latest article on using 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 Plus devotee myself, but TextEdit certainly has its virtues, and the price can'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 cut and paste text into TextEdit from almost any source and do the same thing. It's very rudimentary (you can't even add links), but it produces much cleaner HTML (or XHTML) than exporting to HTML from Word, Pages, and most other apps. See Convert Formatted Text to Valid HTML Using TextEdit on Mac OS X Hints for 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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