The future of macOS: Fix the old stuff?

“The wish lists for the next version of macOS are beginning to appear, but it’s a small list so far. After all these years, you even wonder how many bright ideas Apple might come up with,” Gene Steinberg writes for The Tech Night Owl. “Before you even go that far, I wonder if it isn’t time for Apple’s Mac developers to be tasked with fixing things old bugs, making things work better, before wondering what features look impressive in a demonstration at the next WWDC.”

“With Apple, fit and finish are supposed to be paramount. Even when Apple more or less duplicates — or imitates — a feature from another platform, you expect it to work better, more reliable,” Steinberg writes. “So as Apple’s developers continue to craft what is expected to be known as macOS ‘something-or-other’ 10.13, I wonder how much attention will be paid towards just rummaging through the source code and fixing the things that need to be fixed.”

“Apple has to fight harder to keep Mac sales at a decent level in the post-PC era,” Steinberg writes. “The little things do count, even if it’s just a document window forgetting where it ought to be.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Obsession over the tiniest details is why we chose Macs (and then iPods, iPhones, and iPads) in the first place.


    1. No, it’s starting in beta first half of this year if it’s ready, but you don’t rush something like that. A file system has to be bug free from day one or it tanks the whole enchilada… I’m ok with them taking their time with this one.

    1. Agreed. But nicer still, if Apple hadn’t made ill-advised changes in Sierra’s PDFKit code that are causing grief to many Mac users who work with PDFs.

      Depite feedback from developers and public beta users about serious problems affecting compatibility with existing PDFs, scanning and OCR software, etc. Sierra can destroy the text layer of PDFs that were OCRed with widely used software, merely by editing such a PDF. That’s data loss, and it can be very serious and not necessarily remedied by a second pass of OCR on such a non-searchable PDF. That’s only one of many PDF bugs in Sierra through version 10.12.2.

      Absolutely inexcusible behavior by Apple!

  1. Along with a slew of bug fixes, née feature corrections, the whole front end Finder UI needs a major rethink as does the file system.

    What did Steve say to his people on the MobileMe fiasco? “You’ve tarnished Apple’s reputation … You should hate each other for having let each other down.” Apple should feel the same way about the hidebound state of the OS X UI. It’s an f-ing embarrassment.

    1. Totally agree – I’ve given up with the Finder for searching any other Mac on my network, spotlight just sometimes doesn’t update quickly enough or at all.

      I use Adobe Bridge now which has the ability to search Spotlight shares – works like a charm.

      If I could switch the Finder off permanently I would.

  2. The search functions of the MacOS are my worst nightmare. Why does spotlight list 500 files that have nothing to do with my query?

    I use Easy Find instead, which does what Spotlight is supposed to do.

    1. Yes. Spotlight is broken. I imagine there’s a very frustrated software engineer at Apple that understands the problem, has had the fix coded and validated for many months already, and desperately wants to get it out to the user community. But the engineer is prevented from doing so by an oversized bureaucracy with way too many stakeholders in the release cycle process.

      1. Spotlight through the Finder for me has been a nightmare since I upgraded from Snow Leopard, many years ago.

        It simply hasn’t worked reliably since that upgrade.

        Now use Adobe Bridge – spotlight integration (better than Apple’s) and works great.

    2. True!

      Just a week or so ago I needed to find an old list for tax purposes, and one item on it was Honda Civic. Did a Spotlight search and everything from recipes to pictures of my daughter playing soccer came up in the results.

  3. I’d expect a fusion of macOS and iOS. Obviously that is the future but maybe not this year. Something is coming from Apple due to the lack of Mac development the last few years. A new product development that I imagine makes better use of tablet and the power of desktop. Oh, wait, that’s Microsoft Surface. Never mind.

    1. I don’t think we want a fusion of OS X and iOS, at least in the front end UI. Graphically, it’s fine if they look similar on screen but the input method should be heavily focused on keyboard input on OS X and, of course, touch input on iOS.

      It’s been fashionable in recent years to dismiss the keyboard as an anachronism from an earlier age. But the reality is that the keyboard is really really good input device. Keyboards require minimal hand travel and are accessible for people capable of very little or impaired movement. They provide privacy where voice dictation does not. They provide speed and accuracy. And they provide clear tactile feedback with key travel. We all know the QWERTY keyboard could certainly be improved – the Dvorak keyboard is one example. But keyboards of some type are here to stay.

      If Apple has any interest in staying in the truck business (oh Macintosh where art thou), OS X should focus much more heavily on keyboard input.

        1. Well that goes without saying!

          The thing is, Apple seems intent to keep iOS headed in the Jony style before substance direction. Flat gray white hidden features hard to use controls and increasingly unintuitive. Why!?!?!?!

          1. ” Flat gray white”
            wondering if Jony had a traumatic experience in a darker colored high contrast environment at some point in his life.

            I think I read somewhere that the interior of his house is extreme white. But then, he hasn’t invited me there, so what do I know.

  4. Apple does not have to fight to keep sales at a decent level, they just need to stop selling a crippled OS on outdated hardware for high prices.

    Were there a proper MacPro tower at my local Apple Store I would go pick it up today. I have ZERO interest in the Trashcan, sealed up and overpriced iMacs you cannot even add memory to, laptops without ports and inferior battery life or Mac minis less powerful than what they sold 4 years ago.

    I almost wonder if Cook is crippling the Mac to drive customers to iOS. What he will end up doing is drive longtime Mac users to Windows 10. I already have an iPad Pro and on it’s best day it is no replacement for any Macintosh.

    1. Yep. I replaced a 5 year old MBP 2011 with a new 2012 release year MBP — it’s got everything, lots of ports, changeable RAM, and drives, and the video card has a worthwhile upgrade. I can’t see myself buying these locked down Macs. I suppose I’ll be alright till 2020 at least.

  5. Yes, just fix what they have. AirDrop is very nice but often takes some fiddling (though it is much better than last year).

    Pages needs to get text box linking like it had in ’09. Also, I’d like to see it get cross referencing so that Figure n in the text can be linked to Figure n in a caption so that you can add or delete figures and the text will always show the correct number. iBooks Author needs this as well.

    Keynote needs to add a way to deal with layers and it needs a timeline to help setting up animations.

    Just a few things off the top of my head. Sierra is nice but it has been crashing on me once a week or so. I never used to have these problems.

  6. There is no shortage of macOS wish lists. Some are substantial — a modern file system, for one — and some are easy — proper user color selection and/or a dark mode for the GUI.

    Let me add a few more:

    1. the usability has declined since 10.6. It’s true. A Mac user needs more clicks, more training, and more fiddling with settings to figure out how to do things than in the Snow Leopard glory years. PLEASE get a GUI expert to pull out and update the old inferface guidelines. Apple has gotten away from simplicity and is into overly-minimalistic hiding mode. I for one am sick of complex multi-key strokes and clicking or swiping into buried tabs and menus to find what should be on an always-visible toolbar.

    2. As Steinberg mentions, behavior of windows in macOS is erratic, just as multi-monitor usage — especially monitors with different resolutions — can be a frustrating exercise. Spaces is a poor way to handle with the need for more adept window handling. Translucency makes everything worse. This is a long standing problem that Apple seems oblivious to solve, almost as if Apple employees don’t actually use multiple monitors and multiple processes in multiple windows?

    3. Why after all this time have you not made software features in macOS that allows iOS devices able to be plugged into the Mac for use as a secondary display, a dashboard, or an input device? If you’re waiting to kill off Lightning in favor of universal USB-C ports everywhere, you’ve waited too long.

    4. iCloud-free setup option. We have just given up on Handoff and iCloud, so stop trying to sell us on it. It’s too slow, too expensive, and too limiting. No thanks. Allow us to remove it.

    5. UPDATE THE DAMN APP STORE. It’s an embarrassment. It takes forever to find anything. How do you find the right tool there? You can’t. Search is abysmal and try-before-you-buy isn’t easy.

    6. redesign iTunes to stand alone as a music collection management tool. Make Apple Music and Apple TV separate streaming apps. Buying is very different than renting, so stop messing it all up with one clumsy tool.

    7. Save As needs to come back.

    8. Automator needs love. Scripting in macOS is way behind the times.

    9. improve onboard help menus and tutorials. More than ever, Mac needs them.

    10. Let the user choose if he can stand a skinny, sans serif, gray on white font. I cannot.

    1. You’re right – things have got worse since Snow Leopard.

      Coincidentally, this was the last OS that Forstall was working on before he got fired.

      Maybe his ‘difficult to work with’ attitude was simply him understanding his job, whilst those around him did not.

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