Sacrilege? Four Mac Usability problems

So I admit it, I’m a MacHead. My Windowsearthal friends detest it – the cloud of smug which rises up from my Powerbook. But I want to prove I’m not beyond some criticism of the glorious thing that is MacOSX. Here are my top 4 MacOSX Usability bugbears, and yes, it does feel rather sacreligious …

1. Minimize is irreversible without the mouse

I love the Dock. I love my keyboard. I enjoy being to Apple-M windows away, but I also want to be able to make those windows come back with my keyboard – without switching to my mouse.

Reversible interactions is one of the cardinal rules of Usability. Come on Apple, please make the Dock keyboard accessible! I know I could simply layer my application windows and use Expose, but sometimes a bloke just wants an uncluttered desktop.

Possible solution: this article on arstechnica refers to a “Full keyboard access” feature which gives you complete control over the Mac from your keyboard. The catch is that its buggy … and its so buried that I can’t find it within the preferences …

2. Non- shortcutable Preferences

I use some of the MacOSX preferences everyday, e.g. Network. But getting there is a hassle (Apple menu -> Location -> Network Preferences, or Apple Menu -> System Preferences). I tend to use Spotlight which helpfully includes them in results (but see problem 3 below). I’d love to be able to have a simple link from my Dock.


Possible solution: there is some talk of esoteric keyboard shortcuts to some of the preferences, but I don’t want to remember such detail …

3. Spotlight results reordering

Spotlight is a great thing, but I hate the way it keeps resorting after the first items have appeared. Again, this is really poor usability … I’d almost suggest not displaying results until they are all in. I’m invariably after a sub-panel of preferences, and the number of times I’ve clicked on a document due to reordering. Grrr.


4. Those mini windows which aren’t quite real windows

Why does Apple use those mini-windows for certain features like the Colour Picker (see pic below)? Why is this annoying? Well they don’t obey all the keyboard shortcuts (e.g. Apple-` to switch between application windows), and you can’t minimize them. Also, the close/maximise icons top-right are half the size of normal windows’ ones. Cue Fitts-law fiddliness.


Thats it – enough ranting. Please let me know if I’m being an idiot regarding any of the above!

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2 Responses to Sacrilege? Four Mac Usability problems

  1. Jon says:

    I think it is interesting that two people can use the same operating system, but in very different ways.

    #1: That problem never bothers me because I never use minimize and I never use the Dock (I’ve hidden it away). I use Apple-H, Apple-Tab, and Exposé + Hot Corners to manage all of my windows. I use Quicksilver for launching applications.

    #2: Again, I never encounter this because of Quicksilver.

    #3: Quicksilver wins again. I never use Spotlight.

    #4: Agreed, those mini windows suck.

  2. Michael says:

    My big issue with OS X is the response time on selecting things on the desktop or in applications; there is a noticeable delay like on the razor cellphone. Why should there be a delay when one clicks on the url bar in camino/safari, windows is more responsive, sadly.

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