Reasons to love OS X: simplicity

by Giles Turnbull

Guardian writer Charles Arthur wrote up a list of the features he loves most in Mac OS X, and pointed out that very few of them are the kind of thing that Steve Jobs shows off in his keynote speeches.

Among his favorite features are simple things like system stability, searching PDFs in Preview, Applescript, parental controls, and Bluetooth synchronization.

I find a lot I agree with in this list. Like Charles, I prefer Camino over Safari; like him, I have little use for Dashboard (I still think a browser is just as good, and more convenient, than most widgets I might want to use), although I do make occasional use of Expose, Spotlight and Automator.

When I stop to think about it, I use OS X because, in my view, it offers the simplest way of doing general-purpose computing. I like keeping things simple, and my experiences with other operating systems have taught me that generally speaking, they don't manage to make my life in front of a keyboard as simple as OS X does.


2006-09-05 04:42:21
Gile, I concur with your comments about Widgets. I imagine there are quite a few people who have taken to them, but I have yet to make them a part of my daily use pattern (once in a while I might use them). It would be interesting to know how many people actually use widgets (not only on OS X but also on Windows such as the Yahoo widgets).

Its very difficult to get people to change their habits and my guess is that the browser has a long long life ahead of it, perhaps mixed with some widgets here and there. I think what remains to be seen (though its a bit off topic) is whether or not people will end up accessing web / Internet content on mobile phones differently (I just don't see people "browsing" the web rigorously with a mobile phone but perhaps a widget system where there is a set of widgets that one can rapidly scroll through on a phone is an approach that might take off on that platform).

2006-09-05 06:40:29
It's things like drag and drop and inter-application communication that really make the difference for me, after 18 months back on a Mac - and that is the stuff that doesn't demo well. It probably also makes little difference for the 'average' user, much like the average user probably prefers the 'full screen app' approach of Windows, over the 'untidy' multiple window Mac approach - but if you have any sort of multi-application workflow, OS X rocks.

As for Widgets : I think I've finally found a useful one - Basecamp's Tada list widget. Of course I'd be happier still with a desktop app.

2006-09-05 06:42:08
I think they key to using Widgets and Expose is mapping them to mouse buttons if you already haven't. I makes them alot easier to access and means you ae more likely to use the, I use weather, calendar and iStat.
2006-09-05 08:02:50
I don't know what I would do now without Expose and Spotlight. I always have a lot of windows
open and for me Expose is great and I now use to Spotlight not only for searching but for launching
2006-09-05 10:36:39
I wanted a dashboard detached method for using widgets, as well. I did some looking and found Amnesty, a program that allows you to open widgets on the desktop. There is also another program by the same company called Amnesty Singles that appears to create a stand alone program from widgets. I haven't used singles so I can't vouch for it, but Amnesty does exactly what it says it does simply and elegantly.
Richard Brantley
2006-09-06 07:08:43
I don't use Widgets every day, but twice a week I do hit the F12 key to look at the weather, use the calculator, and use a currency convertor I have installed. What I do like about it is that these items stay out of my way until I call them up, but with one keystroke they all appear before me ready to use.

As far as the simplicity goes, I do find I spend less time managing the computer itself and more time doing what I want with OS X than with Windows. I know the Finder gets a lot of grief, but I do like its user interface. Setting up new hardware and transfering from one computer to another is a lot simpler than in the Windows world. Now if only Windows would have the equal to Shirt Pocket's SuperDuper!.

Benjamin Huot
2006-09-06 14:29:36
I like to use mostly open source software on the Mac but I love how easy it is to install them compared to on Linux. It is much asier to stay up to date on software on the Mac. The other thing I like is being able to print to a PDF from every application that can print. I also enjoy things like the stability of OS X and being able to enjoy multimedia on OS X much easier than on Linux. I don't listen to multimedia often but it is nice to have when I run into it.
2006-09-06 14:35:19
Simplicity is key, I agree. The fact that Macs just work, that when you're thinking about doing something you've never done before, go ahead and try it, and find that, to your disbelief, OS X let's you do it exactly as thought it'd work - that's brilliant, raw simplicity. OS X is natural for me and the way I work - and that's something Windows will likely never be able to copy.

I guess I'm a befuddled creature - I use Dashboard quite regularly. For one thing, I often only have a dial-up internet connection, so it's actually quite faster for me to look up something in Wikipedia or the Business/People directories than going to the web. I'm an obsessive Sticky Note widget user too (though I obsessively used the Stickies application before Dashboard, so it's an old habit), and I love my little Capture screenshot-taking widget. Used to get my daily fix of Foxtrot and Calvin & Hobbes with the iComic widget, too, before it spontaneously just stopped working. *Sniff* iComic, I mourn thee.

Here was my biggest surprise with the advent of Dashboard and widgets, though: how much I actually used the Calendar widget. It's often easier to push my mouse to the screen corner and look ahead to see where a day may lie than to open up iCal or try to find the nearest wall calendar.

Neat (if already widely acknowledged) Widget trick: By clicking and holding on a widget in Dashboard, then hitting the keyboard shortcut to go back to your "regular" desktop, you'll be able to take the widget along with you too, and implant it on your desktop or wherever you want. (Granted, the widget stays on the top layer, and isn't quite as customizable this way as it looks like Amnesty will allow you... but hey, it's still cool.)

Definitely assign a mouse hot corner/keyboard hot key to Dashboard if you want to get into the habit of using it more, at any rate.

Meanwhile I do use Spotlight obviously whenever I need to find something (QuickSilver's much handier, generally though, for stuff you know about), but it's always seemed more like an operating system chore than a really well-loved feature of OS X. Alas, poor Spotlight - there's just no glory in searching. I do use five Smart Albums on my desktop, though - linked to Color labels, so I can keep track of what I'm currently working on and their respective statuses just by giving it a quick color label.