I recently got a Macbook after my last laptop broke, and I wanted to write about my impressions (well, after using it for a few days and past the initial “omg nothing works like in other OSes” shock). First, the good:
- The GUI is really pretty and feels consistent and robust. Windows (whenever I mention Windows I mean XP, I don’t like Vista at all) is quite a bit uglier, but is also rather consistent. Linux is somewhat pretty (especially with compiz et al) but lacks consistency and robustness.
- The core is BSD. That’s very, very good, much better than Windows, although Linux is a bit better there. I have yet to find anything that comes close to apt-get in Ubuntu (MacPorts is nice but doesn’t work as well), so the command-line and overall architecture is a close second to Linux and way way ahead from Windows.
- The dock is a nice concept, and QuickSilver makes launching applications very quick (same with Launchy in Windows). Applications launch surprisingly fast (really surprisingly, I don’t know why but they launch faster than other laptops with comparable hardware. This was a pleasant surprise (and something I don’t really understand, I don’t see any reason why the OS should be any faster than Windows or Linux, it’s not like the other two are bloated).
- Installing/uninstalling programs is great. You just copy them in the Applications folder and you’re done. This is akin to just unzipping programs in Windows/Linux. When you want to uninstall it, you just delete it.
- About the actual hardware, it is very small and its height is the same throughout its length (unlike other laptops that are thin in front and thicker towards the rear end). It’s small enough to use very comfortably, but large enough so you don’t feel crammed. Also, the battery lasts forever.
- Exposé looks nice, even though I don’t use it a lot. With the way that OS X works (what with all the open apps and all), it is a very good way to switch between windows if you use the mouse.
- The cmd+tab way of switching apps and then cmd+tilde to switch between application windows might be marginally better than the traditional alt+tab way of switching windows, if only because of the better organization. This could go either way, though, it’s just a matter of preference.
As for the bad:
- Spaces is totally broken. It looks like Apple engineers haven’t looked at any of the myriad of multiple desktop implementations that sprung up over the years. Namely, cmd+tab switches between all applications, not only the ones in the current space. That doesn’t separate tasks (which is what multiple desktops are meant to do). As it stands, Spaces just gives you more desktop space, and thus isn’t a multiple desktop implementation, just a screen extender.
- It just doesn’t seem to be designed for the keyboard. The Zoom (maximizeishthing) function doesn’t have a keyboard shortcut (neither does Minimize, I think) (UPDATE: Minimize is cmd+m and you can map Zoom ONLY IN SOME APPLICATIONS by going to keyboard shortcuts and adding a new command with the name “Zoom” and whatever you want, e.g. cmd+shift+M). Menus don’t have accelerators (in fact, nothing does), so if you want to access a menu with the keyboard you have to press ctrl+F2 (a really awkward keystroke) and then press the corresponding amount of up/down/left/right arrows. If you want to select controls in dialogs, you have to actually tab through anything, pressing space to select the ones you want, instead of just doing Alt+accelerator for each element.
- You know how sometimes in Windows/Linux you start copying/moving/deleting files and then you realize you made a horrible mistake and scramble for the Escape key, hoping to stop it before you delete everything? Well, with OS X, you don’t have to worry any more. The escape key doesn’t stop the operation. Neither does Cmd+W, Cmd+. or any other combination I tried. You have to get the mouse, reach for the tiny X icon and click it. I wouldn’t bother, though, you’d probably have deleted everything by then.
- Selecting files in Finder windows using the keyboard is very frustrating, if not impossible. There’s no equivalent for Windows’ ctrl+space, and shift+up/down selects more files so that there’s no way to unselect files if you go too far. It really seems like Apple has paid no attention to people who use the keyboard (almost) exclusively. Also, unbelievably, there’s no “Cut” command. You have to copy/paste the files and go back and delete them. These are serious usability drawbacks.
- I am trying to compile a simple 5-file C program, and it won’t. I have no clue what’s going on, but it compiles fine in Linux. I also have 3+ installs of Python 2.5 and I have no clue how to install PyQt4. It works in some, it doesn’t work in others. They’re spread all over the FS. Combined with the lack of a package manager, things are really awkward.
- Suppose you want to open a file. You will soon notice that there’s no textbox where you can type the location, like in Windows/Linux, so you have to navigate to the folder you want with an ungodly amount of clicks or keystrokes, or, if you are a seer or just lucky enough to type something by mistake, you will notice a textbox scrolling down, enabling you to enter a location. There’s no visual indication that this box even existed, so I’m surprised if anyone even knows about this.
- A personal pet peeve is the fact that cmd+tab cycles through apps with no windows. I would much rather apps with no windows didn’t appear there, so you could use the dock/quicksilver/whatever to activate them. That would enable you to have applications running in the background (e.g. Thunderbird for checking mail, Adium/Skype for communication) without having them clutter up the cmd+tab menu.
- There’s no way to open a new finder window (like win+E in Windows) without switching to the finder app, nor is there a way to hide all windows and show the desktop. These aren’t really important, since switching to finder only takes a few keystrokes and showing the desktop can be made redundant with Quicksilver, but still, the desktop is there and there should be an easy way to go to it.
- This next one isn’t really for all Macs, but the British/European keyboard is awful. The enter key is tall and narrow instead of short and wide, there’s a “§” key where the tilde is in other keyboards, and the left shift key has been broken in half, making the right half a tilde. I can’t hit either the shift or the enter key with that layout. I am going to see if I can trade for a US keyboard one.
Overall, my biggest gripes are the bad keyboard layout, the lack of accelerators and the frustrating system layout. Other than that, I am rather satisfied with it and feel comfortable with it (not as comfortable as Windows, though, and that only because of the accelerators, which make me much faster). I would recommend it if you don’t use the keyboard a lot or do demanding development, but make sure you get one with the US keyboard.