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May 13, 2011 6:55 AM   Subscribe

Here's to the crazy ones - a decade of Mac OS X reviews.
posted by veedubya (21 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I always enjoyed these when they came out. But I've really become a fan of the author after listening to Hypercritical on a regular basis. Gruber may have led me to Dan Benjamin's podcast empire, but Siracusa is what keeps me coming back.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 7:33 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Siracusa and Ben Kuchera are the only reason I visit Ars Technica. Great article!

Waves of nostalgia... this takes me back to Fall of 1997, trying out the first release of Rhapsody on a Power Mac 7500 with a 604e/200 processor upgrade. I had to borrow a CD recorder to burn the disc image (which I heisted from Usenet).

Didn't adopt OS X full-time until Jaguar hit the streets. After Panther hit, with the awesome introduction of Exposé and the Sidebar, I forgot all about Mac OS 9.

Still have a Pismo which I'll fire up every few months to run OS 9 pinball games.
posted by porn in the woods at 8:37 AM on May 13, 2011


Interesting article. I didn't use any of the Developer releases, but certainly ended up with 10.0 on my iMac Graphite SE shortly after it was released. Pretty much every iteration of OS X has been an improvement over the last in a lot of ways.

I do miss the spacial finder, however. That's the one main complaint by just about any old-time Mac user I hear about the new paradigm. Spacial folder location just worked so well, and now it's gone, never to return. :(
posted by hippybear at 8:49 AM on May 13, 2011


Spacial folder location just worked so well, and now it's gone, never to return.

?

Hit View -> As Icons in any finder window, and make sure in View Options that you have "arrange by..." set to none. Or just cmd-1 in the finder.

That'll set it globally. You can choose different options on a per-folder basis by checking the "always open in _____ view" box for that folder.
posted by ook at 11:19 AM on May 13, 2011


ook: um... no.

In the old Finder, every level in the hierarchy could be assigned its own space on the desktop. You would double-click to open a folder, and a new window would spawn with the contents of that folder, and it would ALWAYS be in the spot on your screen you placed it when you last closed that folder.

The new Finder won't do anything even remotely similar.
posted by hippybear at 11:36 AM on May 13, 2011


That's not all there was to it, ook. The old Finder gave each folder its own window and icon layout, and it stuck there until you changed it. Open a folder, it would *always* pop up in its spot with its size with its icons in the right places. It was a very visual experience; my hard drive always felt like a place.

So yes, you can still do the icon-positioning mode, but you can't have each folder associated with a specific window position and size. Or, if you can, it's a very new thing: I tried it in 10.4 and the Finder was always taking over my windows and putting different folders in them, or opening the folder in some existing window, or whatever. You just can't maintain the same visual, spatial picture of your hard drive anymore.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:38 AM on May 13, 2011


Sure you can.

I don't do this routinely for my entire hard drive, only for particular project folders, so maybe it's dependent on having the "always show in icon view" checkmark set, but the folders that I've chosen to treat spatially work spatially exactly as they did in OS9: the folders open to the position and size that I last closed them, and the icon sizes and positions (and text style and background color and everything else) stick where I left them. The one difference is that subfolders don't by default open in their own separate windows (unless you ask them to by holding down the cmd key while you open them), but I view that as an improvement.

Playing around with it now, it seems to be working the same way for all windows as long as I stay in icon view.

Are you maybe on an older version, hippybear? I do remember 10.0 handled this pretty poorly, and they've been gradually improving it over the years... though it can't have been that recent, because I know I've been depending on it for years.
posted by ook at 12:45 PM on May 13, 2011


If I, er, knew anything about Lion's Finder I'd be putting my hopes of them ever FTFF in the same coffin OS 9 went in.
posted by bonaldi at 12:49 PM on May 13, 2011


Ook: Open a Finder window. Find your home directory. Now open a new Finder window. Make your way to your home directory again. Got two windows with the same contents in them, yes?

That's not the old-school Finder. The old-school Finder was religious about folder icon=one window. If you opened a window into one folder and then browsed to it in another folder, either the original window would come to the front or (if the second window was in tree mode) the original window would close.

Doing it the other way totally breaks spatial organisation. Eg: which of the two windows' position is going to be remembered? As soon as you forget which was the first, it's effectively random.
posted by bonaldi at 12:52 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you opened a window into one folder and then browsed to it in another folder, either the original window would come to the front
(For clarity, this should read "If you opened a folder into one window and then tried to open that same folder in another window, the original window would either come to the front, or close". Thinko shows how tight the link between folder and window was, I guess.)
posted by bonaldi at 1:03 PM on May 13, 2011


Okay, I see what you're saying.

Make a folder. Put it on your desktop. Open it, set it to icon view, arrange it the way you want. Close it.

Navigate to that folder via some other folder's window, then yeah, it'll stay in that other folder's size and location, which, ok, arguably breaks the spatial metaphor (though the icons within it will still be arranged properly). Have the same folder open in two separate windows, then yeah, they'll be positioned differently. (How did OS9 handle that case? I don't remember if it was even possible to do that?)

But if you close everything and then open that folder from the desktop again, it'll still be at the size and position you set it at originally. If you choose to treat certain folders spatially, they'll behave spatially.

I'm not arguing that it's identical-to-OS9 behavior (not that I really see why anyone would want identical-to-OS9 behavior; FTFF and all that.) But I would argue that "the new Finder won't do anything even remotely similar" and "gone never to return" is, shall we say, overstating the case.
posted by ook at 1:10 PM on May 13, 2011


Great piece! I lived through the transition myself and felt some nice waves of nostalgia as I read this. It's amazing how far the Mac OS has come. And exciting to think about where we'll be in another decade!

You know, I do see the appeal of a spatial Finder, especially for people who aren't digital natives (if you had to transition to the computer world, physical metaphors were a great mnemonic). But I feel that the modern Finder offers a lot more information at-a-glance and avoids the confusing jumble of overlapping windows when you're fairly deep into nested folders. Occasionally I emulate OS 9 to play Scarab of RA and I find the Classic interface to be a real annoyance because everything is in a different location like, well, like a junk drawer. Messy.

On the other hand, OS X's Column View is the most efficient file manager I've ever used. Hierarchies are especially easy to get a bird's eye view of. I don't think the world will be going back to spatial metaphors, especially as the current generation of tech-savvy kids grows up. If the end result is faster workflows, that's a good thing.

As for deciding file formats by name or metadata, I'm divided on the issue. Siracusa makes some good points for metadata, and in general I agree. However, I frequently find myself changing a file's format for various reasons, and it's as easy as editing the extension. If modifying metadata could be done just as easily within the Finder, I'd be all for it — but I can't imagine that without at least two additional clicks.

I just realized that we're less than five years away from the possible rollout of a 40th Anniversary Mac, which makes me feel unbearably old. I hope Apple seizes that opportunity and gives us something that lives up to the name. A 2016 special edition done right, would ROCK.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 1:38 PM on May 13, 2011


ook: I'm not the only person to lament the lack of spacial Finder stuff. It was the first complaint of one of my oldest friends when OS X was released, and apparently there are other people complaining about it online, too. (The author of the article in this FPP, for instance.)

And no, it won't do anything remotely similar. The fact that I can have two Finder windows open with the same contents in them is exactly what could never happen under OS 9. And it's impossible to get that behavior back under the OS X Finder system. I've looked for ways to modify my system for 10 years now, and nobody's come up with anything so far. I don't think I'm overstating anything.

As far as what version of OS X I'm running, currently on 10.6.7. But that's irrelevant. Apple has changed the paradigm they want to use, and are going entirely toward the iTunes browser style for all of their applications. Sidebar of frequently used items, main window where you do your manipulations, etc. It's in iPhoto; it's present to some small extent in all their applications. It's the way they're doing it now.
posted by hippybear at 1:43 PM on May 13, 2011


(How did OS9 handle that case? I don't remember if it was even possible to do that?)
It wasn't possible. A folder icon opened into one window and one window only. That's part of what made it spatial.

But if you close everything and then open that folder from the desktop again, it'll still be at the size and position you set it at originally.
It'll actually be at the size and position of the last window you closed, not the original position.

(not that I really see why anyone would want identical-to-OS9 behavior; FTFF and all that.)
Somewhere in all the Siracusa reviews is a really excellent stating of the case, which runs to thousands of words I won't repeat. The salient point for me is that spatial organisation makes it very, very easy to know what's going to happen when using the Finder. There are no surprises. There's no worry that you'll accidentally destroy your carefully arranged folder windows by closing windows in the wrong order.

It means you can treat windows and icons as if they were real-world objects inside your computer, and that means a whole lot less stress (even if that stress is subconscious) and a whole lot more trust.

That arrangement has gone, and it really isn't coming back, because a) it would break a lot of the Finder as is, and b) the Lion Finder is even further away. Saying "it's not coming back" really isn't overstating, and I don't think "it's a million miles away" is either -- the trust's either there or it isn't, and with non-spatial finder is isn't.

I don't think the world will be going back to spatial metaphors, especially as the current generation of tech-savvy kids grows up. If the end result is faster workflows, that's a good thing.

I think the world is actually moving away from files and folders entirely. That's certainly what they've done with iOS. Sadly the result there is slower workflows, but a much more understandable one.
posted by bonaldi at 1:49 PM on May 13, 2011


(Also, if you want to see really broken Finder behaviour, try putting a stationery pad in a locked folder. It's bad enough in an unlocked folder, tbh.)
posted by bonaldi at 1:51 PM on May 13, 2011


OK, fine, I'm not arguing that the OSX finder is strictly spatial. I think it's spatial enough, and that the strictly spatial OS9 finder was widely loathed for good reason, and that the differences between then and now are generally improvements -- but that's opinion, and I'm not going to try to convince you guys.

I'm not familiar with Lion's finder, so I can't really speak to where things are headed. I find it interesting that the (rudimentary) folders in iOS are strictly spatial.

But if you close everything and then open that folder from the desktop again, it'll still be at the size and position you set it at originally.
It'll actually be at the size and position of the last window you closed, not the original position.


No, it will actually be at the size and position you set it at originally. Try it. I have a ~/Desktop/Desktop set to open fullscreen, so there's only one icon on my desktop, because I'm anal that way, and it's always fullscreen every time I open it no matter how many other windows of different sizes I open and close in the meantime.
posted by ook at 3:09 PM on May 13, 2011


Try setting your ~/Desktop/Desktop out of full-screen mode and see what happens.
posted by hippybear at 3:33 PM on May 13, 2011


Does OSX even have a literal full-screen mode? Sloppy terminology on my part, sorry, I just meant "large."

In any case, yes, I've tried it at some other sizes. Still works. Was it not supposed to?
posted by ook at 4:35 PM on May 13, 2011


The original Finder was widely loathed? By who? The only people I can think of are poor file-copying Kottke and people broken by Windows Explorer. Among Mac people it was much loved and much-missed.

Also, see your full-size window? open that folder in two windows, then close the full-size window, then make the second window small, then close it. Open the icon again and your full-size window will have gone. A folder icon retains the settings of the last window closed while displaying it.
posted by bonaldi at 5:05 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The original Finder was widely loathed?

FTFF dates back to that era. But "widely loathed" was overstatement, I'll back down from that with apologies.

A folder icon retains the settings of the last window closed while displaying it.

The last window closed while displaying that folder you mean? Well, yes, given that closing a window is how the settings get stored in the first place. I guess I misunderstood you earlier, thought you were saying it picked up the settings of the last window closed.

We're talking only about the size and position of the window, of course; the spatial organization of the icons themselves is preserved regardless of what view or size or whatever you switch to in the meantime. For me, that's good enough; it's a fair compromise between spatial-when-you-want-it and more robust search/sort options for managing the much larger number of files we have to deal with now compared to the pre-OSX days. For you, that's not good enough. Fine. Can we please agree to disagree and put this to rest?
posted by ook at 7:16 AM on May 14, 2011


FTFF dates back to that era
FTFF comes from OS X; it was a complaint about the OS X Finder being broken.

For me, that's good enough; it's a fair compromise between spatial-when-you-want-it and more robust search/sort options for managing the much larger number of files we have to deal with now compared to the pre-OSX days. For you, that's not good enough. Fine. Can we please agree to disagree and put this to rest?

Totally! I'm fine with people thinking the Finder is OK. It's when they insist it's pretty much as good as it ever was or that it doesn't need fixing that it rankles, because I remember when we had something better. For me, and for the (small number of) folks like me, "good enough spatial" is like "slightly pregnant". If something's spatial, it has to be a close as possible to real-world, not just passingly acquainted because that isn't spatial at all.

The frustrating thing is that they came incredibly close to a fix. The button that hides the sidebar should turn the Finder into fully spatial mode, and windows in that mode should ignore any sizes or settings from windows in browser mode. (They should also close if they're opened in a browser). The current Finder has that frustratingly within reach.
posted by bonaldi at 7:34 AM on May 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


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