Google to Mac users: Eat the crumbs we throw you

I’ll be interested to see how well Chrome does among Mac users.

You mean there’s finally a real Chrome browser available for Mac? Oh, wait, no, there’s not. Just the same old tired beta, even though it left beta on Windows ages ago.

Google’s taken so long to deliver a Mac version I assumed they’d outsourced the job to Adobe. No need; I guess when it comes to Mac software they’re the new Adobe.

Does Chrome install on the Mac with that insidious Google “updater” always running in the background? You know, the one that even if you hunt it down and kill it, it just reinstalls itself the next time you run the Google app? It’s just one reason the Mac version of Picasa (beta, of course) was blown from my Mac, with no Google software to return.

I’ll never understand why so many Mac users are eager to eat scraps off the floor that fell from a developer’s Windows table. Not me. No thanks, Google. Take your cheesy product to Linux, I’m not interested.

Macs cost notably less to support than Windows PCs

A majority of respondents said that Macs cost less in terms of time spent troubleshooting, user training, help desk calls, and system configuration. Admins generally agreed that costs related to software licensing and supporting infrastructure were the same between the two platforms.

It’s almost a shame this needs to be treated as “news”. It’s probably only the gazillionth* article espousing this point going back 15 years or more. It comes as no surprise to anyone not dependent on the Windows ecosystem.

* “Gazillionth” is not a word. I made it up. It’s hyperbole. No real numbers were harmed in the making of this post.

The Best Review of Windows That Mossberg Has Produced.

UPDATE: Kudos to reader Jon T. of Cardiff, Wales, for digging up this quote from Mossberg’s review of Vista:

“After months of testing Vista on multiple computers, new and old, I believe it is the best version of Windows that Microsoft has produced.” — Wall Street Journal, Jan. 18, 2007

“After using pre-release versions of Windows 7 for nine months, and intensively testing the final version for the past month on many different machines, I believe it is the best version of Windows Microsoft has produced.” — Wall Street Journal, Oct. 8, 2009

An interesting addendum to CNN’s article on what’s wrong with Windows 7. The entire article is worth reading.

Much has been made of Mossberg’s review — including some over-exuberant article headlines — yet he still believes Mac OS X has the edge. The thrust of his review is that Windows 7 is an improvement over Vista. Big deal, we already expected that.

Posted via web from The Small Wave.

Why CIOs are saying no to Macs.

For many members of the CIO Jury, it’s not a judgment on the performance of the OS itself but rather a recognition of the prohibitive costs involved in such a change.

A nice article because it actually discusses a valid concern for why an organization would not want to switch to Macs.

While numerous studies have shown Macs to be more productive, support costs to be lower, and user satisfaction in general to be much higher, those gains come only after the fact. To get there, a potentially painful bridge must be crossed between Windows and Mac OS. It comes down to the measure of long-term gains vs. short-term headaches. It would be unreasonable for any CIO not to consider this.

We want to think senior management will think through the long haul, but the reality is short-term thinking rules the day, and that’s not always a sin. An expensive switch is hard to justify, especially with stockholders breathing down your neck. Any CIO discussing costs of the switch is at least arguing a point worth considering. It’s when an organization brings up Microsoft talking points, such as security, that I feel they haven’t honestly considered a Mac approach.

Posted via web from The Small Wave.

Discoveries in Mac OS X Snow Leopard: It’s The Little Things (And What Have You Found?)

SnowLeopard

This discovery article is about things that, frankly, would make for a short post if written about individually. But there are a number of thoughtful touches sprinkled throughout Snow Leopard that make your work nicer, or more efficient, and I want to mention some of them here…

Text Substitution

The system-wide text substitution is great. Go to the Languages and Text control panel to select the ones you want, or add your own:

Lang-Tex_Text

I’ve already added a few of my own, and they work perfectly in the Snow Leopard version of apps like Mail and TextEdit.

ShowSubMenuOne thing to note, however. Text replacement may not be enabled by default. Applications handle this differently, so you may need to turn it on for a given app. In an application’s Edit menu you’ll see a menu for Substitutions. Just check the ones you want to turn them on.

ShiwSubDialogAlternatively, select Show Substitutions on the menu to display a dialog box where you can control them all at once. Either way, check Text Replacement and you’re in business.

TextEdit

It took only the addition of a few features to vault TextEdit to my default word processor of choice:

  • Text replacement, as explained above
  • Correct spelling automatically
  • Smart dashes

These are all available in Pages, but with TextEdit I have them in a faster environment for most of my writing.

TextEdit Page

Keep in mind TextEdit already had plenty of desirable word processing features. Things like simple styles, lists, line spacing, tabs, paste and match style, find/replace, hyperlinks, hyphenation, and more. Heck, it even has kerning and ligatures.

Further, as an RTF editor it can contain graphics, and makes nice use of the new streamlined Services menu in Snow Leopard:

TextEdit PicServices

No, I’m not giving up Pages anytime soon. Sometimes I need columns, headers, TOCs, etc. But most of the time I don’t. TextEdit is fast and uncluttered, with more than just the basics, and yet so lightweight I think nothing of leaving it running all the time. With the latest improvements its become my word processor for blog posts, and where I’ll start most other writing projects as well.

iCal

My favorite new feature in iCal, and it practically brings tears to my eyes, is this:

iCal Prefs

Now when I double-click an existing event I don’t see this dreadful thing:

AttachedEvent

Instead, I get the thing of beauty below. Imagine that, an actual window I can type in, and move around, and everything.

Windows Event

Sadly, this only works for existing events. If you double-click a date to add a new event you still get the “talking” editor, which you need to drag off if you want a window. Still, this feature makes me very happy.

For other people, their favorite new feature might be this:

iCal_GoogHoo

You can now sync your Mac calendar with Google or Yahoo! calendars. The Address Book has a similar capability, so your contacts can be in sync between these services as well. I used Yahoo! for years and this would have been great, but I’m on MobileMe now.

Mail

Exchange support could be huge (I love it on my iPhone), but my company does not use Exchange 2007 so I cannot try this or comment on it.

Mail_SidebarHowever, the text substitutions mentioned above are extremely nice. So is the speed increase.

And I love that I can re-order the sidebar categories. For me, this means banishing Reminders to the bottom of the list.

QuickTime X

So much has been written about the new QuickTime X player that I won’t dwell on it other than to try to define a little bit better what this thing is:

  • QT XDo not confuse QuickTime X player with the actual QuickTime X technology. The player is the tip of the iceberg you see. QuickTime X is a refinement and tuning of Apple’s media technology as ambitious as Snow Leopard was to Leopard.
  • QuickTime X player is not QuickTime Pro. Pro allowed editing in the middle of a movie, combining multiple movies into one, better output options, and more.
  • QuickTime X player is more than the QuickTime 7 player it replaces. You can trim movies and then upload directly to YouTube or MobileMe. You can also output them to iPod, iPhone or Apple TV devices. It can also record your screen actions, and the performance is better.

The number of QT Pro users is relatively small. For the vast majority of Mac users what they’re getting is a sleeker, faster movie player than what they had before. One that also allows them to trim footage and upload it for sharing, as well as recording on-screen actions. That’s a pretty nice bonus as part of only a $29 software package.

And Even More…

Password GraceYour Mac goes to sleep, you immediately grab the mouse but it’s too late, you have to enter a password to get back in (if you’ve chosen that option). Well, in the Security preferences panel you can now set a “grace period” between sleep and requiring a password.

Network WakeYou want to be Green. Really, you do. But you can’t let your desktop Mac sleep because you might want to grab a file, or see a shared photo, or play a shared song, from your MacBook. Well, if you use an Airport Extreme or Time Capsule as your router you can set an option to Wake for Network access. Let the desktop get some sleep, knowing it’ll wake if you need it.

Day, date and time in the menu bar. You could do this before, but had to jump through hoops. Now you just check a few boxes:

Day Date

Where Does It End?

In this discovery series I specifically avoided the advanced technologies in Snow Leopard like Grand Central Dispatch and OpenCL. These are very important, but I wanted the series to focus on what most people could see and make use of immediately.

Yet there are more, many more, things to discover. I couldn’t begin to list them all. QuickLook now works in iChat for received a file. Safari now has “plug-in protection” so Adobe Flash (and others) won’t crash the browser. And on and on…

What about you? What have you found? I’d love for others to leave their own Snow Leopard discoveries in the comments below.

Previous Articles in the Snow Leopard Discovery Series:

Discoveries in Mac OS X Snow Leopard: Preview

Preview

I think most users are indifferent to Preview. They double-click a PDF or image file, view it, and then quit the app. In Snow Leopard there’s a reasonable chance they might notice it all happens faster, and the toolbar has changed, but nothing else. I think that’s a shame.

Snow Leopard’s Preview received enhancements that will elevate it from frequent use to a workhorse for me. However, the way some features were implemented seems odd…

PDF = Pretty Darn Fast.

Preview is fast. I mean, it’s really fast. It was always a quick little sucker, but in Snow Leopard’s 64-bit trim it opens images and PDF files (even large ones) extremely quickly.

For PDFs, other enhancements include:

  • Smart text selection (e.g., selecting just one column).
  • Open multiple documents in one window; you can search all at once (this can be very handy).
  • Speaking of search, it utilizes Grand Central Dispatch to increase speed.

You can also view a PDF as a contact sheet of pages, like so:

Preview PDF Contact

I trashed Adobe Reader the minute Preview first appeared, though admittedly my PDF needs are not extensive. (I don’t use Adobe Reader on my Windows machines, either). In Snow Leopard, even some die-hard Reader holdouts can probably let go of Adobe in this area.

Do I Have To Draw You A Picture?

Well, yes, sometimes I do. In Leopard, Preview gained the ability to annotate images with ovals, rectangles, arrows, and text. It also gained the “Instant Alpha” feature from Apple’s iWork apps. It’s useful to annotate pictures with text, or highlight a certain area. Preview’s newfound capabilities were welcome, and I utilized them often.

The problem is that the features were deficient. It didn’t take long to identify what was missing:

  • It draw ovals, but not circles.
  • It draw rectangles, but not squares.
  • It draw arrows, but not lines.
  • No control over arrow thickness.
  • It has any color you like, as long as it’s red.

(That last one isn’t so bad, since red is superior to the other, lesser colors of the spectrum. Still, the lack of choice was odd.)

New and Improved

Lines Thick and DashedThe best news about the new Preview is that it addresses the above deficiencies:

  • Hold down Shift while drawing an oval or rectangle to make it a perfect circle or square.
  • You have control over arrow heads, placing them at the beginning, end, both ends, or none. (The latter option, of course, makes it a line.)
  • You can choose line thickness, which includes an option for dashed lines.
  • You can choose a color for annotated items.

Having discovered the above, I tried some other keyboard tricks:

  • Hold down Shift while drawing a line to constrain it to 45 degree angles.
  • Hold Option while drawing circles, rectangles, and lines to draw them from the center.

Very good, Apple.

Meet Me At The Bar

Annotation ButtonThe annotation bar, that is. Previously you could add some annotation tools to the regular toolbar (images and PDFs had their own toolbars). Now there’s just one standard toolbar, and a button on it brings up a new “Annotations Toolbar”. It’s different for PDFs and images:

PDF

PDF Annotation

Image

Image Annotation

This makes it easier to access annotation items, and only displays when you need them. It’s very nice, though a bit incomplete.

You Got What You Wanted, What’s The Problem?

The devil’s in the details, and I’m a bit puzzled by Apple’s implementation of the new stuff.

The annotation toolbar is at the bottom of a window. Why? Who decided I should mouse up for menus and most toolbars, but mouse down for other controls?

Annotations Inspector ArrowsI like the annotations bar, so I’ll take it where I can get it, but why doesn’t it hold all the annotation controls? For example, draw an arrow. Its color, thickness, and dash can be modified from the annotations bar, but what about arrow heads? You’ll only find them on a new tab in the Inspector.

Show the Inspector, and next to the tabs of document information is a new tab for annotations. Here you’ll find the options for arrow heads.

Annotations Inspector BubblesFurther, you’ll find two more features not on the annotations bar. One of them is the choice of fill color. The other applies when you have a text box selected. You can pick a style of “Speech Bubble” or “Thought Bubble”. (Yes, now we can make our subjects talk, which is handier than one might imagine.)

I love these features, but Apple had a whole new annotations bar to work with and couldn’t fit them on it? Oh well, they’re not that hard to get to when you need them.

“Eight-by-ten Colored Glossy Photographs With Circles and Arrows and a Paragraph On The Back Of Each One Explaining What Each One Was”

(Sorry, but there was no way I was writing this article without the above reference.)

For me, the new tools have many uses:

  • My most recent cry for circles was when I did the image at the top of this article. The thought bubble would have taken 20 seconds with circles, but took a couple minutes because I had to make ovals circular, and occasionally started over when I wasn’t happy with the results.
  • Of course, I hadn’t even dreamed of the thought bubble actually being drawn for me, which is now the case.
  • As for lines, there are times I’d rather underline an item, but put a rectangle around it instead because lines were not an option.
  • I’ve already used the line thickness — along with a more neutral color — to draw over sensitive information in a screenshot I posted elsewhere.

In short, the new features will get a lot of use. Meanwhile, the occasional trip I made to Skitch will no longer be necessary. Skitch has now been retired; dead to me even before it was born (it’s still beta).

I could complain that I can’t create a new blank document, or duplicate an object, or group/ungroup items, but I think that would miss the point. I’d hate to see Preview’s speed and convenience sacrificed to make it more of a drawing program it doesn’t need to be.

Minor quibbles about implementation aside, the new Preview adds much-needed tools for better annotation of images. It’s not meant to be a “true” drawing program. Rather, I view the changes as Apple simply finishing the job they started in Leopard when they decided it would be useful for Preview to have markup tools. All this, and it’s faster, too. I’d call that a job well done.

Previous Articles in the Snow Leopard Discovery Series: