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In Depth: OS XI: what we’d like to see

CNETAnalysis: Every major new version of the Mac’s operating system brings with it a slew of changes. Sometimes, these are for the better. We remember when Quick Look first arrived and how comparatively naked a Mac felt that had yet to be updated to Leopard. However, there’s also the dark side to operating system upgrades. Occasionally, things will change and you’ll prefer how they were before. In part, this will be due to getting stuck in your ways, but sometimes it’ll be because Apple’s new way of doing things is actually a bit rubbish. Now and again, you’ll also discover that Apple’s entirely removed a feature that you loved using, turning your upgrade into something more akin to a ‘side-grade’ or even a step backwards. OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion review In this feature, we explore the ten things we think Apple could do to OS X that would make it a better operating system as we – presumably – move towards the 11th version of Mac OS. However, some of these enhancements could, of course, appear in OS X 10.9 and so this feature could equally be called OS X 10.9: what we’d like to see. We’ve included changes to existing features, entirely new ideas and the return of some old favourites, plus the opinions of two interface experts. Make a better Finder The heart of OS X’s interface is in dire need of a makeover Finder is an application so invisible that many Mac users forget it’s an application at all. And yet you’ll use it daily to find and manage documents and files. Finder used to have a reputation for being unstable and buggy, but those problems have largely been dealt with as OS X has matured. However, Finder remains a fairly basic file-manager, offering a handful of views and a sidebar that rapidly fills with items, the icons for which are all the same colour, making it difficult to tell them apart at a glance. Despite those issue! s, Finder nonetheless remains a suitable (if uninspiring) file manager for the majority of people who own a Mac. But it could be better, especially if Apple embraced features that add-ons and alternatives offer. Both TotalFinder and Path Finder provide tabbed browsing and dual-pane views. Tabbed browsing is a great way to reduce Finder window clutter – you can have every open window within a single tabbed pane if you like, or work with multiple tabbed windows, perhaps defined by context. For example, if you’re working on a few projects, you could have a tabbed Finder window for each, so locating related files is easier.A dual-pane mode then makes it simpler to move files between folders. Such changes would benefit Finder but should be optional; relative novices would never have to see them, but ‘power users’ could revel in the increased functionality. We also wouldn’t say no to cut-and-paste, file tagging, and a drop stack for temporarily holding a file during move actions. Dismantle iTunes It’s time for this Jack of all trades to be master of some We remember how revolutionary and exciting iTunes was when it first appeared, back in 2001. Over a decade ago, digital music was still a novelty and apps dedicated to playing MP3s were aimed at the geekier end of the market. But when iTunes arrived, it was simple and elegant, enabling you to rip, mix and burn. (Now we just activate ‘Shuffle’ mode.) Fast forward a few years and iTunes gained support for Apple’s new iPods and smart playlists, and an integrated music store was added. The problem is, these additions never stopped. Today, iTunes is a bloated monster, tasked with too many jobs and dealing with too many media types. It’s still a jukebox but also houses TV shows, films, podcasts, ebooks and apps. It’s used for managing iOS devices and has a rather naff social network, Ping, lurking like a bad smell. The one-size-fits-all interface is the antithesis of Apple’s own design and UI et! hos, requ! iring plug-ins to add functionality and tutorials so people can actually use it properly. The single search engine can be frustratingly obdurate unless you know the precise name of the thing you’re looking for and, let’s be honest, even the name iTunes is now hugely inappropriate. We’d like to see Apple take a leaf from iOS here (as it appears to be doing elsewhere, judging by Lion and Mountain Lion) and break iTunes into individual apps: Music, Videos, iBooks, iTunes (the store), and so on. It wouldn’t be an easy task, and Apple having to support Windows as well suggests it won’t happen, but we can dream… Revamp the desktop Why not make the desktop more like a real desktop The OS X desktop is an oddball. It’s really a folder inside your Mac’s file system, living at /Desktop, and yet you can put hard drive links on it, along with aliases to folders, and pretty much anything else. It’s all too easy for the desktop to become a dumping ground for anything that’s not been filed; we regularly make such a mess that unearthing any one file is nigh-on impossible, especially once there’s not enough space to display all of the file icons. With the advent of Spaces and latterly Mission Control, you do have some flexibility over how you view your applications, and store files for easy access, but it still feels like there’s more to be had from the basic desktop paradigm. We’re not sure what we want Apple to do here, though. Part of us wants it to just go whole-hog with Launchpad and make that the desktop, while another part of us wants Apple to make the desktop more intelligent. Instead of it being a flat area to randomly dump files and folders, Apple could provide user-definable areas akin to an in-tray and an out-tray. Each area would be ‘rubber-banded’ so you’d need a distinct effort to move a file to a different area (but without the need for a dialog box). This would turn the OS X desktop into a digital equivalent of pi! les of st! uff on a real desk, but with the ability to move things around without the hassle of real-world folders. With Quick Look and a ‘mini’ Expos

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