Rebuild the core Mac applications

26. december, 2012 — 2 Comments

I started on the Macintosh computer because of the software. I guess a lot people get the Mac for the exquisitely designed hardware. That wasn’t the case for me.

It was a Macworld demonstration by Steve jobs of the Leopard OS X that did it. The giant leap that was Leopard made me long for a WIN-to-Mac conversion.

The Macintosh platform of the time had industry-standard applications at the core.

The basic OS came with a calendar, mail and contacts suite, and the iLife suite for photos and movies and stuff. You could add the cheap iWork suite, with the brilliant Keynote app for a bargain price, and then you were all set.

And all these great core applications were made by Apple.

At the time, I would have said that Apple did some of the best software on the Macintosh. I think, this has changed.

Apple has shifted it’s focus somewhere else. And as a result, I think the Mac is getting less amazing. While Apple has been preoccupied with iCloud integration these core applications have been neglected and have fallen behind.

The core applications for OS X

I do ordinary office work most of the time at work. You know… emails and meetings and writing stuff and presenting. I also have special applications for coding and designing, but these are special for my specific work.

For my basic workflow I depend on a lot of Apple applications to get stuff done.

I consider this list of apps essential for my basic workflow:

  • Finder
  • Calendar (replaced by Google Calendar)
  • Address Book
  • Mail (replaced by Sparrow)
  • Safari (replaced by Chrome)
  • Numbers
  • Keynote
  • Pages
  • iPhoto
  • Spotlight

I would like this list to get a lot more attention by Apple. They have been an area of Apple dominance for long, and as a consequence there are few independent third party developers developing these kind of apps. It’s Apple territory.

Neglect of core Apple apps on OS X

I am not gonna write about skeumorphism. Much has been written by others about this shameless hooker-make-up that has defaced OS X. I really don’t like it.

I am more troubled by the way the Apps on the Mac hasn’t evolved. Hell… Keynote hasn’t had a major update in four years!

Take Calendar… Nothing has significantly improved my calendar experience on the Mac in the eight years I have used this. Actually I would say that the calendar experience has become worse, as I have come to rely more an more on integration with all kinds of online calendars. The syncing can’t keep up to date with my needs. In the calendar arena Busycal and Fantastical are taking the lead, but are still rather limited in their offerings.

I also miss development of Address Book to cope with my ever-growing list of contacts. Couldn't we have something less primitive? Common interface inventions like ”mouse-over-to-copy” would be so useful, instead of selecting and copying.


The iCloud integration of Address Book has been useful, but now my spotlight can’t open the iCloud embedded contacts directly anymore. Perhaps it's just a bug on my system?

I miss the user-focused innovations that amazed me once. Like the data-detectors in Mail introduced with Leopard for instance, that would let you add contact data in a mail signature as a new contact in Address Book.

A loss of focus

The whole iCloud-iOS-OS X integration is a bold vision. Sometime in the future this might become amazing.

But right now I really can’t mention any iCloud functionality besides contact syncing, that has improved my computer experience.

I especially refrain from using iCloud based syncing in my iWork apps for a number of reasons.

File placement: I actually LIKE having my files sorted in folders for the same projects - so I have a spreadsheet, a document and a couple of pictures together. NOT in invisible folders somewhere only accessible by the application that created them.

Sync deterioration: The iCloud syncing have only worked flawlessly when I have stayed within some unknown boundary of the functionally, or some specific set of fonts. It was an annoying experience to create an iOS Numbers spreadsheet, with star-ratings and input forms, only to see these disappear after having opened it on my Mac. Not something I’m keen to try again anytime soon.

No collaboration: If I’m not using Google Docs then collaborating on documents on the Mac means collaborating on files put in Dropbox. iCloud offers no kind of collaboration, and even though this might improve over time, I bet this will be with other Mac users only.

Collaboration is becoming a major issue. How can Apple neglect this aspect of modern day productivity on the computer?

Instead of added productivity iCloud has introduced an annoying host of inconsistencies and nuisances in the UX. For instance… I open up Keynote. Instead of a new document, I now have to decide whether to put it in iCloud or on my Computer. This is just totally annoying. Until Apple reaches it’s goal to make away the file system, we’re apparently going to struggle with a double file system :(

Be part of the rest of the computer world

There was a time when Apple worried about being able to integrate with external parties like Microsoft Exchange, making the Mac a great choice for business users as well. In this way I find my self looking back and thinking, was Snow Leopard the high watermark of the OS X platform?

I rely on my Mac to do work in a business environment. This means working together and sharing work with people whether they are on Macs or not. Hell… my wife uses a PC.

Now as Apple is alienating itself from other companies these integrations to other network services seems to be of low priority.

I would like Apple to drop apps with limited practical use, unless everyone in your surroundings use a newly updated Mac. Who cares that I can share a file over Airdrop with users who has a sparkling new Mac and open access to file sharing. And you can put FaceTime on this list as well.

My wish for 2013 is for Apple to refocus on a lot fewer applications on OS X. Perhaps it would be an idea to regroup to the original Apple territory in apps. Leave reminders, notes for third party devs. And give the core Macintosh applications some love please.

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Jens Poder

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2 responses to Rebuild the core Mac applications

  1. I couldn't agree with you more about this. I've also been a user of OSX for many years and it's crazy that some of their programs have had such small updates. I do love the new iTunes experience, and Mail does what I need it to do for the most part. I would love to see Safari become a more reliable browser, I also choose Chrome over Safari because it's just faster for me.

    Another issue that you bring up is iCloud. I consider myself a pretty tech-savvy person. I'm a graphic designer so I use all kinds of different programs and I'm also a web designer so I know HTML and CSS, but I just find iCloud confusing. Syncing my iPhone to it, or too my iMac? I rather have it synced to my iMac so I have the files right? Saving a txt file in Text Editor or updating a Keynote presentation, I want those files on my system by default.

  2. Hi Jason. Thank you for stopping by.

    I think it'll be really interesting to see whether there's a real practical use for iCloud, outside photo, music and contact syncing. I mean... even omnigroup is inventing their own sync-mechanism.

    On the lack of updates. Perhaps it's just more marketing driven at the moment. Better to add new features instead of perfecting old ones. Oh no... I see the future of OS X it's... Microsoft Office. The horror. The horror :)

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