15 Things Apple Should Change in Mac OS X

Two of our top operating systems editors sound off

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12. Documents and App Instances on the Dock. The Dock does an excellent job of launching and tracking launched applications. Its only weakness is tracking launched document windows and program instances. While it is possible to right-click a running program on the Dock to see and select among open windows associated with that program, that's the only way you can check this -- and some applications don't support it. We'll say it again: Context menus should never be the only UI for accessing something. The Dock is elegant in all other regards, and even a little ingenious. But in this one way, it falls down.

11. Managing Window Size. Window management is tough enough without giving the user only one corner that he can drag to change the window's size. Microsoft Windows lets you drag any window edge on all four sides, in addition to dragging two sides at once from any of the four corners. There are times when dragging a single window side could eliminate two adjustments on the Mac: a window resize followed by a window move. When you've used both operating systems, it becomes clear that Mac window resizing is less convenient. On the other hand, the Windows way of doing things requires precision mouse control, which can also be tiresome.

Here's a thought that's simple and solves about 80% of the problem. What if Apple made both lower corners of Mac windows draggable? What if all four corners were? Either of those minor improvements would be quite welcome.

(See How to Make Mac OS X Better: Readers Show the Way for more on managing window size in OS X.)

10. Accessing Applications. The Dock offers a great way to show running applications and the programs you launch most often. But what about those applications you use only once in a while? The way it is now, you can either jam the Dock so full with program icons it's ridiculous or keep the Dock clean and then open a Finder window and drill down into the Applications folder to launch lesser-used apps. The previous generation Mac OS let you configure program launching on the Apple menu. While there are third-party solutions that give you back a semblance of that functionality, Apple needs to recognize this user need. (Reader Michael Cullison contributed to this pet peeve.)

What if, for example, the Dock could expand to show a second row (or column) of application icons? Some of us put the Application folder icon in the right side (or bottom) area of the Dock, which makes it easier to open the Application folder. And if you right-click the Application folder in that position, you'll see the contents of that folder in a pop-up menu. Perfecting that user experience and placing the Application folder on the Dock by default might be a good start.

(See How to Make Mac OS X Better: Readers Show the Way for more on accessing applications.)

9. Backspace and Delete Keys. The world holds millions and millions of computers that have Backspace (delete left) and Delete (delete right) keys. Most editors and writers who've been exposed to Windows notebook keyboards that have both of those keys can tell you that moving to a Mac notebook that has only a Backspace key (called "Delete" on the Mac) can be frustrating. Yes, yes, we know that Fn-Delete performs a delete-right operation. But that's not a good solution for touch typists.

The rest of the world long since accepted that IBM makes the best keyboards. Why can't Apple accept the standard in its notebooks? No one is complaining about the Apple key, for instance!

In case other ex-Windows users are frustrated by Mac notebook keyboards and especially the lack of a delete-right key, we highly recommend a freeware Preference Pane called DoubleCommand, written by Michael Baltaks.

Using this program we were able to transform the \ key to Delete forward. Holding down the Function key and pressing the key delivers the backslash symbol, so you haven't lost that ability. DoubleCommand also lets you make Shift-Delete perform a forward delete. There are many other adjustments you might like too.

Editor's Note: Yes, we're aware that item 9 is about Apple hardware, not Mac OS X. Indulge us.

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