OS X is a great OS for “newcomers” and “power users” alike. Almost inevitably it’s OS X’s user-friendliness that (deservedly) gets most the attention – printers just work, BSOD-style crashes are (almost) unheard of and drivers are such a non-issue, they’re practically invisible (they either just work, or they don’t).
But instead of focusing on the good, today we’ll be taking a look at the bad and (shock!) ugly areas of OS X that confuse far too many switchers…
1. DMG files and installing apps
DMG files are a semi-elegant solution to the problem of installing apps. The problem is they confuse every new switcher I’ve ever met. The problem is usually described to me like this:
Why does that white thingy keep showing up on my desktop when I launch insert appname?
OS X apps are usually distributed as disk image files: Once you double-click the .dmg, it opens the image, which in turns is “mounted” on your desktop. Normally a window is then opened displaying the application with an arrow pointing to an alias of your Applications folder. Simply drag the application onto the alias and it’s “installed” in the users apps folder.
Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong! What usually happens is the eager n00b launches the application from the disk image. Things are made worse by the fact that it’s usually perfectly fine to do so, the application will run as expected. But when the user restarts their Mac, the application has disappeared (the disk image is unmounted at shutdown). I usually end up using metaphors to explain them as “virtual USB thumbdrives” to explain the need to copy the application to the Application folder and once the concept is understood it’s a non-issue.
But you really shouldn’t need crappy metaphors to explain how to install an app…
–> Solution: Distribute applications as Zip files.
They are unpacked automatically by Safari and developers can add a check to see where the user has launched the application from and offer to copy it to the apps folder if required (Misu already does this). The advantage here is most users are familiar with zip files, plus there’s no need to explain disk images, mounting and unmounting of drives etc.
2. There’s no right-click!
Apple still ship all of their desktop and notebook Macs with just the left-click button enabled: That’s right – the Mighty mouse may be able to right-click, but it won’t do so until you dig around in the System Preferences and enable it. Notebook users are even worse off: They’re left to discover the Ctrl-click trick on their own by accident, or by asking around…
What’s worse: Apple does enable a different mouse button: Inexplicably the default setting for the scroll ball is for it to launch the Dashboard when depressed – usually causing confusion and bewilderment on the part of the user.
–> Solution: Apple ships a 2-button mouse with the iMac and Mac Pro – just enable it already!
(and maybe add a Macbook Air-style System Preferences video to clue in the mobile users…)
3. Where’s my Home folder?
There’s no obvious way to immediately open a user’s Home folder. The most obvious way is to click the harddrive icon that is normally visible in the top right corner of the desktop. But clicking that only gets you to the root of the harddrive – it takes an additional click to get to the home folder.
Clicking the Finder icon at the bottom left corner of the Dock will reveal the Home folder, but only if no other Finder windows are open. Otherwise it reveals one of those instead.
(I believe the same problem also applies to the Applications folder – the most “direct” way to get there is by opening another folder first)
Leopard alleviates this problem somewhat by adding a Home folder stack to the right side of the Dock, but that probably confuses the issue more than it helps.
–> Solution: Add an Home folder alias to the Desktop.
Most computer users treat the desktop as their main file storage location anyway, so adding a Home alias seems like a fairly simple solution.