Mac flaws — hardware and software

I start­ed this list about four years ago when I first got in touch with OSX and the hype around it. The usu­al claim: it’s great usabil­i­ty. But it’s not that dif­fi­cult to spot seri­ous usabil­i­ty issues. There are not that many — so it’s worth mak­ing a list (as opposed to oth­er sys­tems ;)), but it should show clear­ly: OSX has a great user expe­ri­ence (aka UX), which is the actu­al and under­stand­able rea­son for the hype — but that must not be mixed up with usabil­i­ty.

Missing features

In gen­er­al, OSX can not be con­trolled with the key­board only, thus you are forced to switch between key­board and mouse/touchpad reg­u­lar­ly.

Using keyboard to control OS X

  • No delete key on the Apple lap­top key­board (only back­space and Fn+backspace to sim­u­late the delete key)
  • No key to show the con­text menu on a cur­rent­ly select­ed item; but some func­tion­al­i­ties are part of the con­text menu only. My new com­put­er (Lenovo) does not have a con­text menu key either–following the exam­ple of Apple??
  • Alert box­es that are not part of a run­ning appli­ca­tion can not be focused using Cmd+Tab or Cmd+<>, thus, it’s not pos­si­ble to send them away with the key­board once they lost the focus.
  • When using find­er in tree mode and insert­ing a copied file, it will always be put in the root fold­er instead of the fold­er the user has high­light­ed; only the con­text menu’s entry “paste item” does that as expect­ed but is not acces­si­ble via key­board.
  • When delet­ing an item from a list using Cmd+Backspace the cur­sor gets reset to the top­most posi­tion in the list instead of mov­ing to the pre­vi­ous or next item, thus mak­ing it very frus­trat­ing to clean a large, dis­trib­ut­ed set of items from a long list

Thus, work­ing with key­board only (which is the most effi­cient way while cod­ing) is almost impos­si­ble. 🙁

Point and Click Interface

  • No con­text menu (right click menu) in menus like “Down­loads” in the launcher bar, there­fore it is not pos­si­ble to open a docx file in OpenOf­fice instead of Microsoft Office)
  • Only since OSX Lion files can be dragged and dropped from the “spot light” quick start menu. Before, e.g. to use the spot light to search a doc­u­ment to be send via Skype it was nec­es­sary to click “Show all” first -> Find­er win­dow pops up -> drag item from there + close win­dow after­wards.
  • When open­ing a fold­er in a find­er win­dow, there is no but­ton to step up the fold­er hier­ar­chy since OSX Lion.
  • Mul­ti­ple selec­tions aren’t sup­port­ed in menus such as Down­loads. Imag­ine you down­load­ed sev­er­al files, now you want to move them to a par­tic­u­lar fold­er. So you either drag and drop each sep­a­rate­ly or you open up an addi­tion­al find­er win­dow, nav­i­gate to “Down­load” sort the results by date and then drag and drop the lat­est files.
  • When open­ing an image in the pre­view, it is not pos­si­ble to for­ward to the next image in the same fold­er. Instead, the user is required to select all images in the find­er win­dow and then open them in the pre­view to be able to skim trough them. But mul­ti­ple selec­tion is not sup­port­ed every­where (see above). 


Despite that my Mac Book is called “Pro” it’s lack­ing basic pro fea­tures.

  • There is no dock­ing sta­tion avail­able
  • There is no way to have a back-up bat­tery as the bat­tery is sol­dered in
  • I always need to car­ry the dis­play adapters because it does not have any stan­dard sock­et any more (the old ones had at least DVI), only dis­play port.
  • Just for the list: the pow­er adapter is designed per­fect­ly, plus every adapter fits every Mac, thus for­get­ting your’s at home is not such a big thing! That’s great, no doubt about it.

Usability Mistakes

  • Cmd+W clos­es a win­dow (e.g. a browser tab), Cmd+Q quits the entire appli­ca­tion… The keys for Q and W are just exact­ly next to each oth­er on every key­board and there­fore it’s easy to hit Cmd+Q acci­den­tal­ly. Said­ly it’s the same for Lin­ux and sim­i­lar for Microsoft Win­dows: Ctrl+F4 vs. Alt+F4.
  • The “cut-and-paste” par­a­digm is not sup­port­ed (FYI, in an Apple user forum I read a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion as fol­lows: “Imag­ine you cut a file, con­tin­ue work­ing and final­ly for­get you cut it. Then when you shut­down your com­put­er… the file will be lost!” :D)
  • Mak­ing a win­dow fullscreen size can be very tedious because of two rea­sons: the “+” but­ton in the upper left does not max­i­mize the win­dow hor­i­zon­tal­ly (it gets widen to a width OSX “con­sid­ers” rea­son­able) plus there is only a sin­gle resize grip on each win­dow in the low­er right. Thus, it requires pre­cise mov­ing and scal­ing of the win­dow to get it fullscreen — instead of hav­ing just a but­ton to click — or dou­ble click­ing the title bar of the win­dow to max­i­mize it as usu­al­ly sup­port­ed in oth­er OS.

One ques­tion remains: With respect to finan­cial suc­cess, is UX more impor­tant than usabil­i­ty and util­i­ty?
Accord­ing to this list and the suc­cess of Apple (though it seems the peak has been passed) the answer is yes.
Also, this list is not meant to bad­mouth Apple in gen­er­al, I still con­sid­er Apple’s “com­put­ing prod­ucts” (includ­ing Mac Books, iPhone, and iPad) to be some of the best hard­ware-soft­ware com­bi­na­tions avail­able today, though, I def­i­nite­ly prefer my Crunch­Bang for being super fast and slim, effi­cient, high­ly con­fig­urable, com­plete­ly con­trol­lable via the key­board, and open source! 🙂

p.s. I stopped using OSX at ver­sion “Snow Leop­ard” at the end of 2012 so I might miss the lat­est fea­tures.

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