Also Macs have flaws

Posted 1/28/2014

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: its usability is amazing. 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

As a coder and writer, I have my hands on the keyboard. Always. Touch typing. In general, OSX cannot be controlled with the keyboard only, thus you are forced to switch between keyboard and mouse or 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-up 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, then the Finder window would pop up, you then have to drag the item from there and finally close the window afterwards.
  • Since OSX Lion, when opening a folder in a Finder window, there is no button to step up the folder hierarchy.
  • 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 MacBook 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 anymore, only display port. The old ones had at least DVI.

Something positive just to lighten up the post a bit: the power adapter is designed perfectly, plus every adapter fits every Mac, thus forgetting yours 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… Guess what, 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. Sadly 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 following justification: “Imagine you cut a file, continue working and finally forget you cut it. Then when you shutdown your computer… the file will be lost!” Hahaha, sorry, but that just too funny! :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 on—or double clicking the title bar of the window to maximize it as usually supported in other OSes.

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 be badmouthing Apple in general, I still consider Apple’s “computing products”—including MacBooks, iPhones, and iPads—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.