In the latest build of Mac OS X — the one demoed by Apple CEO Steve Jobs at this month’s Macworld San Francisco — all the major components of the user interface were affected in one way or another, Chris Bourdon, Apple’s Mac OS X product marketing manager, Mac OS X, told MacCentral.
While we looked at these features in our Jan. 25
“Road to Mac OS X” column, Bourdon provided more info on the changes to the next generation operating system. He offered details on the revamped Apple Menu, Dock, and Finder.
The Apple Menu has returned, although — to paraphrase an ad slogan — it’s not your father’s menu. When Mac OS X arrives on March 24, you can go to the Apple Menu to accomplish tasks that previously required a trip to the Finder, such as Sleep, Restart, and Shutdown. You’ll also be able to log-out, force quit, and access preferences for the System and Dock from the menu. However, contrary to some reports, including ours, you won’t be able to customize the Mac OS X Apple Menu.
“For some time now, the Apple Menu has been a dumping ground for what people didn’t know where to put elsewhere,” Bourdon said. “Now that we’ve moved so much of that to the Dock, the Apple Menu has taken on a new purpose: to provide system wide functionality, such as shutting down, logging out, and restarting. It didn’t make a lot of sense for the Finder to be the place where all of these things are handled. In the Apple Menu, you can take care of them anytime since the Apple Menu is always available.”
Though there’s now a “Recent Items” item, you can’t add items to the Apple Menu as you can with Mac OS 9. That functionality is now in the Dock, Bourdon said. Speaking of the Dock, it has gotten popup window functionality.
With popup window functionality implemented, you can click on and hold an icon in the Dock to get a list of the item’s contents and navigate through them. For instance, if you click on a drive or folder icon, you can navigate through its contents via menus. And you can drag and drop items from several folders deep in these product menus.
However, you can’t take a file from a Finder window or the Desktop, drag it to a Dock icon, and navigate through those new pop-ups to the place you want to move it to. Bourdon said the Dock lets you add to the top level of a folder, but its popup window functionality doesn’t include the “spring loaded” feature of the traditional Mac OS. However, that’s something that Apple would look into, he said.
“The Dock has solidified into all the things we intended it to be,” Bourdon said. “I think people realize that Apple has listened and put in the things they wanted. The Dock allows you to do 80 percent of everything you do most frequently. Most of the things of the past have been integrated and brought together in a more intuitive and natural way. The things people expected from the Apple Menu and Application Menu are now in the Dock.”
The OS X Finder has also seen some major tweaks since the public beta. You can use its default “X-ish” design or make it work more like the traditional Mac Finder.
“The Finder is the way that most of us peer into our computer, the way we get access to the hard drive, AppleShare servers, an iDisk, and more,” Bourdon said. “And most people loved the way you can navigate in the OS X Finder. It was very well received by those using the public beta. However, people said the toolbar was too big, so it’s now about two-thirds the size it used to be.”
What’s more, users will be able to customize the toolbar via a palette of objects that can be drag and dropped onto it. When you choose the Customize Toolbar command in the Finder’s Application menu, the Finder will offer a palette of commands and folders (including New Folder, Back, View options, Eject, Find, Connect to Server), Customize, and any that you’ve made) and you can drag ’em to the toolbar. Clicking on the icon executes the related command. You can also restore the default set of commands and folders.
For instance, you could add a status bar if you prefer to show things like the number of items, available space on a disk, etc. You’ll be able to add your own commands and folders, and decide whether they’re shown as text only, icons only, or both.
What’s more, you’ll be able to click on a new, white button on the far right of a window to collapse the tool bar. Do so and you’ll be left with a Finder-style window and be able to open new windows just like the current operating system does.
“It offers a lot of flexibility,” Bourdon said. “If you like the way the OS X Finder naturally operates, you’ve got it. If you prefer the old way, that’s available to you.”
Doubtless there will still be many more changes to the next generation operating system before it hits stores on March 24. But for those non-developers who want to get our hands on the latest build or a revamped public beta, sorry. It’s not going to happen.
“We’re really working full bore right now on the final, full release,” Bourdon said.