I shared three of my Tiger wish-list items with you and asked for your feedback. And did Macworld.com readers ever respond. So now, with less than a week to go before Steve Jobs stands on the Moscone West stage and unveils Tiger, let’s take a look at your favorite features. I will be your guide and interpreter — so apologies to those whose ideas I have edited, expanded upon, or dropped.
Just as Apple’s new operating system features tend to fall into a few categories, so did your suggestions. Let’s take them in turn.
Some of you are, like me, big fans of Safari’s tabbed-browsing interface (or its equivalent in Camino and other browsers). So the suggestion of more tabbed interfaces in other places (like the Finder) seems a reasonable one. Although I’m a fan of Finder’s Icon View in several circumstances, one reader proposed killing it and replacing it with a more useful, tile-based interface. I say the Mac OS is a big enough tent to support both interface elements. Let’s leave the Icon View alone.
It’s easy to call a new interface suggestion “interesting” without actually ruminating on just what might be required to pull it off. The most “interesting” suggestion I received was this: A two-line menu bar “with each program’s menus always visible, and appearing next to each other in blocks,” thereby eliminating the need to show running apps in the Dock. I can’t picture it, but I appreciate the vision of the person who came up with it.
A cool new feature suggestion was on-the-fly file conversion. In other words, if you change the file “image.jpg” into “image.pdf”, OS X would convert the image on the fly. Sounds like a good idea, although I’m not quite sure I’d want the operating system making file-format decisions without my input. (For example, who would decide the quality settings if I converted a TIFF into a GIF or JPEG?)
One intriguing request a reader made was that Apple integrate its Xgrid shared-processing technology with the core OS. Does that mean that if I’m surfing the Web while my colleague is working in Photoshop, they could steal my processor power for uses? Wow. That’s a technology that could make me productive without actually being productive. I like it.
A bunch of you have been paying attention to what Windows XP does, and want some of that action for your own selves. Among the suggestions: improvements to the Open and Save dialog boxes to allow file renaming and deletion, the ability to view the full file path of a Finder window (and edit it if you want to view a different location), and the addition of a useful contextual menu beneath the Finder, featuring a set of informative submenus much like Windows’ own Start menu.
Readers also recommended letting the Finder display MP3 tag information for music files, like Windows and the late BeOS. One reader again put me in the mind of the BeOS when he suggested an integrated database to store all data — basically taking the Address Book database and going to town with it.
Hey, it worked for iTunes, so why not for Ambrosia’s and Wincent Colaiuta’s, too? Granted, Apple could probably just write its own integrated-search widget into Mac OS X, and could probably design expanded iTunes controls and a floating status palette on its own. But kudos to readers for recommending that Apple not copy the work of these fine Mac developers, but simply use a fraction of its large cash reserves to buy the software outright.
In the general-improvement category comes a second-generation Labels suggestion: have the colors of labeled files show up in the sidebar and Dock. Readers also wanted more built-in support for Linux technologies, including perhaps adding in some simple mySQL tools like the ones found in Mac OS X Server. Other requests include full 64-bit memory access for all applications, spring-loaded folders in the Dock, more intelligent multitasking of Finder copies, the ability to empty the Trash on specific volumes, and the ability to actually perform finds that include the contents of the Trash.
Readers also expressed interest in better voice control of the operating system, the ability for the Finder to burn CDs and DVDs that PCs can actually read, and a transmutation of pop-up error messages into an iChat-style list of errors and other system info.
Finally, although some readers want to protect third-party developers such as the aforementioned Ambrosia and Wincent, other readers would like to see full FTP support in the Finder, thereby putting the screws to the makers of Fetch, Interarchy, Transmit, and a whole host of other Mac FTP clients. Now, is that fair?
Every new OS X update comes with improvements to bundled applications such as iCal and Mail. Readers would like to see the iCal icon in the Dock actually display the correct date at all times, not only when it’s running; much more integration between the forgotten Sherlock and the rest of Apple’s included applications; and numerous improvements to Safari, especially tab control over form elements. And while I’m at it, shouldn’t long pop-up lists in Web browser windows display in a pop-up scrolling list, and not a gotta-hold-your-mouse-down menu picker? If you’ve ever scrolled through a list of 100 items in a Web form pop-up, you know the correct answer is yes.
As always, some favorite features in Mac OS 9 come up again and again. Someone — I think it was me — opened the floodgates with a request for Location Manager. Let’s follow that up with a customizable “Go” menu that replaces the old Apple menu but doesn’t require any third-party add-ons to do the job. A return to the Users and Groups control panel was advocated from some quarters as a sensible way to make it much easier to control file sharing and permissions on your home network. And while you’re at it, Apple, why not bring back the File Sharing Monitor so we can see who’s out there perusing our hard drives?
Finally, people are still asking for a windowshade feature within the Mac OS. Apparently there are times when third-party utilities that just aren’t enough. (Although I’d love to see the “minimize in place” feature, once a part of an early version of Jaguar, finally make its appearance in Mac OS X proper.)
This is only a small summary of to my original wish list. If you’ve got comments or more suggestions, feel free to make them in the previously-mentioned thread or the comment thread attached to this item. In any event, we’ll know a whole lot more about what’s in Tiger in less than a week. Stay tuned.