macOS 10.14: Improvements that Apple’s Mac operating system could use

Apple’s primed to launch a new version of macOS in a couple weeks, and Dan Moren has a few improvements he’d like to see to the venerable OS.

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It’s that time of the year when we pull out our prognosticating hats—you were issued yours, right?—and try to imagine what Apple might announce a couple of weeks hence when they take the stage at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference.

The main event at WWDC is generally the future of Apple’s software platforms, most crucially macOS and iOS. So, with that in mind, it’s time to whip out that old standby: features that Apple’s platforms still need.

This week we’ll start with macOS, which just celebrated an important milestone, as the current generation of macOS (formerly OS X and Mac OS X) has now been shipping as long as the classic Mac OS was when Mac OS X first arrived on the scene. Seems like only yesterday, doesn’t it? 

After 17-plus years, it’s gotten harder to come up with features that macOS still needs: our Macs are amazingly capable devices. And rumor has it that this year may be more in the vein of a Snow Leopard-style maintenance release than chock-a-block with new features. Still, there are a few areas that Apple could stand to focus some much-needed attention.

Make Mail and Calendar more productive

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One of the great things about the macOS is that it’s replete with fantastic third-party alternatives to many of Apple’s own built-in apps. But close integration with the OS and the fact that Apple’s apps are pre-installed and free means that a lot of people end up sticking with the first-party options.

Mail, in particular, is an aging app that could use a top-to-bottom refresh. While Apple does tend to roll out one or two new Mail features in every macOS release—last year it was a new Top Hits display in search—the app could use a little more substantial love. Plenty of competitors, including Google’s web-based Gmail, have added smarter features, using algorithms to sort out junk mail, mailing lists, flight confirmations, and so on. With the current deluge of privacy policy updates, such a feature would be more than welcome. Not to mention other commonly-used features, like setting reminders on emails, timed sending of emails, and—dare I even suggest—an option for end-to-end encryption.

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The same goes for Calendar. I have a bunch of calendars that I maintain, some of which have redundant information on them. It’d be great if Calendar were smart enough to condense that into a single event with tags to indicate that it lived on multiple calendars, rather than squeezing in three copies of the exact same event. I’d also like to see it provide an option to condense the blank space within individual days—I don’t need to see all the time where I’m not doing anything.

Play around with iTunes and QuickTime Player

Speaking of apps that need improvement. Oh, iTunes.

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I’ll admit that iTunes has become less relevant to me in the last few years, thanks to a few factors. For one, I don’t subscribe to Apple Music. For another, the mostly self-sufficient nature of iOS devices means that I rarely have to connect one to my Mac to transfer data. And most of my interactions with the iTunes Store now happen on iOS or on my Apple TV.

But iTunes is still an important app, and it could use a tweak or two. The drop-down menu that has you choose what media you’re looking for combined with the sub-menu interface for choosing whether you’re viewing your own library or the iTunes Store is unnecessarily cumbersome. It’s also time to excise the iOS App Store and send it to the App Store app instead—focus iTunes on playing media and playing it well.

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While we’re on the subject of media, a word about QuickTime Player. Since Apple’s architecture decisions will have the end effect of leaving QuickTime Pro 7 in the dust, it’s time for the company to finally beef up the editing and utility options of QuickTime Player X. Being able to copy and paste sections of media, extract separate tracks, adjust playback speed, and so on would all be welcome additions. Plus an option for playback controls that don’t overlay on the media you’re trying to watch would please more than a few folks.

Odds and ends

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Also on my wishlist: better systemwide support for animated GIFs.

These are just a few of the big areas that Apple could focus on, but there are plenty of smaller examples as well. Control of HomeKit devices, for example: why can’t I turn my smart lights on and off just like I can on iOS? Better systemwide support for animated GIFs would be on my list as well: I know it’s an old format, but the internet’s given it new life, and they seem to only be supported in some apps and at some times. And, for heaven’s sake, bring us a Photos update that lets us drag-and-drop pictures from it into other apps.

Yes, the Mac is getting older and it’s not as popular as the iPhone or iPad. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t deserve some attention. Apple executive Phil Schiller once told my colleague Jason Snell that “the Mac keeps going forever,” and hopefully it just keeps getting better along the way.

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