Things that kinda suck about Apple/Mac

[ Apple Icon ] I dove into the world of Apple/Mac over five years ago. Overall I think it’s a huge step up from anything Windows related, but there are some things that I feel kinda suck about Mac OS X and Apple products in general. This post rounds up some of my thoughts, hopefully to help promote discussion and encourage some much-needed improvement.

Things I love about Mac

Before jumping into the downsides, first let me share some things that I think are awesome about Mac and it’s operating system, OS X, compared to Win/PC and based on my own personal experience:

  • Way fewer functional issues (like crashing, bugs, etc.)
  • Way fewer security issues (like spyware, malware, torjans, etc.)
  • Way more apps available, many for free or at much lower cost
  • More control over core functionality (e.g., no mandatory updates)
  • More refined and intuitive workflow, behavior, and appearance
  • Streamlined physical/structural design is solid and appealing
  • Updated to add: the Mac user community — the comments on this post remind me of the helpfulness and awesomeness the Mac community

While your experience with these things may vary, they represent some of the main reasons why I think switching to Mac was one of the best work moves I’ve ever made.

Still better than Windows

I used Windows from around 1995 to 2010, and continue using emulated versions of the various Windows incarnations. So I have plenty of experience using that nightmare of an operating system. Actually I used to rock tuff on Windows 95 & 98/SE, and even enjoyed XP for the most part. But since then, Windows has just gone downhill completely. Instead of making their successful operating systems better, they started to change stuff just for the sake of making things “different”. Bad decisions like hiding/removing important menu items, requiring users to respond constantly to annoying dialogs, mandatory updates, and disabling/removing advanced features just really ruined the whole Windows experience.

So needless to say, switching over to Mac, I was thrilled at the intuitive interface, ease of use, stability, speed, and general “feel” of OS X and its many apps. Just smooth and enjoyable all around.

So delighted with Apple products, I eventually bought an iPhone, picked up an iPad, and grabbed all sorts of other “cool” Apple products and apps. I remember somewhere around 2013 or so realizing how immersed in Apple products and services my life had become. And the weird thing was, for the most part, I didn’t really mind the immersion. It benefited my workflow and enhanced my leisure time.

But since then, I’ve been noticing more and more things about Apple/Mac that really are not so great. Things that make the whole Apple experience much less enjoyable, practical, and awesome. So a few years ago, I started a list of things that I think kinda suck about Apple and/or Mac. Here are the results of that effort, broken down into two sections: Mac/OS X and Apple stuff in general.

Things that suck about Mac/OS X

The following list was put together over several years using the following machines:

  • 2010 iMac, running OS X 10.6.8
  • 2011 MacBook Air, running OS X 10.6.8
  • 2015 MacBook Pro, running 10.10

Since obtaining these machines, the majority of my time has been spent using 10.6.8 “Snow Leopard”. Ironically, 99% of my grievances with Max/OS X were born after upgrading to 10.11 “El Capitan”. Even upgrading the MacBook Pro from 10.10 “Yosemite” to 10.11 leaves me with regrets. But we all push forward, right? Even if the experience isn’t nearly as great. Having “stuck it out” with 10.11 for a few months now, everything works sort of well enough I guess, but I really miss the rock-solid performance provided by 10.6 Leopard. Here are my thoughts..

Mac OS X 10.6.8

Only three things really bothered me with Leopard:

  • Hidden files like .DS_Store auto-created all over the place
  • Three finger shortcut required to paste/move a cut item (Cmd + Opt + V)
  • No screenshot button; have to four-finger yoga stretch (Shift + Ctrl + Cmd + 3)

And these grievances persist in OS X 10.11, but I’m pretty sure they’re an inherent part of how OS X works, so that’s just “the way it is”. Until OS X 10.11, you could install an incredible app called TotalFinder to add simple cut/paste shortcuts (and make Finder rock in general), but sadly the app does not work with 10.11.

So other than these minor quibbles, I find OS X 10.6 to be fast, error free, and just all-around awesome. Honestly could not be happier with Leopard.

Mac OS X 10.11

Ahh, Capitan. How long shall we put up with you? After using Leopard for years happily and without issue, El Capitan felt like a major downgrade. Like a step backward. Like a beta product. Rather than rant and rave, here is my working list of specific, tangible things that need some serious improvement in OS X 10.11.

  • Aesthetically, the “flat” look is cheap and boring compared to the refined details of 10.6. For example the dock now is just a plain slab, whereas before it was slick, detailed, and well-styled
  • On the login screen sometimes the mouse is not recognized
  • Keyboard character repeat via long key presses no longer works by default
  • Can’t see the desktop beneath the Dashboard, so calculator basically is useless
  • Dumbed down Preferences with many missing options (e.g., Mouse, Bluetooth, et al)
  • Removed ability to disable Bluetooth discoverability while leaving Bluetooth enabled. So now it’s “all or nothing”.
  • Programs like Photoshop seem to load much slower than before
  • Firefox feels sluggish, especially when it comes to loading tabs, pages etc.
  • Endless “low batteries” warnings for keyboard and mouse. The stupid nags start appearing days or sometimes weeks before they are necessary and take up valuable screen space. So tedious dismissing them every 10 minutes. Wish there was a way to disable them completely.
  • No more Secure Empty Trash
  • Lots of weird permissions problems and errors when working with more than one drive (e.g., “can’t copy paste El file to USB Drive, error (0)”)
  • Many seemingly arbitrary folders are not writable after transferring from external drive, need to enter password to move each item
  • Hidden files like .DS_Store auto-created all over the place
  • Three finger shortcut required to paste/move a cut item (Cmd + Opt + V)
  • No screenshot button; have to four-finger yoga stretch (Shift + Ctrl + Cmd + 3)
  • Takes a LOT longer to restart with 10.11; 10.6 was like almost immediate, now it takes over a minute to fully reboot and load the desktop
  • In 10.6 I could disable the annoying startup sound using sudo nvram SystemAudioVolume=%10, now in 10.11 that doesn’t work
  • Hiding of specific folders (e.g. /Library/ has to be shown via View Options)
  • New TextEdit documents have a giant margin on all four edges; it doesn’t go away until after you save, close, and then re-open. In Leopard, this wasn’t the case and so was much cleaner/easier.
  • The “Updates Available” nag is the WORST. Provides no option to dismiss completely. Only options are “Update Now” or “Update Later”. Condescending, degrading, and incovenient. Thanks Apple.
  • Finder is completely ruined (details given below)

Granted, some of these issues are subjective. But it is, after all, a list based on my own personal experience. It’s totally fine if you disagree 100%. Everyone has an opinion, especially when it comes to Tech. And again, these issues should be taken within the context of having switched from an older version of OS X that, in my opinion, stands head and shoulders above the “latest and greatest”, El Capitan.

OS X 10.11 Finder

Saving the best worst for last: Finder. I can’t express my disbelief at how much worse Finder is in 10.11. After five OS X updates, how on earth is it possible that Finder is so much horribly worse than it was five years ago? I mean, what happened?

Here is my beef with Finder in OS X El Capitan:

  • Random crashes, like when trying to copy files from external drive
  • Slower loading than in 10.6
  • Inconsistent vertical spacing between files in column view
  • The download status bar on downloaded files gets stuck
  • The “Open with” menu option doesn’t always load the list of apps when right-clicking on a file; instead it says “fetching..”
  • Before I could sort my files alphabetically by type, but no longer possible
  • Can’t display items with folders always on top
  • The Item Arrangement (view options) frequently is forgotten (e.g., View by File Type)
  • Default sidebar width is waay too narrow, so needs to be adjusted for every tab
  • Sidebar width is not remembered, so have to readjust constantly
  • Tab/column widths are not remembered, so have to readjust constantly
  • View by File Type display is wasteful, requiring way too much vertical space (like we need OS X to tell us that our folders are “Folders” and that our mp3s are “Music”, lol.
  • Entire Finder window disappears randomly (e.g., downloaded files)
  • Can’t remove added folders from the sidebar
  • Can’t start typing a folder/file name immediately or it skips the first one or two letters; on 10.6.8 I could go very quickly with no problems
  • TotalFinder app no longer works; used to supercharge Finder with 100% awesome
  • The Save/Open dialogue (like for Save As, Open File, etc.) will not remember it’s previous size/position. Have to constantly resize it every single time (ugh).

Basically, Finder sucks in 10.11: it’s slow, buggy, and just a huge step backward. And that’s unfortunate because Finder plays a central role for most users. It’s like the central nervous system, giving control to users and enabling them to manage and maneuver their folders and files with the utmost of ease. At least, that’s how it should work.

Update: For some great apps to improve Mac’s native Finder, check out my post on TotalFinder alternatives.

Things that suck about Apple

These remaining items mostly are miscellaneous issues aimed primarily at the iPhone/iPad/iTunes products and the various services that accompany them. Again, your own experience and opinions may vary.

  • iOS: can’t mass delete email
  • iOS: can’t mass delete voicemail
  • iOS: can’t mass delete photos/videos/files
  • iOS: excessive file size of iOS (e.g., iOS 8 is over 4GB); makes it impossible to upgrade on some devices
  • iOS: you need an third-party app to download/transfer your own files to local machine (even if it’s a Mac)
  • iOS: you can’t delete certain “required” apps (like Newstand et al)
  • iOS: you used to be able to skip “Apple ID” when setting up iOS, now it is required
  • Waay too many unanswered/unresolved support tickets, many just ignored entirely
  • iTunes is an absolute abomination of the worst kind, cannot stand using it
  • Can’t merge Apple accounts, makes it impossible to streamline apps, etc.
  • Don’t get me started on Apple TV
  • Impossible/endless “Agree to Terms” for iOS et al
  • Seems like they push out updates before thorough testing; e.g., the “slide to update” bug (lost a LOT of valuable data because of that)
  • They keep changing the UI (e.g., “flat” look); apparently just to make things different, as opposed to better
  • They keep making their phones bigger (ugh); much preferred the smaller models
  • Many small vertical lines appearing across the screen on iMac, ruins display

Honestly for some of the iOS stuff, I’m not sure if the issues persist because I finally got sick of it and switched to Android for mobile :)

Thrilling conclusion

That’s all I got, lol. I should mention that without a doubt I have put in plenty of my own time researching these various issues, diligently trying to find solutions, etc. If I had not spent countless hours of my own precious time resolving issues, these lists would be 10 times as long. Easily.

I should reiterate that, overall, I greatly appreciate Apple/Mac products. It’s just that lately things seem to be going downhill. Most of the deterioration of quality revolves around OS X and iOS, but there’s lots of room for improvement in other areas as well. So again, the reason for this post is not “bash” Apple, but to encourage improvement. I know things can improve, and I hope they will.

Also, I’m still keeping track of this sort of stuff, and will post again or update this post at some point in the future. Also will try to update this post if Apple gets around to improving any of these issues. That is, if I’m still using Apple stuff and still around to write about it — Linux is looking better every day ;)