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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
  • 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 Capitan.app 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 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.

Mac OS X 10.12 (Sierra)

What sucks about Sierra? Well, everything mentioned above (they didn’t bother fixing/improving anything), plus now (and once again), it’s impossible to mute the annoying, frustrating, obnoxious, brand-damaging startup sound when rebooting the computer. There is a sweet little noboot script that worked great before 10.12, but it no longer works when headphones and/or external speakers are plugged in (which is the case for many users). If anyone has a solution you’ve got my $20 in a heartbeat.

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: “Apple ID” now required when setting up iOS (before it was optional)
  • Waay too many 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); it’s just ridiculous looking
  • Many small vertical lines appearing across iMac screen, 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 ;)

Jeff Starr
About the Author Jeff Starr = Web Developer. Book Author. Secretly Important.
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24 responses
  1. You do know you can just use Command+V to paste, right? That’s been the same since Classic Mac.

    My gripes with Apple are more on the hardware side — absolutely nothing they make anymore can be repaired or upgraded.

    • Jeff Starr

      Ops! Yeah I meant cut/move (as indicated by the stated shortcut). To move an item you have to press three keys, which takes awhile to get used to, especially after doing Ctrl + V on Windows for years. I updated the article to reflect this, thanks for pointing it out.

      Other than the repeating vertical lines ruining my iMac screen, I don’t have any real gripes about the hardware itself. I do think it sucks that devices tend to be obsolete after x number of updates. “Manufactured obsolescence” I think it’s called.

  2. Grumpy old man. Maybe OS X will perform better if you upgraded from the 2006 model.

    :-) (teasing)

    We’ve been all Mac since 2012. I did some iOS dev in 2009. I waited from 1977 to 2012 for Apple to produce a computer and OS that would run the programs I really care about.

    My list of complaints is far shorter than yours but there is some overlap. Leopard was great and fast! What really bugs me is that I have to use terminal to see hidden files in finder, the endless permissions struggle you mentioned, and sometimes items in Trash and sometimes other folders will not delete until I reformat the drive. Very frustrating and well known issues.

    El Cap mostly solved the Safari scrolling crashes for me. Not only did Safari freeze up but it froze the whole computer then rebooted. Jeez, even IE didn’t do that.

    There is ongoing discussion that Apple is forgetting software quality. A major issue is probably that their culture wasn’t designed for the growth I see here in Silicon Valley. They are adding buildings faster than Google and Facebook. That has to be a major strain. Unfortunately you can’t have a frank conversation with Apple employees at any level. The cult doesn’t allow openness with customers, unlike Microsoft.

    • Jeff Starr

      Lol, you mean 2010 model! I was using PC/Win in 2006 :P

      But even so, that’s one of my gripes — why should a machine that costs over $2,000 last only 5 or so years? It’s like renting instead of buying, and so much more for Apple’s mobile devices, like iPhone, iPad, et al.. you have to buy a new one every few years because all of the apps stop working or the OS itself becomes non-supportive.

      Leopard was great and fast!

      Yes! Leopard was worthy of its name for sure. My favorite.

      Indeed there is plenty that could be improved with Apple, and I agree that their software quality is deteriorating. I’m aware of the “cult of mac” or whatever, but honestly I go out of my way to avoid it altogether. This post is about as far as I’ll go in terms of trying to convince others that things are going downhill. If the “A-Team” doesn’t listen, eventually I’ll be switching to Linux.

  3. You can make a screenshot only with (Shift + Cmd + 3).

    I have my user folder in the dock, so the library folder is directly accessible.

    I agree, to his time Snow Leopard was very good and the best of all the Max OS, I also liked it. Now, I like El Capitan very much. Perhaps you have no clean installation.

    There is something I don’t like in the address book:

    In the Mac OS Lion’s Address Book it was possible to determine a own formate of the appearance of phone numbers, for example ### ## ##. I updates first to Yosemite and then to El Capitan and in both Address Books it’s not possible to formate the phone numbers. When I enter “237 00 99” then the application chance this to “23 700 99”. Or when I enter “331 01 59 ext. 300”, it changes to “33 101 59 e xt300”.

    I don’t like this reduction of possibilities in the application preferences.

    • Jeff Starr

      Hi Taffy, thanks for the comment.

      You can make a screenshot only with (Shift + Cmd + 3).

      This does not work on my machine running OS X 10.11.

      Perhaps you have no clean installation.

      Actually no, I wiped my entire drive and started fresh, so it’s very clean.

      I agree that dumbing down of preferences is not good.

    • Jeff Starr

      Just to follow up with this.. turns out you are correct about using “Shift + Cmd + 3” for screenshots. I didn’t notice that doing that had placed the screenshots on my desktop, which was covered with apps at the time.

      So yes it works, but there are some key differences:

      Shift + Cmd + 3 – takes a snapshot of the screen and saves it on the desktop. The image is not stored in the clipboard, and so can’t be directly pasted into Photoshop or wherever.

      Shift + Ctrl + Cmd + 3 – takes a direct screenshot and stores it on the clipboard for immediate use in Photoshop et al. The image is not saved automatically anywhere on the machine.

      So while I only ever use the latter method, it’s good to know about the faster way of doing it. Thank you for sharing the technique :)

      • A related trick you might be interested in: command + shift + 4 lets you drag a box to capture any rectangular area of the screen. Hit spacebar while the crosshairs are on-screen, and the cursor turns into a camera icon that will take a screenshot of any window you hover over. I use that one quite a bit!

      • Jeff Starr

        Sweet! I’m trying it, but which button do I press to actually take the snapshot? (once the window is highlighted it shows a camera icon.. what then?)

      • Ah, yeah! Sorry, I left out that part. Click your mouse button to actually take the screenshot.

        By the way, if you include ‘control’ in the original key combo, it will copy to your clipboard instead of creating a file on your desktop, as you said you prefer.

      • Jeff Starr

        That is so cool. I’ve actually seen that crosshairs icon in the past after accidentally pressing “4” while trying to take a screenshot.. always wondered what it was for.. now I know, and have to admit it’s gonna be a much-used tool in my arsenal. Thanks Zac!

      • To take a screenshot of a window, Shift + Cmd + 4 then Spacebar then click on the window. I use that one daily.

  4. I learned to really despise Windows (after Win7) and Microsoft. I solved my problem with Linux Mint and haven’t looked back. As a web site dev, Linux also gives me an environment very similar to the hosting company.

    The only Windows grip of yours I’d take issue with is “Way more apps available, many for free or at much lower cost”. Really?

    • Jeff Starr

      I have used Linux via Parallels and liked it a lot. The big downside for me is that there is a serious lack of good design software, which I use pretty much constantly for my line of work. Other than that, Linux would be a great alternative if things don’t improve software-wise with Apple/Mac.

      You may be right about Windows apps vs. OS X apps.. I added that point in retrospect, perhaps biased after using primarily Mac for the past 6 or so years. Would you argue the converse?

    • Assuming you mean design tools like Photoshop, … yes, unfortunately I have kept Virtualbox Win7 around for that reason primarily. The last time I got a PC, I got 12GB RAM, so having the Virtualbox running is OK. I have 2 24″ monitors, so I can full screen Vbox on one, use Linux on the other, and it feels very natural. Like having 2 PC’s but with Virtualbox allowing them to share the disk. If you leave Photoshop/Bridge running and just use Vbox save-machine-state when you are done with it, then resuming it later is very fast (probably as fast as just starting PS)

      • Jeff Starr

        That’s an interesting solution, worth keeping in mind. Actually I’ve tried Gimp and really wanted to use it (as Photoshop replacement), but the development just isn’t there yet. Hopefully someday. Also apps like InDesign, Illustrator, and Coda.. during my last hunt for Linux equivalents found nothing to fit the bill.

  5. I switched from over 10 years of Windows experience to Linux a few years ago and, although it was a struggle, I have no regrets.

    It’s not something I did without massive trepidation but I recognised that, as a web developer, it made sense to work in a similar environment to the servers I was writing code for.

    I’d expect moving from Mac to Linux would be less painful than my move, since you’re already familiar with a *nix OS, so my advice would be: go for it – you won’t regret it!

    • Jeff Starr

      Thanks for the insight, Dan! I agree with your logic and know people who similarly switched from Windows to Linux. Overall they are happy, but as mentioned elsewhere in this thread, there is a serious lack of suitable design software for Linux.

      But believe me, I’m one step away from dropping Mac altogether (other than for testing websites, apps, etc.). So will keep your encouragement in mind when I get to that point :)

  6. Yes I agree about El Capitan. I currently have 10.9.5 – Mavericks which runs excellent. I tried El Capitan for a day and I downgraded mainly because TotalFinder is not compatible any longer. This little app is such a crucial part in my day to day workflow that I can’t imagine it without it.

    Another issue I discovered is that on my Windows Bootcamp the mouse and keyboard were not recognized any longer.

    The problem now is that latest updates from Sketch need the newer version of OSX. Eventually I’ll have to make the switch but not yet.

    Another app I recommend for copy/pasting is ClipMenu. CMD + SHIFT + V will open a menu so you can paste from a history of items. This one seemed to work with El Capitan.

    • Jeff Starr

      Yeah as alluded to in the post, even Yosemite was a step above El Capitan. I can imagine that going back to Mavericks would be even better, but personally I try to avoid rolling back on anything. I don’t mind not upgrading, but rolling back has only ever been problematic for me.

      Totally agree about TotalFinder. After using that wonderful app for years and then losing it with 10.11 — getting stuck with its utterly abominable native rendition of Finder — my workflow has suffered drastically.

      Thanks for the tip on ClipMenu, will definitely check it out.

  7. Mike Schinkel February 26, 2016 @ 8:57 pm

    Hi Jeff,

    Great post!

    Like you I moved from Win to Mac (I moved in 2009) and like you I kept a list of things I don’t like about the Mac; they infuriate me, actually:

    – Cmd-Shift-G is a piss-poor substitute for navigition by path in Finder compared to Windows Explorer’s path control.
    – Mac OS X seems to be designed to keep you from using the keyboard at all costs. It’s like they want you to have to frequently use the mouse/trackpad.
    – No standard for what Windows “Home” and “End” keys do within app; every apps seems to be different.
    – No ability to do file management in Open & Save dialogs like in Windows; I get to see files I want to delete them have to load Finder and navigate to them when I could have just selected and deleted them.
    – And now, with “system protection” TotalFinder is being killed off and cut-copy-paste for files is a thing of the past.

    Anyway, those are the ones I remember. But what really annoys me about the Mac is that I can dislike these things but I can’t ever hope for them to be fixed. Because, Apple.

    -Mike

    • Jeff Starr

      Because, Apple.

      Yes, they need to get it together soon or risk a slow, inevitable slide into being “the next Microsoft”.

      Thanks for sharing your list, Mike. Hopefully someone out there at Apple is listening to the people who currently use their products.

  8. I used Macs from 89-96 and switch to Windows in 97. Then back to Mac in 2013. The Mac has changed a lot since System 7 :-) However, in the past two years I have done more clean installs on my Mac than I’ve ever done on Windows in the 16 years. I am a clean freak. I HAVE TO have a clean OS. I do manual backups. This way I know exactly what I backup and where. No hidden this or leftover that gets transferred to my backup drive. I do a clean install in 25 minutes and I’m back and running again. But still.

    I find that the Mac has an INSANE amount of bugs in the OS compared to Windows. Sure, Win has it’s own issues (have not used Win8 or 10), but compared to the Mac… I have thought about switching back to Win a few times. And what I really hate about the Mac, in order to get the bugs “fixed” you HAVE TO upgrade to a new OS. That’s how Apple keeps planned obsolescence rolling.

    My late 2012 Mac mini was in the shop 3 times with board failure in the first 9 months!!! After the 3rd failed board replacement, they gave me a brand new one. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? (I guess they didn’t grease up them Chinese noodles well enough inside the processor.) When I was at the Apple Store for repair, a lady in front of me also was given a new iMac due to the fact that her machine was having audio issues that Apple could not fix.

    I am VERY disappointed with the Macs. I think they were more solid and problem free in the early years. (Maybe it’s just me.) And as far as El Crapitan – well, the name says it all… just my 2c.

    • Jeff Starr

      It all resonates, Ted. Thanks for sharing your experience.

      El Crapitan

      Yep, that pretty much sums it up. Also have heard “Smell Crapitan”, lol.

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