OS X: usability Xanadu?

Ok, so I got a new PowerBook recently. I was really excited about OS X from the little I'd seen of it looking over people's shoulders. Finally, I would taste humankind's highest achievement in usability and user-friendliness!

After using it for about a month, here is my four-word review of OS X: "it sure is shiny!"

The things it does well, it does extremely well. expose is really cool. I like the slick animated desktop fluff. I *really* like the brainless network detection and activation, including the automatic appearance of my co-workers' music collections in iTunes :), and the automatic detection of the network's printers. Safari is nice (but it does seem like Konqueror's beautiful-but-vacuous cousin).

But, call me a fanboy, call me a zealot, call me a hopeless troglodyte. I find KDE 3.2 much more usable than OS X. I don't understand why the prevailing internet opinion seems to be "KDE (and Gnome) are Ok, but be serious: next to OS X, they are hacked-up kludge-jobs." Well, I disagree. I am frustrated so much more often on OS X than on KDE.

Yes, this is at least partly because I have much more experience with KDE. Yes, it is at least partly because as a KDE app developer and community member, I am biased. But consider:

  • Where is the text editor for OS X? There's some app called "TextEdit", but as far as I can tell, it should be called "SimpleViewer, and oh yeah, you may be able to modify the file contents as well". I mean, I tried opening an HTML file in it, and it showed me (poorly) *rendered* html! How is this helpful in a text editor? I was able to view the file normally by opening the Preferences window and checking the "ignore rich text commands in HTML files", but even in this case, the tags weren't highlighted. Features-wise, it's equivalent to pico, AFAICT. I felt completely hogtied using it.
  • No pager by default (got one at No themeing by default (paid $20 for "ShapeShifter" -- worth every dime to escape from brushed-metal hell). iTunes: no ogg support by default (got a third-party quicktime plugin). i18n: 15 languages to our 40+.
  • The spatial finder. Ok, it's not as spatial as it used to be (thank God!), but the vestiges of it are still annoying to me. I cannot understand why people like the spatial metaphor for a file manager. KFM blows finder completely out of the water. ioslaves, view-splitting, preview tooltips, servicemenus, it just rocks.

Anyway, that's just my thoughts on some things that KDE does way better than OS X, IMHO. Don't get me wrong, I really like my laptop, and I'm glad I got it. I am sure that I'll get used to a lot of these things, but I doubt it will ever feel like "home" the way KDE does. I did grab the native port of KDE apps to OS X by the Bens (; this looks really promising, but it's not quite there yet. Several apps freeze up completely on startup, or crash during use. And for some reason, my version doesn't have SSL, so I can't use fish:/. I will eventually compile it from source and submit bugs (and-- dare I say?-- patches). Even the OS X version of venerable emacs has problems. I can't figure out how to paste text from the OS X "clipboard" into my emacs window (it's still better than "TextEdit" though).

On a totally unrelated note, I just finished adding extended-date support to KStars! The date is no longer limited to QDate's narrow range of years (1752-8000). Actually, the bare functionality has been in for a while, but I just fully integrated it all this weekend. I have about 8 other things I want to get in before the feature freeze. Seems like 3.3 totally snuck up on me; I had no idea it was happening this summer! I thought our progress was looking pretty sparse, but then I actually listed it all at the 3.3 feature plan, and it looks pretty good.

Oh yeah, I registered at to subit KStars to their contest a few weeks ago, but have heard nothing from them. Has anyone successfully entered that contest yet?

I've been monitoring the huge thread on core-devel regarding the list of localities in the "Country/Region" KCM...lots of sound and fury. Funny how simple things can be so complicated. Reminded me of a BR we got a while ago, because we named to the country of Lhasa as "Tibet", not "China". Fair enough, that's a bug because there is no country named "Tibet". Fixed. The whole "FYROM" vs. "Macedonia" thing is much more complicated (as The Dude would say, "lotta ins, lotta outs"), but I think the resolution that's emerging is a good one. We can't let users with axen to grind politicize KDE.

Oh well. It's sick. I'm late. Wait, scratch that. Reverse it.
Anyway, LMCBoy out.

[Edit]: either I'm an idiot, or it's really late (possibly both). Why do I need to insert two br-tags to get a paragraph break? empty lines worked for my previous entries, IIRC...


You know, I know a long-time mac (and linux :) ) user who says that classic mac os was much more usable then OSX.

By Reuben Peterkin at Mon, 05/17/2004 - 10:36

As a long time classic Mac user, I'd have to agree with him.. the classic MacOS was indeed a more cohesive system than OSX is.

A spatial interface wasn't a problem for most classic Mac users, since most people only had a few levels deep of folders. A spatial interface was most ideal in that situation.

I'm not sure of OSX is more usable than KDE, but it is more polished in many places. Compare iCal versus korganizer, for example.

By smt at Mon, 05/17/2004 - 14:36

Absolutely! From a usability standpoint OS9 was much much better. OSX is pretty... its shiney... it sure looks cool... but it is not even in the same class as KDE 3.2 in usability.


By Bobby at Tue, 05/18/2004 - 16:32

Congratz for you as a new mac user. I am such as well, for ~10 days... I am impressed mostly by the hardware, and no flames please, but at least one thing I found in KDE that's better that in OS X: handling of network tasks, like downloading files from ftp servers... my OS X (10.3.3) can pretty easily freeze the whole GUI (all desktop) up to minute, during ftp (re)connections. KDE doesn't try to do that, at least for me. This robustness may be inherited from Linux, of course... :)

Looks like every OS's core (here, FreeBSD) can became bloated on GUI level.

By Jarosław Staniek at Mon, 05/17/2004 - 19:49

So, if any other macsters reading this know of a good text editing solution for OS X, can you let me know? Here's what I have tried so far:

+ TextEdit: I was wrong to besmirch the good name of PICO by comparing it to this thing.

+ Emacs (console mode): works fine, but I prefer a windowed app

+ Emacs (native mac port): Great!...except I can't paste text from a mouse selection

+ Emacs (X11): X apps seem kind of slow (using mac's X), but maybe this solution is the best one I've found so far

+ jEdit: eh. maybe I could get used to it, but I generally try to avoid java apps.

What are you guys using?

KStars: A desktop planetarium for KDE

By Jason Harris at Tue, 05/18/2004 - 20:37

I am using 'joe' editor for simple editing tasks on my Mac. One day, maybe I'd use native Kate port there. I've figured out that I can do all other editing tasks (programming, ...) on second box (Linux +Kate) transparently, using ftp connection. All this looks resonable because I make/recompile most of the code on both win32/linux/mac boxes...

By Jarosław Staniek at Fri, 05/21/2004 - 09:25

I use
* gvim (although the native version is very limited compared to kvim and gtkvim)
* vim in

By arved at Sat, 05/22/2004 - 20:48

Hey, if you found shapeshifter but didn't find a good text editor, I'm surprised. There are some really good choices here.

Bbedit: THE text editor for OSX. It's expensive, but if you spend all day in text files, or get paid to do the same, it's the only one you should consider. (

SubEthaEdit: This one is actually free for personal use, and is full featured -- including syntax coloring. It's very, very nice. If it weren't for all the extra crap in Bbedit, This'd be my first choice. In fact, it may still be. (

These two should silence all but the most ornery of hackers. If they still don't make you happy, not much will. Even so, you should go to because there are thousands of good shareware apps on the mac for most any purpose.

Heck, apple's development tools are so complete that it wouldn't take more than an hour or two to make your own text editor, if that's your thing. I think I even saw a short tutorial on exactly that in the Cocoa/Macdev part of the O'Reilly site.

(for the unix'y text stuff, I still default to vi in the terminal, though.)

By kevmedia at Tue, 06/01/2004 - 01:51