Thoughts on OSX Leopard

system7 startup screenIt’s no secret that I’ve never been a fan of OSX. I should qualify that statement, but I won’t get into the specifics of my dislike for newer whiter Apple. I will however mention that I am a huge fan of classic Mac OS. The first computer I ever bought ran System 7.1p2, and my all time favorite work environment is still Mac OS 8.6. After spending 5 years trying to find some reason to stick with Windows; I finally settled onUbuntu (now running Edgy Eft and loving it). But I digress. Even after escaping the Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field, I still love to watch his keynotes. I generally get all fired up, caught in the moment, until I realize that nothing he’s announcing is really new… just new to the Mac. While watching theWWDC 2007 keynote, there was one thing that really stuck out to me. More of a philosophy, that I hope and pray Apple will embrace whole heartedly.

Folder DrawersBefore I get to that one (more) thing. I just want to briefly comment on “stacks”. Stacks are the hot new thing coming to the dock, where folders of items can be stored in a single icon and revealed on demand. As I stated earlier, most things inOSX aren’t really new. As you old time mac users should have noticed, the stacks feature isn’t new… not even to Mac OS . I can’t verify the exact version, but I believe OS 8.5 was the first to have “Window Drawers” (may not be the flashy apple name). With window drawers you could drag any open finder window to any side of the screen and it would collapse into a tab. Click on the tab, and your window slides out. It really bothered me when that feature went away and I’m glad to see it back.

Now that I’ve got my friendly jibe out of the way; I’m really excited about the new finder coming to Leopard. I see what I hope is the first baby step towards my dream operating system. That is, a tag-based file system. A tag-based file system means there are no folders, every file simply exists on your hard disk. You organize your files by assigning tags to them. The biggest advantage to this is simple, your files can appear in multiple places at once. Say you’re working on a presentation for next Tuesday, you’re also collecting documents for Steve in accounting (there’s always a Steve in accounting). Which folder does your Power Point (Keynote) presentation go in? If you still don’t get it, use gmail exclusively for an entire month and tell me you still prefer sticking your email in folders.

Leopard FinderWhat apple did with the new finder was integrate the iTunes model of information management. As pragmatically inefficient as iTunes is, it’s an excellent information manager. You can instantly search out what you need. But even better, you can create dynamic searches called “smart lists”. Say you only want to hear the music you haven’t heard in a couple months, create a smart list. I swap out music on myiPod by assigning 5 stars to the tracks I want in a list called “Current Favs“. When I’m bored with a song, I can bump down its rating on the pod and it’s off on the next sync. Using that method, I never have to organize my music files,iTunes does it for me. The same should be for my OS. I shouldn’t have to organize my documents, my OS should do it for me.

The new finder is a good first step in this direction. It may even change my opinion of OSX and the newer whiter Apple. Some day soon I hope take that Mac Mini off of my TV set, and put it back on my desk.

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