To Moscone with love: My Mac OS X Christmas list

David Braue
19 December, 2008
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Christmas, 2008

Mr Steve Jobs
1 Infinite Loop
North Pole

Cc: Entire readership of Australian Macworld,

Dear Steve,

So sorry to hear that you’ve decided not to do the keynote at Macworld anymore. Not only will that boring suit Phil Schiller pale in comparison to your energised and hypnotic presentations, but I bet he won’t dress as well either. Your absence will truly be a loss for the world. And for the Macworld Expo, which may cease to exist if things keep going the way they are. But I certainly hope they don’t!

Anyways, since you won’t be at the Moscone Center to personally receive my twelve-page handwritten missive and the hand-stitched teddy bear my aunt made you from her own hair, I thought I would follow the latest trend.

That trend is, of course, to write you open letters requesting things and posting them online in the vain hope that they will be rise above the morass of aimless Apple gossip to be read by yourself (on that note, only you and I truly know what will be released at Macworld but I am totally in agreement with your decision to keep it private; that kind of information, in the wrong hands at the wrong time, could alter the flow of history as we know it).

If you are reading this, my plan has succeeded at little bit at least. And since you’ve read this far, could you please indulge me for a little longer before surfing over to watch the latest Zero Punctuation review. Damn, that guy is funny.

Oh yes, my point. Well, I know the elves at Infinite Loop have been working hard to finish up Snow Leopard, and even though it won’t be ready for Christmas I understand, because they have lots of other stuff to do. Like getting my brother that original 1986 Transformers action figure he’s been searching for on eBay for two years (frankly, we’re all sick of him going on about that Megan what’s-her-name in the movie but hey, blood is thicker than water, you catch my drift?).

My own Christmas wishes are far more humble, being the humble Apple devotee that I am. Over the course of the year, I have been meticulously assembling a list of things I would like to see added to Snow Leopard so that Mac OS X will function even that little bit better than it already does. Yes, I know you can’t improve upon perfection, but let’s just say that you could at least make it that bit shinier by addressing the following issues:

  • Make Option-TAB switch between documents, not just applications. When I have 10 documents open in Microsoft Word – usually fan letters to the various anime characters and ’80s TV actors with whom I keep in regular contact – I sometimes want to just switch between one of them and Safari, or a PDF monitoring my correspondents’ latest movements. But when I press Option-TAB it jumps between applications and loads up all the documents open in that application (the ones that haven’t been minimised), covering the other stuff I’m doing. I honestly don’t care what application I’m using – it’s the documents that are important, and I should be able to jump between them as I need to, one at a time. Since I know many Mac users like it the way it is, you could just make this an option in the System Preferences box. You got over that hatred of the two-button mouse; I know you can do this one thing.
  • Allow switching to minimised documents. Just because I’ve minimised a document to get it out of the way, doesn’t mean I never want to see it again. And despite what you might think, not everybody has three hands so they can type and use the mouse at the same time (although I would be more than happy to volunteer for a cybernetic arm implant of the type I read you are actively developing). So instead of forcing me to stop what I’m doing, squint a lot and find the Dock icon that corresponds to the document I want, why can’t I have a way of using Command-TAB or Command-~ to get back those minimised documents?
  • Set defaults for column displays. Every time I go to select a file in a program, or start viewing Finder windows, the columns are reset back to the default spacing – tiny and useless. I shouldn’t have to drag the columns wider every time I go into these dialogues just so I can see my files; couldn’t we just have a way to set the width of columns in each view, and have it stay that way?
  • Let me actually delete files from flash drives. I know, I know — people delete things accidentally all the time, which is why Mac OS X is so protective that it doesn’t actually delete files but marks them with a stub in the Trash. This is fine on disk since I empty the Trash every once in a while — but it falls over with flash drives, where users will delete a file on the assumption it is actually deleted — and only find out, too late, that their drive is still full and not accepting new files! Forcing them to go back to their own Mac, plug the drive in, empty the Trash and then go back seems like too much; please provide a way to forcibly, actually, irrevocably delete files from flash drives. After all, there are only so many times one can look at Photoshopped pictures of your head on Bo Derek’s body.
  • Better thumbnailing and Finder file listing. I have a directory of very large artistic images – thousands of them – and every time I open the directory, the Mac goes all Rain Man as it ticks through each and every one of them, generating tiny thumbnails that I won’t even use but sending the hard drive churning away. I know this is because the files are large, but while it’s generating these thumbnails, I can’t do anything with the files; if I click on the file to rename it, for example, it lets me type about one character then deselects the file because it’s still busy thumbnailing. Well, excuse me, mr Big Mac, I know I shouldn’t disturb a master while he’s busy, but couldn’t you just let me be in charge for a while?
  • While we’re talking renaming, do something about iTunes. Changing the names of songs in an iTunes listing is a big pain. Why can’t I just click on one in a list of files, type in the new name, then tab between fields and hit ENTER to go to the next song and do it all again? This point, click, wait, type, point, click, wait, type thing is just lame.
  • While we’re talking about iTunes, stop making iPhoto so fussy. I have thousands of images I want to turn into books and calendars and mugs, but I refuse to import them into iPhoto because once they’re in there, I’m slave to your very fussy and non-permanent method of adding keywords and captions to photos. Please make iPhoto embed keywords and captions INSIDE the image files because I will never, ever go through and tag 40,000 image files a second time.
  • Face-based scanning and tagging. While we’re talking about iPhoto, if you add face-based image tagging, I will be your friend for life. If iPhoto could churn through my pictures and automatically tag who’s in each one based on their face, well, I would forget about my issue with the keywords.
  • In Spotlight, make the results interactive. There’s no point showing me a list of Spotlight search results and then letting me do nothing with the files but open them. Why can’t I right-click on the items that come up to get options like ‘Send as Email’, ‘Send via Bluetooth’, ‘Delete’, ‘Print poster size and have couriered to Steve Jobs’, and so on? Because it’s really a PITA to have to find the thing I want, then click Show All, then find the thing I want once again – especially since I end up having to resize those damn columns every time! (see above)
  • Speaking of emailing and Bluetooth. Why can’t I email files from Finder? That ninny Bill Gates has allowed Windows users to do this by right-clicking on a file for about a decade now, and they can also send a file over Bluetooth the same way. I know Microsoft has about as much intellectual capacity as your right pinky, Oh Great Leader, but sometimes just because it lucks onto a good idea doesn’t mean you should reject it out of hand (although they do have some real doozies – honestly, what computer company would launch its own line of T-shirts?).
  • Get more consistent shortcuts. Why do I have to type Option-G to see a movie full screen in iMovie but Option-F to see a movie full screen in QuickTime? Shouldn’t basic things like this use the same keystrokes all the time? Isn’t it Microsoft’s job to build silly and inconsistent user interfaces?
  • Speaking of Windows. Every time I open a folder or select files in Windows Explorer, the status bar tells me how much disk space the items take up. Finder only tells me how much space is left on the drive. Whose brilliant idea was that? Considering that iTunes and iMovie have no trouble telling me how much time the things I’ve selected will run, I don’t know why Finder can’t do the same.
  • Oh, and one more thing. Preview is great, yeah, good, but what’s the point of displaying thumbnails of pages that you can’t do anything with? There are many times when I need to load up several files and pull one page from one file, one page from another, and then arrange them to save a completely new file. Other times, such as when I prepared an itemised and prioritised list of Buckingham Palace treasures I would like to receive in Queen Elizabeth’s will, I need to simply rearrange pages in a document and save it again. Since you have already gone to the trouble of separating the pages, how hard could this really be?

Steve, I would welcome the chance to discuss any of these in more detail. Perhaps you could spare a half hour of your time to chat over a hot skinny soy half-cream mocha whipped decaf latte with green sprinkles, either the next time you get down to Australia or even next week, when you walk out of your house to ask why I’m parked across the street with high-magnification binoculars and a handheld voice recorder.

I will close now, as I still have several more letters to write to my favourite authors, anime artists and rogue heads of state before I retire for my Christmas sleep. May I conclude with several short but sweet points:

  • We’ll miss you at Macworld.
  • Lots of people will buy an Apple netbook or an upgraded Mac mini.
  • Snow Leopard sounds great but will be even better if you address the points I have raised above.
  • I hope you get better soon or, if your health isn’t the reason you are scaling back your role at Apple, that you are unceremoniously ripped to shreds by angry sharks while snorkelling off the Caribbean island where you’ve stashed all your money and to which you will soon disappear to execute the next phase of your plan to rule the world. Unless, of course, you invite me too.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Yours in eternal admiration,
Steven Paul Jobs, Fanboi Extraordinaire*

* Name changed by deed poll January 11, 2005

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