alan little’s weblog

panther and too many windows

14th November 2003 permanent link

Just in case camera geek tv wasn’t sad enough, I’m about to suggest that a review of an operating system is interesting reading. Even if you don’t use a Mac, but especially if you do, John Siracusa’s review-cum-user-interface-philosophy-seminar of OS X 10.3 “Panther” on arstechnica is worth a look. Certainly one of the best pieces of writing about software that I’ve read for a while. I don’t understand all of what John is talking about—I suspect anybody who isn’t a long time user of pre-OS X Macs wouldn’t—but what I do understand is interesting and makes sense even if I don’t necessarily agree with all of it.

(John is one of the best technical writers around. I seem to recall his paper on the architecture of IBM’s awesome PowerPC 970, aka Apple’s “G5” processor, was so good that either Apple or IBM – possibly both – ripped it off for their promotional materials. Now I come to think of it, John Gruber, who also writes about things Apple, is another of the more intelligent technical writers around at the moment. Something about Macs?)

Update: John Siracusa writes to say he didn’t write the PowerPC article at arstechnica, Jon (no “h”) Stokes did. As I explained to John (Siracusa), I wrote this article on the train on the way to work, so my fact-checking opportunites were limited.

The review section on Exposé, Apple’s super fancy new singing & dancing window switcher, is particularly interesting. Anything that potentially helps with desktop clutter would be a huge win for me. Let’s see what my iBook is wearing today:

Mail. Three Safari windows: the last few pages of John Siracusa’s Panther review that I’m still reading, the draft version of, the various weblogs that constitute my morning newspaper. NetNewsWire Lite. Software Update is trying to tell me something. Goodness knows how many BBEdit windows (only 9 today, says BBEdit. This is unusually low). Internet Explorer? Why? Ah, it's doing cross-browser testing of my “baby’s first stylesheet” attempts at CSS. Terminals: 4 (None of them sporting that ultracool white-on-translucent-green look. Must fix that.) iCal, so that I can add “ultracool translucent green terminal look” to my to-do list. iTunes: Motörhead’s rendering of Louie Louie (nostalgia trip: a teenage favourite that I recently rediscovered on emusic). Emusic download manager, not currently downloading anything because I’m on the train and Munich doesn’t have free WiFi in underground trains just yet. Only a matter of time. Fugu, left over from last night’s visit to’s secret top security data centre in New Zealand. At least 24 windows in total.

That this is even remotely workable on a 12" laptop screen is a great tribute to the quality of Apple’s user interface design and the stability of OS X - it takes me a while to get back up this level of clutter after I reboot, which I have to every few weeks when things start to slow down. But a pleasure to use it isn't, especially on the train when I’ve left the mouse at home and am reduced to the trackpad, at which point the more useful keyboard shortcuts I can find the better. Maybe I should think about upgrading sooner rather than later.

Update 20th November: Gruber reviews Siracusa’s review. He rather likes it – “exhaustive, accurate, and insightful” … “Siracusa’s coverage of the Panther Finder is pure genius” … “It’s gotten to the point where I don’t know what I look forward to more: Apple’s annual Mac OS X update, or Siracusa’s review of it.”

related entries: Mac

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