I’ve never been a great fan of the Mac interface – mainly I just couldn’t get used to the idea of a menu bar at the top of the screen. It worked fine when we had smaller screens – for example with the ‘Compact Mac‘ family – since realistically you had to run each application full screen anyway. The menu bar can be anywhere on the screen and it will always be close by.
It became slightly more annoying as screens got larger, but was still bearable if you had a single screen. It took a bit of work to move the pointe up there, but it wasn’t a major inconvenience. I suspect Apple didn’t change it back then since it had become a trademark of the operating system, and didn’t upset too many people.
One thing Macs have always been good at is second monitors – you just plug them in, and it usually works with little fuss. The first such setup that I used had an A3 monitor attached to a Mac IIci. You could move the menu bar onto the A3 monitor, but it was still all the way up there at the top – so if you were working elsewhere on screen, it was such as chore to get up there!Monitors are still increasing in size, and nothing has really changed – it must be a nightmare if you have 2 30″ cinema displays ;-). Well perhaps not a nightmare given a setup that most people would love to own, but a bit annoying though. I do wonder how long it will be before Apple do something?
Anyway, otherwise the Mac interface has improved over the years to the point where I’m beginning to quite like it. With OS/X having Unix underneath, the Mac has become every developers dream – a nice interface with good software support and a decent operating system underneath. It also has some very nice hardware – the MacBook Pro in particular looking like it was designed by engineers, rather than managers. The only thing missing for me was the ability to run certain Windows programs, as my job quite often requires me to do this.
Well of course Apple changed to using Intel processes, and that barrier has gone. So when an opportunity came up recently to switch, I went out and got a MacBook Pro with VMWare Fusion. So far it’s running nicely – with my previous laptop, I always had to worry about blocking the air vents since these are usually under the machine and at the side. The MacBook Pro vents air under the screen in a way that means don’t have to worry about such things. And the illuminated keyboard really is the icing on the cake. The interface (OS/X 10.5 aka Leopard) runs very nicely – I know that a number of changes upset die-hard Mac users, but I think they will be appreciated by new converts.
There are a few annoyances – VMWare Fusion won’t allow you to suspend a VM if it’s running from a Bootcamp partition – for good reasons, but it’s still annoying. And a number of applications such as Adium and Skype want to show an icon in the dock, even though under Windows or a Linux based system they don’t (or at least their equivalents don’t in the case of Adium). I’ve fixed it for Adium by following the instructions here, but when I tried it on Skype it stopped logging in! I’m not sure how well it would work for Skype anyway, as a few key functions require that you have access to the full menu bar – sigh.