In the Details: Keep On Reading

Safari’s reading list is a really handy feature that I use daily, more often to add new links, than to read the ones i’ve saved. In Mavericks, the reading list was given a new behavior. When you scroll to the end of the page you are viewing, a little banner scrolls up into view displaying the title of the next item in your list.

If you continue to scroll, you meet a little bit of resistance, but if you push on through, you scroll to the next article, which automatically snaps to the top of the window. This resembles the behavior of Reeder and similar RSS readers on mobile devices.

In the Details: Map Integration

Apple has been slowly integrating maps into all of its software. Calendar was recently made a bit smarter. If you enter a location for an event that is in your address book, it will go ahead and map it for you. Then, it will calculate the distance and offer you both driving and walking travel times.

To cap things off, you can select “when I need to leave” as an alert time. Oh, and since you’re going out, why not go ahead and show the local weather while they’re at it?

In the Details: Label Anchors

In Mac OS X’s Dock, labels appear above items as you cursor over them. Typically, a label is centered above its item, remaining centered as the item grows and shrinks with the Dock’s magnifying behavior. At the very edge of the screen, however, that isn’t possible. So, the entire label stays on the screen while its little anchor slides back and forth, pointing to its item.

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Unfortunately, if the label is short enough, as is the case with the Trash, the anchor ends up floating away from the label.

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In the Details: Not Enough

Apple made a change to the Shift key in iOS 7 that, while subtle, was just enough to cause confusion. In the previous version, when the key was “depressed”, the icon had an outer glow effect.

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This effect made it obvious that the button was enabled, because it was obviously different from every other button on the screen. In iOS 7, the only visual change is that the icon fills in.

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While this certainly distinguishes the two states, it is not enough to tell you what state is represented. You don’t see the two states at the same time, as I’ve shown them here, so the comparison between them isn’t as important as their relationship to the rest of the buttons on the screen. And while the microphone and delete icons are outlines in iOS 7 (notice that they are filled in iOS 6), that is too subtle a cue. I have, many times, pressed the Shift key to enter a capital only to realize that it was already enabled.

Full Screen Apps

There are some applications that I like to use in Mac OS X’s full screen mode, especially applications that I have running all the time but only occasionally reference, like iTunes, Yojimbo, and NetNewsWire. These are also applications that have been designed as single window apps, and they work quite well that way. I would never use, say, Adobe InDesign in full screen mode, because that wouldn’t jive with all of the palettes. I use three displays, after all.

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And then there is an application like Apple Mail. It’s mostly designed to be a one-window application, and that works fine for reading mail in full-screen mode. However, when it is time to create a new message, that pops as a new window. In full screen mode, it becomes a modal in the middle of the screen. It covers up whatever is in the main window, such as the message you are replying to, and you can’t move it.

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If you want to reference something in another mail message—a very likely scenario—you have two options: take it out of full-screen mode or press the Cancel button. Now, as it turns out, when you press Cancel, it prompts you to save the message. You can find it again in the Drafts folder. That’s not exactly intuitive.

So, while I want to treat Mail as one of the other single window applications that I run all the time and occasionally reference, running it in full screen mode is just a hassle.

In the Details: Disabled

I was starting to make use of the new tagging capability in OS X Mavericks by tagging all of my applications so that I could display the Applications folder organized by tags. I have nearly 200 items in my Applications folder, and I occasionally can’t remember the name of some little utility I picked up in a bundle. Having them organized by general use will be helpful. There is a button in the window toolbar that allows you to assign tags to selected items. A lot of the applications didn’t enable the button because of their permission settings. This was what triggered my realization.

Apple only changes the appearance of the icon when a button is disabled, not the button itself. It’s rather subtle, and in the case of this particular icon, not very effective. I didn’t realize it was disabled until I clicked it several times with no result.

It’s obvious when the two states are compared side-by-side, of course, but not so apparent when only comparing it with the buttons beside it. The disabled icon color of the tag button is similar to the outline of the share icon to its left.

It would be much more effective to “gray out” the entire button, as they do when the window does not have focus.

In the Details: Tracking Numbers

I knew that Apple Mail was able to recognize dates, times, phone numbers, and other contact information in email messages and provide actions based on them, such as creating an event in iCal or adding a phone number to a contact. I use the feature quite a bit. I just discovered over the holidays that it also recognizes tracking numbers. Apparently it has been able to do this since the introduction of Lion. Clicking a tracking number presents you with a popup that loads a webpage from the appropriate shipping service.

The number in the screenshot wasn’t found because I clicked it seconds after submitting the order, but you get the idea.

One More Reason

When I heard about the improvements to Keychain and Safari’s password features in Mavericks, I wondered about the continued viability of 1Password as a product. The more I learned, however, the more I realized that Apple was just adding the bare minimum capability that would improve security for casual users. 1Password has become an irreplaceable dependency for me.

It annoys me when Safari tells me that it won’t autofill a password because a website told it not to. I don’t care what a website says. If I want Safari to save the password, that’s my prerogative. I found a preference setting that will “Allow AutoFill even for websites that request passwords not be saved”. But, when I tried to turn it on, I got the following message.

“Your Mac must have a screen lock to allow AutoFill for websites that request passwords not be saved.”

I’m not putting a screen lock on my personal computer in my own house. That’s ridiculous. Yet one more reason I’ll stick with 1Password.

Unstatusfying

There are some things I like about the new version of iMovie. It’s export status isn’t among them. I’ve been putting video of my daughters’ Christmas concerts up on YouTube for my extended family to see. It performs the export as a background process, displaying a small, blue pie chart in the tool bar indicating its progress. When you click the circle, a popup gives you a little more information, but not much.

The status is truncated, and some of the more useful information, how many MBs have been completed, is hidden. They could easily have made the popup larger and let the text wrap instead of truncating it.

I also mistook the little “x” on the right side for a close button. It canceled the upload. Most unsatisfying.

Not Helpful

So, I was driving to a venue I’d never been to before, and I had asked Siri to plot a route for me, which she did very nicely, even though I thought for sure she wouldn’t understand the Italianish name of the restaurant. As I was driving, I was listening to a podcast, as usual. The podcast ended, so I turned on my iPhone to select a new one. Usually, I just play through all the episodes I haven’t listened to and wouldn’t have to select one while driving, but I was behind on Mac OS Ken, so I had specifically selected that podcast. After the iPhone scanned my thumbprint, it looked like this:

To select a different podcast, I needed to tap the Episodes “button” in the top-left corner. Yes, the one that is almost completely covered by the turn-by-turn directions. It was difficult to hit while driving, and tapping the directions takes you to the Maps app, which I did the first time I tried to hit it.

Come on, Apple. I expect better of you.