Eye of the Tiger §

I apologize. The title of this article is in reference to the latest incarnation of Mac OS X, 10.4 will be publicly known as Tiger. It was widely speculated, and has been on the rumors sites for months now, but today Apple officially announced that Mr. Jobs will be providing the keynote at WWDC 2004, and, in fact, the keynote will include a preview of OS X 10.4 Tiger. What does this mean exactly? Well, aside from the hundreds of articles in the coming months with some variation of the cheesy, and soon to be over-used cliche Eye of the Tiger, these articles are also going to include tons of speculation. How in the world is Apple going to improve on the already beautiful OS X? Well a quick Google search can turn up hundreds of things that users are hoping to come out of this much awaited release. Here’s my contribution, let’s see how many I get right.

The Spatial Finder

Ever since OS X was released, there have been numerous rants on the state of the Finder. The Finder is, and has been, the key interface in the Macintosh System software since 1984. The Finder, quite simply, is the Macintosh. An excellent place to check out what the spatial Finder, exactly refers to, is John Siracusa’s article at arsTechnica. I will attempt to make a brief overview here, but definitely check out his in depth essay for more detailed information. The spatial Finder quite simply refers to the Finder as a way for the user to interact with their Macintosh based on landmarks, object representation, and other real-world related interface strategies.

The Finder through OS 9 was based on this concept. When you double-click on a folder, the folder would open in a window displaying its contents. The user associated that window with the folder, and the contents of that window were the contents of the folder that sprang to life with the double-click. Users never had to worry about mundane and cryptic things such as a file path. A folder was a folder, the files in the window representing the folder, were the files inside of the folder. Very simple. Users didn’t have to think about where that folder was located, they just had a sub-conscious memory of where it is in relation to what they are doing.

I have a sneaky suspicion that I’m doing a terrible job of defining this, but the concept is really quite simple. Windows and DOS users may think it foreign, because details like the file path are normal occurances. Windows users are used to remembering that applications are installed into the Program Files directory within the C:\ drive, etc.

Previous iterations of the Macintosh Finder were simple. An application didn’t have files it was contained within one icon, that represented that application, and could be installed wherever the user wanted it to be. On the Desktop for example. Or perhaps a user was organized enough to have an Applications folder within the Macintosh HD. And the user was just used to clicking certain icons to open certain windows that displayed specific information. Relate this to the way we memorize locations of light switches in our houses. We don’t consciously have to memorize where light switches are located in our homes, it just happens. When you walk through your house in the pitch black, you know exactly where light switches are without looking.

Long story short… many Mac enthusiasts are hopeful that this incredibly intuitive interface makes a return in Tiger. To an extent, this form of the Finder has never left, you can shut off the Finder’s default browser-like interface, and use it the way previous Mac users may remember, but it becomes quite a daunting task, and even still the browser interface is still there in your face, and could be construed as confusing for new users.

Ever since Internet Explorer 4.0 was released for Windows 98, and gave Windows its Internet Browser interface, this has been the norm in operating systems. Windows have become increasingly cluttered with things like forward and back buttons, address bars, toolbars, etc. The Mac was immune until OS X, and even then it didn’t become bad until Jaguar or so. In Panther, the Finder was overhauled, and things like the Sidebar were introduced. This allowed for a more spatial interface, since the Sidebar was static and could be personalized, spatial use is starting to make a comeback.

In Tiger, many users, including myself, are looking forward to a one button adjustment to turn on a Spatial Finder. There are so many ways that this can be implemented, using the exceptional technologies now standard in OS X, Apple can create a spatial Finder that is easy to use, intuitve and functional.

Revised Disk Utility

Mac OS Rumors posted a recent article about a possible revision to the OSX Disk Utility software. There is speculation that Apple has plans to fill in the spaces left by third-party disk utility applications, such as Norton System Works, which is (apparently) no longer being made for OS X. One of the new features is supposed to be live disc burning. Currently, when you want to burn a data CD in OS X, the Finder creates a folder on the Desktop that represents the Media to be burned. The new Disk Utility is rumored to feature real-time burning to do away with the copying to a hard drive folder, which uses up disk space, and gets rid of the Finder lags when that data is burned to the media itself.

All that a user will have to do in the new version is simply drag the files to the Burn icon, and the procedure goes through in real-time.

Additionally, a new way to optimize the hard drive (well new except for Disk Warrior, which is the only application to use this unique optimazation method) will be introduced. The new Disk Utility will completely recreate a fragmented directory from scratch, and instead of attempting to just repair the sections that are fragmented, it will replace the entire directory with the newly optimized version.

As of now, OS X’s permissions have to be verified and repaired manually, in the new version of Disk Utility the permissions verification will take place in the background just after a run of Software Update or installer. It seems that the revised app will also provide for permissions repairs of critical damage on the fly in the background.

The new System Integrity Checker will store a map of the correct system state after every Apple update is made to the OS. The current state of the system will then be checked against this correct map, and adjusted accordingly. This is great because it will ensure that crucial directories, like /System, /Library, etc. are always intact and functioning properly.

Spoken Interface

This one is a given, since it has already been announced. An all new, fully integrated speech interface system will be built into Tiger. It will accomodate for speech, audible cues, and keyboard navigation to allow for better handicapped accessability on the Mac. Read more about it at Apple’s Spoken Interface web site.

And Some Things That May Never Happen

  1. When reading the forums online, a HUGE gripe is the lack of themes for OS X. There is only Graphite and Aqua, I think it’s a possibility Apple might introduce others in addition, but not very likely. Steve Jobs is big on the consistency issue, and is constantly expressing his disapproval for skinning the Mac OS. Granted, skinning and themes are not necessarily the same thing. But when it comes right down to it I think Mr. Jobs is happy with the brushed metal, and the two theme choices. And, so it would seem, if Steve Jobs is happy with it, then we all had better drink the Kool-Aid and get happy too. In any case, I’m not holding my breath for this one.

  2. Another hope, which I can agree with, is an implementation of FTP access in the Finder that actually works! I shouldn’t have to pay for third party products to upload to FTP servers, the operating system should just do it!

  3. Why can’t Quicktime just work with the great multitude of media formats automatically? That’s great that Quicktime supports them, but why do I have to install the plug-ins myself after the fact? Especially for something like AVI, that video format has been around for ages, and it took me forever to find a plug-in that would implement it in Quicktime.

There are lots of other ideas out there, but these are the ones that I agree with, and can actually see some possibility of their implementation in OS X 10.4 Tiger. Some of them, like additional themes, I may not hold my breath for, but one can never tell exactly what Apple has ups their sleeves. If you have any other ideas, let me know and I’ll add them here too. If you disagree on something, I want to know! That’s half the fun!

Make It a Discussion

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