OS X Lion: My Top Nine Annoyances

Apple’s OS X Lion is a great product. I’m glad I upgraded. But it’s got some annoyances.

My first Mac was a version 1, back in 1985. After that, I used DEC operating systems for a few years, and then used Microsoft Windows exclusively throughout the 1990s and most of the 2000s. I switched back to Macs in 2008, when I bought a MacBook Pro with OS X Leopard.

OS X Leopard and Snow Leopard were fine, quintessential Apple products.

I’ve now upgraded to OS X Lion. Nothing in the earlier two versions made me clench my teeth, but some of Lion’s changes bother me. Someone surely had a good reason for each one, yet all but one are backward steps in usability. (I’m fence-sitting about one of them.)

I won’t prattle about why my opinion matters, but I’ll remind you that I’m really smart and what I say is always right.

Here’s my list of top OS X Lion annoyances.

Save As. You’re editing a document in Pages, and you want to save it as a different file. What do you do? Until Lion, you’ve done a “Save As…” This was easy to understand, and did what you wanted in one operation.

“Save as” is gone in OS X Lion. Now you have to select “Duplicate,” which opens up a new window. In that window you do a “Save,” which brings up a “Save As” window.

This adds a step to a not-too-rare operation, the new window causes a mental context switch, and I have to think about what I’m doing instead of just doing it.

Default mouse scroll direction. For as long as I can remember, the standard scrolling model has been that the window is a view port, and you move the view port when you scroll. So, the scroll direction is the direction in which the view port moves. E.g., you’ll move your view port down in order to move down the page.

Out of the box, OS X Lion puts your mouse scroll function into iOS-mode, which is the opposite of what you’re used to. To move down the page, you have to think above moving text up the window, and so you’ll scroll up.

Reasonable people can differ reasonably as to which model is most natural. And whether one model should be used in all form factors. I think the view port model is the most natural for screens I don’t touch, and the iOS model is most natural for screens I do touch. But that’s me.

I guess this is part of Apple’s master plan to kill the scroll bar. But as an indicator of its confusion potential, Migration Assistant brings up a, “learn to scroll the new way” pane when you first log in.

Sigh. No other operating system has to educate its users on how to scroll a window.

You can switch the scrolling mode back in your Mouse preferences.

Keyboard autorepeat On iOS, holding down a key displays an alternative symbol menu, e.g., accented letters. They’ve moved this into Lion and it sucks.

I’ve got key repeat turned on in Keyboard preferences, yet keys don’t autorepeat in applications! WTF! They autorepeat in Terminal and iTerm, but not in Pages, Numbers, etc! WTF!

To fix this, you have to go into terminal and type:

$ defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool false

(Thank you Jeff M and many other sources.)

This feature makes the Keyboard preferences flat-out wrong. I’m as much of a terminal power-user as anyone, but I shouldn’t need a terminal command to make the obvious behavior happen.

File versioning. This is “Time Machine for files.” I like the idea, but its integration with the until-now standard “save your file” metaphor feels clunky. I wish I could say why, and I suppose I should say why since I’m criticizing it. The reason will probably bubble out of my subconscious in a few weeks. All I can say now is, it feels…clunky. And grafted on to the interface.

I would prefer keeping “Save,” and having “Save a version” be a separate (new) operation.

If you have an opinion on this, I’d like to hear your comments.

Virtual desktop reorganizing. I’m on the fence about this. If you have multiple physical desks in your office, do they ever move about without warning? No. But by default, your virtual desktops will order themselves based on how often you use them.

Some may want this, and some may not. If the desktops don’t reorder, you always know where they are; if they do reorder, the ones you most often use will be closer together. At least, they will if your usage pattern doesn’t oscillate between non-overlapping work sets. I didn’t want automatic reordering at first, and I think I’ll stay that way, but after using it for an extended period, I can understand why some will like it.

Your preference will depend as much on what tools you use, and how you use them, as it will on your brain’s inherent wiring. At any rate, this is easy to change in Mission Control preferences.

Menubar desktop indicator. My Menu Bar used to display the number of my virtual desktop. I relied on this, because I switched desktops with ctrl-1, ctrl-2, etc.

This is now gone. But, I can now set a different background for each desktop. (Meh.) This is an odd feature removal, since Mission Control numbers the desktops 1, 2, 3…

Python packages. As others have noted, Pythonistas will have to reinstall their universe. All is well again after you do. (At least, it was for me.) While fixable, it’s an irritating time sink. And if you hit this before reading some of the relevant blog posts, your heart will skip a beat or two.

iCal. Whomever is responsible for the new iCal Toolbar should be drawn and quartered.

The faux leather look is something that Microsoft would use. It’s ugly. I can’t switch it off. It’s not a preference. It’s the only app that looks like this. It sucks and it’s silly. I hate it.

Address Book. I’ve saved the worst for last. This is a terrible UI mis-feature.

It’s the only app with an, “It Looks Just Like The Real Thing!” visual design. This can’t be part of the purported grand OS X + iOS unification, because the iOS Contacts List app doesn’t look like this. (Update: @kstrauser suggested that this is what the iPad’s Contacts looks like. I didn’t consider this and I don’t own an iPad. Any iPad owners care to comment?)

These changes don’t make Address Book any more useful. It’s now silly looking and is by far the most irritating change. Every time I use it, somewhere a little puppy is killed. Apple, please change it back!

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