Aleksandar • Vacić

iOS bits and pieces

I work faster on Win than Mac

I worked with iBook G4 lately and was using it as a development machine for urgent work. My main environment is Windows 2003, so this was the chance to compare the two OS in full productivity mode. My usual working setup is file manager + HTML/CSS editor + FTP software + one or two browsers + whatever I need (like Photoshop). On Win, that means Total Commander (has built-in FTP), TopStyle Pro, Firefox and IE. On Mac, it’s SubEthaEdit or Dreamweaver, Finder, RBrowserLite, Safari.

Keyboard access

First of all, I use the keyboard a lot. In Win, I memorized the shortcut sequences for often used menu options - press Alt then a series of letters for the submenu option path. It means that I rarely move my hands over to the mouse.

In Panther, I constantly use the mouse. Unless I know the shortcut (and there is actually shortcut defined) I have no other means to select the menu option then using a mouse. Further, I’m so hooked on diverse Win context menus that I find the lack of two buttons on the iBook a serious problem. Even when I force myself to hold the Ctrl key, the options given are often disappointing. I’m a newcomer to Mac, so I might be missing some useful feature (or the general OS X philosophy), but then again, it’s how I see it now.

In reality, this means that I’m much less productive on the Mac than Windows. For instance, when you try to close the unsaved document, you are given the Yes / No / Cancel save dialog on Windows and Save / Cancel / Don’t save dialog on Mac. However, on Windows I can press n key and be done with the dialog, while on Mac I need to use the mouse to click on Don't save. In situations when I don’t have a mouse and need to use the touchpad, that is sloooooow. It’s the same with every other Mac app - serious lack of keyboard control.

I know that graphical interface and mouse control are Mac legacy (more or less), but that does not make them productivity champion in the developer hands.

File management

This is even more obvious when I throw in the fact that simply there is no good graphical file manager for OSX. One really need to use Total Commander for few days to realize how much faster and powerful two-pane interface is over a pile of directory windows. I can’t tell which implementation of file-management-through-windows is better (Mac or Win) as, in my opinion, they both suck, big time.

John Gruber wrote a lot about OS X Finder and problems as he saw them, but none the less I find window-based management tedious and time consuming. To work comfortably you need to have large screen space, to position both source and destination windows properly. In two-pane app, you have them instantly side by side. No manual positioning. One can compare directories just looking at them. Selecting, renaming, copying, moving, switching between dirs - all much faster in two-pane view than in two-windows mode.

Simple example: both Mac and Win versions of Firefox use the same bookmark.html file. So, when I want to sync them, it takes me over a minute to click through all the windows where the file is kept and copy the latest version of the file. In Win, it takes me less than 10s (1s when I have the directory path rememberd in TC’s hotlist).

The DOS legacy of Windows has this good benefit - bunch of file managers. From Norton Commander and Dos Navigator in the text mode to TC in graphical mode - file and network operations are light and fluent. Since I also have the tree copy plugin for TC, updating the live web site is amazingly quick. I tend to work for hours, and then: search for changed files in all sub dirs in last 6h, tree-copy them to temp dir in the left pane, open FTP access in the right pane, press F5 and copy the whole tree to live server. Simply can’t be faster.

Of course, if you use some integrated site management in BBEdit or Dreamweaver, this might not be the strong argument for you. But try to update multiple sites on various network locations. Or when you need to copy different sub-groups of changed files to different servers.

This ability goes beyond web site management. Previewing files, changing attributes / name, zip and unzip - file managers make this so easy and quick, all in one place. I really wish there was something like that for OS X, it would make it so much better and productive. Unfortunatelly, my two fav apps - TC and TopStylePro - are written in Delphi, thus being port-less to Mac.

I can’t believe that there are great utilities for various purposes (Transmit, Unison, Quicksilver etc.) but there is not a single file manager worth mentioning.

A flashlight?

It’s a shame really, because I find OS X to simply rule when it comes to ease of use, especially when you move from one place to another and connect to some unknown modem/ISDN/printer/scanner. In such situations, Mac simply works, while for Win I often need to deal with drivers, setup and other tedious stuff. There are other subtle things done better in OS X, on the system level. Especially (de)installing which is a dream.

Now, as I started this post several days ago when I recovered enough from my dad' passing to be able to work a bit; thus it was several days in making. Today, I searched again in hope to find a TC-like utility and this time the search was not fruitless…

I’m testing the app and will write about it in a day or two.