Tiger Raves

I know. I bitch and bitch and bitch. But there are some things I really like about Tiger. And now that I have stupid Spotlight under control, I'm in a much better frame of mind to talk about them. So I thought I'd take a minute out of my busy complaint schedule and write them down. These are really just off the top of my head.

TextEdit:One of my favorite things in Tiger is the new TextEdit application. I use this thing all the time, and they've added some small but very useful features.
• My most-used is the Lists feature, which allows you to define an outline style, very easily and intuitively, using bullets, Roman numerals, letters, numbers, and/or dashes. It's wonderful if you tend to make a lot of outlines, which I do. I had always used OmniOutlier for this in the past, but now I don't have to. Basic outline functionality is part of a bundled app that I use all the time and am very accustomed to. Cool!
• TextEdit now allows for basic creation, editing, and exporting of HTML. While I doubt I'll use this much, it's nice to know it's there.

Automator:I've gotten pretty used to writing shell scripts for most of the things I want to do. But Automator allows for a level of interaction in the GUI and applications that is difficult or impossible from the shell. Though it's basically just a user-friendly method of accessing AppleScript, I am pleased to see it. I, for one, could never quite effectively wrap my brain around the AppleScript language, either through lack of motivation, or intelligence. Right now it's a bit limited (Automator, I mean, not my brain, though the latter certainly might apply). But I'm hoping development on Automator grows and that we start to see lots and lots of available new actions, so that I'll never have to learn AppleScript. That would make Automator sweet!

Safari:The new features in Safari are subtle but nice. The best part is that the new features have not done anything much to break all the old stuff that is great about Safari.
• RSS feeds can now be read directly in the browser. I'm not a big RSS guy, but I do think the implementation is nice, and it's something that users have come to expect. I do feel, however, that if you really follow feeds, you'll probably want a specialized application for them. I mean, isn't part of the point of feeds to avoid the browser? Maybe I don't get it.
• Searching bookmarks is way cool!
• Importing/exporting bookmarks: Also way cool!
• The error messages and ensuing Network Diagnostic tool that show up when you have a connection problem are really great. I've never seen anything like this. I had some wireless problems and, until I figured out the solution, Network Diagnostics always got me back online. This is fantastic for inexperienced users, and in my experience, performed exceptionally.
• Sorry (I know this is supposed to be a rave), but I still want to be able to bookmark a group of tabs. Why is this taking so long?

Preview:The new Preview application has a few features I've really been longing for.
• Bookmarks, bookmarks, bookmarks! I read a lot of big long OSX Server (and some other) manuals. I don't know if you've ever read any of these, but they're very -- I don't know -- non-linear, for lack of a better word. That is, they give you an instruction in chapter 6 and then tell you to go to chapter 77 for more details. Chapter 77 then jumps you to chapter 42, which refers you back to chapter 6. There was never a good way to arbitrarily jump around between these chapters. These manuals always screamed out for bookmarks, and now we finally have them. Yay!
• Annotations are also pretty nifty. They allow you to write little comments and notes directly inside your PDF. The problem is that once the PDF is saved, the notes are saved permanently with it. There is no way to go back and remove or change them.
• The slideshow feature, while not really new (you could always go to "Full Screen..." mode in Panther's Preview), is vastly improved, and very nicely implemented, with a beautiful controller and lots of key controls for everything from shufflng through images to toggling between "fill screen" and native image resolution. Super nice!

UNIX:Ahhh! At long last! Some really great changes to the UNIX level. And very little removal of features.
• Finally we have UNIX commands that can handle resource forks, or as they're called in Tiger, "extended attributes." Sometimes this requires an -E flag (as in the case of scp) sometimes it doesn't (as in the case of cp). But in the end, who really cares? It's just so great to be able to finally use the shell like the other kids.
• ACLs are a new addition to Tiger's UNIX underside. Mainly for the server, they can be activated on the client version giving admins finer "granular" (my word for the week) control over permissions. Best thing is, the syntax (if not the dizzying array of combinations and hierarchies that can be achieved) is very simple and straightforward, thus reducing the fear factor and the learning curve. Pure Apple all the way. This is why I love those guys.

QuickTime 7 Pro:QuickTime 7 Pro has a few new features that kinda make you go, "Damn! It's about frickin' time, people!" As it turns out, these changes were not all that easy to make to this core piece of the OS. These are changes that, if you work with video at all, you will begin to see the benefit of, both immediately and for some time down the road. QuickTime now uses the graphics card to process (decompress) all the video in any (or all) given movie(s) that happen(s) to be playing. This opens the door to all kinds of great enhancements to the app, and to apps that use the QuickTime engine to any large degree.
• QuickTime Player 7's full screen mode and dynamic resizing are beautiful and work really, really well. The controller is also very nice, and added key commands in full-screen are simply delicious.
• QuickTime Player should now be much more capable dealing with highly compressed video during real-time playback.
• You can now export multiple videos while watching others.
• QuickTime Player now records video, albeit in a very functionally limited way (see my Tiger Beefs).

Mail:Some people love the new Mail look; some people hate it. Whatever your opinion, there are some important improvements in Apple's new Mail app.
• Finally we have the ability to tab into the all various fields of the mail browser.
• Searching is much improved: faster and more configurable.
• Smart folders for Mail are really useful. I don't really have a use for them in the Finder (and, at this point, I don't trust Spotlight with them anyway), but in Mail they really make sense and they work fairly reliably (though not without their quirks). I'm using them already to sort certain types of mail like my software licenses and my daily mail.
• You can now get a BCC field right from the message window.
• And personally, I like the new look. Panther's Mail just looks kinda silly and dated to me now.

The Finder:While the Finder is, in many regards, far more irritating than it should be (I try not to think about it, but when I read certain articles, I get pretty ticked), there are a few things about it that do, actually rock.
• The Finder now has a slideshow mode just like Preview's. Select a group of images from the FInder, control-click them and choose "Slideshow," and you're there: Full-screen slide show, with the lovely controller and the same key commands you get in Preview. Very nice. My Windows-using friends aren't laughing at me as much now, which I really enjoy.
• Sidebar menu items are, mercifully, contr ol-clickable now.
• Changes to the file system are now immediately reflected in the Finder. That is: copy something to the Desktop from the shell, and it appears without having to select the Desktop. This has been a long time coming and it's a relief to see.
• Well, that's all I can think of right now. Which is really kind of sad...
• I just found one thing to love about the new Get Info: labels. You wouldn't think this would be such a cool thing to do from Get Info. Unless of course you have 100 files you want to temporarily change permissions on, label, and then revert permissions. I just had a need to do this, and being able to do it all from the Get Info window was simply wonderful.

Installer:This a weird entry, I know. But I thought there were a couple of little tweaks in the Inistaller app that were worth mentioning.
• The "Show Files" window is now searchable. Searching in this window can be quirky: If you search something that yields no results, the flip-down arrow disappears and must be reset by clearing the search field and re-entering the main window to re-flip it. Also, it's case sensitive. Still it's nice to see it there, and it's something that could be potentially very useful to admins like me who want to see what gets installed with the latest OS update. (Will this overwrite my resource-fork aware version of rsync? Wait... Doesn't matter now... But you get the point.)
• The "Show Files" window closes with command-w. Ahhh... That's much better!...

Networking:Networking has seen an improvement here and there.
• My favorite appears in the Advanced section of the Firewall portion of the Sharing pane: Stealth Mode. Apparently, Stealth Mode blocks uninvited network traffic from ever receiving an acknowledgement of your computer's existence. How all this happens, I have no idea. But it sure sounds fantastic!
• Also, now availble in the same section is Firewall logging. I do know how that works and I'm darn glad to see it.
• The Airport section of the Networking pane in Tiger has been revamped for the better. You can now set up a list of preferred networks -- both open and closed, secure or not -- for Airport to join when in range. This list was hidden and, thus, unalterable prior to Tiger. It's definitely something I've always wanted, so I'm psyched.

Help:It hasn't changed all that much, but for the sake of completeness, I do have one favorable thing to say about the Help application, and it's important.
• Help has gotten faster. Thank God!
• And, oh yeah! A little bit more helpful. (Okay, that's two.)

General:• Multiple text selections are now supported in most OS X apps. So, if I really, really want to, I can select "multiple" and "apps" and cut, copy and/or paste them to my heart's desire.
• The RSS Screen Saver is a neat idea, and well done. I would, however, like to be able to change things like the color, but whatever. I'll live.
• There really are some nice new Desktop pictures.

Conclusions:Tiger both adds and removes both some good and some bad to and/or from the Macintosh OS. Overall I've had more problems with this release than I had with Panther. But then again, I think there is much more significant stuff going on under the hood in Tiger than there was in Panther. It's a much more (possibly the most) ambitious release of OS X. But most of the ambition is happening behind the scenes. This is probably why it's been more problematic than most. Hopefully, though, it's this same ambitousness that will make Mac OS X an even greater OS than it already is. We may have to bear some bumps and bruises along the way, but my guess is it'll be worth it.