Application of the Day: Right Zoom

So I downloaded the new Firefox beta and for some reason I couldn’t find the Downloads window when I used the shortcut or selected it from the Window menu item. It took me a while and then I saw it. Look carefully at the image below and you will see the ‘hidden’ download window

wheres the firefoxs download window

See it yet? No? Well the answer is below:

theres the firefox hidden download window

Now how the heck do I resize something when I can’t even see the buttons nor the bottom right window resizer? I tried clicking/resizing on the window but to no avail. No shortcut is available for OS X to resize or maximize the window (one of my issues with OS X). Thankfully I found Right Zoom that enables me to maximize a window using a keyboard shortcut. Selected the window using Command + ` after Command + Tabbing onto the Firefox icon, pressed Command + Shift + E to maximize and there I found my download window back again! Phew..

Right Zoom was created to change the default behavior of the Zoom button in OS X to make it behave like Window’s and Linux’s Maximize button. It also lets uses assign a customizable keyboard shortcut to maximize the window. As I won’t have my Alt+Space, X as I have in Windows, this is the next best thing. Right Zoom runs in the background and is probably something you want to start automatically when you login (System Preferences > Accounts > Login Items).

My OS X Issues

So I recently got a 13″ Macbook Pro and after month with it as my full time operating system, here are my issues with the Mac OS X as a heavily keyboard dependent user who has been in a Windows and Linux (Ubuntu/Debian) world for many years.

Command + Tab Application Switcher

One of the things apparent to me when I used a Mac previously was that when you Command + Tab (Mac’s version of Window’s Alt+Tab) to switch between open applications, it won’t show all the current windows open, just the applications. So, for instance, if you have 3 Finder windows open, when I Command + Tab I will only see one icon as show below.

3 Finder windows, 1 Finder icon in the application switcher
3 finders 1 icon

I can see the rationale for this as it doesn’t clutter the application switcher screen but I personally do not like it. There is a way to switch between multiple windows of the same program (Alt + `)(Command + `) which is good that it is accessible but still the inconvenience of having to switch to the application before switching to the right window. This is detrimental to my workflow and productivity on a Mac. I guess to combat this, expose was created for window selection. Expose nicely lays out all open windows on one screen for the user to select and bring to the foreground, and it is even keyboard accessible. However it is not as efficient as alt+tabbing on Windows because each time expose launches, you would have to search for the correct window on the screen before clicking it and proceeding. Witch solves this problem but it will cost you (€9.95) and I’m actually surprised at how few people want this option (current score is: -21).

Expose in action on 3 Finder windows:
expose finder

Finder

Finder is the equivalent to Window’s Explorer used for file management. One thing that became apparent to me when moving between OS’s is that OS X likes to create hidden files on USB drives and these files are never show in Finder. You simply can’t show hidden files in Finder. I also like to go to the folders by typing in the location using the address bar in Windows. This is something I also cannot do easily with Finder: the “Go To Folder…” dialog box has no auto complete and just does not offer the flexibility of a address bar where I can type and search on the fly.

OS X’s “Go to the folder” dialog instead of an address bar
finder go to folder

In Finder you cannot list directories first. Thus if you’re trying to access a folder that is deep in your folder hierarchy, you are just searching the sub directories of a folder, you will find yourself searching for the folder among the files. There really needs to be an option for this.

Folders sorted together with files instead of before
finder folders and files mixed

Cut and Paste
No copy and paste but cut and paste. Yes there is cut and paste in a text editor but there is none for file management in Finder. This is a big deal for me as I will use cut and paste very heavily in file management as it allows me to do all my file management via the keyboard. With Finder you’re forced to use the mouse to move files by dragging the folders into the necessary location. This ends up to be a huge time waster. It seems some 3rd party file managers (Path Finder and RAGE Macintosh Explorer) do implement cut and paste feature but if you cut files and forget to paste them (or you interrupt your cut with a copy and paste elsewhere) you can lose the files you previously cut. Windows and Linux has had cut & paste for years and here is Mac OS X without it. I find that hard to believe and also that only now in Snow Leopard you can restore your (accidentally) deleted file to the original location.

Replace not Merge
Take note that if you have 2 folders (A and B) of the same name and try to replace one folder with the other (drag folder A to folder B’s enclosing folder) do take note that it will replace folder B with folder A and not merge the 2 folders into one. Thus any files in folder B will be lost. This is very important and I can forsee a lot of cursing and swearing if this concept is not understood. For the record Windows merges the 2 folders giving the user with a folder containing files from both of the folders.
finder replace not merge

Menu Bar

So on a Mac the Menu Bar is always on the top and menu items change dynamically based on which application is currently in focus. The problem here is that you have to select the application first before being able to access any menu. So if you have another application window besides the current window you are using you cannot just access the menu item of the other window, you will have to click on the other window, move your mouse back up to the top of the screen where the menu bar is and file the item. Another time waster. You also cannot navigate menu items like you can in Windows. In Windows you can simply press the Alt key and menu bar is selected and thus you can use the navigation keys to move around the menu. Quick and simple. You can even use shortcuts to access menu items by pressing the key for the letter underlined in the menu. While you can place focus on the Menu bar in OS X using an awkward shortcut of Ctrl + F2 (am trying to find a way to mimic the single button Alt keypress in Windows) , there is no possible quick navigation of the menus.

On the right side of the menu bar there are icons/text that act as shortcuts to certain fuctions (e.g. wireless, bluetooth, volume control) or just for information display. The problem is that some programs have enough menu items to hide some of these icons and there is no way to view these icons in the hidden state. The only way around this is to remove functionality/information from the menu bar itself, preventing me from using it the way I want to. Windows has a feature to hide system tray icons and there is a toggle button to show them all. OS X needs a feature like this.

Menu bar in Mail – hiding some icons
menu bar mail
Menu bar in Finder – revealing hidden icons
menu bar finder

Window Menu

In Windows you can access the window menu by pressing Alt + Space. You can do things like maximize, minimize, restore and close the current window. You can even resize and move the window just by using the keyboard. That is just great and helps productivity. For OS X there is no window menu. You have to use the mouse to move and resize the window. Worse yet you can only resize the window my using the resizer in the bottom right of the window; you can’t resize from any other corner, ONLY the bottom right. I found that Afloat allows moving and resizing windows via the mouse as well as “always on top” and transparency features that I get with Compiz in Linux.

Zoom / (Smart) Maximize

In Windows the title bar has 3 buttons: minimize, maximize and close. In OS X you also have 3 buttons (on the left rather than the right), close, minimize to dock (-) button and zoom (+) button. Zoom does a ‘smart’ maximize that maximizes the window to occupy the optimal space, not the full screen. I can see that makes sense because when you maximize windows sometimes you get a lot of whitespace or useless space, but the issue with this is that it is inconsistent between applications and gets frustrating at times. So I found RightZoom that makes the Zoom button do a maximize like Windows and better still adds a shortcut to this.

OS X’s zoom button: love it or hate it
zoom button

Home and End

If you work with any kind of text in Windows I believe the Home and End buttons are your friends as they are mine. It seems these friends have had a change of heart in the Mac world. I’m using a standard (Windows) keyboard with and when I press the Home / End buttons they bring me to the start / end of the document I’m editing instead of the start / end of the line that I’m used to. I know there is the Command + Left / Command + Right to do this but call me lazy if I think an extra button to press too much inconvenience. Thankfully I found DoubleCommand which allows the Home and End keys to work as I expect them to.

Inaccessible window/dialog box that float on top

I found that there are some windows/dialog boxes that cannot be accessed via the keyboard application switcher (Command + Tab) or window switcher (Command + `). Open TextEdit (though I think it works in all applications), in the Menu bar > Help > TextEdit help. The window that appears is now inaccessible by the standard keyboard window selector shortcuts mentioned but can be accessed via expose. The worst part is that the window floats on top of everything you’re doing forcing me to reach for the mouse or find the window in expose. This can also happen if a samba share goes offline and you have it mounted

Mac Help window inaccessible via Witch (which is supposed to show all opened windows)
inaccesible help window

Keyboard inaccessible dialog box / help window
no selecteable dialog box same with help filepicture 1

Conclusion

These are my main issues with OS X and there are several other (minor) issues. As you can see there seems to be people with similar situations to mine as there are 3rd party applications developed to overcome these issues. After using a Mac I have realized that Macs jeopardize (my) keyboard skill portability due to the use of the command key instead of ctrl key for many functions and also due to the fact that Apple keyboards have a different layout. I guess the same can be said for long time Mac users in the Windows / Linux world but the fact that Apple not only dictates OS X’s the software but the Apple hardware and both ‘offend’ my quest for keyboard shortcut portability. Just as how Opera changed their new tab shortcut to Ctrl + T from Ctrl + N many version ago for consistency among the other tabbed browsers I can only hope and dream that Apple would give an option to make OS X shortcuts work like they do in Windows.

A Mac-nificent World?

So the other day I actually took my brother’s Apple iBook G4 (1GHz) out from his cupboard (he did give me permission to use it, so don’t be emptying your sibling’s cupboards looking for things..) and finally tried to use it. He got it the year he left Singapore meaning it is about about 4 years old. I’ve been wanting to get a Mac to explore the OS X world so I thought this would be a good starting point. Mind you I have played with a few MacBooks over the years but nothing long term enough to get the full experience.

Let me start off by saying that Exposé is a fantastic utility which I’ve had the chance to use in Linux thanks to Compiz Fusion or for those technically challenged due to proprietary drivers or just have difficulty getting Compiz Fusion running there is always Komposé. I like the fact that you can zoom in and out using (Cmd+Alt+=) / (Cmd+Alt+-) along with other accessibility options e.g. switch screen to black and white (Cmd+Alt+Ctrl+8), things which Compiz Fusion yet again has copied (piracy is the best form of flattery huh?).

1. New/”New” keys

So those keyboard shortcuts stated above lead to the first problem (aside from the single mouse button): the new and “new” keyboard keys. There is the Apple/Command key that has an Apple icon on the left and ⌘ icon on the right which (for switchers from Windows) would tend to associate with the Windows key. There is the fn key which most laptop notebook users will be familiar with and then the alt/option button: it is the regular alt button next to the ctrl but has the word “option” on it as well so it’s the alt/option button. So as a user trying to find the “right click” that you are so used to in Windows/Linux/BSD you are supposed to hold down one of these buttons and click the mouse button to get the context menu. So which button do you press? My first thoughts would be the fn or Apple key.. How wrong I was; it is the Ctrl key. Then it makes me wonder what happens to selecting files one by one with the mouse since I can no longer Ctrl+left click to select individual files, adding them on to the currently selected group. Now that has moved to Cmd+click. This kind of “remapped” keyboard modifier shortcuts are prevalent in applications as well. For instance in Firefox to create a new tab it is Cmd + T. To cycle through tabs it is still the Ctrl + Tab though. So my fingers (and thus me) are getting frustrated doing the finger dance trying to find the right key combination to achieve what I want.

2. Application switcher does not show all windows/does not restore minimized windows

Cmd+Tab for the windows/application switcher (similar to Alt+Tab for Windows) does NOT show all windows open. For instance if I have only 2 Finder (equivalent to Windows Explorer / Nautilus / Konqueror / any file manager) windows open and I Alt+Tab Cmd+Tab I will only see one icon representing Finder despite having 2 windows of it open. So the alternative to that is to use Exposé, but alas the problem with Exposé is that if you minimize a window it won’t show up in Exposé. So this will make you change your style of work if you tend to minimize your applications. I guess the way OS X discourages you from minimizing applications is the fact that the green + button in the window title bar, which people would think is the “maximize” button isn’t the typical maximize button it is a smart maximize button which expands the window to an optimal size thus in other words it will probably NOT (actually I haven’t seen it ever) expand and do a full screen maximize like in windows (minus the task bar), thus you will be able to see windows in the background which I read/heard somewhere is supposed to help productivity. How true that is, I do not know. But anyway so typically in Windows / Linux I will Alt+Tab through my windows/programs to select the one I want which is something I cannot do in OS X. The alternative is to leave all windows open and just use Exposé. I have to give props to Exposé that it can be navigated through the keyboard as well though, but still the minimized caveat is still an issue. An alternative is to use Cmd+Tab to select the application then Alt+` to select the window (Alt+` cycles through the windows of the same program, e.g. Firefox and the Firefox download window / another Firefox window). Cmd+Tab apparently does not restore minimized windows so you have to go to the “Windows” menu or select the window from the minimized windows section in the dock. Oh the trouble.

3. No easy access to menu bar

I like to be able to access the menu bar of my applications, you know bar on top with all the menu’s typically starting with File, Edit and View. I access them via the Alt+key_letter shortcut (e.g. File: Alt+F, Edit: Alt+E, View: Alt+V), for just Alt to focus on the menu bar and use the cursors/keyboard shortcut to navigate. This could not be done by default or in the usual fashion. When looking online I saw the shortcuts given to access the menu bar was Ctrl+F2 but when I tried it, it didn’t select the menu bar, it just increased the brightness…. I found out one day when I went into the Keyboard & Mouse preferences in System Preferences. Apparently the fn is only for laptopsnotebooks so you have to check an option (Use the F1-F12 keys for custom actions) to force the use fn in order to access the custom actions (in this case increase screen brightness) and after that it worked. I’m pretty sure the default configuration is unchecked because my bro isn’t as much of a keyboard user as I am (got confirmation from Nick that it is unchecked by default). The issue I have is that it highlights the main application menu and thus I can’t do a quick jump to different menus. Also the shortcut (Ctrl+F2 is an uncomfortable one compared to Alt). Be wary of Ctrl+F1 for this toggles this ability without making any notice of it, even in the checkbox setting. Now that is strange. Let me take issue with the checkbox main description as well. It says “Use the F1-F12 keys for custom actions” and in the smaller print “Hold down the Function (Fn) key to perform the custom action of the F1-F12 key.”. It is a bad main description because when I first read it I was like but it already performs the custom action without the box checked so what’s the point of the option. Only then did I read the smaller print and found my answer. Also there should be a “Restore to Default” button in case you mess things too much. This is something I believe all configuration windows (i.e. all applications on all OS’s). On a side note the windows menu shortcut (Alt+Space) is not existent and just have to use Cmd+M to minimize.

4. Enter does not enter folders

Select a folder in Finder and try using the keyboard to enter it. The Enter button which sounds good right? Wrong! Not only does it not enter, it highlights the name in order for you to rename the folder. Cmd+Down is the answer though. I honestly do not get that. Why make the single intuitive keystroke into a strange convoluted 2 button action?

5. Navigating controls in dialog boxes (Firefox)

When I get a password prompt to save the password or a Javascript dialog box in Firefox with buttons, I can NOT press Tab to move from one element to another. This is something of second nature and a great accessibility option. After some searching back in the Keyboard preferences in the Keyboard shortcuts panel there is the “Turn on full keyboard access” which “Turns on full keyboard access to use the tab key, arrow key, and other keys to select buttons, lists, and other items on your screen” and I though to myself “YES! This is it”. But alas it is not. It doesn’t work with Firefox only in Safari (and I take it other native OS X applications). So now if you want to select the non default option you HAVE to use the mouse which is a time consuming.

6. Mouse acceleration

So I know that the previous 5 issues I’ve had were all keyboard related but that is a big deal for me but the next method of user input is the mouse and OS X has my despised foe: mouse acceleration. I have always disliked mouse acceleration because it is not a definite or predictable manner to move the mouse. For those who don’t know what mouse acceleration is, here is a simple scenario. Move your mouse onscreen cursor to the left of the screen. Now move your mouse slowly from the left to the right over a certain distance. Now repeat that but this time moving much quicker. If the mouse cursor is roughly at the same place you probably have acceleration off, but if it is way off, acceleration is on. I’ve hated it ever since I’ve played first person shooter (FPS) games where you need to aim with your mouse and want your mouse movement to be consistent with how the view in game moves. If I move my mouse 5cm on the table I want my cursor to move a fixed distance on screen despite how slow/quick I move my mouse. That gives predictability and thus control of my mouse cursor. Now if you have mouse acceleration on and you have excellent control over your mouse I applaud you for being able to do all the math calculation in your head because I certainly can’t. There simply isn’t a visible option for disabling it aside from going to the terminal and typing the following, after which you need to logout and log back in again for it to take affect.

defaults write .GlobalPreferences com.apple.mouse.scaling -1
defaults write .GlobalPreferences com.apple.trackpad.scaling -1

For some reason when I enable this and when I move the cursor via the trackpad it moves a little bit after it reaches the destination for no apparent reason. It’s hard to explain so I uploaded a video below.

And this annoys the heck out of me because I can’t select items properly as the cursor ‘happily’ moves off the element I was previously hovering over. This could be a hardware issue though, wonder if I can get confirmation of this else where though.

7. Second class citizenship for old systems?

So I admit this is an older machine running 10.3.9 and I have issues with that. Firefox 3 is not available for the older system thus I have to use Firefox 2, thus losing out of all the new features and so forth. Next I wanted to download Quicksilver which is a great application for the Mac and is cloned for Windows in Launchy and for Linux in Gnome-Do / Deskbar / Katapult. The link for the older version which is compatible with 10.3.9 is apparently broken for Firefox 2 though I does work with Safari which is a relief. Imagine trying to get software compatible for your aging system only to be locked out due to the browser not supporting the website the website not supporting the browser. So I guess major releases (10.3 to 10.4 or 10.4 to 10.5) are treated as new operating systems if you come from the Windows world, considering that you have to pay for upgrades as well. Support for the older systems are apparent from the software availability (or lack there of). Thus 10.3 could be equated to Windows ME, 10.4 to Windows XP and 10.5 to Vista. And saying that older systems if you choose not to upgrade or if you can’t upgrade (due to hardware requirements) you are left in the dust. So that means assuming you do not upgrade the OS, Macs have shorter productive life spans than Windows machines because you quickly get software that only works on the new version of the OS.

Conclusion

Strange enough after recording the video above, the iBook got stuck zoomed in. Toggling enabling of zoom (Cmd+Alt+8) twice solved that but it’s strange that it got stuck zoomed in when the times I disable it now, it zooms back out. I guess this G4 doesn’t like me? But honestly I’ve been trying to give it a go but the finger dance trying to find the right key combination just frustrated the heck out of me so I can not recommend getting a Mac for users who use the keyboard like I do. So I deem OS X (based on this old iBook G4) as keyboard unfriendly

P.S. I wonder if the NTFS support is better now, previously when I installed the NTFS read/write driver the transfer speeds were dismal. But for now I guess I’ll stick with Linux and possibly seek Windows audio and video editors as one of the reason for getting a Mac was to look into those applications as well. But on the bright side that means I could possibly buy a new desktop for my current needs (maybe), a netbook, a phone (Nokia E51) and Vista? Ahhh I don’t remember having a wish-list like this before.

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