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Jeremy is right! Tiger underwhelms, except for...

I have to come out and agree with Jeremy, Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger is a little underwhelming. I’ve been using it for 8 weeks now, and overall, I’m not as wowed as I was with the Jaguar>Panther upgrade. Sure, there are a lot of improvements, but I’ve not found a use for Dashboard and Spotlight, the supposed major features. I’m still missing uControl’s virtual scrolling, and haven’t found any suitable replacement. Thats a sore point.

Dashboard takes a while to ‘kick in’, as you watch the widgets load slowly. I think this is still yet to reveal its usefulness, as a lot of widgets are things like ‘Amazon Search’. Hmm, referrer fees are wonderful thing aren’t they? Even the Transmit widget isn’t that useful. Why use that when I can just drag files to a dock or finder sidebar icon? It also seems to use up CPU unnecessarily, and since turning it off with DashOnOff on my powerbook is improved. Those widgets that I actually use (Calculator and currency converter) I have bookmarked in Safari, and open them in a tab. (To do this, ctrl-click the widget, and open the main .html file found inside).

To be honest, I still prefer my neat little Stattoo.

Spotlight is nowhere near as quick to use as Quicksilver (although, to be fair, I find the fact that it indexes text in PDFs quite useful). The jumpiness of its search results are annoying to say the least.

I think there are sleepy features that will reveal their usefulness over time, such as Automator, but until then, the one thing that has made me glad to upgrade is Safari 2. Not only for its new features (little things like undos in textareas), but for its RSS Reader. I had very low expectations for the in-built RSS reader, despite really wanting a browser+RSS solution. I’ve now found myself using it all the time. Its convenient, feeds are synced along with my bookmarks, and it suits my style of reading perfectly. I always prefer to view the actual content in the browser, using RSS readers as little more than a notification of updates. It also seems to cope well the 250+ feeds that I subscribe to – no speed problems at all.

Admitting this makes me feel very guilty though, as if I’m personally betraying Brent Simmons and David Watanabe.

I’ve had a few questions about how I use the RSS feature, so I thought I’d just quickly outline what I do. In my bookmarks toolbar is an ‘RSS Feeds’ folder, in which there are sub-folders for ‘Mac’, ‘Music’, ‘Design’ and so on. This means that each sub folder has a ‘View all RSS articles’ command at the bottom its menu, which means I can view feeds together, or just in 1 category. New feeds are set to be coloured red, and sorted by ‘new’. Finally, I’ve hacked the appearance to be little less vanilla. I love the fact that that I can do it all within the browser.

Safari RSS screenshot

In fact, there is only one drawback I’ve come across. Sometimes it takes two goes to get the RSS feeds displayed. Click ‘View all RSS Articles’ once – nothing. Go back and do it again, it works fine. I’ve also seen this happen on individual feeds, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason or reproducible steps to it. Has anyone else found this? Its odd, but I find that I can put up with this (and hopefully its a bug that’ll be fixed in the future).

So thats the way it is now, at least until NetNewsWire gets even more browser features…


One ‘archive and install’ later, and I’m now running on 10.4. This is just a quick post to offload the Tiger related thoughts in my head to make room for more important matters.

Apart from all the obvious shiny bits (dashboard, mail 2, saved searches, spotlight, etc) these are things I love so far:

  • Overall it seems very snappy. I’m not sure if this is due to a fresh install, but it feels very responsive and peppy – hooray! Jeff Croft found this too.
  • One of the best features of Safari RSS, which no one seems to have mentioned yet, is the way it handles pages it can’t find. No longer do you get a sheet which you have to ‘OK’. Just a error message displayed in the browser window – just like every other browser, and its so much less irritating for it.
  • Safari’s in-built RSS reader is actually much better than I expected. It now occupies a tab, rather than using the separate, overlayed window that was shown in the preview demonstrations. Great for small amounts of feeds, but lacks features such as mark as read/unread functions to make it practical.
  • NewsFire is faster again, and it doesn’t suffer from the constant crashing that 10.3.9 was causing it to do. I’m torn between this and NetNewsWire yet again, and NewsFire is winning at the moment.
  • I love being able to add the ‘unified toolbar’ look to Omniweb (using Interface Builder), without resorting to shapeshifter themes. I guess this has the potential to be overused in future apps, but personally I love this clean, less anaemic, look.

In contrast there are only a few negative experiences:

  • Mail’s new toolbar icons. What were Apple thinking?
  • To be able to use signatures in Mail, they have to drag and dropped onto the relevant account icon in the signatures preferences. Trouble is, no accounts were showing up, and the only way to get to show up was to remove them all and add them again.
  • I really miss uControl. So far, its the only app I’ve found that either doesn’t work or hasn’t been updated for Tiger. If anyone knows of a similiar app (Sidetrack isn’t quite the same thing), that uses a keystroke and mouse movement to emulate a scrollwheel – I’d love to know about it.
  • Dashboard is slow to startup, but once you let all your widgets load, switching to it is real quick.
  • When opening a new safari window, the focus used to go straight to the location bar, not any more. Grrr! – not anymore – strangeness!
  • Word hinting that I used every day in Safari (alt-escape after typing a few letters) is no more. Does anyone know the new key combo?” – again, back to normal, more strangeness!

Tiger style for NetNewsWire

Just what the world doesn’t need right now – yet another spotlight style for NetNewsWire! There are many fine ones already available on the interweb, but none of them were quite how I wanted them to be, so here’s mine.

Here’s an overall shot (I just wanted to show you how nice NNW looks with a minimal-no-toolbar approach). Click for a full-size image:

screenshot of NetNewsWire

I couldn’t think what else to call it, so for the moment its an egotistical self-named style. Any suggestions?

If you’d like to give it a spin, download the style here: hicksdesign.nnwstyle.zip, and double click the file to install it (thanks to Jason in the comments for pointing out this easy install route). Please Note, you must have the beta of NNW 2 of NNW 2 Lite for this to work. User stylesheets are not supported in earlier versions.

Update. Brent Simmons has asked me to produce a version without the fixed header and footer. Apparently, there is a bug in WebKit where scrolling goes too far when you have fixed elements. So here’s a fluid version with no fixed elements: