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Why is it so hard for Apple to respect pro users’ needs and priorities?

Sections: Apple Software, Features, Mac Software, Opinions and Editorials, Originals, Writing / Publishing

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TidBITS’ Adam C. Engst highlights an issue that’s frustrated me over my 20-odd years as an Apple user—the company’s abject lack of respect for its customers. This is especially an issue, at least from my subjective perspective, for those of us who use Apple products as tools of our livelihoods.

Mr. Engst frames the issue well with this observation: “Like any craftsman, I care deeply about my tools, because without them, I can’t do my job. But unlike a carpenter or plumber, my tools change constantly, putting me in the unenviable position of having to evaluate each new version.”

The problem, Engst explains at some length, is that Apple evidently takes little or no regard for how changes it makes to its software tools will affect users, particularly if sprung on them with no warning, as recently happened with how Apple changed the EPUB export function in Pages 4.3, neglecting to make any mention of it in the upgrade release notes.

Pages

The changes rendered Pages 4.3 essentially useless for Engst and his TidBITS colleagues’ publishing page layout purposes. A somewhat kludgy workaround downgrade to Pages 4.2 was ultimately achieved, but Engst says Apple’s silent change to Pages 4.3 cost them 10-15 person-hours of work.

It’s a longish tale that Engst tells well.

It also provides a concrete example of why I’ve tended to avoid including Apple application software in my own suite of production tools over the years, and don’t, for example, use iPhoto for photo management or iCloud for online file synching and access—much preferring respectively the Organizer module that ships with Photoshop Elements and Dropbox. The versatility and universality provides markedly superior and more satisfactory usability than tightly-wrapped and locked-down iCloud (I know there’s more to iCloud than file-sharing and synching, but the context of this present discussion is work tools).

I don’t do page layout, but Pages has never appealed to me as a word processing app., and I lean toward Open Source LibreOffice or even Google Docs when I need one.

Most of my word-crunching is done in text editors, mainly Tex Edit Plus and Bare Bones Software’s TextWrangler in OS X, and Plain Text, Nebulous Notes, and Infovole’s fleet of excellent text processors in the iOS.

Speaking of Bare Bones Software, Adam Engst cites them as an exemplar of how software developers whose version upgrades break vital workflow functions for users should respond and react. In the same article, Engst recounts how coincidentally the recent BBEdit 10.5 upgrade also caused him problems last week, but praises how “Bare Bones Software’s transparency and solicitude toward their customers resolved the problem quickly,” in fact discovering that it already had by issuing a BBEdit 5.2.0 bug fix upgrade to the “Search and Replace” Automator action, which had him back in business in 20 minutes. Engst observes that by being transparent about changes and open with pre-release builds, Bare Bones made him feel that they actually cared about helping him get his work done with BBEdit.

By contrast, he says the Pages debacle has him starting to feel like Charlie Brown and the football, with Apple playing the part of Lucy, and that while he’s not going to make any precipitous moves, when it comes time to look for new software tools, he’ll be looking for ones from companies that won’t keep pulling the ball away from him.

Indeed, Apple markets its high-end Macs as “Pro” machines, and needs to develop better mindfulness and greater respect for the needs and priorities of  professional Mac users.

I love Mac hardware, and I’ve also become addicted to my iPad, which I use more and more for production work (such as drafting this blog right now), but I remain unimpressed by the Apple application software experience, and abidingly frustrated by Apple’s refusal to incorporate certain production user friendly features like file system access, standard USB connectivity, real multitasking, multi-window views, and pointing device driver support in the iPad, which would be   a so much better production tool with those capabilities—all of which, incidentally, are supported by the Android and Windows tablet competition.

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4 Comments

  1. It’s easy to understand: it is all about the numbers. The company has made more profit and more customers from the iPhone than they ever did on the Mac Pro. It is clear where they are going to put their resources going forward.

    I know they have de-emphasized R&D on the Mac line, and I am saddened to imagine a day when the Mac and MacOS X might be on “maintenance mode only.” I would enjoy being wrong on that one!

    Gee Deezy
  2. Yep…sales is king!

    I read recently that the number of video post production houses had declined 30% over the last two years and that jobs for video editors etc., was expected to decline by 15% over the next three years. I’d have to find it again but I remember thinking that this was why MacPro and Final Cut were no longer a priority.

    I can’t blame them and if Avid and PC OEM’s want to invest $$$$ into a declining market I think Apple is willing to let it go.

    NotTellinYou
  3. Two glaring examples are the killings of Classic and Rosetta — 2 major assaults on use of Macs in any enterprise. Although those 2 technologies are not glitzy, their abandonment leaves copious material created on pro Macs at best difficult to access.

    Where are the virtual replacements for those technologies? We don’t get any because we are in the “closed” world of Apple rather than the “open” rest of the world.

    A company that chooses to adopt a more “closed” system should simultaneously accept greater responsibility for allowing serious users access to the products of that very system.

    Shame on Apple.

    Jeremy
  4. Good article. In some ways my Macs (I’ve had over 30 at home and work since 1986) have gotten less capable for business. For years I’ve had all my billing in a sweet little AppleWorks data base, the end of Rosetta has forced me to hang on to Snow Leopard until I can find the time to transfer the data to something new. There is no real export/import option. I live by contact management, but Apple Address Book is for children, and Outlook is for masochists (crash/4-hr rebuild/crash/4-hr rebuild). Why can’t Apple make a decent business address book, with lots of categorizing, finding/sorting and good import/export options. I’d like to have something professional that integrates easily with my iOS devices.

    Gordon