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Why Lion’s iOS-style input innovations confound serious production users

Sections: Features, Lion, Mac OS X, Operating Systems, Opinions and Editorials

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OS X Lion peepholeBeing an OS X 10.7 Lion skeptic and foot-dragger, I was fascinated to read that no less than Macworld senior editor Christopher Breen shares pretty much the same misgivings about the direction Apple has chosen to take with its latest Mac OS revision as I do. To wit: Breen’s an avowed “mouse guy” like me, and as he observes, one of Lion’s major themes is its iOS-style touch interface and gestures, which to fully take advantage of you’re obliged to use a trackpad or Apple Magic Mouse—input devices he finds to be to be less precise than a traditional mouse. When using them, more often than not he says he finds himself wrestling to accurately place the cursor. Tell me about it.

As real mouse guys, we don’t use gestures. At least not very much. I’ve owned a unibody MacBook with an oversized glass multi-touch trackpad for nearly three years, and have rarely ever used any of the gestures it supports beyond the basic tap-clicking and dragging that date back to the first Apple PowerBook trackpads in 1993. As Breen notes, most of the more useful gesture actions can be executed more efficiently with keyboard shortcuts, which, unlike the vague and erratic response you typically get with gestures, can be counted on to work predictably every time.

Apple’s so-called “natural scrolling” is likewise of no benefit to us mouse folks either. It’s okay on my iPad (although I would still prefer the option of having traditional scroll bars even there), but as Breen observes, “when you introduce a mouse’s scroll wheel, the conceit breaks down…there’s nothing natural or intuitive about moving a scroll wheel in the direction opposite to what we’ve used in the past.” Exactly.

Speaking of scroll bars, I’ll go along with Breen to the extent there’s perhaps a case to be made for leaving them out of the all full-screen all the time iOS, but doing likewise with OS X makes zero sense to me, and I fail to grasp how removing the arrow buttons from a scroll bar and making it clumsily tiny amounts to any sort of improvement at all, save for perhaps an aesthetic one in the eyes of some beholders. Form trumping function again. As Breen observes, “the aesthetic of a less cluttered scroll bar (or no scroll bar at all) is interesting, but I don’t need my Mac to be aesthetically interesting…I need it to provide me with controls for easily navigating windows.” Amen, brother.

Personally, I also still need support for several key applications and utilities that require Rosetta PowerPC emulation to run, with known potential workarounds and substitutes all entailing a substantial productivity and efficiency hit, but that’s another movie. Lion’s iOSified input angularities are bad enough in their own right.

Also read How to switch back to standard scrolling in OS X Lion.

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  • JayPee

    I agree, the mouse is better than the trackpad. Gestures are not for me.

  • HoLGi

    …but all those gestures will be natural for all "newcomers" and easy and beneficiary to learn for all those guys (like me) using both iOS (increasingly) and MAC devices (MAC consumption is decreasing).

    The same happened way back in 1984, when the first MAC with mouse came out and old the old-schoolers said they would stick with the keyboard, as they are used to it. I do not know very many people (except maybe for one or two Unix/Linux command-line-only-diehards) using keyboard only nowadays.

    It needs time, but this will be the natural way of using devices in the future. Ever saw a toddler using an iOS device? Ever saw them using a non-iOS device afterwards? (Get the idea?)

    People like all new things, but they hate change ;-)

  • aasmith

    Get over it.
    Get used to it.
    Move on.

  • S Ray Constantine

    I would like the option to use traditional scrolling with a mouse and "natural scrolling" with a trackpad. I have both and did find an AppleScript that will switch between the two, but I'd like to set up preferences that do this without the need to keep switching scrolling (i.e., separate scrolling preferences for each device).

  • FloridaJo

    I agree. I did not update because I just didn't see anything I needed, unlike last time.
    I tried a trackpad on the computer and sold it next day.

  • M Noivad

    The ability to adapt and change is one of mans greatest talents. Not adapting, and not changing simply because you don't like something that has changed, is pretty much choosing to become a technology dinosaur. You know what they do with tech dinosaurs? They are simply not used anymore.

    (1) You can easily change the direction of scroll.
    (2) You can turn off gestures, and there's still different (traditional) ways of doing the same thing.
    So no one is forcing you to change.
    (3) Scroll bars aren't that necessary win most people have mice with scroll wheels, that are 10x easier and faster to use.
    (4) Time to jump ship from PPC apps. It's been YEARS since apple made the transition (5 to be exact) to Intel processors, and every programmer worth their salt has adapted. Time to find a new app. Sure you'll lose time initially learning it, but over time you'll speed up. And if a program lacks key features of an older app. Then find a developer that's willing to add those features to they product.

    BTW, I too agree with S Ray Constantine: Apple needs to add the ability to set scrolling between mouse and trackpad separately.

    That and Apple Apps need to be movable from the App folder, so I can categorize my apps in folders inside the App folder. That was a very stupid move "bolting" them to a folder. A very Windows move.

  • Ambreen Bano

    This, and the Apple App Mobile Applications folder is, so I can not classify my apps in folders inside the app folder. It 'was a very stupid move, "bolts" in a folder. Well in Windows to move.

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  • Chuckb .

    You gotta change. Why be stuck in PPC limbo? I have a copy of Lion on a external drive that I use along with my iMac that has Snow Lep. My 2007 iMac boots in both Lion and SL. If the companies that make your apps havent put out Intel apps by now time to leave them alone. Man you are stuck. Who needs scroll bars? for what? Scroll bars are for grabbing and dragging. That method is dead.