May 29th, 2008 • 8:31 am
Apple finally released the latest Mac OS X 10.5 update, Mac OS X 10.5.3, yesterday. You can read the release notes here.
I am afraid that, unlike the previous update, this release is a massive disappointment. By this, I don’t mean that it is massively disappointing—only that, well, it is quite massive (536 MB for the combo updater!), and that it is also quite disappointing, especially after such a long wait.
I suspect that those who do like to use Leopard’s Spaces feature (not me) will appreciate the fixes included in Mac OS X 10.5.3, but for the rest of us out there, the number of bug fixes that actually address substantial usability issues with Mac OS X 10.5 is far too small.
And, among this particular group of issues, I find it particularly baffling that Apple still hasn’t fixed the problem with file names becoming editable in Spotlight search results windows in the background after double-clicking on them.
This is, after all, a bug that is a known issue. And it is also a bug that is not just “cosmetic”: it can have very destructive consequences, which I keep experiencing myself again and again in my work.
Just a few days ago, I was looking for a specific keyword in a bunch of text files scattered within several sub-folders inside a main folder. So I selected the main folder and initiated a search for the keyword in question with Spotlight in the Finder.
I got a Spotlight search results window with a list of three results in list view—three files named A, B and C. I selected A in the list and then double-clicked on it to open it in BBEdit. After the file was opened in BBEdit, I could still see the search results window in the background. And sure enough, the name of file that I had selected and then double-clicked on had suddenly become editable, in the background.
But what’s worse is that, a few moments later, I saw with my own eyes in that background window that Mac OS X arbitrarily changed the name of result C, which was not even selected, to the same name as result A!
Since result A and result C were two files that were in two different sub-folders, I didn’t get the error message complaining that I (!) was trying to rename file C using a name that already existed. Mac OS X simply randomly changed the name of result C to the name of result A, and if I had not noticed it right there and then, I would have continued with my work and never realized that I now had a file whose name was incorrect.
And this happened in a context where file names are particularly important, since the search in question had to do with the PHP files inside my WordPress folder. To be blunt, in such a context, a changed file name means that the entire WordPress installation is broken. It is extremely damaging!
How can Apple’s engineers live with the fact that this bug still exists in Mac OS X 10.5.3? It has been a known issue for many weeks now, and they have had more than enough time to address it. And, I repeat, this is not just a cosmetic bug that users can live with until Apple’s engineers get around to fixing it. It is a potentially very destructive bug! I cannot believe that Apple’s engineers don’t realize this, and don’t make fixing this bug a high priority.
Another area of Mac OS X 10.5.3 that is utterly disappointing is the Mail application. As far as I can tell, none of the new problems introduced in Mac OS X 10.5 that substantially affect usability have been fixed. The alert sounds for incoming and outgoing mail are still played randomly, with neither rhyme nor reason. Mail still does not play these sounds through the correct audio channel. It still removes the text colouring when replying to a message that has been coloured by a rule. Etc. Etc.
What exactly is the Mail team working on? The list of fixes for Mail provided in the release notes is sadly pretty short, and none of the above issues is mentioned.
Now, the issues in question are not as potentially damaging as the bug with Spotlight search results windows, but they still affect the usability of the application in very visible—and audible—ways. Given that these are not new features, but things that worked just fine in Mac OS X 10.4 and that Apple broke in Mac OS X 10.5, you’d think that they would demonstrate a little more zeal in fixing them so that at least Mail works as well in Mac OS X 10.5 as it used to in Mac OS X 10.4.
But no. Now Mac OS X 10.5.3 is out, and none of these things is fixed. This means that we still have to live with them for at least another couple of months, if not longer.
I am afraid this is really quite disappointing.