iCal’s Dock icon: iWork ’08 install triggers ’17’ syndrome

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
August 28th, 2007 • 10:55 am

A while ago, I noted how frustrating it is that iCal’s Dock icon is unable to show the current date when the application is not running. Instead, it always shows the date as being the 17th of the month.

There are technical reasons for this, obviously, and there are ways to circumvent the problem, mainly through the use of third-party tools for displaying the correct date. But the fact remains that, when iCal is not running, its Dock icon says that today is the 17th of the month—every day of the month.

What makes it worse is when Apple’s own software aggravates the problem. Today, I had to reinstall iWork ’08 (for reasons explained in another post) and, when you use the “Easy Install” option, the iWork installer automatically causes Mac OS X to relaunch the Dock (presumably because it adds the applications’ icons to the Dock, although I fail to see why this requires a relaunch).

What is shocking is that, after this Dock relaunch, even if iCal is running, its Dock icon shows today’s date as being the 17th!

In other words, Apple’s own iWork ’08 installer causes Apple’s own iCal Dock icon to become useless. And the only workaround, i.e. the only way to force Mac OS X to refresh the iCal Dock icon and display the correct date, is to quit and relaunch iCal.

(The Dock relaunch also causes the Mail icon to lose its small indicator which displays the number of unread messages in white characters inside a small red disc. Here again, the only workaround is to quit and relaunch Mail.)

This behaviour demonstrates a distinct lack of polish and attention to detail in Apple’s own software, which, I have to say, is very unlike Apple. And frankly, I’d much rather see fixes for such problems in Mac OS X 10.5 than a 3D Dock with fake drop shadows… (I am willing to bet that Mac OS X 10.5’s 3D Dock will not fix any of these long-standing problems with the Dock.)

8 Responses to “iCal’s Dock icon: iWork ’08 install triggers ’17’ syndrome”

  1. ssp says:

    Odd, I would have guessed that the Dock item gets updated the next time the application changes it (ie when the unread count changes for Mail or the date changes for iCal). But the icons not updating ever after the Dock has been re-launched looks like real brokenness rather than ‘merely’ poor design to me.

  2. RBB says:

    Pedant point here – the dock icon for iCal doesn’t always say it’s the 17th of the month. It says it’s the 17th of July. This makes sense if you think about it – why would iCal be able to change the month in the icon without being able to change the day?

  3. Pierre Igot says:

    RBB: Right :-). My Dock is small enough that I can’t actually read the month, so I hadn’t noticed.

  4. danridley says:

    Well, quitting and re-launching isn’t the *only* way to fix it — you could also wait until midnight, when iCal updates the Dock icon for the next day :-)

  5. Pierre Igot says:

    Dan: Ha! But does it really update the icon if the Dock has been quit and relaunched? I guess one would have to try…

  6. danridley says:

    For the sake of scientific experiment, I restarted my Dock (using ‘killall Dock’ in Terminal), set my time to 11:55pm, and then walked away and made a salad. Ten minutes later, iCal showed tomorrow’s date in the Dock as expected.

    You can also force iCal to update its Dock icon by changing the date from System Preferences — it’ll update when you change it, and again when you change it back.

    I think the real problem here isn’t the way iCal behaves, it’s the way the iWork installer behaves and the Dock’s silly requirement to be restarted when installers add icons to it. If installers are going to be allowed to inject icons into the Dock, then the Dock should allow refreshing its icons without restarting (and losing state on the icons that are already loaded).

  7. ssp says:

    I’d say the real problem is that the Dock cannot/ does not have a way to ask applications for the current icon of their choice (I suspect there just isn’t a distributed notification or other such thing with which the Dock can ask for applications for their current icon when launching).

    Looks a bit like a tacked on feature rather than something well planned.

  8. Pierre Igot says:

    Such adventurousness, Dan. You are braver than I am!

    Just kidding. Thanks for taking the time to do the experiment. It is indeed hard to understand why the Dock needs to be restarted by Apple’s installers, when a user can simply add or remove a Dock icon simply through drag-and-drop.

    The other issue is, of course, whether the installers should even be allowed to modify the Dock without the user’s consent!

    Anyway, the way things are going, I suspect we’ll be living with a defective Dock for many years to come. It’ll just be 3D with silly reflections, but it still won’t do the basics right.

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