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opinion tech

FTFF

If you know the FTFF acronym, you’ll know exactly why I’m posting this today.

If you don’t, I suspect this post will be largely irrelevant. Feel free to wander over to somewhere you get some damn posts, like Kottke or Dooce or something.

Anyway.

Apple, please, Fix The Fucking Finder for 10.7. And fixing the Finder doesn’t mean getting rid of it or obfuscating it or rendering it pointless by making everything in OSX work just like iOS.

I’m not saying that as a purist or a ranter. I love my iPad, despite my earlier reservations to the contrary. It’s perfect for those little things – you’ve just thought of a random website you want to check out, so you pick up your iPad, flick the slide-to-unlock, jump online, do your thing, put it down, you’re done. It’s light enough that you don’t even think about it as a fantastic computer as powerful as your desktop was just 10 years ago.

The problem occurs when I want to get anything… serious done. Well, not even serious, just something requiring more than one program to interact with a unit of data that goes beyond a couple of lines of text on the clipboard.  For that, I need to deal with files. Not just files on an arbitrary and abstracted system that may as well be a data-store for specific binary blobs actionable by a particular application, I need honest-to-goodness files I can throw around. Move, copy, rename, edit, export, upload, email, back up. I want to be able to do that without relying on APIs and frameworks and implementations of these to work coherently together.

These two models of interaction can coexist peacefully, even with overlap. But take away the higher-functioning mode, and you’re asking for trouble, or at least people to migrate away from your service.

So when I see things like the Mac OSX App Store and Launchpad, I get worried. One way to look at these things is that it’s just an evolution of things that have gone before, and not just in Apple’s world. The App Store is a package management system with a nice interface and a payment mechanism built in. Launchpad is really just an app launcher, recreating a now-familiar paradigm on the more powerful computers; or it’s just an extension of the stacks/folder pop-overs for the Applications folder (or it’s a graphical update to the App menu from the classic Mac OS days).

What I don’t like is where this might be going. I don’t want to fix the finder by replacing it with a simpler paradigm, or removing the “need” for it. I just want to be able to do things I can take for granted in other OSes, and have it done consistently. I don’t want to get Mac OSX 10.8 Mountain Lion and find that the majority of the interaction is through an abstract system where everything is “managed for you”.

I’m not stupid, and I’m not so distracted that every task must be performed one-app-at-a-time. I want to be editing a photo while music plays and a torrent downloads and a movie converts and a chat is open with my friends while my mail comes in and I see any twitter updates slide into view through Growl. Multi-tasking, it’s why you have OSX in the first place.

The reason we complain and yet still prefer you, Apple, is that you’re still the one for moving this industry. A plethora of MP3 players have died at the iPod scythe, where once Creative led; smartphones now inexorably follow the Apple lead of the iPhone, where once Palm blazed the trail. No-one has come close to matching the slickness of the MacBooks or iMacs.

Mac OSX showed you can have Unix with a usable graphical interface not beaten with the ugly stick. So we need a leader who is able to keep options open, operate with diversity, not just a single focus that a belies a company with a $50 billion balance sheet.

So, Apple: in the next 6 – 9 months leading up to the launch, don’t shy away from new features, like you did with Snow Leopard. This is the king of the savannah we’re talking about here: there better be some features worthy of the label “Lion”. And Fix the Goddammed Finder!

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