A Kinder, Gentler Snow Leopard

| Computing with Bifocals

A few days after Snow Leopard came out I was a participant in a group podcast hosted by our good friend Chuck Joiner. Chuck is editor-in-chief of The Mug Center, he hosts MacVoices, and is creator of MacLevelTen.

The topic of the podcast was first impressions of Snow Leopard. At that point I had been using it about four days. As always with Chuck's programs, he wanted a well rounded panel discussion. Three of the participants were Mac technical experts and authors who spoke at length about the operational aspects of Snow Leopard and all the behind the scenes changes, aspects of installations, and other technical issues. Each of them was experienced in different areas. The other member of the group represented software developers and I represented users.

I was feeling like the kid in class for whom English was a second language. When Chuck asked me what I liked most about Snow Leopard my brilliant response was that I really liked the fact that I could now have the day, date, and time all show in the tool bar. Whereupon one of the technical experts informed me that you could do that in Leopard too, if you knew how to do it.

Well, that put me in my place.

However, the more I thought about it the more I decided that was the whole point. There are lot of seemingly simple things in Snow Leopard that allows the beginner or untrained user to do more for themselves. The language is more generic, the directions are easier to follow and anyone can figure out how to do more for themselves.

Here are just a few examples of Snow Leopard's easy to use features.

Displaying the Day, Date, and Time in the Toolbar
First example, of course is the whole day, date, time, display. I still don't have a clue how one would do it in Leopard which means it is not easy. In Snow Leopard you do it like this:

Select Apple Menu > System Preferences > Date & Time.

When the window opens put a check mark in the box next to "Show date and time in menu bar." Indicate your preferences with check marks.

Then, next to "Date options," put check marks next to "Show the day of the week," and "Show date."


Date & Time Snow Leopard Pane

Generic Terminology
Here is another example. Does my computer burn CDs and/or DVDs?

For either Leopard or Snow Leopard you start out by going to the Apple menu and clicking on "About This Mac" and clicking the "More Information" button which opens the System Profiler. In the left frame of the System Profiler window is a list of options.

Leopard users must: Open Hardware and find IDE (ATA). Once that is open, look in the right frame and look for "Drive Type" in the list. Click on it and look for "CD-RW" or "DVD-RW." If they are not there, the computer will not burn a CD or DVD.

Snow Leopard users must: Open Hardware and look in the right frame for "Disk Burning" in the list. Click on it and look for CD-Write and DVD-Write. If they are not there, the computer will not burn a CD or DVD.

I promise you that IDE (ATA) doesn't mean a whole lot to a beginner, but if one is wondering about burning a disk, then "Disk Burning" will be a real clue that you are in the right place.

Character Viewer vs. Character Pallet
Here is another small, but significant change. The Character Pallet is now called the Character Viewer in Snow Leopard. It is simple and descriptive. If you have been using your Mac forever it won't matter to you. If you are learning everything at once, it is one more thing to make the task easier. Especially for someone like us older folks who have to learn what the heck a font is, and never mind figuring out what an icon is, and don't even start with me about .JPG and .GIF.

I'm telling you, these kids just don't appreciate how much we accomplish when we jump into this whole new computer world. I keep telling them, "Manual typewriters don't have fonts." They just look at me and ask "What's a manual typewriter?"

Language & Text System Preference Options
One final example for this discussion is the addition of a new System Preference. Actually, the new preference, Language & Text System, is a replacement for the old International Preference which was never clearly defined for beginners. This new set of options is very clean and easy to understand. There are four tabs: Language, Text, Formats, and Input Sources.

Under the Language tab you choose your language preference with a simple click. Under the Text tab you can elect automatic substitutions such as ½ for 1/2 or ™ for TM. You can also add as many other substitutions as you wish. Another option under this tab are settings for selecting your choices for smart quotes. The Formats tab allows you to set your preferences for date, time, number, and currency formats, as well as measurement units. The Input Sources tab lets you turn on the Keyboard and Character Viewer.

All in one place, all easy to understand, all easy to implement. And, if you didn't know what smart quotes were because manual typewriters didn't have those either, now you can figure it out without asking anyone.

These are only four small things that I have found so far in Snow Leopard, but I say hats off to the Apple folks. I know a lot of effort has gone into making Snow Leopard faster, better, and even more technically sound, but at the same time, someone has been paying attention to the little things and that is noticed and appreciated.

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Comments

geoduck

Whereupon one of the technical experts informed me that you could do that in Leopard too, if you knew how to do it./quote]
That’s the sort of arrogance that really bugs me. Yeah if you know how to do it brain surgery isn’t too hard either. The point is that the rest of us (remember the Mac was the computer ‘For the Rest of Us) don’t know how to do something that is hidden.

My favourite is when they follow the above statement with “You just open a Terminal Session and type Sudo:\framis-wabble wobble -e -c-u \explicit and it’ll take care of things. But make sure you don’t use a / rather than a \ or it will fry your glorf bits unless you also use _ instead of -. If that happens you are totally PWNed.” Yeah great. You just made them afraid to even type.

Hyper Hip

Howdy Guys,

Here is a URL that allows you to show date and time in your OS 10.4.x-10.5.x.

http://paulstamatiou.com/how-to-display-date-in-os-x-menu-bar

It works, sort of.  Xanax recommended.

‘til later,
Gordon

Gerhard

Sorry to be picky, but it disturbed me *very much*:

1) the thing is called “menubar” - a toolbar is something completely different.

2) the other thing is called “character pallette” (not “pallet” - but it would be funny to see one in my mac wink)

Greets
Gerhard

Gerhard

...oops - must be picky to myself: I meant “character palette”...

(comes from confusing the term in english, french and german - and I’m not an english native speaker)

Gerhard

Nancy Gravley

1) the thing is called ?menubar? - a toolbar is something completely different.

Thanks for calling me on that Gerhard.  I need to be more careful of my terminology. 

The Character pallet/pallette/palette thing I will just blame on spell check.  I looked it up but didn’t check the definition.

geoduck

The Character pallet/pallette/palette thing I will just blame on spell check.?

I’ve been caught so many times by that. The trouble is that I know how to spell the words, I just don’t notice which one I’m using. There, their, gray grey, palette, pallet, Sometimes I wonder if English will have any homonyms left in a hundred years.

Gareth Harris

The kinds of thing Nancy talks about are the mark of a mature, robust system with good documentation.

Ever notice how windows always seems unfinished? Well, [duck for cover], Mac OS X has been that way too, nescaf?? The pieces were mostly there, but scattered. It has been overdue for a cleanup and Snow Leopard had that goal.

Nancy Gravley

I?ve been caught so many times by that. The trouble is that I know how to spell the words, I just don?t notice which one I?m using. There, their, gray grey, palette, pallet, Sometimes I wonder if English will have any homonyms left in a hundred years.

Try having a name like Gravley.  Wish I had a dollar for every message I have ever gotten addressed to Ms. Gravely since gravely is a recognized word in spellcheck.

Brian M

10.5 (Leopard) did have the Disc Burning entry in System Profiler as well.

scolverh

Not to take away from the overall point, but the ‘Disc Burning’ entry is in the Tiger (10.4.11) System Profiler too, so that innovation has been in place for some time now.

cb50dc

?You just open a Terminal Session and type Sudo:\framis-wabble wobble -e -c-u \explicit and it?ll take care of things. But make sure you don?t use a / rather than a \ or it will fry your glorf bits unless you also use _ instead of -. If that happens you are totally PWNed.?

LOL. I’ve started learning more about Terminal lately, and that nails the feeling right on.

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