Small things matter

I’ve been pretty good about not fawning over my Mac too much, right? I mean this hasn’t turned into a fanboy style homage to Steve Jobs and all things Apple. Well, no more so than usual… I don’t think.

This does mean that I’ve had to fit the strong urge to blog about the myriad of small things that I’ve noticed when using the Mac, the myriad of things which go to show that attention to detail and spending time on small issues IS important. Of course the fact that the Mac software is pretty robust in the first place allows the developers at Apple a little more time to worry about such things but that just means that it’s good for the user.

There are many little things that make using a Mac fun. They are all simple and some would say pointless, but watching the screen rotate like it is on the side of a cube, spin round and stop at another desktop (when switching users) may not be necessary but does add to the overall experience.

As I say, I’ve not mentioned most of these as many other people have waffled on about them at great length.

But last night was the straw that broke the dromedaries back.

There are two user accounts on our MacBook, one for me, one for Louise. Similar to Windows XP you get a login screen when you first startup the Mac and as it is a laptop we have passwords on the logins.

Last night I was half watching the football, whilst the laptop started up, so wasn’t really paying attention when I typed in my password. It was then, with a sense of some disbelief that I saw the login screen shake its head at me.

Yes, that’s right. When you enter an incorrect password, the login screen shakes from side to side briefly, just like it is shaking its head.

Intrigued I entered another wrong password, and watched it again, and after the third try was even more impressed when the password reminder I had entered when I created the user account slide into view under the login screen.

THAT is attention to detail.

Yes a simple “sorry that’s the wrong password” message would do the same but that’s what makes using the Mac much more fun, much more engaging. I know the naysayers will say “but it’s a computer, it needs to be functional” and as I’ve said before, if that’s the way your mind works then fine. But you are missing the point, and no amount of explanation is going to convince you. Am I right?

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Long time blogger, Father of Jack, geek of many things, random photographer and writer of nonsense.

Doing my best to find a balance.

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Ha, you’re so right. I’ve had a huge argument at work today with a designer, yup a designer, who’s going on about how much better PCs are now. I mean, I can understand everyday users not getting a Mac, but a designer! Ridiculous…

These kinds of things just don’t make the experience fun, but more intuitive as well. On my PC I get vague alerts like “No error has occurred.” Um, thanks? But on my Mac everything seems smooth, even when there’s a problem the troubleshooting screens keep me calm and unworried throughout the process.

There’s a lot to be said for things that just work.

I think it depends on your preferred learning style.

Visual learners (often people who get drawn into arty careers and visual development type work), who were largely the original Mac user-base, love this type of thing.

Being more of a verbal/kinaesthetic learner, I can’t bear it. The way the icons in the task bar move about as you get near them makes me feel seasick.

“but it’s a computer, it needs to be functional”

But it is functional, highly functional and what’s more I have to agree that it is more engaging. The login head-shake is a simple idea that is near universally recognizable.

To quote a friend who hadn’t seen the login head-shake before “ha, your computer thinks you’re a tit cos you’ve typed the wrong password”.

No questions about what’s that? What does that mean? Just you entered your password, it told you it’s wrong.

Personally, I still like it when my mac ‘breathes’ while it naps.

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