Tag Archives: OS X

Should iWork be Free?

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At WWDC, Apple announced an expanded version of iWork in the cloud. Now you may think that iWork is already in the cloud, and it is, sort of. Currently, iWork documents are saved in iCloud so you can open them on your Mac, iPad, or iPhone, but you need the iWork apps to edit the documents. Apple unveiled a web-based version of iWork that allows users to create and edit documents in a web browser. While this is certainly a welcomed feature for iWork users, Apple left a number of questions unanswered. How much will it cost? Is iWork going to become a part of iCloud? Apple suggested more details would be released this fall, but I would argue that Apple needs iWork to be FREE to all users.

When you buy a Mac, iLife is free, but you have to buy the iLife apps for iOS. In addition, iWork apps have always come at a premium on OS X and iOS. Page, Numbers, and Keynote are sold in the Mac App Store for $19.99 each, and 9.99 each for iOS. If you buy iWork on the Mac, you have to buy the apps for iWork as well. If you choose to buy the full suite of apps for OS X and iOs, you have spent $89.94. But many Mac users, myself included, opt to spend more for the more mainstream Microsoft Office. Users should, at the very least, get the Mac AND iOS iWork apps for one price. Why should I have to buy iWork for each platform? I have not purchased iWork and do not plan to. I have used it on other Macs and have been using the beta versions in iCloud. I like the features of iWork, and the beta version of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote in iCloud are solid contenders. The layout of iWork in a browser is much like iWork on the Mac. For awhile I forgot I was using a browser based system. It worked that well.

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Apple knows iWork is not mainstream like Office or Google Docs. I believe iWork for iCloud could change this fact. If Apple wants to bring iWork to a larger audience, it needs to be free for every user of Mac OS X and iOS. Users of Android and Google get Google Docs for free with their phone and it can be used on a PC or Mac. Apple suggested that new versions of iWork for the Mac and iOS will be released in the fall, and to complete with Google and Microsoft, Apple needs to step it up and provide iWork as a free feature in OS X Mavericks and iOS 7.

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WWDC: OS X Mavericks

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In Apple’s highly anticipated WWDC keynote address on Monday, the Cupertino company unveiled its next generation operating system for the Mac. Called OS X Mavericks, the OS is named after a beach in northern California. Apple admitted on Monday that it had run out of big cats, so future releases of OS X will be named after locations in California that “provide inspiration.”

The name change aside, OS X Mavericks does feature some pretty important changes for Mac users. Here is a quick rundown of some of the most important features of the latest release of the Mac OS.

Finder Tabs

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Finally! Having multiple Finder windows open makes it difficult to organize files. Many have speculated that it would be easier to manage the Finder if it had tabs, like a web browser. Apple has delivered in Mavericks. Organizing files and maintaining Finder windows will be much simpler with tabs. For power users, like myself, I can have four or more Finder windows open at once. In fact, I often have a second desktop open just for the Finder windows. This will not be necessary in Mavericks.

Tags

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Tagging a file is a simple concept, but Apple has really done a great job of taking tagging to the next level. In Mavericks, when a user saves a file, they will have the option to add tags to assist with searches. A new tags section has been added to the Finder’s side bar allowing users quick access to their tagged files. This is really interesting because it acts as a second organizing method. In addition to saving your files to a desired folder, Mavericks will also keep your files organized by the tags you assign. While this may not be a big feature for most users, as someone who has thousands of files on my MacBook Pro, this will be a big help.

Notification Center

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Notification Center has received some nice enhancements in Mavericks. In addition to providing updates from your favorite websites, notifications will now be synced using iCloud. This means that you will receive notifications from your iPhone or iPad apps on your Mac as well. And once you close the notification, it will close on the other devices. This may not be a major change, but it will cut down on the clutter in Notification Center on iOS. My favorite new feature of Notification Center is that it will now show everything you missed while you were away on the sign-in screen (see above).

Multiple Displays

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Apple has always supported multiple displays, but in Mountain Lion, there are some major issues. When a user opens a full screen app, the second display shows the linen background, rendering it useless. This was certainly a hinderance to users. In Mavericks, this problem has been corrected and some great features have been added. OS X will support up to 6 displays, and they can all be running at 4k resolution. In addition, each monitor can have its own dock and will have its own Mission Control. An important update for those users who utilize multiple displays.

Safari

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Safari has received some minor updates in Mavericks. In addition to having a new sidebar for bookmarks, Safari will use less power and less of the CPU during operation. Safari’s updates may not seem exciting, but improvements to the coding of any app is welcomed as it improves its stability and power consumption.

iBooks

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It’s about damn time. Apple is bringing iBooks to the Mac. Enough said.

Maps

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It was only a matter of time before Apple brought its Maps app to the Mac. This may not seem that important, but it is a really nice addition. Most of us tend to use Google Maps on our computers to find a location before we leave. But once we get in the car, we have to program the address into a phone or GPS. With Maps on the Mac, once you have created your itinerary, you can forward the information to your iOS device. Very handy. Other than that, Maps is pretty strait forward.

iCloud Keychain

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This is an interesting addition to the Mac and iOS. iCloud will remember your passwords and credit card information so that you do not have to keep post-it notes on your screen. iCloud Keychain will even suggest complicated passwords when you are creating a new account. This feature looks interesting, but some users will be leery of keeping their credit card information in the cloud.

Other Changes

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There are a host of other changes in Mavericks. Apple has finally ditched the fake leather look in Calendar and the book layout of Contacts. Although Jony Ive is not yet gotten his hands on OS X, they will likely move in that direct next year with OS X 10.10. Many of the other changes announced are under the hood. Improved CPU management and compressed memory will keep your Mac running efficiently. One other interesting features was App Nap. The software will track which program is in use and which programs are in the background. When an app is in the background, CPU power will be cut to that app to save power.

Mac OS X Mavericks will be available in the Fall and pricing as not yet been announced, but I expect Apple to continue their trend of $19.99 upgrades through the Mac App Store. This looks like a solid release with a number of new apps and system enhancements that will make Mac users happy. I am looking forward to seeing what Ive does with OS X in 2014, but for now Mavericks will be installed on my MacBook Pro the day it is released.

Note: Watch these features in action at Monday’s keynote address here.

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Apple’s WWCD Begins Monday

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Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference begins Monday with the highly anticipated opening keynote. Apple will not only unveil redesigned versions of OS X and iOS, but are expected to reveal it’s new iRadio service and refresh its Mac lines. Apple enthusiasts look forward to WWDC because it is where Apple shows off its latest creations, but in the last few years, the event has been focused on software with hardware refreshes coming in the fall.

The iOS 7 banner for WWDC suggests a flat design

The iOS 7 banner for WWDC suggests a flat design

This year, WWDC is very important to Apple. Over the last year, Apple’s stock has suffered and sales have dropped. iOS is nearly six years old, and it is beginning to show its age. Rumors suggest iOS 7 will feature a flat design created by Apple’s design guru Jony Ive. Flat does appear to be the key to the design of iOS and OS X, but Apple needs something more to keep its cool factor. The latest iPhone is not expected to be introduced until September, but it, along with iOS 7, is going to need some new and creative features. I will not speculate on what that might be, but a finger print sensor for added security is rumored.

The banner for OS X has a similarly flat design

The banner for OS X has a similarly flat design

As for the Mac, the hardware has been updated in the last year with the new iMac and Retina MacBook Pros. OS X is very functional and I really like it, but its design has remained largely unchanged since Leopard was introduced in 2007. Like iOS, it is feeling dated. While there are not as many rumors surrounding OS X, it is not a stretch to suggest that OS X will receive a similarly flat UI. iOS and OS X share a number of programs, and  skeuomorphism is present in both operating systems. Since OS X and iOS have begun to merge, the UI is likely to follow suit.

I am looking forward to Monday’s keynote address and the future of OS X and iOS. The tech world, perhaps the whole world, will be watching as the pressure is on Apple to step up its game.

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What OS X Mountain Lion Needs to be Killer

Yesterday, I posted a glowing review of OS X Mountain Lion. I was able to do so because Mountain Lion is a solid OS, and Apple’s strategy of merging the features of iOS and OS X is creating a solid ecosystem. But there are improvements Apple could make to OS X, and features of iOS that could be brought over to the Mac. I thought I would outline my suggestions to bring OS X to the next level.

One of the oldest apps on OS X is iTunes. iTunes is a great media organization app, but it is outdated. Apple has not updated iTunes since 2010, and it is beginning to show its age. iTunes needs a new layout and an easier way to organize and access all the content it contains. Currently iTunes houses the App Store, iTunes Store iBooks Store, music library, books, audiobooks, ringtones, movies, TV shows, radio stations, Podcasts, and iTunes University.

There is so much in iTunes, that it may be time for Apple to take another one of its iOS strategies to the Mac. Apple has been breaking up iTunes in iOS and has introduced separate apps for Videos, Podcasts, and iTunes University. These apps are not preinstalled on the phone but are are available in the App Store. Perhaps Apple should consider breaking up iTunes on the Mac as well. Individual apps could easily be distributed through the Mac App Store. Apple’s media event in the fall has traditionally included an iTunes refresh, and I am hoping for a major update from Apple.

A few years ago, Apple began ported some of its Mac applications to iOS. One of the first was iLife. iMovie, iPhoto, and Garage Band are all available on iOS and Mac OS X, but the layout of these apps on iOS, specifically the editing features on iMovie and iPhone, is more user friendly than on the Mac. I really expected iLife ’11 to match the iOS apps more closely, but instead Apple only rolled out a minor update.

My issues with iLife also extend to iWork. While iWork on iOS is similar to iWork on OS X, there are some differences in layout that would be beneficial to Mac users. Unlike iLife, Apple has not updated iWork for Mac since 2009. There have been minor updates, but iWork remains largely unchanged. Hopefully in the coming weeks, Apple will announce major changes iWork and iLife to make the OS X apps feel more iOS like in operation and function.

Apple has spent the last five years working to improve iOS and adding innovative and competative features. Some of the features, like iLife and iWork, were Mac apps ported to iOS, but there are two iOS apps that I would like to see developed for the Mac. The first is iBooks. Amazon’s Kindle app for Mac is a great option for those who like to read on the Mac, but it is strange that Apple has not made its own iBooks app and store available to Mac users. The iBooks store is available through iTunes, but purchases are only viewable through iOS. The other iOS app I would like to see brought to the Mac is Newsstand. Reading a newspaper or magazine on my Mac would be great. Like iBooks, it is possible to download Newsstand apps on the Mac, but they must be viewed on iOS. These two apps alone would really make the Mac more competitive and would be beneficial to the developers in both stores. Both apps could take advantage of iCloud and sync bookmarks and downloads between a user’s devices. I think Apple is really missing out on something big with iBooks and Newsstand.

There is one more app that I would love to see ported to the Mac. iOS 6 will feature Apple’s new maps application, and I think it deserves a place on the Mac. Garmin has an app that allows users to plan a trip on their Mac or PC and sync the data to their GPS. Apple could use iCloud here as well. A Mac owner could plan their trip on their computer then have iCloud automatically sync the trip data to their iPhone via iCloud. Of all the suggestions, this is the furthers from happening at this point because Apple’s Maps are still in beta, but this would be a great feature and a great selling point for the OS X – iOS ecosystem.

When Apple began blurring the lines of iOS and OS X, I was skeptical. Having used iOS 5, OS X, and iCloud for the last year, I believe that Apple is heading in the right direction. But Apple needs to stop taking incremental steps. Apple has clearly committed itself to this transition, and they need to step it up the transition. For the last several years, Apple has outgrown the market in the Mac segment. With these simple improvements, Apple could have an unbeatable ecosystem for years to come.

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OS X Mountain Lion: A Full Review

After getting my computer back on Saturday, I immediately upgraded to OS X Mountain LionOne of the first changes many Mac fans have noticed is that “Mac” has been dropped from the title. This has led many to speculate that there will be more to the marriage between iOS and OS X, but more about this later.

Since I have lived with Mountain Lion for about a week, I thought I would share my thoughts on the OS.

INSTALLATION

This is the second OS X release Apple has distributed through the Mac App Store. With Lion, a number of people complained about how the update slowed their system and there have been similar complaints about Mountain Lion.

Installation is actually really easy if you want the OS to install around your files. Backup your machine, download OS X from the Mac App Store (approx. 4.5 GB), and follow the instructions on the screen. After approximately 45 minutes, you will be Mountain Lion. Like many, I wish Apple made it easy to do a fresh install of the OS, but I opted for the simple install.

With my machine, an early 2011 15” MacBook Pro, I did not experience a decrease in speed. In fact, my system feels quicker. But, as I posted Monday, I had my hard drive wiped in May and just had a new logic board installed. That could certainly account for my seamless transition.

MINOR UPDATES

While there are some new features that are important to highlight, one thing I wanted to discuss first was how stable and polished Mountain Lion feels. Mac users who transitioned from Leopard to Snow Leopard a few years ago understand what I mean. The whole OS has been optimized for the Retina MacBook Pro and the detail does make a difference on lower resolution displays. Details of the icons and OS are crisper.

As for minor updates, all the multi-touch gestures are smoother, inertial scrolling is now a part of Stacks, and the dock has an aluminum surface. In addition, LauchPad and Dashboard have received minor updates, and all OS X updates are now handled by the Mac App Store.

There are a number of improvements to existing apps as well. Mail has some minor updates. Preview now has access to iCloud and more detailed editing tools. There are updates to the Image Capture app that make scanning and printing even easier. Other minor changes include a change in app names. iCal is now called Calendar and Address Book is now Contacts, much like their iOS counterpart, but this is only the beginning of Apple’s marriage of iOS and OS X.

NEW FEATURES

Apple says that there are over 200 new features in Mountain Lion. Most of them are not immediately noticeable, but there are several that are substantial and are very usable. As with Lion, the marriage of iOS and OS X continues. There are a number of apps added to OS X to match their counterparts in iOS. These apps then sync wirelessly using iCloud.

New to OS X: Reminders and Notes 

Two news apps from iOS includes Notes app and Reminders. Both apps are virtually identical to the iOS equivalent, and they both work very well. There isn’t much else to say! As Steve Jobs said about iCloud in 2011, it just works. iCloud syncs your Notes and Reminders automatically so you can accesses them on all your devices.

Notification Center

Another useful addition from iOS is Notification Center. Similar to Growl, Notification Center is one place for all your apps’ reminders, Calendar events, Reminders, Mail, and Twitter updates. With a two-finger swipe from right to left on the Trackpad, Notification center comes up on the right side of the screen. Notification Center is completely customizable in System Preferences and will certainly become more and more usable as developers continue to integrate it into their apps.

iMessage works on iOS and OS X

The most popular new app on Mountain Lion is iMessage. Like Facetime in Lion, iMessage in Mountain Lion allows for seamless communication between Macs and iOS devices. With iOS 6, however, Apple is will integrate users’ Apple ID and phone number. This will enable text messaging via the Mac! iMessage supports texts, photos, and videos. iMessage replaces iChat and works with other online messaging systems.

Game Center

Game Center is yet another iOS app added to Mountain Lion. Game Center allows Mac users to play games against other Macs, iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches. This cross platform play is unique to Apple and will certainly be interesting as more iOS games are brought to the Mac.

Safari received a number of updates including Tab View

One of OS X’s apps to receive a major update is Safari. Users will notice the unified address bar, but there is also a new Tab Viewer that makes seeig all open tabs even easier. Apple has also integrated Share Sheets which has been added throughout the OS. It allows users to share websites, photos, videos and a variety of media via email, Twitter, Vimeo, Flickr, and Facebook (coming this fall). One interesting development with Safari is that it appears to be exclusive to the Mac. Safari 6.0 has yet to be created for Windows, and with the wholesale changes in Windows 8, an update is doubtful.

Apple has also taken significant steps in addressing user privacy. Mountain Lion features a new security feature called Gatekeeper, which allows users to choose the types of apps that are installed to their machine. Users can choose to only allow apps from the App Store, allow apps from the App Store and trusted developers, or allow all applications. The goal of Gatekeeper is to protect the computer from Malware and Spyware. Other privacy features include a clearer option panel for users to control the apps that can access their Calendar, Contacts, Key Chain, and location data.

Airplay Mirroring connects your Mac and TV via Apple TV

One of my favorite additions to Mountain Lion is Air Play Mirroring. Many Mac users already use Air Play for their files and music, but Air Play Mirroring allows users to wirelessly view their computer screen on their TV using Apple TV. This feature is certainly a welcome addition in many homes and classrooms. However, this feature only works on machines released in 2011 and 2012.

An interesting addition to Mountain Lion is Siri-like dictation. Dictation can be accessed using the user’s choice of hot keys. While it is useful, it can be problematic because only the MacBook Pro with Retina Display has a dual microphone system built in. This is a feature that will certainly improve over time, but if you have an external microphone, it can be really handy. As of right now, most third-party apps do not support this feature, but it is one of many great accessibility features added to OS X.

CONCLUSIONS 

Mountain Lion is certainly an improvement to OS X. While it may not be a major shift like Microsoft is planning for Windows 8, Apple is focused on the marriage of OS X and iOS via iCloud. The merging of Apple’s operating systems is working well for Apple and will take another leap forward when Apple releases iOS 6 this fall.

For only $20 in the Mac App Store, Mountain Lion is a must have for all Mac users. If you are using Snow Leopard, now is really the time to upgrade. Lion users should consider upgrading to access this polished OS. While there are sure to be bugs in this release, I have yet to experience any. In addition, I have yet to find a third-party app that is incompatible. My transition has been seamless, and I encourage all Mac user with eligible hardware to download Mountain Lion and enjoy the latest and greatest Apple has to offer.

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Computer Issues and the Apple Genius Bar

I apologize for the lack of updates last week, but my Early 2011 15” MacBook Pro had some issues. I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about Apple’s retail stores and Genius Bar.

Over the past four years, I have owned three Macs, two iPads, and three iPhones, and I have not had a problem with any of them….until now. I purchased my MacBook Pro in September 2011 before I began writing my thesis and to replace my 27” iMac with the more portable MacBook Pro. It was my dream machine, and it worked flawlessly until April, after I finished my thesis.

Kernel Panic’s Warning

In late April, my computer began having Kernel Panics. For those unfamiliar, a Kernel Panic occurs with the computer detects a problem and shuts down the to avoid damaging the machine’s hardware and software. A useful tool to warn users that there is a problem, but it is damn annoying when it happens to your only machine. The software provides a panic log that lists the last run software or hardware. This file is likely the cause of the panic. In my case, it was usually the AppleHWSensor (a sensor that measures the computer temperature on the logic board).

I knew the computer needed to be tested. The closest Apple Store to Harrisonburg was either Richmond or DC. First, I opted to try a local authorized Mac repair shop, but they were over a week behind testing machines. I could not be without a computer for that long. The computer was my primary source for my job search, and I could not be without a computer for that long.

I took the MacBook Pro to the Apple Store in Richmond (Short Pump Town Center). Making an appointment for the Genius Bar could not be easier. Using the online reservation assistant, it takes no more than a few minutes, and Apple uses your Apple ID to make the process even easier.

The Apple Genius told me that the majority of Kernel Panics are caused by faulty software. I was pretty sure, based on the panic logs, that the problem was hardware, but I asked them to wipe the hard drive and reinstall OS X Lion. When I got back home, I did not simply restore from my Time Machine backup, because there was a good chance that something on my computer was causing the panics. Instead, I restored my files using drag-and-drop and reinstalled fresh copies of all my software. The good news was the machine ran like new! The bad news, it panicked while I was working on reinstalling my software.

Apple’s Store in Tulsa, Oklahoma

I knew without a doubt that it was hardware, but I could not give up my computer for the week it was going to take Apple to repair it. So, I lived with the panics for nearly three months. After I got a job in Missouri and moved back, my top priority was getting the computer fixed. Last Monday, I brought the MacBook Pro to the Apple Store in Tulsa (Woodland Hills Mall). They kept the MacBook overnight and ran a series of tests. On Tuesday, they called and told me that the logic board (contains the processor, sensors, and graphics cards) would have to be replaced (a part that costs nearly $500!). Luckily the Mac is still under warranty, and they replaced the logic board. I picked up the computer on Saturday.

While this whole process was a pain, Apple’s technicians and their warranty system are very solid. But nothing is perfect. The technicians did not wipe the hard drive like I requested. Nor did they install iWork. As if that was not bad enough, they forgot to reconnect the LEDs on the backlit keyboard as well. Guess I will make another trip to Tulsa.

The biggest problem with Apple’s retail is the lack of stores around the country. Apple is the only PC maker that is outgrowing the market, and you would think they would like to expand their retail presence. Their retail stores are impressive, but there are not nearly enough of them. In Virginia or Missouri, I have to drive two hours one-way to get the nearest store. On top of that, Oklahoma’s interstate is a toll road. That really adds up when you have to make the trip to drop the Mac off, pick it up, and take it back so they can fix the keyboard.

Despite the headache of searching for a job and a faulty computer, I love my MacBook Pro, and I am glad they were able to fix it. This is a machine that has served me well for the past year.  I do not usually get attached to a piece of technology, but this computer feels special.

Despite some issues with Apple’s retail stores and Genius Bar, I will always recommend Macs to anyone who wants a computer that just works, and with Windows 8 coming out in October, I foresee continued growth of the Mac market.

PS – After I picked up my computer on Saturday, I installed OS X Mountain Lion and will post a full review later this week.

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