First thoughts about Panther…

After a highly enjoyable Panther install party around Mr Webb‘s house, I’m now in a position to give my first impressions of Mac OSX.3. In no particular order (and with no claims made towards total accuracy):

  • The new chrome Apple logo that you get when you start up or login to your account is bloody ugly and and tacky and I can’t see what motivated them to use it;
  • My spacing between icons is strange and seems absurdly large;
  • I can’t use the trackpad to click on the login screen – which is highly annoying;
  • Removing the clock application was a strange move, but merging it with the clock in the menu bar and allowing you to choose how to use it makes a certain amount of sense. Having said that, when you switch from digital to analogue view you’re left with a strange shadow box around the analogue face, that seems to be a bug;
  • There are a number of occasions where windows appear partly obscured by the top menu bar – this is strange behaviour and confusing, and is hence probably a bug;
  • Fast-user switching is well-represented and mostly elegant, although the rotating cube is actually just really funny to watch because it’s so over-the-top;
  • The application switcher (Apple-Tab) is beautiful, elegant and well-developed;
  • The Font Book application is initially confusing, but is likely to have considerable utility; The redeveloped default font pane is really useful;
  • There are a number of strange new interface widgits around the place, including a kind of tiny, almost unnoticeable nubbin that allows you to drag entirely random panes out the side of other panes. This is particularly evident in the Font applications and is extremely strange and clunky. The generic font interface also has some odd rotating knob controls that don’t act quite the way I expected;
  • Both modes of the Finder are powerful and mostly functional, but the ‘action’ button is a terrible confusing mistake and both views could have done with more polish and attention to detail. They are – however – much much faster and more responsive as windows, which is much to be applauded;
  • Subtle dividers in the top-menu items are extremely elegant, practical and pleasing, but the generally flatter, greyer interface is a bit of a downer;
  • Exposé’s controls are in a bit of conflict with some of my illluminated keyboard controls, but that doesn’t matter – it’s a beautiful, elegant and well-presented feature that may take a little one to become habituated with, but is likely to be transformatively useful;
  • Mail’s new threading mode is totally incomprehensible;
  • Mail is faster, more responsive and more strident than you’d think;

Generally, I’m impressed by the functionality but not impressed by the finish. This one feels half-done – that it wasn’t possible to get it any further down the line before launch date. I have a feeling that over the next few months we’ll see a few patches that resolve 90% of OS’s problems. And when they do – it’s going to be more awesome than ever.

8 replies on “First thoughts about Panther…”

From what I’ve seen of the Panther command-tab widget, it’s still not as nice as the one in LiteSwitchX (which I’ve been using since 10.1 or so). Sadly, unlike LiteSwitch, the Mac OS X version is $15 payware, but given I’ve paid for it now, I’ll keep using it when I finally upgrade.

Very nice review. I agree… although I got sucked into the hype (because it is great fun anyway), I am suprised to find so many rough edges with this release. I, too, have no doubt they’ll all be polished in the next few months.
FontBook was my biggest disappointment. I had hoped it would be so much more, instead it destroyed some very logic font organization for me (nested folders by project) and with a massive amount of fonts, the utility became useless. Oh well.
Oddly, despite all of these complaints, it feels like the right direction. There are so really great things about 10.3. It’s speed for one! I actually have warmed up much quicker to the Finder than I expected. I like it and am finding files in a different, more efficient manner.
Would I recommend it? Absolutely, just be warned these first few months may require some patience for some quirky bits.

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