Productivity constipation

— 12:00 PM on March 26, 2009

I've spent the last three days wrestling with what is currently the least favorite app installed on my Mac. More on that later. This exercise in spitting into the wind (from the northwest, to give you a clue) got me thinking about productivity. Specifically, productivity as it relates to my computer. Obviously, just having a computer at all enhances my productivity, but let's get a little more exact. What are the things I encounter every day that enhance my productivity, and what things hinder progress like my lack of coolness on a Friday night in 1995?

As I'm still jousting with the Software That Shall Be Named Later, I'll let my anger fuel this post and discuss productivity enhancers next time. My daily stumbling blocks are as follows, in no particular order:

1. Installers that require restarts
These days, most Mac apps are drag-and-drop installs. As in, you download the disk image, it mounts, and you copy the app to your Applications folder. Many apps even include an alias to your Applications folder on their disk image to save you the 3.2 seconds it would take to open your own. It's a long, long way from the days of piecing together StuffIt segments from 33 floppy disks.

But then there are other apps. Apps that litter your system with support files and log files and Library files and ReadMe files and X-files and demand that you restart your computer after completing the installation. And you know who the worst offender is? Apple. What in the world is iTunes jacking around with that it requires me to restart? It could at least reopen every app/browser/doc to its pre-restarting state. (And I've looked for a utility that does just that and come up empty. So if you know of one, drop me a line.)

2. Non-Spaces-compliant apps
The Spaces feature in OS X.V was one of my favorite additions. It cuts down on screen clutter almost as well as a UI developer with OCD. Problem is, not all apps are Spaces-aware. Which is somewhat excusable if your program was written prior to Leopard's release—although I'm pretty sure it's still the result of sloppy code. But for programs written well after Leopard came to be? For shame. Tool bars get left behind. Dialog boxes get trapped inside an ever-jumping Tardis. Dogs and cats sleep together. You get the idea. It's annoying. And I'm talking about you, Adobe Creative Suite 4.

3. Apps that hijack my screen
Need my attention? Bounce an icon in the Dock. Don't ruin my chance at a high score in a MAME'd game of Donkey Kong Jr. by spinning me three Spaces away just to tell me a new version of your about-to-be-deleted bungcode is available.

4. Websites that don't work in Safari or Firefox
Excuse me, Major Corporation, but what back-alley code monkeys did you hire to create an IE-only version of your site? Web standards exist for a reason, and there's nothing so outstandingly awesome on your site that you just had to exclude two common browsers. The most recent case I encountered was After switching my car insurance to them (I actually did save almost $900/year by doing so), I was told to go online and electronically sign some documents. Fine. Except I couldn't do it in Safari. Or Firefox. I thought about attempting it in Navigator 3.0, but then remembered it wasn't 1996. I had to boot up XP in Fusion just to view a simple form and click OK. To quote a hirsute spokesman from one of your competitors, not cool.

5. Minimizing to the Dock
This is an iffy inclusion to the list because I'm currently using WindowShade to turn minimizing to the dock off and restore OS 9's window shading functionality. But the fact that I had to pay for this feature annoys me. Plus, it took the developer (who is a touch flaky) a year to get it to work in Leopard, and the 45 aggregated minutes I spent dipping down into the dock searching between five different Safari windows is 45 minutes I could've spent changing diapers. Wait, on second thought... Anyway, window shading is so much faster than sending windows to the dock. And Exposé, while handy, is not always the answer. Forty-two is.

6. PowerPoint
This is the app that spawned this rant. I'm currently using the latest version of this piece of blight—Mac Office 2008—to wireframe a website. (It's what my client uses, so it's what I'm using. I usually just do an outline in Word.) Putting aside my overall distaste for presentation software, I cannot understand how Microsoft managed to make this program run so slowly. Even after turning off my font management software, which is a known cause of type-related slowdowns in PP, the program cannot come close to keeping up with either keystrokes or mouse clicks. It's like I'm trying to play Unreal Tournament on a USR 9600 HST. I keep deleting paragraphs because the input lag is so pathetic. And why? This thing is supposed to be Intel-native.

If I could go back in time on a mission of murder, I'd take out Hitler and the guy who invented PowerPoint. And I would return a conquering hero feted with delicious meats and cheeses. Ah, to dream.

Well, I'm sure other things tend to slow me down as I go about my multitasking business of writing, blogging, tweeting and wasting time, but these will do for now. Feel free to share yours in the comments. And I promise to quit kvetching next week. Probably.



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