Demystifying macOS — why there are no create new file option

Intro

I used Mac for 2 years without asking why it behaves the way it does. Never feel comfortable using it because of small annoyances, until I set the goal to understand it. After that I changed questions “How to do something on Mac?” to questions “Why I have to do it that way?” Here are some findings that I’m going to share with you. It’s first post from the series of post that I’m going to write, so let’s start from something basic.

Problem

New macOS users might be surprised by the fact, he can’t create new file in Finder, further more, once he asks question why, most of experienced macOS won’t be able to answer it.

Do you want to know why it’s such a hassle to create a file?


Confusion

According to Wikipedia Finder is a File Manager

Also according to Wikipedia:

The most common operations performed by File Manager on files or groups of files include creating, opening (e.g. viewing, playing, editing or printing), renaming, moving or copying, deleting and searching for files

Creation of the files is first thing File Manager has to do, but on macOS workflow is a bit different, they intentionally do not give you option to create file, and they follow this rule trough all the releases of OS, so it is clear — user shouldn't create files manually.

On the other hand in Windows it’s super simple to create file, just right click, select NewText Document, new text file appears, you name it, open and add something from your clipboard or mind

Why?

It’s quite easy to explain this macOS philosophy using their best OS ever — iOS.

On iOS you don’t care about files, all you need is application.

You store your photos in iPhotos and you don’t really care how photos are stored behind the scene. You have Notes app, with list of notes and once again you don’t actually care about where they are stored and how app manages your notes. Same about iBooks, Music, Pages, iMovie etc.

All of them give you access to content, so you can focus on what you interested in, not the files that sit somewhere on device, and if you think about that for a moment, it actually make sense, casual user shouldn't care about such a low level implementation details, all user really cares about is content(text, photo, song, or video).

Apple doesn't want users to manage files manually, they want you to work with content on higher level using apps, and apps will take care of the rest for you.

Compare these cases

Let’s consider simple case of creating text file and adding content to it.

I use Windows for more than 15 years and in 100% cases from all the options I have in New context menu, I used Folder or plain old Text document the rest of the items like Shortcut, are just junk you never use.

  • Casual Windows user like me creates text document using context menu, open it using Notepad, add some content and save it OR you start Notepad, add text, save text file by choosing location and name.
  • Mac user for the same case starts TextEdit, select New Document, types text, save as text file.

So we have basically the same steps, but on Windows you have two ways of creating file and on macOS only one but it consistent for all type of content you want to create. On macOS you always start app to create content, so you don’t have to think twice.

It’s might not looks like a big difference, but the fact that on macOS you have only one option is a plus, remember, sometimes less is more, and it is actually only one of those things that made macOS easier to use for people that don’t have prior Windows experience.

Future is even more streamlined, take a look on Notes app, you just start app and add content, that is it, all the content will be automatically saved and sync using iCloud to all devices.

That was the answers to question “why it’s such a hassle to create file on Mac?” but what about folders?

Besides the fact macOS doesn’t want you to create empty files first, macOS more than happy to help you reduce clutter and organize your files into folders.

First item in context menu is actually New Folder

Also once you select couple of files and right click on them you will be presented with option to create New Folder with Selection.

Once again, Finder story is clear here — once you have to work with files, you have to be able easily organize them into folders and Finder is your best friend.

Have something to say? I’m more than happy to listen and learn.

See you soon in next post.