macOS is Hot Garbage
It’s 2022. Apple has been releasing graphical operating systems since 1984 and in 38 years they haven’t learned enough to make a great OS. In this post I’ll show you everything misleading, awkward, or just plain broken about macOS. OK, probably not everything.
Finder is Dogshit
“Finder” is macOS’s file manager. Let’s take a look.
Files don’t Auto-Arrange
By default, file icons will preserve their arrangement, which is never what I want. I’ve learned to two-finger-tap (aka right-click) and press Clean Up. This arranges the files as I expect, usually. Sometimes it doesn’t (see video) and I’m not sure why.
I can’t explain this one.
Finder Lacks Cut-and-Paste
On most computers, files can be cut, copied, and pasted just like text. In Finder, cut is disabled.
Technically there is a way to cut-and-paste, but it’s not what you‘d expect. It’s not cut and paste. macOS has copy and disregard-copy-actually-move-instead. Holding down the option key reveals this extra menu item.
This boggled my mind when I learned it. Imagine if text worked this way.
When Finder is Closed your Desktop Icons Disappear
Finder has two responsibilities: showing files/folders and showing desktop icons. Many DWMs work this way — including explorer.exe on most versions of Windows — but unlike other DWMs Finder can be killed completely, taking your desktop icons with it.
Personally I don’t find this much of a hassle, but it leads to another edge-case. What if you want a Finder window? For that, open Finder twice.
This video shows macOS Catalina, but the issue wasn’t fixed in Big Sur or Monterey. I doubt they’ll ever fix it.
Search-as-you-Type Breaks Typing Conventions
To search I type some characters and then press enter. As a habit, enter or tab follows when I type something. But enter doesn’t open a file in macOS, it renames it. Yes, really! Pressing enter edits the file name. I’ll wait while non-macOS readers compose themselves.
The only way to open a file with your keyboard is to move your hand to the arrow keys and press command+down. Finder’s hotkeys are just awkward.
The Window Manager is Buggy and Unpredictable
What is a Desktop Window Manager (DWM)? It does the little things around your apps: giving you a bar to click-and-drag, letting you resize at the edges, and handling the menus at the top. MacOS’s DWM — called Quartz Compositor — can be changed completely with apps like Amethyst, but most people use the default. But it’s awkward.
“Zoom” (aka Maximize) is Inconsistent
Windows and Ubuntu call it “maximize” while macOS calls it “zoom”. This action behaves differently depending on the app. Safari, Finder, Preview, and other apps exhibit this unexpected behaviour. Most built-in apps do this, but not all of them. For example the Notes app fills the whole screen like I expect. Why does this happen? I couldn’t find an answer that made any sense.
Apps Remain Running (and Focused) After Being Closed
Closing all windows of an app doesn’t exit the app. It’s still running and it still has focus. Anything you type goes to the invisible app which has confused people for almost 10 years. Using the Switcher (command+tab) shows the app even though it has no windows. It’s easy to accidentally have 10+ apps running despite seeing only 1 or 2. For a company making “intuitive” software this is anything but.
Splitting Apps is Unnecessarily Annoying
At first I thought this feature didn’t exist. I eventually found it. Here’s how it works.
You hover over the tiny green button and a menu appears. It’s the smallest User Interface (UI) element anywhere in macOS.
Keep in mind this is really split-full screen. The window moves to a new desktop and if you don’t have a second window the split will cancel. If you want snapping or hotkeys similar to Windows or Ubuntu you need a third-party app like Magnet or Spectacle. Annoying to say the least.
Update: It is possible! Holding option lets you resize a window to half your screen similar to Windows and Ubuntu. It’s annoying but at least it’s possible.
Window Management Hotkeys
Observant readers may have noticed “Zoom” had a hotkey in that screenshot. That’s not default. macOS lets you add hotkeys for any action and I’ve added one for zoom. You can do this via System Preferences → Keyboard → Shortcuts → clicking the “+” icon.
However don’t do this because it doesn’t work. Well, it…often doesn’t work. This DWM action is app-dependant. Firefox, Google Chrome, and many of the productivity apps I use everyday don’t even twitch when I press the hotkey. Nothing happens. But apps like Spotify, Slack, and built-in apps like Notes do work. What’s the difference? I’m not sure, but it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a hotkey that only works sometimes.
Clicking Takes Focus, but Not Right-Clicking
I’m not sure why Apple decided this was an important feature, but I’ve highlighted the only use-case I could think of. Is this handy or just confusing?
Another feature, if you right-click then left-click quickly, it counts as a double-click. weird.
Restoring a Minimized Window is Insane
Pressing command+M minimizes a window. I often hit it by accident when going for command+N. You need the mouse to get it back. Either select Window -> the window title, or right-click (control-click) the dock icon and select the window.
But as I recently discovered there is a way to recover it using the keyboard. Hit command+tab to open the switcher, highlight the minimized application, and slide your thumb onto option key before releasing command. The minimized application pops up!
This is bananas. Why not always bring up the application instead of doing nothing? How are people supposed to discover this? It’s like a secret hotkey only known by Apple gurus. Oh, and it doesn’t work if the application has any windows that aren’t minimized. Thanks Apple.
Missing Features and Awful Bugs
The Disappearing Mouse Issue
I thought it was hyperbole until I experienced it. My cursor just vanished without warning. It still “worked” — I could blindly click things. But I had no cursor! What would break such a fundamental feature of a modern OS?
I don’t know, but I wasn’t alone. The top search result gave me 10 things to try if your mouse “keeps disappearing.” I guess this happens a lot. The last suggestion blew me away, “Learn To Use Your Mac Without a Mouse.” Here is a better suggestion. Learn to use another OS.
On the topic of life without a mouse, let me speak to the keyboard-centric folks out there. macOS isn’t for you.
Many common tasks lack hotkeys such as splitting windows and “zoom” (both discussed above), launching applications that appear on the dock, and moving windows between desktops are more common examples that lack hotkeys. These actions require extra software or are straight-up impossible.
Apple’s iPhone keyboard was arguably the most well-thought-out mobile keyboard on earth. Why then is macOS’s keyboard so poorly designed? For example, command+W closes a window or browser tab while command+Q closes the whole application. Because they’re right next to each other it’s easy to accidentally hit the wrong one. Logging out is command+control+Q — just 1 extra modifier. But we’re human and mistakes happen.
Sometimes I miss a modifier and accidentally quit my browser instead of locking my computer. It’s frustrating. I’m not the only one - my coworkers admit to flubbing macOS hotkeys just as often as I do. By contrast, the Windows and Ubuntu hotkey (Super/“Windows key”+L) isn’t near any other hotkeys. Mistakes are no big deal.
Missing Keyboard Keys
A standard keyboard includes a key which brings up the context menu. It’s equivalent to right-clicking.
Once I got used to fixing typos this way I could do it without thinking. It didn’t break my train of thought. Until I used macOS. Apple keyboards don’t include this key and it’s impossible to rebind another key for this purpose. The operating system simply does not support this keyboard key.
That’s not the only missing hotkey, though luckily the others have workarounds. Actions like Printscreen (use command+shift+3 instead), both backspace & delete (use fn+delete instead), home/end (use fn+left/right instead), any function keys (hold fn+use the touchbar instead), or a power/sleep button are all missing from my Macbook keyboard.
The Power Button Does Nothing
The power button doesn’t put my Macbook Pro 2019 to sleep. And that’s on purpose — Apple’s documentation says the “Touch ID Sensor” (which is a button) does nothing. Oh, except clicking it 5 times opens macOS’s accessibility options. Clicking it once has no effect.
There is a way to have a sleep button. You can add a sleep button to the touchbar. But you can’t make the “Touch ID Sensor” do anything when clicked, at least in macOS Catalina. After updating to Monterey the button now locks the macbook. command+control+Q already does this, but hey it’s better than a useless button.
Can’t Disable the Built-in Display
If you want to do this you’re out of luck. You can’t disable the screen while keeping the Macbook open. This is easy on Windows and Ubuntu but impossible on macOS. The top suggestion was a laughable workaround: Arrange the displays such that they didn’t overlap and reduce the Macbook brightness to zero.
macOS still can’t handle this despite the problem being 10 years old. Apple just isn’t interested in fixing some problems.
macOS Will Drain your Smartphone’s Battery
Admittedly this one was my fault. Here’s what happened:
- My partner unplugged my Macbook to charge a Nintendo Switch.
- My phone and external display were connected, but the Macbook had been closed for hours. I assumed it was asleep.
- It wasn’t asleep. It stayed awake and used my phone as a power source. In the morning they were both completely dead.
Why did this happen?
- Even at 100% battery and while already charging, my Macbook defaults to stealing power from my phone - I always have to toggle the setting. With the same phone and cable other laptops charge my phone.
- Having an external display attached prevents macOS from sleeping, even when idle or closed.
If I was on-call or had to leave urgently this would have been a catastrophe. Maybe this issue is why Apple avoids USB-C on their phones?
Sometimes Things just Break
Today the preferences screen didn’t work at all. It was fine after a reboot. I thought macOS didn’t have problems like this, but it does.
I waited, watching “the spinning beach ball of death”. It happens when macOS is busy and freezes your application or system. You can’t see it in the video because macOS cleverly hides it in screen captures. It was awkward.
Maybe macOS had a hey day. Maybe many years ago when the demands were lesser and the CEO had a vision and things were good. Now in 2022 macOS is an embarrassment with loads of edge-cases and flaws. Is the grass greener elsewhere or should we accept macOS as it is?