iApps Show Promise, but Still Work-in-Progress

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Date: Friday, September 13th, 2002, 01:00
Category: Archive

Here’s one reader’s view from the soapbox on the iApps — what do you think? Promising first tries? More work needed? Already dumping your third-party apps for iApps? -PK

Being the bleeding edge fool that I am, I am always downloading the latest and greatest stuff to play with. Now that Apple seems to be giving Micro$oft a run for it’s money, it looks like I might soon be able to eradicate the Evil Empire from my hard drive and have integrated applications. However, Apple, you’re not quite there. No, I don’t mean Appleworks doesn’t quite match up to Office. I’m talking about the iApps and Mail. Click ‘read more’ for the full story.


Here’s one reader’s view from the soapbox on the iApps — what do you think? Promising first tries? More work needed? Already dumping your third-party apps for iApps? -PK.

Being the bleeding edge fool that I am, I am always downloading the latest and greatest stuff to play with. Now that Apple seems to be giving Micro$oft a run for it’s money, it looks like I might soon be able to eradicate the Evil Empire from my hard drive and have integrated applications. However, Apple, you’re not quite there. No, I don’t mean Appleworks doesn’t quite match up to Office. I’m talking about the iApps and Mail.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this is all very exciting and I’m not out to bash anyone here. I want to make things better. Or, more to the point, help Apple make them better.

I’m going to go one-by-one through the apps and compare key features to other applications that I’ve used that have done certain things right. To start, Addressbook. No offense, but Apple’s Addressbook is quite possibly the least functional mainstream addressbook app I’ve ever used. Entourage isn’t much better, but it is better. However, the best of the best here, in my opinion, has always been Now Contact (and Up-To-Date, but we’ll get to that soon). Now Contact has one killer feature that I’ve never seen elsewhere: duplicate handling. That one feature alone has been a godsend for me when managing large contact lists for companies and clients (never mind my personal addressbook). One can define which fields to compare when doing a duplicate search in the preferences. The list window is completely customizable and one can perform multi-level sorts on the viewed field columns. For example, if I wanted to sort by company and then last name, I would click on the company column header, hold down shift and click on the last name column header. This can be done ad-infinitum for very precise sorting. Now Contact has many other features that make it THE contact manager for the Mac. I won’t go into them all, but the 2 I have detailed are essential in my opinion. PowerOn, are you listening here? Open standards? Opportunity here to make a better interface.

Let’s move over to iCal. Now, I grant you, we are at version 1, but please! Apple, did you beta test this thing with anyone who uses a calendar? 6 colors for calendars? What year is this? Ok, not a deal breaker, but I have more than 6 categories and I don’t want to confuse business with pleasure or I might bring my proctologist a dozen roses. On the whole iCal is a very cool version 1. The only other thing I would want right away is to replace the bullet before events that are not all-day with the start time in month view. Yes, I could switch over to week view and see it’s time, but I like to take a longer view of my schedule. Also, dynamic text resizing would be handy. If I make the window smaller, my text gets wrapped and then cut-off. Not pretty or useful.

Compared to other calendars iCal has great potential. Try and make Entourage publish or share a calendar. The Now application’s Achilles’ heel has always been it’s server. Proprietary. I’m an open standards kind of guy. Granted, getting a personal WebDAV server running isn’t for everybody, but it can be done. For the feint of heart, Apple offers their .Mac service for sharing calendars. I await the possibility of sharing contacts. We’ll see what kind of trickery we can do when iSync is released.

Mail. Still not quite there. The new spam tools are nice. Too bad the rules are so limited. That is complaint number 1. Entourage (and Outlook Express before it… And hey, anybody remember Claris Emailer?) has awesome rules scripting. Use darn near any value and perform darn near any action imaginable. I wanted to file all my junk mail to a folder I created called “Junk.” Ok, done. Now, I want to have Mail scan that folder for messages older than one week old and delete them. This would give me a rolling 1 week backlog of messages that were auto-filed by the junk filters in case something got filtered by accident. No can do. In general, some of the very cool scripting tricks I’ve done with Entourage/Outlook Express/Emailer are not possible in Mail. That leads me to complaint number 2.

The “Special Mailboxes” function is a nice idea, but I like to keep my deleted and sent mail for 90 days. Can’t say 1 day, week, or month is sufficient. How about user definable time periods? Schedules are also a fine idea. Make rules and run them at user-defined intervals! Hey!

Ok, I hear it now: Why not just use Applescript? While I agree that Applescript is a very useful utility, the average user doesn’t write code, but could manage a menu-driven system. Plus, I’m lazy. Oh, one other thing while we’re here. What’s up with the Menu bar Clock in OS X? Can I suggest control-click to access the menu settings while a normal click toggles the date & time? Anyone? Is this thing on?

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