Mac annoyances

I use a Macintosh (a PowerBook G4) as my development system at one of my jobs. For the most part I find MacOS X pretty smooth sailing, but there are a few niggling little things that irritate me on a daily basis.

  • Command-tab beef #1: It ignores minimized windows. I minimize an app’s only window and do some stuff in another app. Now I hit Command-tab to get back to the first app — and nothing happens. Well, not nothing: I get the first app’s menu bar. It really ought to act as if I’d clicked on the app’s icon in the dock. That does the right thing: switch to the app’s active window if there is one and expand one of the app’s windows if they’re all minimized.
  • Command-tab beef #2: It’s not so useful for multi-window apps. This one hits me in mail composition all the time. I type some text into my message composition window, switch over to another app, then Command-tab back to the mail reader — and it has decided for some reason that the main mail reader window should be on top now, not the composition window I was just looking at. There is, as far as I can tell, no keyboard shortcut to cycle through the active windows rather than the active apps, so I end up mousing up to the app’s Window menu and choosing the window I want. And asking myself what good that keyboard “shortcut” just did me. (If there’s a “cycle through windows” shortcut that’d probably take care of my beef #1 too.)

    Update: I’m told Command-tilde (~) cycles through windows within the current app, which mostly takes care of this beef (though I’d still prefer to be able to cycle through windows regardless of which app they’re associated with and whether they’re minimized or not.)
  • Multi-monitor beef: Windows get reshuffled. When I unplug my external monitor from the PowerBook, all the windows that were on the second monitor are moved to the same positions on the PowerBook screen (or as close as they can get, anyway). And all the windows that were on the PowerBook get shoved down to the bottom of the screen. It should keep the PowerBook screen’s windows in the same place and put the external monitor’s windows down at the bottom. I find myself undoing the OS’s window shuffling every time I plug in or unplug an external monitor — just leave the windows alone as much as you can, Mr. Mac, please!
  • Terminal beef: No select-and-paste. Windows (PuTTY, specifically) and Linux (xterm and just about everything else) both support selecting a block of text in a terminal window and pasting it into another terminal window with a single mouse click. I have a 3-button trackball hooked up to my Mac most of the time — let me paste with that middle button, please!

If anyone knows how to tweak the configuration to address some or all of these, please post a comment here and I’ll update the article so it’s useful for others in the future.

3 Responses to “Mac annoyances”

  1. Bob Says:

    you can switch through active windows of an application by using Command-~ (tilde). This is next to Z on my UK keyboard (next to 1 on a US keyboard, I think). Hope this helps!

  2. Aaron Says:

    Instead of minimizing windows, try hiding the app (i.e., command-H). This won’t work if you only want to hide one window in an open program, but that’s what command-tilde is for :)

  3. koreth Says:

    Command-H is definitely helpful and makes Alt-Tab work closer to the way I want, but I still find myself doing more mousing around than I’d like.

    I’ve come to realize the source of the problem is an app-centric vs. a window-centric view of the world. Which I guess boils down to what kind of application you typically use. If your typical app is something like Photoshop, where there are lots of little windows open when you’re working on just one document, then the Mac approach is just fine.

    If, on the other hand, you often have a bunch of only somewhat related windows open (Terminal windows, in my case), then what you have is really a bunch of apps that happen to be the same underlying program. The fact that they’re the same binary is incidental. If I have five terminal windows open, each doing something completely different, I want the UI to give me quick ways to switch between windows and hide/show them, not quick ways to deal with all of them en masse. In fact, I don’t think I’ve *ever* wanted to hide all my terminal windows at once.

    I wonder if it would work to make a bunch of copies of the Terminal app and run them separately. Hmm.

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