Shiny Tiger things

technology

I've been living with Tiger for a few days now, tinkering, and reading more about Spotlight, Automator and Dashboard, so here are my thoughts about the new operating system.

  • Preview has some great and long-awaited features. I find myself reading quite long articles and manuals as PDFs now, so the new bookmarks are a great feature. However, I think it would be better if the Bookmarks menu only showed bookmarks for the currently open document or documents. One other nice but slightly hidden feature is that you can set a preference to open a document at the last viewed page. That's great if you quit a document accidentally and want to just get back to the page you were on. The annotations are quite nice, but I haven't checked whether they also appear if you view the document in Adobe Acrobat. Not that I do that unless absolutely necessary, because it's so slow and crashy.
  • I love Spotlight, even though I think that the interface could do with a bit of tweaking. It can be a bit slow (if you're used to Quicksilver), though it's a world away from the awful Finder searching in Panther. I wish that there was a 'stop' keyboard command, because I often see what I'm looking for flashing by in the results list and want to just stop the search there. But it seems that you have to wait until it's found and displayed everything, which is a bit of a drag. I was delighted to discover that when you get emailed an attachment, the system stores the sender in the metadata for the file. This — on its own — is massively useful to me. Very often I get sent some form or another from admin, which usually has a very cryptic filename, but now a search on the sender pops the document up. No excuse for 'forgetting' about these things now. Damn.
  • Smart mailboxes and folders. I love these too, and have been wanting something like this for ages. I've got smart folders set up for documents in my home folder last opened since yesterday, and documents labelled red (which are things I have to read, edit, or otherwise deal with). I used to have a special folder for these kinds of things, but then I had to think about where to file them once I'd dealt with them. Now, I file them straight away, safe in the knowledge that they will appear in my ToRead smart folder. In fact, I'm seriously wondering if filing is necessary at all now. Which brings me to smart mailboxes... I've taken the plunge now and am filing all my mail in one big folder (which I'll move into yearly archives as necessary). I haven't quite got up the courage move all my old messages out of their folders and into the new one yet, but that will come. I can set up smart folders for things I want to group together very easily, and because it's only a virtual hierarchy, I can even set up temporary smart folders for projects that I happen to be working on at the moment. When they are over, I can just get rid of the smart mailbox. I've also got a 'flagged' smart mailbox. When mail comes in that I have to deal with, but can't sort out within the two minute GTD time limit, I flag'n'file them, knowing that everything I have to deal with is listed in the Flagged smart mailbox. When it's done, I unflag it, and it's already filed in the main mail folder. I have an empty inbox! And a rather full flagged mailbox, but let's not worry about that too much...
  • The command line commands, mdls and mdfind are rather interesting to play about with, particularly if you want to know what kind of metadata a particular file type provides. I've also found that you can add qualifiers in Spotlight after your keywords, like 'wombat Date:yesterday' to find all references to wombat yesterday. I'm sure that I'll be playing with mdls and mdfind a lot more when I've got some time.
  • I really like Dictionary. Particularly since I saw this hint which shows that you can hover over any word in a Cocoa application (or at least those using WebKit or NSTextView) while holding down Command-Control-D to get a very cool little definition popup. I don't spell too badly most of the time, but I like to make sure that I'm using words like 'evanescent' properly.
  • Dashboard. This is much cooler and more useful that I thought it would be. I like having all those useful little tools off screen and out of my way, but then instantly summoned when I need them. In fact, I'm actually using Stickies for little notes now, when I avoided them before because I didn't like them cluttering my screen. The dashlicious widget is particularly useful for posting to del.icio.us. Basically, many of the widgets (like weather, conversion, dictionary and world time) have replaced quick visits to particular websites for me, and make the process much quicker and more transparent.
  • Automator. I've only had a quick play with this so far, but it looks quite promising. I think that it will be much more useful when more third party developers produce Automator actions for their products. You can see the potential, though. Frasier Spiers has built a nice flickr uploader using Automator. It's only a start, but it's already very useful.

Overall, I'm very impressed with Tiger. It's much more speedy all round, and the new features are mostly great. It's true that there are a few rough edges, but I have no doubt that they will be gradually ironed out with updates over the next few months. In particular, Spotlight (in all its incarnations) has already significantly changed the way I work.

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