Obligatory Snow Leopard Post: Bugs, Features, and Those Things Which Are Both

Now that we’ve all had a few days to play around with Snow Leopard (most of which was probably spent reading John Siracusa’s excellent Review on Ars Technica and Sven-S. Porst’s equally interesting take in two parts), it’s time to make a first assessment. I’ve mainly listed things I haven’t seen anywhere else; some good, some bad, and some just plain weird.

Exposé

Exposé has changed dramatically from its Leopard version.

Some changes are clearly positive. It’s now possible to minimize windows right into the application icon in the Dock, and access them using Exposé.

Some changes are clearly bad. When invoking Exposé, there is now often a noticeable delay.

Some changes I’m feeling ambivalent about. «Application windows Exposé» now collects windows from all spaces, which can be useful, but is typically not what I want. Quickly going in and out of Exposé no longer brings the current application’s windows to the front. These two features may be useful to other people, but unfortunately have made Exposé pretty much useless for me.

Another change I’m not sure about is the new grid order. Exposé now arranges windows in a grid; this makes it look more tidy, but means that some of the spatial information gets lost. I’ve said positive things about how Exposé tries to respect the spatial organization of windows. Unfortunately, Snow Leopard does this to a lesser degree. Here’s a movie showing Exposé in Leopard:

As you can see, the windows barely move at all. Here’s the same window arrangement in Snow Leopard:

In order to show zoomed windows in a grid, Exposé moves one window almost all the way across the screen. Since you probably roughly know where each window is, such sweeping changes may make it harder to find windows.

Additionally, all windows are now zoomed to roughly the same size, which makes it harder to identify the window you’re looking for by its size.

Animations

Apple has historically been great at figuring out where to put animations. Use animations where they help the user figure out what’s going on; avoid animations where they just get in the way. While Microsoft has a tendency to get these two backwards (menus which fade in? Really, Microsoft?), Apple usually got them right. In Snow Leopard, Apple has added a bunch of new animations. Unfortunately, some of them are not merely useless, but actively annoying.

Let’s start with one that actually works. Changing between spaces has always «scrolled» the windows, but the «spaces widget» itself had no animation. That’s how it looks in Leopard:

In Snow Leopard, the widget moves in sync with the moving windows:

While this animation may not be particularly useful, at least it doesn’t get in the way. The next animation, however, does. When switching the desktop image, Apple now unhelpfully does so using an animation:

This doesn’t help the user at all, but simply adds a huge delay to the whole process. Clicking the little wiget in the top-right corner of Finder windows to show or hide the sidebar now also triggers an animation, which also adds a short delay and does nothing but get in the way.

Bugs

Snow Leopard, like every major OS update, has introduced a whole host of new bugs. One of the most pertinent issues is still window order management. When changing spaces, Snow Leopard often gets confused about the order of windows. Sometimes, windows are ordered wrongly, but reorder themselves after a short delay:

Sometimes, windows simply remain in an «impossible» order, with background windows overlapping the foreground window:

Background Window overlaps Foreground Window

Snow Leopard also has not fixed a long-standing Exposé glitch where changing the z-order of windows changes their «zoomed» position in Exposé. This is extremely annoying if you’re activating Exposé, selecting a window, activating Exposé again – and now all the windows are in different places.

Oh, here’s another fun little glitch, for good measure:

Creator Codes

I’m not sure whether this is a bug or an intentional «feature»,1 but Snow Leopard has broken «Creator code» file associations. In Leopard and earlier versions of Mac OS X, applications could optionally «own» their files even if the files’ types were associated with a different application; i.e. you could associate RTF files to TextEdit, but if you created an RTF file in Word, that file would continue to open in Word.

Here are a bunch of files as they appear in Leopard:

Files in Leopard

Files with the same types are associated with different applications. This is extremely useful; for example, I use .txt files to take notes in TextEdit, but I also use .txt files created with BBEdit to store database schemas. Likewise, I have html files that should open in Safari, and html files that should open in BBEdit. And don’t get me started on XML files. Leopard recognizes this and opens each text file in its proper editor.

Snow Leopard breaks this feature. Here are the same files in Snow Leopard:

Files in Snow Leopard

The Creator meta data is ignored. At first I thought there was something wrong with my installation of Snow Leopard, but on the Mac Journals list, Matt Deatherage noted that the problem occurs on his system, too, so I suspect this is either a bug or a «feature» that exists in all Snow Leopard installations. Why Apple has decided to break this feature I do not know; I doubt they got too many support calls from people who were confused by the fact that a file was opened by the application that created it.

And if you don’t think that this is a problem, then I present to you this Ogg movie file, created by QuickTime:

File Association Error

That’s right. Snow Leopard seriously associates this QuickTime movie with a sound editor. I could, of course, fix this; but doing so would break the proper association for all .ogg music files instead!

It seems I’m not the only one to notice this problem. TidBITS also has an article about it.

Text Substitution

I’m really happy with the idea of having system-level text substitution, mainly so I can finally simply enter SHIFT and get a ⇧, but at first this feature didn’t work for me. In my case, I had to enable it manually using the context menu:

Enabling Text Substitution

Flash Crash

Flash tends to crash Safari pretty regularly. Not anymore. If you haven’t yet seen how this looks in Snow Leopard, here’s the answer:

Flash Crashes

Flash Crashes

Flash Crashes

And finally

One additional small thing I’ve noticed is that when an application in a different space throws up a dialog box, it no longer appears in the current space; instead, it shows up in the application’s space, as it should. Nice!


  1. It seems it’s not a bug, but an intentional change. back

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