Five Enhancements for Future Apple Operating Systems

Originally published at: Five Enhancements for Future Apple Operating Systems - TidBITS

Apple will be unveiling new technologies at WWDC 2022, and while some will undoubtedly be welcome, we have additional ideas that we hope will make their way into future versions of Apple’s operating systems.

I have a crappy internet connection (twinned DSL, 5mb up on a good day with a tailwind…) I tried iCloud backup, and it totally swamped the connection. So some way to limit bandwidth on iCloud backups would be A Good Thing.

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What other specific enhancements or features would improve your experience using Apple’s operating systems?

I have a lot of ideas, but the top ones for me:

  • Mark messages as unread so I can go back to them later. Just like email.
  • SPAM controls for messages
  • Custom ringtones and vibration patterns for watchOS
  • More discrete notification controls for watch vs iPhone, including the ability to make notifications always go to the watch, even if the phone is unlocked.
  • Family sharing Photo and Music libraries

(I have a lot more ideas, but since you said five…)

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I’ve complained about the read/unread message thing for years. But now on iOS you can at least pin them. My Mac OS is Sierra so I’m not sure if you can do that in newer ones.

Diane

re: Safari Site-Specific Browsers on the Mac

You might take a look at UNITE for macOS - https://www.bzgapps.com/unite

Ostensibly, it does what’s described in the referenced part of the article.

I got it as part of a suite of apps but only tried it with Netflix - seemed to work OK, but I haven’t used it since.

  • Just thotcha might otter wanna know

Add a command to iCloud where you could tell it to keep certain files or folders downloaded from iCloud on the current device until told otherwise.

Before traveling to places where I will be offline or on limited bandwidth or costly mobile network, I often have tried to download files I know I might need. Since this often is quite many and big files, it is very disappointing when I discover that they have disappeared from the device.

I love the log of changes suggestion!

Universal Search for Apple Mail.app rules (in Mail preferences)

I use Mail since Puma (2003). In these 19 years I have amassed more than 700 rules. Finding a rule to edit it can be a real nightmare as one can type just 3 characters until Mail Prefs decides which rule to choose.

I don´t know if Universal Search is the right term. What I mean is this: When I for example start typing in the Mac Appstore search field, there is immediatly a list of apps below the search field that start with the same characters.

I want that for Mail rules. In the last 10 years I have mailed Apple several times regarding his problem and have never received an answer.

Update macOS every two years instead of the current annual update.

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Oh yeah! That’s a big one, and I assume it would be easy for Apple to add.

I’ve given up on Apple ever understanding how families want to share photos, in particular. That’s a windmill I’ve been tilting at since the earliest days of iPhoto.

Yeah, I looked at it when I was evaluating SSBs for Google Docs. It didn’t work for that scenario, but might in other situations. Still, I think this is something Apple could do better. All the third-party SSBs are quite weird.

If you click the cloud icon next to the file or folder in the iCloud Drive Finder window, does that not do what you want? Or are you saying that iCloud Drive will later evict those files?

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Yes, it will evict those files if you, for some reason, get low on space. The last time this happened to me, I got a warning when downloading Netflix series to offline watching that there was no space. Some days later, I discovered the files were only in the cloud.

Another scenario is that files you seldom use gets evicted. On my Mac Pro where I have ample space, I would prefer to have all iCloud files on the mac to make backup of the files. I do backup to Google Cloud Cold storage, making one new full backup every year and removing the four-year-old backup. Before I start the new backup, I have to download iCloud files again.

That can be done. System Preferences. Depending on which version of MacOS, find the iCloud settings. On Monterey and Big Sur, the top items in System Preferences include Apple ID, which is where [you’ll find] you can turn off the option “Optimize Mac Storage” - that will keep all your iCloud Drive storage on the Mac (assuming you have adequate space.)

On Mojave, that setting is in “iCloud” on System Preferences. Then you click “options” next to “iCloud Drive” to turn off Optimize Mac Storage.

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I agree with @ace’s suggestions. Here are some of my own. I don’t think they’re going to happen, but I would appreciate it.

More user-friendly installation history

Back in the early days of Mac OS X, the Software Update preference panel/app had a tab to show you the installation history. It’s not there today - forcing you to pull up the System Information app, which isn’t very user friendly.

Universal uninstall

Windows users have had this for a very very long time. There’s a control panel that shows all installed apps. You can select an app and request that it be configured, repaired or uninstalled. It’s a simple UI wrapper that calls a configure/repair/uninstall app provided by the application, but it is very convenient, because everything is in one place.

Apple supports this for apps installed by the App Store. You can pull up Launchpad, long-click on an app, and then click the “X” button to uninstall it - just like you can on iOS. I think we should be able to do this for all apps, regardless of their source.

It would be trivial if the app includes an uninstaller, but it should be possible for anything else that installs using Apple’s Install system service, because the installer stores a receipt file that records what was installed. Third-party uninstall apps can do this, so why can’t Apple?

Bring back HFS file system support

At least as read-only. I can’t believe that it would be that much engineering effort to keep a basic read-only implementation around, but it would allow people with old floppies and CDs and disk images to be able to read the content without awkward third-party software or emulators running old versions of macOS.

Restore legacy audiobook support

Those of us who had audiobooks in iTunes pretty much lost access when upgrading to Music. The files are still stored and available, but they aren’t available in Music or Books.

Modify Music and/or Books to find and present these without making the user manually re-import them. And support all the formats that iTunes used to support (e.g. Audible content). And allow metadata editing (title, author, etc.) the way iTunes did.

APFS optimizer

I realize that this isn’t necessary for SSDs, but plenty of us use APFS on hard drives (e.g. to create very large Time Machine volumes), and performance degrades as the files and directories get fragmented.

I’m not sure what kind of optimization would help best (directory defgragment? Rebuild/replace directory? Defragment files?), but Apple should be able to do something.

If Apple doesn’t want to do this, then at least release detailed file system specs so a third party (like Disk Warrior) can develop a tool.

Configuration tool for Apache

Apple ships the Apache web server with every installation of macOS, but it can only be configured by manually editing configuration files with a text editor.

Apache has been a part of Mac OS X since day-one, and in the past, Apple provided simple configuration via a “Personal Web Sharing” tab in the Sharing system preferences and their Server product allowed a bit more control with a friendly GUI. But today, there is no interface available - not Personal Web Sharing, and Server no longer supports a web server.

Would it really be that hard to once again provide a management interface for the software that they are already shipping with the OS?

(And just out of curiosity, why does Apple continue to ship Apache if it’s disabled by default, they don’t provide a tool to enable it, and as far as I know, none of Apple’s tools use it)

Special display configuration

If you have a high-DPI display, macOS may or may not recognize it as such. If it does not, you need to resort to third-party software (which doesn’t always work as well as it should) to gain the configuration options that Apple’s Retina displays provide.

It would be trivial for Apple to add a check-box on the Displays preference panel where you can override macOS and explicitly tell it that a display is (or is not) a high-DPI display, allowing you to access the different configuration options that go along with the display type.

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Re: app uninstall

Or, for those of us that detest LaunchPad (or otherwise just never use it), launch MAS, select the app, and choose Delete App… from the ellipses menu.

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What I want most is an option for simple text search in Mail and all documents containing words, perhaps with control over what types of documents that would include “all containing text formats.” I found Siri a huge step backwards in ability to find documents containing particular words or names. Siri fails to search certain word processing files, to the point that I no longer trust it. What I need for much of my writing is a simple search for particular names, things, places and ideas that would cover text files, emails, RTF, .doc, .docx, PDF, and other formats. I would like to have the same option for searching the web.

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Big “me too” for Family Sharing of Photo Libraries. I switched to Lightroom Cloudy which works exactly the way Photos should work, and is very good, but costs £9.98 a month.

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Re " Improved Undo for Preview through Versions"
You can make changes to an image if you do the following:
1/ open image file and make any colour or size adjustments (this is permanent)
2/ save as PDF
3/ make required markups or annotations & save
As long as the file was saved as a PDF, all markups are now editable.
If you require an image file, use Save As. The original PDF will still be editable.

Sorry, this is going to be long.

If you are still running on Mojave or High Sierra, you can skip this right now. Who even knows if any of these will work on older versions of the OS? But if you are on Catalina, Big Sur or Monterey, read on . . . because as much as I love Apple, their hardware, and their Operating Systems, the Mac Finder is really long in the tooth and hasn’t been updated in decades. There is just so much more possible that will make you love your Mac again and speed up your workflow.

I wish Apple would incorporate into the OS some of the functions of the excellent third-party apps I’ve grown to know and love over the years. Some of these run-at-login applets have been on the market for 20 years. When I talk to AppleCare Senior Advisors, none of them seem to have ever heard of these.

Also, Apple may never adopt these functionalities for fear of upsetting the developers who created them and who make their living from their licensing of them. Steve Jobs had no such compassion, he’d steal any good idea he came upon and liked. Tim Cook is not so mercenary.

I’m going to describe the function first, then at the end the name of the app.

  1. A unique folder for every app, kind of like Microsoft Word saves documents in a separate folder from templates. So the OS automatically goes to the assigned folder for open and save dialogs. Also features quick icons in Open/Save dialogs to jump to favorite folders that aren’t necessarily used for saving. For example, all my skies and textures that I use in photo editing are handy to have with one click. This isn’t the folder I use to save finished work, so cannot set it as the preferred folder.

  2. A Finder with side-by-side windows, making dragging a file from one window to another window a breeze. Also has tabs that can be memorized so I can click one button and my Finder is set up for photo editing, click again and my Finder is set up for word processing. The Finder windows are tabbed and the path is visible, and the path can be at the top of the bottom of the window or turned off.

  3. An icon in the menu bar to tell me if the connection from the cable modem or router to the Internet is up and running or not. I can always connect to the router as it generates its own IP addresses for the local network. So I have no way normally of knowing the full network is down. This app fixes that.

  4. Full control over my menu bar. Apps I use all the time appear in the menu bar, and apps I use only occasionally appear in a second menu one click away. Apps that I don’t want in my menu bar, like my user name (since I am the only user) can be hidden.

  5. I take a lot of screenshots and Apple’s way of invoking the screenshot requires pressing two or more keys. My screenshot app is always in my Menu Bar and can be invoked with one click. I can choose which windows to capture, or capture the whole screen. I can do a scrolling capture for something long. The capture even has a nice drop shadow when I capture a single window. I can fully annotate the screenshots in my choice of 8 colors with boxes, circles, lines, arrows, text, and blurs for confidential information. I can save them in whatever folder I choose.

  6. Every time I copy something using Apple’s ancient Finder software, the copy only persists until the next copy operation, which takes its place. The thing I copied is gone forever. I use an app that offers unlimited pasteboards, so every copy is kept. For standard copies, I can set the number of days before the copies are deleted. For something I want to keep, like a signature, template, or something I might want to share frequently, I can move the copied item into a persistent pasteboard that will never be erased until I erase it.

  7. When I press the green dot in any window, the Finder expands the window and hides the menu bar. And that is all it does. First, I don’t always want the menu bar hidden and second I’d like to have a fast way the arrange the windows, like having 4 windows open, one in each corner, or two windows sides by side. This app does just what I have described. I don’t use the rearrange as often as the full screen with the menu bar function.

Does anyone want to know what these programs I’ve described are called?

  1. Default Folder (Saint Claire Software)
  2. Pathfinder (Cocoatech)
  3. Internet Status (App Store)
  4. Bartender 4 (MacBartender.com)
  5. xNip (AppStore)
  6. Paste (AppStore)
  7. Moom (LittleTricks)

Now, I know some of you are hard-core old school and don’t want to muck up your systems with add-ons. That’s fine for you, not for me. I love all the applets I’ve mentioned and none of them has ever caused the slightest problem. They are well written, well supported, and do the job they were designed to do. YMMV.

Just to clarify this, because to me the first para implies that “Optimise” will keep all your iCloud Drive storage on the Mac, which is not correct. The second para about Mojave is correct and clear.

FTAOD Having “Optimise” checked authorises macOS to offload files to be cloud only.
Having “Optimise” unchecked forces all files to have local copies.

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Yes, sorry, forgot to add the important part:

On Monterey and Big Sur, the top items in System Preferences include Apple ID, which is where [you’ll find] you can turn off the option “Optimize Mac Storage”

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But for me, it’s only certain folders that I want on my Mac, the remainder can go be cloud only. This is how I’ve used Dropbox since whenever and it’s the best approach I think.

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