Every year, Apple announces all sorts of new features in its operating systems, some large, some small, but we seldom end up with any insight into how popular those features are. Apple has put a lot of emphasis on Stage Manager, for instance, but how many people are actually using it on the Mac? On the iPad?
Stage Manager feels binary—either you’re using it or you’re not—but other features are fuzzier. For example, the option to edit posts in Messages sounded like a good thing, but how often do you use it? Daily? Frequently? Occasionally? Never?
I want to try running some polls here in Discourse to answer such questions for my own curiosity. Each feature poll will get a separate topic to allow subsequent discussion about why you use it or why you don’t, but I’ll break branches off into their own topics. We’ll see how it works and if the results prove interesting.
I’m going to start with Stage Manager on the Mac and on the iPad, but what other features are you curious about? Reply here to suggest features where you’ve always wondered why anyone would use them, or those where you can’t imagine why everyone doesn’t use them.
I think an interesting question would be, does stuff that hardly anybody uses get removed? In the case of iTunes Ping it certainly did, but there’s a lot of other stuff that got added to macOS over the years that adds clutter to a large majority of people who perhaps never use it (remember MS Word’s 90% of features only get used by 10% of users?). If hardly anybody is using it, why leave it in there? On the other hand, if there’s an extra option that doesn’t get in the way of folks not using it (like cmd-r to force sync Notes), even if perhaps only few people use it, why remove it for those who do?
• Extracting text from screenshots of websites and videos.
• Universal clipboard.
• And my long time favourite: Prerequisite is that I have the folder I want to save into already open in the Finder. When in a save dialog I use command tab to move to the Finder. Click and hold the folder I want to save into. Command tab back to the application with the save dialog while still holding and drop the folder on the save dialog. This makes the save dialog jump to the folder.
The case for removal is to simplify updating the overlying app or system component. An extra feature means extra QA testing to certtify any changes in any system potentially working with the feature. Also, it also raises the possibility of unintentional conflicts being created. I’ve seen two recent cases where ‘new’ features (unrelated to stored video or audio will not work if you are running Airplay to external devices.
Not often, as you say. I have to assume that Apple has telemetry on how much certain features are used, at least at some sort of statistical level, and takes that into account when weighing the development and testing cost of keeping a feature around.
These polls won’t be statistically significant, of course, because TidBITS readers are undoubtedly a specific segment of the market. But I just have to know, has anyone ever used Launchpad? :-) (Probably, but I’ve never seen it used in the wild or even heard of anyone using it.)
With somewhere between 100-200 million Macs currently in use, even a small percentage of users can be a fairly big absolute number. Of course, as you suggest, there are real costs to be considered, and there’s also the question of whether Apple sees a feature as being “strategic” or not.
I suspect one important factor in how much new Apple features are used is how much users look for new features, and I would hypothesize that it is related to how quickly we update to new editions of the OS. As someone who uses a Mac as a tool in other work (writing about science and technology) rather than works as a computer developer or consultant, I normally delay upgrading because new version of the OS tend to break things I use, and I prefer to let others find the bugs first. How many of us are late adopters rather than early adopters, and how does that affect how we use new features?
I think you make a very good point. I usually hold off updating for quite a while. By the time I get around to it, nobody is posting about “new features” anymore. I likely forget about many so I never end up checking them out.
I do try to bookmark articles on new features that sound attractive to me so I’ll remember to try them out. I’m sure I’m in the minority there though.
My problem with these new features is how the tech media deals with them. Everyone wants to be “early” on the reporting, so when WWDC rolls around everyone is writing about the new stuff and I get excited. But like others have said, I tend to be cautious about actually upgrading devices as I need to use them for work so it might be 6 months before I’m running an OS that can do the stuff. By then the media coverage has moved on and I forget all about the feature I was dying to try!
Perfect case in point is Sidecar, the ability to use your iPad as a 2nd screen for your Mac. When I first heard of that I thought it sounded awesome – but I didn’t have the new OS or a compatible iPad. Over a year later, I have both… but forgot all about the feature until recently I saw a mention of it and remembered.
I still haven’t even tried it. Now the feature seems old and not so hip and exciting and I’m not in a rush for it.
On the Mac I find this Shortcut makes it even more useful: it gives you the screenshot selection cursor, you select some text in an image on your screen, and it puts the text in your clipboard. So anything that appears on your screen, whether it is selectable text or not, can be copied as text.
I have it set to appear in the Services menu and assigned it the keyboard shortcut of cmd-shift-6 (to follow on from the standard system screenshot shortcuts). It works so well that I forgot it isn’t built in to the system when asking someone recently why they didn’t use cmd-shift-6 to capture some text on their screen
I won’t assert that you’re in the minority, but you’re certainly more organized than I.
I just started doing this. At home, my MBA is connected to a big screen. On the road, I just had the internal screen. Then I remembered Sidecar, looked it up on TidBITS, and tried it. On the road, I wouldn’t be without it (and I have a relatively small iPad, but it makes a big difference). At home, FWIW, I expect never to use it.
Adam, I may be alone in this…. You mentioned Stage Manager. I don’t even know what it is/does. It could be because I am still using High Sierra and the App is for newer OSes. I am giving a suggestion: whatever App you want to poll, state what it is/does. I may actually be using it, but not know the official name. Again, this might not be necessary for others, but just me.