December 21, 2009

The littlest things

[Warning: Contents may cause excruciating boredom.]
I switched from Microsoft Entourage (sorry, old friend) to Apple Mail a few weeks ago*, and I’m almost embarrassed to note my favorite “feature”: Mail doesn’t abusively “help” me by inserting a space before pasted text. Entourage would drive me crazy with that behavior, especially when putting URLs between parenthesis.
On the other hand, I loved how Entourage would auto-insert the correct accent when I’d type “vis-à-vis” (<–pretentious much? sorry). Maybe more importantly, when I'd tab from the address field to the message body, Entourage would remember the previously active insertion point in the body text. (Who cares? I care, as apparently I tweak addresses/subject lines with some frequency.) And Entourage would also keep everybody on the "To" line when replying to all.
Why am I boring you with this? Okay, yes, things are a bit quiet in the office today, but I also want you to know that I'm a perfectionist. I'm writing up a long and hopefully thoughtful piece about the Photoshop UI (responding to recent posts**), and “sweating the details” is a big, big deal to me–and to many of my colleagues. More interesting bits to come.
*Why? By not relying on one giant database, Mail should play better with Time Machine (and, I’m hoping, be less vulnerable to global freak-outs).
** Let’s not try to delve into a discussion of those other points yet. Sit tight. I’m writing a lot.

Posted by John Nack at 10:30 AM on December 21, 2009


  • Mark Alan Thomas — 11:53 AM on December 21, 2009

    In Snow Leopard you can enable substitutions such as for vis-à-vis for most cocoa apps by choosing Edit > Substitutions and checking the types of substitutions you want. Vis-à-vis is not a preset, but it’s easy enough to add your own using the Text tab of the Language & Text control panel in System Preferences.
    [Ah, thanks! I knew it must be possible, but I hadn’t had time to look. Now, can I fix those other problems (e.g. replying to all demoting most recipients to the cc line?). –J.]

  • Jcool — 12:10 PM on December 21, 2009

    *Why? By not relying on one giant database, Mail should play better with Time Machine.
    LOL. It’s a little humorous hearing you complain about a vendor that hasn’t finished re-archtecting their app to work with an new MacOS feature. ;)

  • Randal R. Ketchem — 1:35 PM on December 21, 2009

    Forget the client, John, and just use Gmail directly. All of your mail accessed from anywhere using the same interface. Sweet. Less hassle, no setup = more photography time.

  • ken — 1:36 PM on December 21, 2009

    I just love all the high quality problems your adobe guys have, lol.
    I would try to “put on” you some of Joe McNally’s Catholic guilt, but, on the other hand, we here in Kentucky are asking for “one hand outs” because I spent all my money on Adobe inglourious products. I am able to buy presents for myself only and let my children do without food for 2 weeks.
    I know what your thinking….What a kind father to only have his kids not have food for two weeks…
    Merry (guilt Christmas from KY

  • Phil Brown — 3:07 PM on December 21, 2009

    Gmail is a great option, although I use it with imap through a client (works on the iphone, PC, Mac, Linux, whatever you like).
    Then you don’t need to worry about losing anything unless Google disappears :-)

  • Bill Carberry — 3:44 PM on December 21, 2009

    Hi John,
    Hopefully this will be helpful:

  • Jaddie Dodd — 3:55 PM on December 21, 2009

    Entourage won’t keep adding those pesky spaces before your paste if you uncheck “Use smart cut and paste” in Entourage’s General preferences.
    [Ah, that was it? I suppose I overlooked that, maybe because I didn’t know what else it would change. Thanks. –J.]
    I’m considering switching from Entourage, too, for two reasons: frequent WebCore-related crashes, and the Time Machine-backup issue.
    [I’ve installed innumerable Entourage updates, hoping the crashing would go away, but nothing has fixed it. Provided the crashes are indeed coming from outside Entourage, I feel bad for the Entourage team. It’s incredibly maddening to rely on an outside component, then to have that component cause you to crash, and *then to get blamed for it*. Arguably Entourage should be hardened against such crashes, but sometimes there’s only so much one can do, and it’s hard to anticipate others’ activities. –J.]

  • Marky — 4:32 PM on December 21, 2009

    Yes “little things” are not so little when you spend 7 to 10 hours a day using an application. Photoshop, although its obviously exceptionally well designed in most ways, still has many small glitches and annoyances that you encounter every day.
    “Little things” I hope to see in CS5
    – a clear return to the option to use the floating dialogs in Curves, Hue/Sat and Selective Color. The shortcuts (essential for professionals) were much better in the previous version CS3
    [You can change them back if you want. –J.]
    – and the dialogs were more responsive and smooth.
    [How so? –J.]
    This as a preference will be a major move forward for anyone doing professional color correction.
    A better handling of the interface, its far too easy in CS4 to pull panels, and panel buttons out of place, if you are very fast and using a Wacom tablet.
    The ability to select and delete multiple paths in the paths panel.
    …those kind of things.

  • Eric — 7:44 PM on December 21, 2009

    I have tried to use Entourage at home, but it never works the way I want, and the database issue is a big one for me too.
    I use it at work because we still use Windows Server 2000 (our dept. shares servers with our lab that uses some antiquated Russian proprietary software). So Mail won’t work for me.
    The way Mail integrates into the OS is so many ways really makes a difference.
    To get useful text substitution you have several choices. Snow Leopard’s Keyboard settings, TypeItForMe, QuicKeys 4, or TextExpander. I use a combination of Keyboard settings and QuicKeys. (Not to mention Applescripting the UI.)

  • Marco — 2:15 AM on December 22, 2009

    where can I post a wishlist of time saving additions to illustrator?

  • Rosyna — 6:00 AM on December 22, 2009

    If you have 50,000 emails in one folder (mailbox) and you read 1 of those emails, then all 50,000 emails have to be reprocessed wrt timemachine.
    [Is that true in Mail or just in Entourage? –J.]

  • Shangara — 6:17 AM on December 22, 2009

    I reluctantly changed from Entourage to Mail several years ago when Entourage started to play up. Mail has had many features added/enhanced since that make up for the things I was used to in Entourage. Couldn’t do without it now. I use it to read RSS feeds (this blog for one). You have to subscribe via Safari though. If I want to read whole article, I click Read More otherwise stay in Mail.

  • Mark Alan Thomas — 1:02 PM on December 22, 2009

    If you have 50,000 emails in one folder (mailbox) and you read 1 of those emails, then all 50,000 emails have to be reprocessed wrt timemachine.
    Not with OS X Mail. The only app I have which regularly causes Time Machine to re-copy multiple GB of data is Aperture.

  • Marky — 1:14 PM on December 22, 2009

    You can change them back if you want. –J.
    Yes Old Shortcuts, I am aware of this obviously. That’s not what I mean. I mean the panel. For example, what happened to easily command clicking in the curves panel to place points and control TAB to move between points? I realise there are poor subsitutions for these, (having to select eyedropper and usign + and -) but they are nowhere near as good or as intuitive a the old systems. Also using hue/sat to target color ranges is now much more time consuming and clunky without option and shift.
    The fluidity of, and speed of using curves is compromised while using the panel. Because of screen redraw and redraw of the curve itself in the panel.
    I also realize that there are scripts to bring up the old dialogs, but these are slow cumbersome, because configurator is not that fast.
    Just give us a preference to bring back the modal dialogs for all adjustments, that’s all I ask. There are far more losses than gains in the new ‘stuck to pallette well’ adjustment panel setup.
    Just my main rant and fundamental problem with CS4 aired there.

  • Timothy Mackey — 8:54 PM on December 22, 2009

    @Marky, The Hue/Saturation panel still does allow for option and shift to add or subtract form the color target range. The only difference is that you have to select the Hue/Saturation eyedropper tool first, whereas before in the medal dialog, it would have automatically been selected. I agree with your other points, though.

  • Timothy Mackey — 8:56 PM on December 22, 2009

    @Marky, The Hue/Saturation panel still does allow for option and shift to add or subtract form the color target range. The only difference is that you have to select the Hue/Saturation eyedropper tool first, whereas before in the medal dialog, it would have automatically been selected. I agree with your other points, though.

  • Rosyna — 11:14 PM on December 22, 2009

    Time Machine doesn’t recopy all 50,000 files, but it does reprocess them to see which one file is updated from the list of 50,000. Once it finds that, Time Machine then has to create 49,999 hard links (one for every unchanged file).
    But it still just copies 1 file.

  • WS — 3:33 AM on December 23, 2009

    Good. How about cleaning up a lot of the redundant and superfluous elements that are rooted in the program, not to mention modernizing all the option windows (like Layer Style, etc.)? When was the last time those saw a developer? 1998? Seriously.
    Shut me up once and for all by showing me this pedantic nature of yours shine through in your product. I’m not talking about more prima facie changes, but some actual core, system-wide stuff, that actually makes navigating the options, plugins, and filters a lot more intuitive and far less aggravating. As said above, when you spend 7 hours in a program, even an erroneous click here and there add up. I keep pumping time and motion studies. Get some people in a lab, do some usability testing. I’ll collect data for you for free if it means having a more intuitive program!
    I’m still wondering why I have to do things like sharpen an image, then go to fade sharpen and drop it down till I’m happy with the clarity? Why is there no slider option in sharpen (and blur for that matter).
    Here’s a concept of some really basic stuff:
    Sincerely, your reluctant and feisty customer for over 10 years now…

  • Mike Skocko — 7:47 AM on December 23, 2009

    “and ‘sweating the details’ is a big, big deal to me–and to many of my colleagues.”
    Between seeing Avatar Saturday and hitting Disneyland/CA Adventure with the family the past two days, that sentiment really hit home.
    Thanks to you and your colleagues for loving what you do. Life is the ultimate work in progress. Like Photoshop, it ain’t perfect. Cheers to all who care enough to try to bridge the gap.

  • Brian Spence — 8:35 AM on December 23, 2009

    This sounds like just the right time for me to make a feature request for almost all Adobe products: “Send to…”!!!! In every web browser or office application, there’s an ability to mail a file to someone. Not with bridge, photoshop, or illustrator.
    Let’s say that somebody at work asks me for a picture (which happens a lot!). I sometimes locate it in Bridge, then I have to locate it AGAIN in explorer to send it! Frustrating! Please give me this feature!!
    Browsing an sorting through my media is a more pleasant experience with Bridge, but if I just need to find and send a picture or video, I opt for Windows Explorer instead, more and more. It seems like a simple addition.

  • Mark Alan Thomas — 9:22 AM on December 23, 2009

    I’m having a hard time believing this. Wouldn’t this process of comparing files take a lot of time and cause lots of disk activity? When Time Machine runs on my machine even after I’ve read and replied to email, it starts and finishes in less than ten seconds.

  • Mark Alan Thomas — 12:09 PM on December 23, 2009

    Researching this a bit, it appears that Time Machine leverages FSEvents so that it doesn’t have to methodically poll the file system to see which files have changed between backups. This suggests to me that Time Machine doesn’t really have to “reprocess’ 50,000 emails just to backup one. It simply sees that one file has changed and backs it up. If that one file is a monolithic container along the lines of an Entourage or Aperture vault, then a huge amount of data will be re-copied at each backup. But OS X Mail isn’t like this.

  • Rosyna — 5:25 PM on December 23, 2009

    It definitely has to scan all 50,000 files. And yes, it is time consuming. The resolution FSEvents are at the folder level. They don’t tell you which file changed in that folder.
    You can confirm this by running Time Machine while fs_usage runs in the terminal. You can see it scan all the email files.

  • Mark Alan Thomas — 7:42 PM on December 26, 2009

    Uh, okay. So? It seemed like you were implying that Mail is as poorly behaved with Time Machine as Entourage and Aperture, which is false.

  • Cris DeRaud — 7:42 AM on December 29, 2009

    John, you simply must watch this this sixth sense technology demonstrated on TED from India.
    Instead of bringing the real world to the computer, this innovator has brought the computer to the real world wherever you go.
    At TEDIndia, Pranav Mistry demos several tools that help the physical world interact with the world of data — including a deep look at his SixthSense device and a new, paradigm-shifting paper “laptop.” In an onstage Q&A, Mistry says he’ll open-source the software behind SixthSense, to open its possibilities to all.
    About Pranav Mistry
    Pranav Mistry is the inventor of SixthSense, a wearable device that enables new interactions between the real world and the world of data

  • Onibalusi Bamidele — 6:14 AM on January 02, 2010

    Yes you are really really right.

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