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Comment on "Simple Truths About Cross-Platform Apps"
by Jacob Rus — Mar 22
@Kevin Walzer
I'm not sure I agree with the Cocoa interface purity (or snobbery, depending on your point of view) that I'm seeing here.

Call it snobbery if you like, but most of those apps on your list are painful to look at and use on a Mac. If you compare them to OS-X-native equivalents, the result is terrible bloody-noses for the cross-platform app. The contests aren't even really close.

Office X, NeoOffice:
Office X was among Microsoft's buggiest releases. 2004 is better but still pretty bad. And OpenOffice/NeoOffice? Give me a break. They're like poor imitations of the buggy MS app, with more bugginess tossed in on the side. These apps don't even really try to fit in: they don't integrate with OS X tools like the keychain, or services, or keyboard conventions. My Cocoa key bindings won't work in them. They are a drag to use in just about every way, and the only thing they have going for them is format-compatibility with a Windows product. If you compare with Mellel, the two word processors are pretty pitiful. Keynote beats Power Point hands down. And it's very sad that Excel is the only real spreadsheet app available on the Mac.

Aquamacs, IDLE:
These both completely ignore proper Mac behavior. Emacs is extremely powerful, but designed for a text-based terminal, and doesn't take advantage of any of the last 20 years of UI improvements. It doesn't interact well with other programs on the system, and is only really usable if you plan on staying full-time in emacs and never coming out again.

IDLE finally has a decent icon (designed by me!), and they finally got around to making most of the menu keyboard shortcuts conform to Mac standards (yay!), but I wouldn't really recommend it to friends at this point. It's great to have a free GUI editor ship with the mac python distribution, because it gives new users a place to go first, but it would take a lot of work to polish it up to the point of power-user-friendliness.

Try out TextMate, and you'll see what a well-planned, well-implemented Mac text editor can be, at its best. It beats both of these two hands down, in my opinion.

Thunderbird, Firefox:
The only reason I use thunderbird for mailing lists is it does proper threading. The only conceivable reason to use Firefox over Camino is the extensions. If you compare to Mail and Safari, which are also on your list, Thunderbird and Firefox both get stomped on. I really like Camino, but OmniWeb is also nice. I've thought of switching to OmniWeb before, but inertia keeps me with Camino.

Dreamweaver, InDesign, Acrobat:
I don't really like Dreamweaver's cognitive model (preferring to just use TextMate), but all three of these have good corporate support, and are well made. They have more in common with other Macadobe apps than with normal Mac or PC apps, so I wouldn't really call them windows ports. Acrobat (and Acrobat reader) is getting a lot more decent as time goes on., Inkscape:
I'm happy that people are working on open-source image processing and creation tools, but these really don't hold a candle to Photoshop/Illustrator. Between lacking features, UI wonkiness, and just general poor UI planning, I w0uldn't use either of these unless no other option was available. No professional users (or anyone who really pushes the boundaries) is going to be using these two any time soon, and I don't see the UI improving radically if no one who needs the improvements is using these apps and complaining about their limitations.

I use this one too, because I have very simple RSS needs. But I don't pretend to think it compares in quality to NNW.

Terminal, Safari,, Preview:
Interestingly, I think Apple could do a lot better with all of these. Mail needs real threading, good IMAP support, some assurance that emails won't just disappear, and some improvements to its smart mailboxing/tagging/searching aspect. Preview is still feature-limited compared to Acrobat Reader. Safari should really drop the brushed metal, because it's truly ugly, and add incremental search and bookmark keywords while they're at it (only reasons I use Camino). And I can think of plenty of ways to improve Terminal.

But what they do do, these apps do quite well. They aren't as fully-featured as I'd like, but they at least aren't horribly buggy beyond belief w.r.t. UI.


What I get from your list is not that you like cross-platform apps, but that you like free apps, and are unwilling to pay for any software, unless it's produced by a major corporation like Microsoft, Adobe, or Macromedia (maybe you get those through school, or from anonymous internet friends?). That's fine, but you shouldn't kid yourself that the apps you're using are better, just because they don't cost money.
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