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Comment on "Simple Truths About Cross-Platform Apps"
by Kevin Walzer — Mar 22
@Jacob Rus:

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.

OK, I will call it snobbery. And your response is too long to go through line-by-line, but I will address as much of it as I can.

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.

I use Word because I grew up with it (on both Mac and Windows). I use OpenOffice/NeoOffice (I've standardized on it for my book publishing business, in fact) precisely because it is cross-platform and most of the people I work with in my business use Windows. And while I agree with you about the X11 version of OpenOffice, NeoOffice works great (albeit slowly): Command-F is the keyboard shortcut for text search, it supports Mac fonts natively, it has a standard Mac menubar, and supports Mac printing natively. It is also superior to MS Office in some ways: it has a very decent, built-in vector art tool that is good for cover design; and it has superb PDF export, out of the box. It's not just because it's free, although that's a consideration (especially for requiring my partners to standardize on it); the more important thing is its feature set meets my needs better.

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.

Disclosure: I was one of the original developers on Aquamacs (http:://, so I'm not objective. But if you think it's standard Emacs, you're misinformed. Aquamacs implements as many standard Mac UI functions as is practical. The clipboard works in a Mac-like way; you can search your files for a string with Command-F and Command-G, just like in any other Mac. It also has standard Mac help (accessed via Help Viewer).

Great job on the IDLE icon! IDLE is much improved in Python 2.5. I use it for my Python development; it's perfectly adequate for my needs.

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.

TextMate doesn't have support for one of my primary development languages (Tcl) out of the box; you have to install a third-party package. I'll gladly do that with open source software, but not with a commercial text editor; it should have what I need from the start. Aquamacs has much better support for Tcl built in, and the Mac customizations to standard Emacs mean that Aquamacs is reasonably close to TextMate in Mac ease-of-use.

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.

Thunderbird has good support for NNTP, and so I use it for my developer e-mail. Its newsreader is superior to any of the commercial alternatives on the Mac (except perhaps for Unison, which I haven't tried). I use Firefox because a) it accesses some sites better than Safari does, and b) I like having a second web browser. Camino isn't as snappy or polished in my experience as Firefox., 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.

My needs in these areas are pretty lightweight, so these applications are adequate for me.

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.

I don't take kindly to your assumptions. I'm a 38-year-old small business owner (publishing and software development). My selection of software tools is a decision of strategic importance, as it affects my productivity and also may require sizable capital investment. Whether it's a commercial or a free application, my choices are carefully considered. As I've said, I consider OpenOffice to be superior to MS Office because of its PDF support and integrated vector art tools, and I consider Aquamacs to be superior to TextMate because of its Tcl support. On the other hand, I've purchased Dreamweaver because it's better than the alternatives for website management and design; I've also purchased commercial icon sets/design for the software I develop because the free alternatives were inadequate.

Getting back to the point of the thread, I don't disagree that adhering to Mac user interface conventions is critical; I try to do this as much as possible in my own applications. My apps are built on cross-platform toolkits, but make extensive use of platform-specific extensions; also, their design would make them look weird on other platforms (assuming they ran at all). And I also agree that small, independent developers are competing on the basis of the user experience they provide, more than the features of the applications they provide. But within the broad parameters of the HIG, the "user experience" is often a matter of taste. As an end user, I don't make much use of Services, so applications supporting this don't impress me. And, in fact, I find some highly-praised Mac Cocoa applications (such as Adium) unintuitive to use; the fact they are free is not enough to entice me to use them.
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