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Can’t Apple do better than stickers? 7 MacOs features users actually want

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Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Apple, it seems, doesn’t have a lot of ideas for the Mac. Sure, they changed the operating system’s name from OS X to MacOS, and Siri is setting up shop on the menubar. But Mac users hoping for big revelations at WWDC were likely disappointed. Apple spent more time talking about stickers for iMessages than the Mac.

Hands on: iOS integration and a sleepy Siri aren’t enough to perk up MacOS

Here are a few things we think Apple should bring to the Mac. None of it would be magical or revolutionary; it’s more like low-hanging fruit. But we think Mac users would be happy to see any of these things happen.

Unbundled iTunes

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One of the nice things about MacOS is the wide variety of clean applications that serve a single defined function. Calander, Notes, Reminders, and other applications all do one function very well, without getting in the user’s way.

And then there’s iTunes. In ancient times (2003) iTunes was a music player and little else. But these days iTunes is a bloated mess of an application, because it does way too many things.

This is hardly an original complaint. It’s a decade old at this point. But it’s still amazing how many things iTunes does, and how often Apple adds new features. As of now, is all this and more.

  • A program for playing local music
  • A store for purchasing and downloading music
  • A subscription streaming service, for playing music from the cloud
  • A podcast directory and player
  • An online radio service
  • A directory for online courses
  • A TV and movies player
  • A store to buy TV shows and movies
  • A way to browse the iOS App Store on your Mac, and purchase iOS applications away from your phone
  • The only way to add custom ringtones to an iPhone
  • A tool for backing up and restoring iPhones and iPads
  • A tool for syncing iPhones and iPads
  • A tool for managing your iPod, if you still have one

We could go on. If you were building MacOS from scratch, right now, there is no way you would bundle this particular combination of features inside a single application.

Users have wanted a leaner, faster iTunes for a long time, and the only way that happens is if some of these things get dedicated applications. It’s low hanging fruit, so far as MacOS improvements go, and would make iTunes more like other Mac applications. That is to say, a program that does one thing very well.

Add more features to the dock

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There was a time when the Dock felt revolutionary, but it’s felt like a relic for a long time now. Part of this is just the passage of time, but Windows has also come a long way when it comes to application management. For one thing, on Windows systems, hovering your mouse over an icon shows you a thumbnail of every window open in that applications.

MacOS does nothing like this. Adding features like this to the dock wouldn’t be complicated, but could make life better for Apple users.

Snapping, and other window management features

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Speaking of features Windows already has, let’s talk window management. On Windows systems, dragging an application to the left or the right of the screen automatically resizes it to take up half the screen. With Windows 10, you can drag a window to a corner, splitting the screen into quarters. On a Mac, doing this does nothing.

We know that Apple could easily add this feature, because the BetterTouchTool can add them to MacOS right now. But it’s absurd that Mac users need a third party program to get features Windows offered a half decade ago.

Yes, Apple offers a split screen view for two apps in fullscreen mode. Some users might prefer that. But why not offer both?

Clean up the menubar

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On Windows, if you build up a surplus of system tray icons, the operating system hides anything you don’t use regularly. On a Mac, icons just keep adding up on the menubar. Applications like Dropbox don’t offer any way to hide themselves, and Apple themselves also keep adding icons that can’t be removed. Want to hide Spotlight, or the Notification Center icon? You can’t.

That should change. Apple should build in some kind of way to hide icons that the user isn’t currently using. Third party software is pointing the way here. Bartender is a popular $15 application that lets users hide menubar icons. Great as this software is, it’s crazy that users have to pay for a feature that by all rights should be part of MacOS.

Make Time Machine work with SMB2 shares

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AFP, or Apple File Protocol, was long the default protocol for sharing files between Mac computers on the same network. That’s no longer the case, and hasn’t been for a few years now. Since 10.9 Mavericks, in 2013, SMB2 is the default tool for file sharing on all Macs. This means that Mac files sharing is, by default, compatible with Windows and Linux computers.

Despite SMB2 now being the official default way for Macs to share files for three years, Apple’s default back-up solution won’t work with it. For network shares Time Machine is only compatible with AFP, the protocol Apple is slowly backing away from.

It’s possible this is on purpose. If users can’t use Windows machines or Linux servers to back up their Macs, they’re more likely to buy the overpriced and under-powered Time Capsule. But if SMB2 is the preferred way to share files on a Mac, shouldn’t Time Machines work with that standard?

Middle click gesture

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If you plug a third-party mouse into your Mac, you can tap the scroll wheel to perform a middle click. This amazingly useful gesture does things like open links in a new background tab, or close the current tab.

Anyone used to this would expect to be able to do these same thing on a Mac touchpad – and is going to be disappointed, unless they install a third party program like MiddleClick. Add a middle click gesture, Apple! People will like it.

Talk to Siri with text

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We’ve talked all about how Siri will work on MacOS Sierra, but there’s one feature that’s missing: the ability to talk with Siri using only text. Siri offers all sorts of great features, but you can’t really use them in a public place without looking like a crazy person who talks to his computer. Letting users talk to Siri with keystrokes could be useful in many situations.

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Justin Pot
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Justin's always had a passion for trying out new software, asking questions, and explaining things – tech journalism is the…
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