November 22, 2007


Ah! I'm so happy with Leopard, which I've just installed in my MacBook, and I can boil my reason for happiness down to one word: Buttons!

Since January 2004, when I started blogging, I have had to keep Mozilla/Firefox open on my computer along with my preferred browser, Apple's Safari, because, in Blogger, Safari wouldn't display a "compose window" with a set of button-icons for adding links, putting text in italics, blocking and indenting quotes, and that sort of thing. Getting buttons in Blogger was something that meant far more to me than any cool innovations like "Time Machine" or "Cover Flow."

All these years I have been keeping 2 browsers open when I used my computer. To use only Safari, I'd have had to type in HTML code whenever I wrote a post. You might think I'd have just used Firefox alone, since it had such an important advantage, but there has always been something different about the way web pages look in Safari that made the other browser insufferable. I can't pinpoint what it was — it was subtle —but I couldn't force myself to switch.

And the Safari that came with Leopard is even cleaner and crisper looking — a big aesthetic improvement over the old Safari I loved.

I also get pleasure from removing a program that isn't Apple. I enjoy the ideological purity, I have to admit. I deeply believe that everything will work out better if I stay within the tender confines of what Apple has decided is good for me (though I do make exceptions, for example, to get those buttons).

Now that I'm purging the invader Foxfire from my MacBook, I'm also going to oust my oldest invader species, Microsoft Word. I'm going to switch to Apple's word processor Pages. This will end a relationship that began in 1985, when I got my first computer, a Mac 512. (I never had the first Mac, the 128, and I distinctly remember the exact tinge of my jealousy when a colleague acquired a Mac Plus. I replaced the 512 with a Mac Classic, which I still have, and which I enjoy firing up now and then, just to reminisce about what life was like with that tiny black and white screen. It's still the best place to play Tetris.)

With that first Mac, I had the Apple program MacWrite, which seemed wonderful compared to a typewriter, but it lacked one thing that I absolutely needed as a legal scholar: footnotes. Microsoft Word for Mac came out in 1985, so I was there for version 1. That was back before people started hating Microsoft. I loved it, because it did those footnotes for me. There was no option to stay with an Apple product back then, and I got so accustomed to Word that I never wanted to look at anything else. Actually, I never much liked the bulky improvements that were added, but it was like being married to it. Word got old and ugly, but I had committed.

But now that I'm getting Firefox out of here, I'm kicking out Microsoft too. For months, maybe years, Word has been suddenly shutting down without warning, which is a really irritating flaw when you write a lot and often have deadlines, as I do.

So, I'm reveling in purification this morning.

That said, I did just order a Kindle, which — just look at it — is so not Apple.

UPDATE: Safari crashes constantly!


former law student said...

MSWord? In the 80s all my lawyer buddies were using WordPerfect.

Ann Althouse said...

Not on a Macintosh!

rhhardin said...

Life hasn't been as good since they tossed out the IBM 7090 at work. Now there was a computer's computer.

page 1
page 2
page 3
page 4
page 5

(1963, mailed to me by a retiring colleague cleaning out his desk)

Robert Holmgren said...

Gotta love those

john said...

I anticipate a food fight coming on today: Macs vs PS, Jobs vs Gates, and Word vs Wordperfect. With all the law types hanging around, I'm surprised that Ms. A doesnt use WP, but maybe that comes from being in academia so long, where Macs have a big inroad.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and all the commenters. And don't be throwing around the green bean casserole.

john said...


Ruth Anne Adams said...

Robert Holmgren: You are a fabulous portrait photographer. Wow.

The first word processing program I used was called "Enable"--it was the Army's answer to something that might've really worked. [We often called it "Unable."]

Inspektor Friedrich said...

Firefox for Mac is a longstanding problem.  This link as well as this one from about a year ago that mention two display problems: inconsistent anti-aliasing and opacity rendering problems.  Frankly, I haven't noticed any improvement in the current Firefox  I think you're probably seeing Firefox's cheesy font anti-aliasing as opposed to OS X's.  Pages do look subtly (or maybe not-so-subtly) different, and certainly better in Safari, which uses the native OS X anti-aliasing capability.

The comment thread on this page is worth looking at for more recent complaints about Firefox for Mac.  People are finding it unusable, so you're not alone in switching back to the faster and slicker Safari.

Bottom line:  Firefox for Mac sucks, and shows no sign of being improved anytime soon.  Other than a rotten GUI and sluggish, unstable performance, what's to complain about?

That said, I still find some of Firefox's bells and whistles useful.  ScribeFire (formerly Performancing) is extremely handy for blogging and commenting.  Firefox's Web Developer tools are not bad at all, and DownloadHelper is among the easiest and best ways to capture video.  It's frustrating and very slow, but Firefox's implementation of Vidalia/Tor gives you reasonably good IP masking and internet privacy, something that's not currently done by Safari.

Until now, I've found that I can use Firefox more effectively for blogging and blog administration than Safari, but if I want to surf or read blogs for any length of time, I go to Safari.

Professor, much as we complain about Firefox, don't allow yourself to be completely sucked into the Apple vortex.  One of the virtues of the Apple Unix-based OS is its ability to use open-source software, not to mention the not-bad implementations of Microsoft's offerings.

There's a lot of software that runs on the Mac under the X11 Window System (it lurks just around the corner from OS X), but two apps that most people might find useful are Gimp, the free, open-source answer to Photoshop, and Writer from OpenOffice.  If you've recently switched to the Mac and don't yet have a copy of Photoshop, Gimp might save you a lot of money.  It's not as flexible, slick, or easy as Photoshop, but, hey, it's free.  Unlike Firefox, it's stable and relatively fast.

Similarly, Writer and the rest of OpenOffice can save you money if you're not afraid of Mac's X 11 Windows.  I admit that I keep coming back to MS Office because it's so damned familiar and unfailingly compatible with the rest of the Windows world.  But X 11 Windows on the Mac is almost completely painless, and no excuse not to use software that uses it.

Professor, I realize you're not a propeller-head and probably not inclined, for example, to playing with shell scripts via the Terminal, but I make the plea that you not give up on sources of software other than Apple.  One of the things that will keep the Macintosh world healthy and insure that it does not become a complete circle-jerk is that there are developers out there for OS X who need encouragement.

Uncle Steve may say he'll take care of you, but, being the old stoner he is, it's not the worst idea to have some alternatives, just in case.

Chip Ahoy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chip Ahoy said...

Interesting post, dealing with the exact same situation here. I've missed two auctions on eBay for Leopard because, well, I like to play the game of chase. They can be gotten cheaply enough quickly enough but I've seen them go for less so I'll just be patient. I don't view FireFox as an invader or an impurity. They're more like comrades in arms and they help each other Safari will not display an editor for my usual website, FireFox does partially and the other part only with some coaxing, like frenetic multiple taps on the keypad which just seems stupid. On the other hand, FireFox doesn't display the html outside the body tags, which means you must perform gymnastics to specify background colors or images. All of this is manageable by editing Blogger's CSS, which it invites.

I've noticed that lately, like the last two weeks, Safari does display a "compose" tab with those added features. Although neither Safari nor FireFox has buttons for all the html you can write. Tables comes to mind -- the only way I've found so far to get arrangements of photographs to behave. Strikethrough is another one.

FireFox has other geekish advantages, and I've found sometimes Safari gets bogged down. It's a relief to have an alternative readily available.

Also, I've recently noticed you can upload photographs directly to Blogger. It displays at a maximum 400 px on most templates but the linked photo is much MUCH larger than the ones stored on Photobucket which are larger than the ones stored on Picasa. I'm talking about the free accounts.

Zeb Quinn said...

WordPerfect absolutely owned the law office market for about 10 years, give or take. Prior to that, I got my first computer in 1982 and used Wordstar for word processing.

Ann Althouse said...

A really nice feature of the new Safari is "merge all windows," making all the open windows into one window with tabs. I had often ended up with 10 or more windows -- a real mess. So I like this cleanup.

Jim Hu said...

128, not 125. My upgraded 512 is still in a closet here at home, but I haven't fired it up in years. Also, the new Safari works fine in Tiger... I was running it as a beta for months before the 10.4.11 update last week.

My understanding is that Pages doesn't work with EndNote. Perhaps legal writing doesn't need the same kind of referencing as other academic writing. But I'll be interested to hear how that goes.

Inspektor Friedrich said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Inspektor Friedrich said...

I totally agree with Chip Ahoy's point about Firefox and Safari being complimentary.  Safari is fast and great for most things you'd do on the internet.  Firefox for Mac is a mess, but has some extensions that are still very useful.  It just depends on what you want to do.

Personally, I learned long ago to manage open windows when using any application, and I always use tabbed browsing.  But I can imagine that merging windows is a cool feature if you forget the tabs and find yourself too far into something to gracefully clean up.

One interesting development from is the OpenOffice Bibliographic project.  It's their intention to include bibliographic capabilities that "will meet all the requirements of the professional and academic writer" in the next release of OpenOffice version 2.x/3.x sometime in "mid-late 2008."  OpenOffice may be somewhat clunky and ugly-looking, running as it does under X11 Windows, but it is feature-rich and freeeeee.

That's as in "pay absolutely nothing for it."

Who knows?  By then they may even have it running natively with the OS X GUI.
(I'm not holding my breath, but stranger things have happened.)

Peter Stevens said...

You are truly a thrall to Apple.

I owned a Mac Plus circa 1987 and
none until this May when I bought a
MacBook. I'm still getting used
to it. They are now priced more

Balfegor said...

Open Office! They're excellent (and free), but I've found that the spreadsheet program has difficulty handling gigantic spreadsheets with hundreds of tabs and thousands of entries, like the kinds accountants tend to generate. Or at least, they don't handle particularly well. The word processor is pretty good, though.

On the subject of free, though, I just installed Ubuntu Linux on my main desktop system, and it is fantastic. Some of the implementation is a little patchy, still (for my Wacom tablet, for example, I had to go into a terminal and manually un-comment a few lines to get it to work -- you'd think this could be done automatically), but this is so much better than the Unix GUIs I used in the 90s (like Fedora), that I think I may switch over completely for my home computing in the next year or two.

I don't think the old-style Macs with the funny chips can run Ubuntu, but the new ones are just PCs running a knock-off Unix GUI (OS X), so they ought to be able to take the new Ubuntu distro. Or the other Linux GUIs floating around.

Revenant said...

Using a MacIntosh feels, to me, like talking to a mentally challenged six year old. I guess somebody out there enjoys it, but I just find it frustrating.

amba said...

Get rid of Word? What a dream. In my business (editing) you virtually have to have it, because it's what everybody uses.

Ann Althouse said...

Pages interacts with Word. I think you can do it.

Simon said...

My Powerbook G4 was running 10.4 when I first bought it, but had a train wreck about two months later and has been on 10.2 ever since because there've been interminable version conflicts in finding an installable version of 10.4. That said, I'll probably be in Chicago next week, so I might swing by the apple store and ask if there's a version of Leopard that will play nice with my Apple.

Simon said...

former law student said...
"MSWord? In the 80s all my lawyer buddies were using WordPerfect."

Ann can correct me on this, but I seem to remember her relating a story that while she was an associate at S&C in the 80s, it was frowned on for lawyers to use word processors, period.

Ann Althouse said...

Yes, I left the law firm in the summer of 1984, and at that time lawyers did not have computers. It was, Simon remembers correctly, considered wrong for a lawyer to have secretarial equipment.

Ann Althouse said...

I got my first computer as a law professor, but I was told that if I chose Mac, I would get no secretarial help. I chose Mac. I have thus done all my own word processing for more than 20 years, with 0 secretarial assistance. I'm long past the point where I would know how to use it and would resist it if it were forced on me.

Over the years, there's been pressure to give up the Mac, but I've always resisted (even when offered a new computer). I think I've bought almost 20 Macintoshes over the years -- for myself and for my sons. I have 4 that I personally use right now. I'll bet there are few people who have written as many words on a Macintosh as I have.

Simon said...

Ann Althouse said...
"I got my first computer as a law professor, but I was told that if I chose Mac, I would get no secretarial help."

That threat sounds unbearably anachronistic and quaint in this day and age.

"I have 4 [Macs] that I personally use right now."

Do you have a system for moving files around between them and making them available to one another? I always find myself wanting a file that's either at work or at home or on my laptop, and always at a time where there's no convenient way to get hold of it. I've tried messing with flash drives and moving things around with a file server, but no mechanism seems to stick as being really helpful.

Bruce Hayden said...

Well, I am one of those who is not a Mac head. I was an in-house IP counsel at Motorola at the time when Jobs pulled the plug on cloning, costing us some $200+ million as a write down. I was lead IP atty. for the AIM (Apple, IBM, and Moto) alliance at the time. Motorola had been a Mac company from the first, as Apple used our processors from the very first. We started the switch to WinTel shortly thereafter.

At first, it was a hard transition. But I am being forced to go back to a Mac maybe 9 years later, and don't like it. Mostly, it is that it is easier to handle what is open on the PC. The Mac interface feels mushy, and even with a MSFT keyboard and mouse, I still don't have all the mouse buttons working (but I do have two buttons and scrolling working, which is such an improvement over the one button mouse std. on my Mac).

Of course, a good part of the problem is that I have been running Windows NT systems since NT 3. I have been tuning NT systems for the mid 90s, and can make them do almost whatever I want them to (though Vista is questionable). I am still a novice on my Mac, and so don't have this level of expertise - yet.

The Mac came with Safari. It worked Ok, until I had to bill my time. And then, I found that I needed FireFox in order to get paid. But then, one of my clients has a billing system that requires IE, so I end up running three browsers now.

I tend to use Firefox primarily because of all the extensions that I can download. I run 15-20 of them, and have set my Mac up like my PCs - though I do have one PC set up to debug HTML, CSS, and Javascript, and haven't loaded those extensions. One of the nice extensions is spell checking (except that "Firefox" is considered a spelling error).

Finally, at some point, I hope to be able to get around using MSFT Office. But all of my clients use it, and you have to be able to flawlessly share .doc, .xls, etc. files with them.

Yes, a decade or so ago, lawyers used WordPerfect while the rest of the world went to Word. And I still run into attorneys who do that, and it is a pain. The problem is that corporate America has mostly gone to MSFT Office, and if you want to deal with them, it is far easier to use the MSFT products that they are using. They expect it, and mostly don't want to bother with the problems inherent with translating back and forth.

Liam said...

Jobs-land Uber alles!

Ah, idealogical purity. A constant with the Mac crowd. I get into these discussions regularly as an IT consultant, and everyone likes to bait me with "Apple did this first! Apple does this better!".

Truth be told, I tell people that if they have money and lack technical savvy, buy a Mac. If they need assurance they are cool, buy a Mac.

Mac's have been pretty firmly entrenched in academia for some time now (at least the last 15 years or so). If you have any experience with academic IT environments, you'll know why. They tend to be very fragmented and full of fiefdoms. And very independent people.

Due to this, centralized IT does not do well therein. People don't want anyone messing with their "stuff", and Macs fit that image.

Macs are fun, well engineered, closed systems. Apple exerts iron control over what goes into Macs and what attachs to them. Thus you get something like 10% of the software you can get on PC's and almost no centralized control of configuration and security.

If you want an interesting perspective on the Mac/PC debate, read this:

peter hoh said...

Happy Mac user here, most of the time.

I've never understood the "Macs cost more" line of thinking, as it fails to take into account the cost of ownership over time. I've gotten more life out of each Mac than a certain relative of mine gets out of his PCs, and I spend a great deal less on upgrades and troubleshooting and repairs.

Yes, I can't use 80 or 90 percent of the software that's out there. Fifteen years ago, that caused occasional frustration. Lately, it's been a non-issue.

StephenB said...

The Kindle: I'm sold...almost.

I particularly like that there's no backlight. How has it taken so long for technology like this to make it onto the market?

But here's my sticking point: no hard copy. That's why I don't buy audio books. Sometimes I'd rather listen to a book that actually read it, but I still want the hard copy.

Now here's an idea for Amazon: Sell me the hard copy and throw in the kindle version for a few dollars more ($4 is probably the premium I'm willing to pay on top of the hard copy price). That way I get the hard copy to put on my shelf but I also get the kindle version and can start reading right away.

Melinda said...

I'm about to spring for a new iMac loaded with Leopard, so thanks for the heads-up.

The first computer I did word processing on was a Wang back in 1983. When I temped in large corporate law firms in the late '80s, the WP software of choice was Syntrex, followed by Barrister and Mass 11. All of these ran on actual different dedicated machines, and you couldn't run one WP program on the other.

former law student said...

Seems like you big firm types weren't aware of PCs in the 80s. WordPerfect for the IBM PC was available as early as 1983. It was a contemporary of WordStar, which I was using at that time. My friends were either solos or in small firms, who weren't generating enough cash to hire secretaries or stenographers. One of my friends had gone through law school in the late 70s composing his LRW memos on a mainframe, using a terminal and modem at home. So he eagerly transitioned to a PC when they came out.

Ger said...

I used the Mac version of Wordperfect on my Mac SE in the late 80's so yes it was available (though it was a bit of a dog).

Oh...I hope you'll like your Kindle. I've had mine for a few days now and am quite impressed with the hardware/service.

Chas S. Clifton said...

MacWrite II did footnotes. I wrote several books with it, and abandoned it only when I went to OS 10. (sigh)

Ann Althouse said...

MacWrite II probably came out years after I needed to write my footnotes. I think I wrote all my pre-tenure things before it came out.

Paul said...

I love Pages! It produces beautiful, elegant documents, which you can convert to Word or PDF when necessary.

Kev said...

I replaced the 512 with a Mac Classic, which I still have, and which I enjoy firing up now and then, just to reminisce about what life was like with that tiny black and white screen. It's still the best place to play Tetris.)

I got a laugh out of that one. Thinking back about my first (pre-Internet for me) Mac, an SE circa 1990, I'm pretty sure the only things I did on that machine were word processing and playing Tetris.

Re the Safari vs. Firefox debate: I use mostly Safari on my MacBook Pro, but I still go to Firefox for a few things: Grading classes from home (since our school's system doesn't seem to recognize Safari; it also prefers Netscape products over IE) and playing a few game sites that crash in Safari for some reason. I have had some problems recently with Safari freezing up when I have more than four tabs open, but the Force Quit command has made this only a small issue, so long as I've bookmarked whatever I might have been viewing at the time.

(I should note that I'm not in Leopard yet; I'm not one of those who has to have something on its release date, and, when I do get it, it will be the first time that I've done a major OS change that didn't involve buying a new machine.)

Stephan said...

If Safari keeps crashing I'd check into doing a little maintnance. Your cache, logs, permissions could've been corrupted when installing.

Mine has never crashed.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, but I have no idea how to do that.

Ann Althouse said...

I know how to empty the cache.