Wednesday, September 30, 2009

An iTunes 9 annoyance

With the latest version of Apple's erstwhile music playing app--now the 800 MB do-it-all gorilla known as iTunes 9--came a total revamp of the iTunes store. And while there's no denying it's prettier, it has also introduced an annoyance that I can no longer overlook.

Take a look at this screenshot (click to enlarge):

Notice anything odd? Yep. All the album names are truncated. I know that there's an album with some Rachmaninoff and that it's probably related to the piano rather than the greek letter pi, but I have no other immediate visual information about the album. Hovering my mouse over the album does nothing. Clicking the "i" information button brings up a pop-up that tells me this album is entitled "Rachmaninoff plays Ra..."

Excuse me, but WTF? I had no idea that the Egyptian sun god wrote piano music. OK, my incredulity is forced. You get my point. But at least the track names are all there, you say. And yes, it's true. In this preview window, the track names are all present and accounted for in full. So why then, if I click the "Album Page" link to see the recording's dedicated page, am I presented with this:

While I finally get to see what the full album title is, now all the track titles are truncated. I have to hover the pointer over the track name to see it in full. It's as if iTunes is some sort of control freak who doesn't want you to know too much lest it feel it's loosing control of the situation.

The worst thing is, there's no way to expand the track name (or any other) field, so in this case, I can't find out the full artist name (Zenph Studios and Serg...) unless I preview the track and look in the iTunes display window (Zenph Studios and Sergei Rachmaninoff). Sure seems like a lot of work to find information that's on the cover of any CD. (Incidentally, don't you think it's noble of Sergei to let the studio take first billing; I guess it's easy to be magnanimous when you're dead.)

So yeah, the new iTunes store is pretty, but at least the old one had some substance. I logged a feedback note with Apple about this issue, but I must say crappy UI design is pretty rare in an Apple product. All the more reason why when something like this does get into a release, its so startling.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Two weeks with Google Quick Search Box

Quicksilver, I'm sorry, but barring a miracle, you're dead to me. After installing Snow Leopard a few weeks back, I upgraded to QS B56a7. The good news: it works; the bad news: it hogs 100 percent of my MacBook Pro's CPU. So, er, no.

Hence, it's back to Google Quick Search Box. And to be honest, I'm pretty happy with it. It works well, and after setting it up to use the same launch key combo that I used for QS, I hardly notice the difference. It lets me mount and eject disk images with a few keystrokes, just like QS.  I've even managed to assign the same Command-esc shortcut to send a file (not a folder though) to QSB. Unfortunately, once there, QSB can't do anything useful with it yet. QS would let you email it or move it or make an alias of it somewhere. These are functions I would really like to see in QSB soon.

In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out how to use Automator and Snow Leopard's revamped Services menu to bridge the functionality gap between the two apps. But I'm an Automator novice and it's slow going. One thing is sure: QSB is winning over my heart.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Is this the end for Quicksilver?

I've been a Quicksilver user for many years. In many ways, it is integral to my experience as a Mac user. It's the kind of program that becomes part of how you use your machine, so much so that when I come to another computer that is not equipped with QS, I often find myself at a loss, grumbling about how inefficient it is to use a mouse for everything.

Quicksilver worked really well through OS X.4 (Tiger), so when reports of bugs in the program began to appear after Apple released Leopard, I was very, very worried. But my fears were mostly unfounded. Though it was definitely buggier, Quicksilver still worked reasonably well on Leopard. It's a true testament to Quicksilver that so many users were willing to put up with more than a few bugs. That's how amazing Quicksilver was.

But the other day, after installing the most recent QS build--even before upgrading to Snow Leopard--the app went from finicky to downright ornery (to paraphrase a tweet by Merlin Mann). I could no longer use the "Create alias in..." command with the "Current selection" proxy action. And something about the new build would periodically prevent me from moving folders in the Finder until I had logged out and back in again. Not to mention even more crashes than usual and an apparent desire to use the computer's fans to get airborne on occasion. I have since downgraded to the previous version, but that old fear of what will happen after I upgrade to Snow Leopard is back.

So I've been giving Google's Quick Search Box a try. And though I sorely miss a few hot-key triggers, QSB does almost everything I want it to, works similarly enough to QS that the transition is fairly painless, and has the advantage of being actively developed by the same dude who developed QS. No one who has used any of Quicksilver's advanced features would call QSB anything but a pale imitation at this point, but it definitely has potential.

As much as it pains me to say it, I think it may soon be time to put poor old Quicksilver out to pasture. Don't worry, I'll come and visit as often as I can, my pockets filled with apples and sugar lumps. You've been a faithful steed, but this cowboy needs to move on.