Why Do I Use Apple’s Apps?

by Chris Howard Nov 28, 2007

What is it that makes Apple apps special enough that I use them even when I’’’ve tried and failed with similar third party apps?

Spaces is far from an original idea. In fact, Apploids have been pleading for it since OS X came out—maybe even before. Spaces is a virtual desktop manager, and I used a couple of very good ones on OS X sporadically over the last four years; I have tried the ones built into Linuxes; and I probably even dabbled with some in my past life on Windows.

But none of them hooked me in. I gave up on all of them. So I honestly never thought Spaces had a hope. But somehow, Apple has made virtual desktops seem like the normal way to work.

Exposé would be another. I can’t’ imagine bothering with it if it wasn’‘t’ part of OS X. Yet I use it often, and more so now that I’’’m studying design, as hitting F10 is a great way to compare work or images—although Apple, if you really want to make it sing, give us the ability to resize, reposition, and hide windows while in Exposé view.

Konfabulator is another. I still think it is superior to Dashboard and is easier to develop widgets for, and it certainly isn’t any worse of a resource hog. But I don’t use it, I use Dashboard.

There are some exceptions. For instance, despite being a brilliant app, Pages begs me not to use it for the one simple fact that it can’not save directly to Word format. You have to use export. Now really, Apple, transferring files between Pages and Word should be easy and seamless.

The longer I use Macs, the less I seem to know about why I like them—even though I still do. Using Apple’s version of applications is a good example. I can’’t easily explain why I like and use the Apple apps, whereas a few years ago I’’m sure I could have given you a clear list.

Part of that may be because I no longer have anything to compare it to, as I rarely go near Windows anymore, and if I do, it is to fix problems rather than simply use it.

In some cases the cost of the third party apps is obviously a valid reason. Why pay for something OS X provides for free?

However, sometimes my decision making might seem quite flawed. Sometimes I use the Apple way even when it is inferior. For example, Stacks is an inferior application launcher to just about anything else on the market, but it’’s now my application launcher of choice.

I guess ease of use goes without saying, although Apple also stumbles from time to time, but not as often, it seems, as other developers.

And then there’’s integration. Yes, the word that should not be spoken. The word that sent Microsoft before the DOJ. I use these features because they are built-in and so always there, thus it’s easier for them to integrate with my way of working and, importantly, being part of the OS gives them extra credibility.

Lastly, there’s interconnection. iPhoto, for example. You can easily access its photos from just about any application Apple makes, usually through the media browser. I lose that simplicity if I choose to use a different media manager.

Do you know—really know —why you prefer Apple’s apps, utilities and features?


  • Interesting question, Chris. I’m not sure if I know outside of the reasons you bring up.

    What I do know is that there is something wierd going on with your apostrphe key.

    Gabe H had this to say on Nov 28, 2007 Posts: 40
  • “Pages begs me not to use it for the one simple fact that it can’not save directly to Word format.”

    Um… duh?

    Pages is not a word processor.  Apple’s word processor is TextEdit, which reads and saves in Word format(s).  Pages is a page layout program like Quark, InDesign, and Publisher.

    RMAC had this to say on Nov 28, 2007 Posts: 3
  • For me, there’s a psychological benefit of “integrated” apps vs third-party apps, even if they do the exact same thing.  For example, there are plenty of Dock clones for Windows.  I could use them and have the exact same functionality in Windows that I do in OS X.  But even though I use the Dock all the time on the Mac, I won’t even bother on Windows because in the back of my mind, all I can think about is the resource overhead. 

    Ditto with Mac-based app launchers.  As much as I think OS X needs one and as many third-party apps as there are (Quicksilver being a popular option), I just can’t abide the resource overhead for an app that I would use if it were built-in.

    There are exceptions of course, in cases where I really need the functionality.  Like my menu-bar based iTunes controller.

    As for the other Apple stand-alone apps like Pages, which has improved greatly in the new version, I weigh those much more on functionality and cost than I do the OS related apps.  I actually use both Pages and Word, depending on what I want to do.  They can be quite complimentary.  The biggest drawback to Pages right now is that there is no Windows version, which means when my Mac dies (as it did for the second time in three months), I’m SOL with my iWork documents.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 28, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • RMAC

    Apple only added the layout mode for Pages in the latest version, which is version 3. Before that there was only the word processing mode.

    On the iWork web pages, it says of Pages: “Writing comes naturally when you’re using Pages ’08, the streamlined word processor for the Mac.” and “The most intuitive word processing application on the Mac” and “Word processing never looked this good”

    Pages is first and foremost a word processor and an alternative to MS Word.

    And finally, TextEdit is the most over-rated Word-compatible text editor out there! It is a text editor - hence the name. Yes it reads and writes Word files, but it loses so much information in the process. It doesn’t even support basic features such as headers and footers, or images.

    In fact, all it supports is: Font formatting, Line and paragraph spacing, Lists, Hyperlinks, Tables (rudimentary), Styles (rudimentary), and Text alignment.

    That is it. That is its entire word processing feature set! It struggles to beat Edlin. And It’s possibly not even on par with Windows’ WordPad.

    Promoting TextEdit as a viable alternative to Word does the Mac a great disservice. TextEdit is a text editor, not a word processor.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Nov 28, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • Funny you should mention that, Gabe. I must check if it really is not working. When I first edited this I found at least half a dozen apostrophes missing.

    Although, I can only see one still missing…

    BTW I am using a Microsoft keyboard - which might explain something. wink (I use the MS Natural keyboard because Apple - supposed the vanguard of good design - would rather design good looking keyboards than ergonomically well designed ones.)

    Chris Howard had this to say on Nov 28, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • >>Apple only added the layout mode for Pages in the latest version, which is version 3. Before that there was only the word processing mode.>>

    Uhmm, I think you’ve got that backwards. Apple only recently added the word processing mode.

    I agree that Pages does, now, qualify as a word processor. Of course, users have to export their way to compatibility.

    As for TextEdit, it certainly isn’t a Word killer by any means. But I do find it a very under-appreciated word processor. Many Mac users, if they would spend a bit of time with the app, might be surprised by its usefullness. I’m guessing that an equal number of users might not confess that TextEdit is all the app they really need. Images can be inserted - inline with text. The app does support the RTFD format. Under Leopard, a few more functions have been added as well.

    The integration of Apple supplied programs is a big plus. Moving between TextEdit, Pages, Stickies, Mail, Safari, iPhoto…the common tools and sharing of information does make things simpler.

    Lucky13 had this to say on Nov 28, 2007 Posts: 11
  • Lucky, when I open a Word doument with images in it they get left out of it.

    Also, the Page Layout mode is the new mode in Pages. Try opening a Pages document from version 1 or 2 in version 3, and you’ll see it opens as a word processing document - because that’s what it is.

    The page layout mode is quite different to the old PAges whereas the word processing mode is identical to the old Pages (bar for a few new features).

    Before Pages 3, Pages was a word processor that felt more like a DTP app. But now with version 3 it has a clearly defined DTP mode as well.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Nov 28, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • >>Lucky, when I open a Word doument with images in it they get left out of it.>>

    OK, fair enough. It doesn’t handle images in Word docs.

    Yes, technically, Apple did add a Page Layout mode. I should have been more clear about that. They also added a word processing mode. They added modes. It could be a matter of semantics.

    Either way, Pages does seem more like an actual, day to day word processor. I’m guessing such a change was the actual intent.

    Integration aside, I still prefer Word.

    Lucky13 had this to say on Nov 29, 2007 Posts: 11
  • There are still some areas where I simply don’t like Apple’s solutions, to the point where I give up the advantages of integration (a large part of which is 3rd party developer’s assumptions that you use Apple’s apps). One example is Mail, an application I loathe.

    One problem with a number of Apple apps—Mail being one, but Pages and iWeb being others—is that they seem to be designed for the “I want all the work done for me so I don’t have to use my brain” crowd. To me, the essence of the Mac has always been to let you do what YOU want, quickly and easily. Unfortunately, that seems to have evolved (devolved?) intohaving you do what the apps want, how they want it.

    Scott_R had this to say on Nov 29, 2007 Posts: 17
  • Scott, have you found an decent alternative to Mail? I’m still looking.

    I use Thunderbird in the mean time but it’s just sooooo ugly.

    BTW I do use Mail for my 3 main accounts. I use Thunderbird for all my other accounts. I just didn’t want to clutter up Mail with a dozen accounts.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Nov 29, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • Lucky, you’re lucky this is Apple Matters. Anywhere else and you’d have been fried to a crisp daring to suggest you prefer Word.

    I probably would prefer it too if I had a business need, but all I gotta do is write essays for college so Pages does me fine. Although, it is very annoying having to export a Word copy so I can edit it at school.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Nov 29, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • “Decent” by what standard? For me, Entourage is a much better email app than Mail, even with the former’s quirks. I don’t use Office much anymore, though (for writing, I’ve turned to Scrivener) and so I don’t plan to buy Office 08. Currently, Entourage is the only Office application I use with any frequency (and I use Entourage all the time). I’d *like* to move to something else and lose Office entirely, but Mail definitely isn’t the solution.
    Two biggest peeves (because they interfere with regular workflow, but are no means the ONLY criticisms):
    1) no way to show/hide read mail. I normally keep Entourage set to show unread only—it’s neater and I can be sure easily have at hand older mail I’ve either neglected or want to keep in mind. But if I also want to see read mail, there’s a simple menu item/keyboard command to let me do that, then hide it again. Now, Apple *knows* people want to do that—there’s a topic in Mail’s Help about it. But it’s such a kludgy, roundabout process, it’s useless.
    2) I’m firmly in the camp that the insertion point should be placed AFTER quoted text in a reply. There’s an option in Entourage to set it either before of after; in Mail, it is set before with no way to change it.

    Scott_R had this to say on Nov 30, 2007 Posts: 17
  • As I’d mentioned above, I now use Scrivener for writing. Why? Because it’s MADE FOR WRITING. Pages, for all it’s smoothness, is made for putting together pretty, fluffy things.

    That was my objection when I saw Mail demo’d at the Leopard debut (I was one of those who when to an Apple store for the launch event). I watched the store rep demo stationery templates with the drag-and-drop photo, fonts, colors… and my thoughts ranged from “big, fat, hairy deal” to “oh drat, more useless eye candy.”

    Apple’s apps have fallen into the trap of adding features that really don’t make the fundamental task better. For mail, I want something that handles makes reading/sending mail both simple and powerful. I don’t want another page layout program (I’m personally of the belief that HTML doesn’t belong in email—mail should be clear and easy to read, and I hate getting mailed something in pink cursive). For Apple to have added bells and whistles and not fixing the fundamental functionality flaws in Mail is simply unforgivable.

    Scott_R had this to say on Dec 01, 2007 Posts: 17
  • I agree totally that the “stationary” feature in Mail is preposterous and in exactly the wrong direction.  Most e-mail handlers, it seems to me, disable html in mail be default.  And if they don’t, they should.

    As for Pages, it still doesn’t feel quite like a word processor to me even though it’s greatly improved from the last version.  As much as I thought I’d use it when it came out, I usually just open Word.  It’s still a great layout app, though, and I use it for my invoices and the occasional newsletter.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Dec 01, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • Does ANYONE use Mail’s stationery? I haven’t even looked at it let alone used it.

    Why do you use Word. Beeb? Coz it behaves fully like you expect a word processor too, but possibly more importantly, you know the files it creates will be still readable by many other apps in 10 or 20 years time. How many apps will read Pages format in 10 years time?

    This is why Pages should save directly to Word format.

    Because word processing capabilities are 75% of word processing, but the other 25% is a standard file format.

    And btw Scott, totally agree about Scrivener. It’s a beautiful writing tool. Currently the only writing I do now though is for Apple Matters which I do in DEVONThink (because I always have and I like the way it works) and a few essays for college (which I use am forcing myself to use Pages for.)

    But for real writers, Scrivener should be the first tool they look at.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Dec 02, 2007 Posts: 1209
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