Pretty Pleased with Panther

by C.K. Sample III Apr 20, 2005

With Tiger right around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look back at the year (and a few months) of Panther. Overall, I’d have to say that I have been very pleased with Panther, and, perhaps as a result, I’m not feeling overly jazzed about Tiger. Don’t get me wrong. I’m interested to see many of the Tiger improvements; however, a good handful of these improvements are already possible in Panther with the help of a few 3rd party gems. And the few things that I despise about the Mac OS X interface don’t show much sign of changing when Tiger comes out.

The Finder
I probably won’t be happy with the Finder until they scrap the Carbon and recode the entire thing in pure, fast Cocoa. The two things on my Panther system that ever freeze / crash are the Finder and the Dock (okay, and, too). I get the spinning beach ball of death in the Finder and have to force the Finder to quit more often than any other program. That being said, the Finder in Panther has been infinitely more stable than it was in Jaguar.

I seriously doubt there will be as drastic a change in stability between Panther and Tiger as there was between Jaguar and Panther. One could hope, but there’s evidence against it: namely, the most recent OS X Panther update, the one that is in a sense “prepping” for the transition to Tiger, has exhibited a few java-related problems. This ‘improvement’ doesn’t bode well for Tiger improvements.

For all my complaints about the Finder’s sluggishness, Exposé was, and still is, my favorite Panther feature. It’s also one of the quickest ways to make a Windows user go “Wow! What was that?! How’d you do that?” I could be wrong, but I don’t think any of Tiger’s new features pack that same wow-effect.

Super fast searching of my entire hard drive. Cool. But, I also already have that in Panther thanks to QuickSilver. Since there is already a Tiger version of QuickSilver in the tree, I am curious to find out if I will use Spotlight or Quicksilver more often once Tiger arrives.

Rendezvous (now Bonjour)
Rendezvous was an amazing addition to the ease of networking in Jaguar, but it didn’t really hit its stride for me until Panther, when I became a regular user of SubEthaEdit. In Tiger, we still have Rendezvous, only now, due to some Apple legal problems, it will be known as Bonjour. No real upgrade in functionality, and a downgrade in name.

With the exception of the recent java problems since the latest update, Safari has become the best browser for the Mac hands-down in Panther. In Tiger, Safari gains RSS reader capabilities. I’m really concerned about this added functionality. I’d rather keep Safari as a nice, speedy, and very functional browser, than be concerned with reading RSS feeds in Safari. It’s fattening up the code with unnecessary features. If I want RSS feed reading in Safari, I can use Bloglines (which I do).

From everything I’ve heard, in Tiger isn’t drastically different than in Panther. I use, but it crashes. A lot. It also is missing some features that business people really like. These people will continue to use Entourage and wish they had something better.

Although you could spend extra money to purchase iChatAV for Jaguar, it was really a Panther feature. I’m looking forward to the multiuser AV chat capabilities of the new Tiger iChatAV, but I have a feeling that it’ll be pretty much the same transition that occurred between regular iChat and iChatAV. Most people will continue to text chat, because video chat can be awkward. Add more people and it can be more awkward.

I would be much more impressed with Dashboard if Konfabulator had never existed. I have Konfabulator. I love Konfabulator. On the Konfabulator verses Dashboard ‘debate’ that erupted online shortly after Dashboard’s announcement, I stand with Konfabulator. I don’t like that Apple is effectively destroying the market of a program that was pro-Apple.

Also, one of the things that I like about Konfabulator and all the little widgets is that they are separate from the OS. I can quit Konfabulator if I want. Dashboard is more unnecessary bloat to the system, that I’m sure won’t exist in bug-free bliss.

Panther has been good to me. I’ll miss it.

Several of the newly announced high-end Apple graphics programs, like FCP HD, already list OS X 10.4.1 as a requirement. This worries me. It makes me think that we are in for an insane amount of incremental system upgrades over the few months immediately after Tiger’s launch. Sure, we had the same thing happen after Panther was released, but check out Panther now. 10.3.8 was pretty stable across the board.

I’m still looking forward to 10.4; it’s just that I’m looking more forward to 10.4.7 or 10.4.8. There may be a few bumps to iron out in Tiger, the likes of which haven’t been an issue in Panther for quite some time.


  • I will miss Panther as well…

    As you said the 10.4.1 already announced before the initial release of the OS does not sound good.

    Why not wait a couple of months to deliver a rock solid OS?  From what I’ve heard, Apple wants to give a longer life span to Tiger than previous OS. So why the rush?  Panther could have still been the OS of choice for quite some time now.

    J-F had this to say on Apr 20, 2005 Posts: 9
  • Pity to say it, but iChat AV for Jaguar was silently discontinued by Apple some time ago, in Sept.2004 if my memory serves.

    Endorphinity had this to say on Apr 20, 2005 Posts: 1
  • I don’t understand this almost systematic discrimination between Carbon and Cocoa about the Finder. Why do people keep saying they want the Finder rewritten in Cocoa as if Carbon was a second-class citizen on Mac OS X? Why do these people never complain about BBEdit or Photoshop being Carbon applications? Open your eyes, Carbon and Cocoa are not synonyms for crappy, respectively quality applications.

    Cesium133x had this to say on Apr 20, 2005 Posts: 2
  • In 3 years you’ll be writing “Pretty please with Tiger”

    Panther was a nice upgrade over Jaguar. Lot’s of new plumbing and polishing. Tiger is the same leap above Jaguar.

    The Quicksilver developer has already stated he plans on moving to Spotlight technology. While plenty of people love Quicksilver they are a tad mistaken if they think QS can find the same content as Spotlight thus you needn’t choose between the two but rather imagine the possibilites of QS infused with Spotlight. Apple isn’t competing with ISVs here. Spotlight is an API they can all leverege. Win/Win for you.

    iChat3- Did you know you can take the output of an app and conference that with two other people? I learned this from a blog recently. They had the output of Final Cut Pro running so that 3 people could live conference and view the changes to FCP as they happened. This should be available in every app I just need to know how its enabled. Now THAT’s cool people.

    Konfabulator- Arlo wasn’t really Pro Apple. He had plans to take Konfabulator cross platform from day one when he designed the Widget Environment. I say if you love embedded Widgets stick with Konfab..if you would rather have Widets that come and go with alacrity. Use Dashboard.

    Let’s talk more bread and butter.


    Has a built in Dictionary. Highlight a word and bring up a contextual menu. Choose Dictionary and bam. You have the definition. In “any” app folks.

    PDF handling. Encryption, Annotation, Forms. PDF 1.5 is there and faster than Adobe Reader.

    Image handling- JPEG2000, 32-Bit per channel graphics(float TIFF etc). Not that all the Pro apps now support these. Very cool.

    Automator- Not just Applescript(which has had some nice additions) but rather a nice interapp automation program. It’s not a joke. Apple has done their homework.

    Core Audio/Image/Video- Wait until we see what apps come based on these technologies. Want to make that G5 feel like a G6. Core technologies will do that.

    hmurchison had this to say on Apr 20, 2005 Posts: 145
  • Cocoa, as pure code, runs faster than Carbon.

    Yes, I will someday be writing “Pretty Pleased with Tiger,” but that’s part of my point: I probably won’t be pretty pleased until all the kinks have been worked out.

    I did forget about Automater when I wrote this though.  That I am looking forward to quite a bit.

    C.K. Sample III had this to say on Apr 20, 2005 Posts: 41
  • What’s “pure code”?

    Cesium133x had this to say on Apr 20, 2005 Posts: 2
  • Okay.  Pure was unnecessary in that sentence.  I mean, Cocoa code processes faster than Carbon code.

    C.K. Sample III had this to say on Apr 20, 2005 Posts: 41
  • Incorrect. Cocoa is an object oriented framework to what is for the most part a Carbon API on the Mac. Cocoa does NOT run faster than Carbon, it just allows for faster development time. If anything, Cocoa runs slower.

    Here is a quote from Usanity, see here:

    Enough with the FUD about Carbon/Cocoa. The real honest truth is we need to fix the Finder - the reason it is written in Carbon is probably to make it somewhat faster. Let’s fix it - that’s the real issue.

    “• Cocoa is generally SLOWER than Carbon, despite what most public thinks. (When a Carbon app wants to call a function in itself, it jumps directly to the function address; when Cocoa app wants to do the same, it goes through a single (ok, there are a few variations of it) function called objc_msgSend which finds the correct address and jumps to there. This means each time a Cocoa method calls another Cocoa method there’s 16 to 80 instructions overhead compared to Carbon. A true bottleneck, however it is not a design flaw but rather a decision that makes objc quite flexible to make it achieve what it needs to).”

    Eytan Bernet had this to say on Apr 20, 2005 Posts: 15
  • I’m a big fan of Panther too, though I disagree with many points in this article. My biggest objection with the Finder isn’t stability, but rather that it’s not all that proficient at finding things, hence your advocacy of QuickSilver as a superior file finder. Between Smart Folders and Spotlight enhanced search in the Finder, we finally have a Finder with an elegant search capability.

    I wouldn’t equate Spotlight with Quicksilver at all. There are several major innovations in Tiger around search. Full content and metadata indexing on the fly is big. Tiger does much more with metadata than Panther. When someone sends you an attachment (in Mail at least), metadata is attached to the file, including the sender’s name. We have a whole new metadata type for the time a file was last viewed or opened. And Spotlight opens future possibilities of a GPS equipped laptop that would note exactly where you were when you read or created a file.

    Spotlight is like nothing else currently on any other platform. It’s not just a little search icon in the upper right corner, it’s the underpinnings of making the whole mac experience more user friendly. Heck, even Keychain Access in Tiger has a search field added to it. And, any developer can add Spotlight functionality to their email client, news reader or whatever.

    Including RSS in Safari is totally logical. The whole point of an RSS reader is to lead you to articles you want to read in a browser. To be at all adequate, this means including the browser in the reader or visa versa. I believe that Safari RSS will turn a whole new generation of users onto RSS, and it looks to be beautifully integrated in the browser. Dedicated news readers provide their own advantages, which will secure their place in the market.

    Mail is almost certainly the most dramatically improved application in Tiger. The entire (and anemic) search engine in Mail has been yanked out and replaced by Spotlight. Search in Mail (via Smart Folders) now offers all the search criteria in Mail rules. There are lots of nips and tucks in good places, and as for Panther Mail crashing a lot, maybe for you, but it’s very very stable for me. Maybe it’s all those Konfabulator widgets you’re running grin I’ve been a regular user of Mail because it was “enough” for my needs, but with Tiger, I can be unapologetic about my choice of email software.

    I’m not as ga ga about Dashboard as some (nor interested in the Konfabulator/Dashboard debate) but I would note that the underlying technology is quite different despite the superficial similarity. Dashboard widgets are significantly less resource intensive than their Konfabulator cousins.

    You failed to mention Automator, which is pretty geeky, but geeky cool. Automator isn’t just Applescript for the masses, it’s the Unix command line for the masses. What makes the command line so powerful is that you can take a file, have a little Unix application do some work on that, pipeline the result off to another application and so on. The pipe in the Automator icon’s claws is a tribute to its command line heritage. I predict that we’ll see a flurry of great (and free) Automator actions that could change the way we use our Macs.

    Chilstrom had this to say on Apr 20, 2005 Posts: 5
  • While I think the finder is important I think it may be diminishing in importance from Apple’s Point of View. Many of us are fairly rigid in the ways we organize our data. I frequently read the frustration of some people when confronted with the directly structure that iPhoto or iTunes utilizes for storing files. They will disable this because there is an inherent desire in us to control the flow of data.

    Apple is realizing that this situation is untenable in the long run. Hard drives will continue to grow in size where managing that data will become a much harder affair. The only way to ease pain here is to provide robust search tools that people can trust. Think of it in terms of the internet. We don’t know the massive structure the internet directory but Google and other tools allow us to search and find what we need nontheless.

    No longer will I add sub-folder after sub-folder to manage files. I’ll just toss like files into a flat folder and let Spotlight pull the files I need. Isn’t a computer supposed to make my life “easier”? Well it can start by ameliorating my need to manage every piece of data. Spotlight is that technology and when people “get it” they will wonder why the put up with the fuss of managing things on their own.

    hmurchison had this to say on Apr 20, 2005 Posts: 145
  • If they waited until 10.4.1, then you’d ask why didn’t they wait til 10.4.2. And so on.  They have to draw the line somewhere.

    Does QS search file content? It doesn’t seem to for me.  Which then is what sets Spotlight apart.

    After the initial letdown of Exposé (I rarely use it - I know I’m way in the minority), I came to love Panther because of it’s stability.

    I agree with hmurchison that Finder could be diminishing in importance.  After all - with Spotlight and Smart Folders, will you really care where a file is?  I’ve always found Finder a slightly misleading name (and also implies you’ve lost something) but, ironically, now with Spotlight, the Finder kinder fits.

    The only thing I reckon I’ll use long term in Dashboard is the calculator.

    And my favorite feature of Tiger (after Spotlight): Parental Controls.  I wish a few more reviewers with kids would review Tiger. (And don’t give me guff about “nothing beats supervision” - that’s like saying I don’t need to wear a seat belt because I always drive safely.)

    Chris Howard had this to say on Apr 20, 2005 Posts: 1209
  • Chris

    I agree. Parental Controls will sell a few Macs if it’s demo’d properly. Who doesn’t want their child protected from the vagaries of the internet? I particularly like the feature where you receive email from any new person for approval before it is sent to your child. I’ve said it before but this type of security and management is exactly where Apple needs to be moving.

    I think iLife and other features should evolve into a Client/Server model where parents can manage their childrens computers without requiring a networking certification. Bonjour and other Apple technologies should make this possible.

    hmurchison had this to say on Apr 21, 2005 Posts: 145
  • No longer will I add sub-folder after sub-folder to manage files. I’ll just toss like files into a flat folder and let Spotlight pull the files I need.

    That’s pretty much what I do with DEVONthink right now although I still use groups to organize stuff when it’s obvious where it belongs.  My big wish is that it supported virtual groups and their Smart counterparts, similar to iTunes playlists and iPhoto albums.  On a grander scale, I want the ability to group items into different views without “physically” moving them around to be pervasively embedded into the system.

    Of course there are technical issues with saving everything in a flat folder.  Name collision is the most obvious.  And the filesystem imposes a limit on the number of files in a single directory, with degrading performance as the number increases.

    Isn’t a computer supposed to make my life “easier”? Well it can start by ameliorating my need to manage every piece of data. Spotlight is that technology and when people “get it” they will wonder why the put up with the fuss of managing things on their own.

    Spotlight is certainly a step in that direction although on its own it can’t eliminate the need for traditional file/folder organization, at least because of technical issues like I mentioned.  Interestingly, apps like iTunes and iPhoto can already avoid that by managing and hiding the underlying storage structure (to some users’ dismay).  And DEVONthink, by using its own database.  But Finder is different because it exposes that structure and allows users manipulate it directly.  Stubbornly.

    Finder is begging to “go virtual” with how it interfaces with the underlying “filesystem”.  Smart Folders may provide a certain amount of virtual glue although we’re still faced with the challenge of handing the obsession we have with using the location of files as a primary organizational attribute.

    Tiger is the most interesting release of OS X for me so far, even if only for its potential.  Maybe it’s that there’s more unpredictability how developers will utilize some of the new technologies that makes it exciting.

    sjk had this to say on Apr 22, 2005 Posts: 112
  • More Spotlight fodder:

    The future of Spotlight and OS X

    sjk had this to say on Apr 24, 2005 Posts: 112
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