Though few users will likely take note of a majority of the 300 listed new features in Apples Leopard edition of the OS X operating system, theres one interface change thats drawn the ire of some long-time Mac users who say it is a step backward.
Stacks, which change the behavior of folders parked in OS Xs Dock, are drawing the ire of long-time Mac users.
Not that this has taken the shine off of Leopard. Apple has sold more than two million copies of it in the last week, outpacing sales of earlier versions of Mac OS X.
But in those previous versions, users could place a folder in the Dock; a click-and-hold or a control-click would pop up a list of the folders content and allow a hierarchical “drilling down” through the folders substructure. Users also had the options to remove the folder from the Dock, reveal it in the Finder or open the finder when the user logged in.
The addition of Stacks actually replaces this. Instead, a folder placed in the Dock becomes a Stack; when a Stack is clicked, a “fan” or a “grid” of its contents extends out, depending on how many items the Stack contains.
Read more here about Apples leap forward.
Though Stacks may be visually striking, many users are complaining online that this feature actually doesnt display Apples legendary emphasis on elegant usability.
Commentators from Slashdot to the Ars Technica message boards, which in fact had an entire discussion thread titled “Stacks – really not digging them!” bemoaned losing even the option of the old folder-in-Dock behavior, and pointed out many shortcomings in the new Stacks.
“From a theoretical standpoint, Stacks sound great, but Apples implementation leaves something to be desired,” wrote “graffix_jones” on Slashdot, adding that, “In its current incarnation, Stacks are barely usable, especially if you relied on the old Dock functionality that turned any docked folder into a nested hierarchal menu.”
“This one staggers me,” wrote “Mellow” on the Ars Technica boards.
“Apple [has] actually taken away a feature! And it happens to be a feature that I love and use constantly. I am having so much difficulty quickly launching Apps and Utilities now (yeah, yeah I am sure that there are other ways but I am annoyed at being forced to change a 12-year habit).”
Others complained about how much screen space an opened Stack took up, and that a Stack could not display more than 50 items at once—a small number, considering how many files and applications can reside even in a users Applications folder.
In addition, many decried how Stacks appear in the Dock.
A “series of stacks in the Dock all look the same, since the front-most icon represents the whole stack and that is often a generic folder or file icon. I put custom icons on my most-used folders and put them in the dock so that I can visually identify them and acquire their targets as I mouse toward the Dock,” wrote “The Professor.” “Now with a bunch of identical looking stacks I have no idea whats what. Five years of muscle memory out the window!”
This appearance element causes even more confusion when unique items are in a Stack, noted “The Professor.”
“If you sort your Stack by modification or add date, then the icon actually changes over time. This kinda makes sense with the Downloads Stack, but I dont want my Clients stack in the Dock to change appearance every time I modify or add something,” wrote “The “Professor.”
Though there were some voices wanting to give Stacks a chance, these were few and far between.
“Had Stacks had some kind of organizational aspect to them, like they do in the applications, theyd be more useful (Although there are obvious UI issues),” wrote “ClarkGoble” on the Ars Technica site. “What we ended up with though was everything stripped out of Stacks that was useful. So it was the same functionality we once had (actually less given no subdirectories) but just with the emasculated UI,” wrote “ClarkGoble.”
A feature similar to Stacks was bruited about years ago; it has echoes of a previous Apple-held patent on “piles,” but that change was never implemented.
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