Tiger – Worth the Fuss?


OK, before I start, I’d like to say that I’m not doing this to be inflammatory. I’m asking a serious question about whether the hype for Tiger was justified, or whether I’m now so de-sensitized to it all that I’m missing something.

I’ve installed Tiger and I’ve been using it for a week. I’m not impressed.

OK, some things are faster. Some things look different and there are some minor improvements and fixes for things that annoyed me (hey, account-specific signatures). There’s even some really cute eye candy (Dashboard). But I somehow don’t feel completely bowled over.

For 90% of what I do, nothing has changed. It looks different, but I don’t see any of it making any significant difference to the way I work.

Let’s have a look at some key bits of functionality:


Dashboard is really cool from a ‘hey look at this really good looking stuff’, but I honestly can’t see any really helpful benefit of this. Some of the widgets look great, but get too many widgets on your dashboard and it looks like a nightmare. Organizing them is difficult; they just float around. The Dictionary feature looks nice, but getting to it is a pain; I have to switch to the Dashboard, then if it isn’t the active widget I have to select it with the mouse (there’s no easy keyboard access) and then do what I want. I can do that with OmniDictionary with just one keypress (thanks to Quickeys).

What is the point of some this stuff? The clock is too large (I know, someone will write a different one), so it defeats the object of providing multiple clocks on your dashboard for different timezones. Four clocks on your Dashboard and a lot of my 17″ PowerBook’s screen estate is gone. And what use is a dummy desktop calendar application? Aren’t we supposed to be using iCal, which does every that does and shows us the date in the Dock, in addition to providing us with Todo and event and multiple calendars. Why have yet another separate calendar application that doesn’t do anything but show the date?

The same is true of the Dashboard Address book interface. I can get to my address book in one key press, and when I’m there I can edit it to. I can’t do that in Dashboard. And I still have the problem that to access the Dashboard version I have to switch to the Dashboard and then change apps, if necessary, with the mouse to get where I want.

And no offence to the Dashboard writers out there, but I haven’t seen one that I’ve thought would be particularly useful as a Dashboard widget. In the majority of cases the functionality offered by a Dashboard widget is the same as that provided through a simple web page in your browser. And as a browser item, especially using tabs, they are a damn site more accessible than all the fuss required to change to Dashboard, switch to a widget and start using it.

On the whole, using Dashboard seems slow and complicated compared to switching to my web browser or dedicated application like OmniDictionary and just using it. Sure, Dashboard looks nice, but I can’t find any benefit of actually using it.


The technology behind Spotlight is impressive, and it’s particularly quick, but I’ve yet to actually need Spotlight to find anything. I file my work in specific folders (or just one ‘active’ folder, depending on the machine). Files I’ve downloaded go into the same folder. My email, through filtering, is automatically filed away.

Why would I need to use Spotlight to find that Word document I was working on two hours ago? Or the project I did last week. I knoq where it is because I filed it there. Ditto with email.

Again, I’m not trying to demean Spotlight, but it strikes me as the sort of technology that will be used most by the same people who frequently lose their keys, utility bills and remote controls, rather than those who are relatively organized and know where to find things.


Mail has changed so slightly, most people wouldn’t notice beyond the obvious disappearance of the draw on the right/left which has all smoothed out. Account specific signatures are great, but the interface for controlling them is so abysmal it’s hard to tell what you are configuring. Plus it doesn’t always work.

Smart folders are pretty cool. But for some strange reason they are stuck at the bottom of the folder panel. Have a lot of folders, like a I do, and you have to scroll to get to them, limiting their usefulness for people who actually have to do any work. If they are going to be any use they need to be right up there at the top of the list of mail folders. But you can’t move them; they appear after the global Inbox, no matter how many times you try to drag them.

Another annoyance is that for all the changes and so called improvements in Mail certain things are still broken and still inconsistent. For example, synchronizing an entire IMAP mailbox still doesn’t work. And the ‘unread’ counter displayed in the dock only counts unread items in your inbox; it completely ignores the unread count on any subfolders. This wouldn’t so bad if they hadn’t changed Mail so that the count next to individual mailboxes didn’t show the total of all unread messages in subfolders. Even that doens’t work properly. The effect is a thoroughly misleading view of your email state if all you do is look at the dock.

Safari and RSS

RSS is great. I’d be lost without it, if I’m honest. But RSS is useless if your RSS reader shows you stories in a way that implies that all of the stories are brand new and you need to read all of them. Unfortunately, Safari follows that model. Right now, if I open the standard RSS feeds I get 153 stories.

For the ones I’ve read, it changes the size and colour of the story header. But what about the ones I don’t want to read ? How do I get rid of them?

I can’t. If I reload the page, Safari assumes I’ve read them all and updates the unread counter, but it still shows all of the old stories I didn’t read last time. Why are they still there?

Safari isn’t the only RSS reader that uses this approach, but with such a flawed view, and coming so late to the table, I was expecting something more radical and actually useful.

I may be bowled over with some of the eye candy, but nothing yet strikes me as critical for day to day use.

I’m sure I’ll follow up with more thoughts as I work through more of the system…



Patrick: What on earth makes you think I am directing my argument at consumers? It should be clear that I am directing my argument at the author of this blog, Mr. MC Brown.

Allow me to recapitulate:
MC Brown has a question, to whit: “Is Tiger worth the fuss?” What does MC Brown means by “worth” and “fuss”? He does not say, though it is reasonably certain what he means by “Tiger.”

MC Brown proceeds to express his shock that Tiger did not deliver the same immediate bliss as would a few hits of LSD. And MC Brown is disappointed in Apple because Apple failed to develop Tiger around MC Brown’s (unstated) needs. MC Brown was wishing SO HARD that Apple would gaze deep into his soul and develop a whole new operating system just for him. But it just didn’t happen.

Spotlight helps people find things in a whole new way, and beats Microsoft to the punch. But MC Brown already knows where all his things are, so Spotlight is obviously without merit. Dashboard add lots of little convenient Widgets, with the promise of many more third-party Widgets to come. But MC Brown is sad because the clock is too big. In fact, he can only fit four clocks on his screen! So, Widgets is obviously without merit. And so on.

Patrick, you may have missed it, but MC Brown discards Tiger with a few palsied flicks of his wrist. He gives not a moment’s thought to the (here comes a big word) IMPLICATIONS of Tiger.

In the end, MC Brown’s premise is ill-defined, his logic, solipsistic (love that word), his conclusion, myopic, and his overall tone, petulant. Kind of reminds you of a certain President, now doesn’t it?

[ADMIN EDIT: was that really necessary?]


Well, look at some new Mac apps. Take for example Comic Life 1.1 (see plasq.com for details). It uses Core Image to implement image filters fairly easily. Stuff like this are things the end user will see.


Response to Marc:

Is Tiger worth the fuss? Yes, because Apple will make money from it and maybe even increase market share. If this is all that TIger achieves, it has earned the hype. But of course, Tiger does something more concrete: It has extended Apple’s technological lead over Microsoft, and in a very public way. This will not only attract new individual customers, it will attract more IT people, more governement, education and business buyers, more scientists and so on.

These are really bad arguments for consumers to buy Apple’s Tiger OS. None of you arguments explcitly specify how they will benefit the customer — only how it will benefit the Industry, Market, and Apple’s competitive edge on Microsoft. These are great reasons if you were for Apple, bad reasons if you’re a consumer.


Well, I’ve gone from 10.2.8 to 10.4.1 on my Quicksilver 867, and it seems worth it. I think that waiting for 10.4.x was the right thing to do– resisting the Reality Distortion Field isn’t easy, but it can be done.

John Konopka

I agree that Dashboard so far seems not real impressive. However, Spotlight has already saved me more than once. I’ve been in front of customers and needed documents I made last year that weren’t where I thought they should be. Spotlight found them quickly.

Panther was a huge upgrade from Jaguar. Tiger doesn’t feel like such a huge upgrade partly because Panther was so good. Tiger is faster and has a few obviously nice advantages. I think that after I use this for another month or two I’ll find lots more to like about it.

Jack Campbell

As a business owner with some 15-years of legacy material on my Mac (237GB, spread across 4 drives…), Spotlight has been a life changing experience for me. I am rediscovering value in groups of related files that would not be ‘groupable’ via any other method of which I am aware.

In-context Google, Spotlight, and dictionary lookups via highlight/right-click are quickly becoming indispensable tools for me.

In-Finder slideshows are just an amazing tool for quickly scanning images prior to, and during building a graphics project. And, being able to select and slideshow images from a Spotlight search is just mind warping in its handiness… then make a smart folder of just the right images, as well? Outstanding.

I don’t know what you do for a living. But, I make my living doing image/video intensive documents for marketing and management communications purposes. The data mining and organizational tools in Tiger are proving rapidly to be the best purchase I have ever made on the Mac platform. I, quite literally, would not return to Panther for $10,000.

So, to each their own opinion, based on how much value the new features in Tiger deliver to them. To me, the value is large, and obvious.

Robert Jung

The simple truth is that Tiger is revolutionary — but most of the revolutionary changes are under the hood.

It’s not surprising that some end users will say “Dashboard and Spotlight? Big whoop.” But for the propellerheads and developers, Tiger is a Really Big Thing(tm), because it provides an architectural framework for them to do really cool stuff — 64-bit coding, iSync services, SearchKit, CoreImage, etc. etc. etc. The only pity is that software to really take advantage of all these new toys aren’t here yet.

On the whole, Tiger is worth the fuss… for those who are thrilled by potential, who are willing to wait a little for the really cool Tiger-only apps that will be coming to us in the weeks ahead.

For those focused only on the immediacy and the superficial gloss, however… patience, young Jedi.



I would like to say, respectfully, that you are missing the bigger picture here. Apple did not develop Tiger with the needs of MC Brown in mind. Apple designed Tiger with the needs of the many in mind. This means power users, switchers, new users, techno-phobes, CEOs, CIOs, students and soccer moms.

You declare, for instance, that Spotlight is “the sort of technology that will be used most by the same people who frequently lose their keys, utility bills and remote controls, rather than those who are relatively organized and know where to find things.” Well, Master MC Brown, I congratulate you and the other 27 people on the planet who have achieved anal-retentive nirvana. The great unwashed hordes out here, myself included, fit into your dismissive first category, those who sin by misplacing things from time to time.

I consul patience, my solipsistic friend. See how you feel after one month, six months, one year with the new additions. I have been using the same Powerbook for the past 2 1/2 years and I still find new capabilities in it. This is one reason I love the Mac so much. It seems to anticipate my needs and it waits patiently until I catch on or catch up.

Perhaps you were caught up in the hype and had unrealistic expectations. Perhaps were expecting that Tiger would deliver technology so magical that your life would gain instant karma. If so, I mourn bitterly for your dashed expectations.

Is Tiger worth the fuss? Yes, because Apple will make money from it and maybe even increase market share. If this is all that TIger achieves, it has earned the hype. But of course, Tiger does something more concrete: It has extended Apple’s technological lead over Microsoft, and in a very public way. This will not only attract new individual customers, it will attract more IT people, more governement, education and business buyers, more scientists and so on.

So be happy, not sad. Heighten your empathy and become one with the diverse Mac universe. And remember, Steve is watching over us all.

David M

As someone who does *all* my work on my Powerbook, and really struggles to stay organised, Spotlight has saved me on enough occasions now that I don’t hesitate in saying that it’s worth the price of admission alone.

For example, although I do have a fairly structured system of folders set up for individual clients, projects and so on, there’s currently no easy way for me to tie in mail messages to those projects. Being able to use spotlight to search across documents, e-mail, images and everything else is a real bonus.

Sure, someone who has a rigorously-followed filing system probably *could* do it faster than spotlight, at least on a G4 powerbook. But if you’ve ever said to yourself “I swear this is where I put that document/e-mail/image…”, then Spotlight will make 10.4 feel like a whole new operating system.

S Evans

One of the readers commentd “Spotlight indexes EVERYTHING.” (and even capitalized EVERYTHING to stress it)

However that is not close to being true. Spotlight purposly omits lots of items, including a lot of System fles. How about invisible files? Sure not everyone needs to find them but a lot of people do (developers, etc).

Not to mention bugs where it can’t even find files located right on your Desktop in plain view.


I didn’t get Panther because it was just another turn on the yearly upgrade wheel.

Tiger is supposed to represent a slowdown on the upgrade wheel which I appreciate but I will definitely not buy Tiger through retail.

I’m on a first generation G4 with Jaguar so I’ll probably wait for a revised mac mini that is able to make good use of the various ‘core’ technologies in Tiger (and comes with the iApps bundled).

Those core technologies seem to have a bright future. The rest of the under-the-hood stuff is very nice. It all goes to enhance the user experience both directly and indirectly. Windows compatibility, network diagnostics etc.

I agree that Tiger is seriously lacking real user visible features to warrant a major upgrade label although when you take a look at what’s changed behind the scenes it really is a major upgrade.

To counter that perspective more features should have been added that users could evaluate directly.

The install and re-install procedures are nowhere near the level they should be at after four major revisions for example.


Safari’s RSS system works with third party RSS readers. You can configure NetNewsWire 2.0 to be the default RSS reader and still use all of Safari’s RSS features. Pretty cool. Apple did what they do best, create a usable if minimalist solution and provided all the hooks for third party developers to add more sophisticated features. I find RSS in Safari adequate. But if I needed more, I would just go with a Tiger compatible RSS reader.


Sadden to hear that Tiger is not what it’s cracked up to be. I was waiting till the end of june to update due VPN problems. Now I may wait even longer. I am not impressed with widgets. to me they are just eye-candy. I want hard-core functionality over networks and a rock-solid OS for using graphic apps. And spotlight I am sure I will find usefull. So from the souns of things Tiger is not a must-have update for me for my iBook. Of course it will the default OS on the new G5 I am upgrading to at the end of next month.

MC Brown

I read the Ars Technica article while I was still using the beta. I’ve been beta testing Tiger for months. Sure, there’s other stuff in Tiger, but Dashboard and Spotlight are supposed to be the key ones.

And the Ars article goes into a lot of detail of stuff behind the scenes that you just don’t think about. Sure it’s cool, and yes, it’s there, but how much of an improvement is it, really?

The point is, now I’m using Tiger full time there seems so little that is actually useful from a day to day usage point of view. Yet Dashboard, Spotlight and the Mail improvements were supposed to be key enhancements for regular users.

As to spotlight ‘indexing everything’ and me still having to ‘navigate to it, and open it’, I don’t see how pressing the key combination of Spotlight, typing in the filename and then selecting it from the list of files is any quicker than me switching to the finder, clicking the ‘Active Work’ folder in the sidebar and opening the document. I’d wager I could do it faster by hand than by spotlight.

As to MAil. Yes, it’s faster. No disagreement there but that’s the only significant improvement I can see. And some things are slower – have you tried creating a new IMAP account? Mail sits there for about a minute talking a server just 15ft away doing god knows what. It now takes 2-3 minutes to set up a new account, over three separate dialog boxes. I used to be able to type everything into one box, no stupid checking and the whole process took 15 seconds.

You don’t do this frequently, I know, but why the hell should it take so long anyway?


If you don’t think Tiger constitues a significant overhaul of OS X, read this entire article (yes, all 21 pages, or 106 printed PDF pages ), then say that again –

in short, theres more, much more to Tiger than meets-the-eye via Dashboard and Spotlight.


Yes, yet another nick. :P

I find a lot of the additions to Tiger indispensable. Just like how I can’t live without Exposé, I am quickly finding myself dependent on Automator and Spotlight. Dashboard makes life easier too and I constantly use it. The built-in dictionary gets used all the time as well. Mail? Meh. Safari RSS? Nice, but I still prefer a separate newsreader.


There’s a lot of ugly, goofy stuff in Dashboard but, there’s some really useful stuff out there also. I have three weather radars and five weather stations that update every time I hit dashboard. And since they are basically html and javascript, I modified them to my liking. Total convenience. The screen capture widget is wonderful, I very rarely use SnapitPro anymore. The real-time stock is handy. So, Dashboard might be useless to you but not to me. Create a widget yourself that works for you.
Spotlight is also handy as Nick mentioned. Didn’t think I would use it but have.
So, maybe it’s just you, stuck in your old rut :-)


Quicksilver saves so much more time than Spotlight does when it comes to quickly opening files or renaming/ moving / emailing them. I haven’t really used Spotlight to find stuff, but I do really like the metadata features it adds to the filesystem. Spotlight comments etc make it easy to make efficient Smartfolders that make life so much easier. I work in Customer support, and have to keep track of products, their specification sheets, their manuals, product pictures, actual specs and features, who my contacts at the different departments are, etc. Smartfolders allow me to organize by project as well as by filetype. I like to organize files by filetype, but using Smartfolders I can organize my information by relevance.

And Automator, a much-overlooked feature of Tiger, allows me to do stuff Finder won’t let me do. Like select a bunch of files and add a Spotlight comment to that selection. And you didn’t even mention it! Tssktssk.. ;)

It just depends on what you use your Mac for, I suppose.

I share your opinion on Dashboard though. I played with it for a while after installing Tiger, and the widgets are still sitting there, unused and unmoved since the first time I organized them. I only keep Dashboard running for when I show people “What’s new in Tiger”. Smartfolders only get “Gee, that’s kinda cool.” remarks.

Spotlight draws some “Whoa’s” though, but probably not for the “right” reasons ;)

David Appleyard

I think that Mail has improved much more significantly than you make out (although I agree with your points regarding Dashboard and, to an extent, Spotlight).

Mail is well over twice as fast for me as it was previously, the Spotlight enabled search functionality means that searching through emails is incredibly fast. I’m a huge fan of all the improvements in the email area.

Nick Santilli

impressive to me was the relative ease of the upgrade. And how solid it was. Much better than in previous iterations, that is for certain!

Spotlight indexes EVERYTHING.

So even if you KNOW where a file is, you still have to navigate to it and then open it. Spotlight knows where your file is too…a quick search in spotlight and a click or Enter, and your file’s open. May not seem like much, but it saves a few seconds every time you launch a file from Spotlight, vs navigating to it…

that’s just my take. I’m finding new and cool things every day that I use Tiger. I think the real improvements in Tiger are under the hood things. We’ll benefit from them over time, but they’re not immediately obvious to us.
Then there are the little things (all over the place!) that we’ll continue to find and say, “hey, that’s cool!” All in all, I’m happy. Not completely blown away, but still very impressed.

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