Matt Gemmell

My new book CHANGER is out now!

An action-adventure novel — book 1 in the KESTREL series.

★★★★★ — Amazon

Old Mac OS habits die hard

Interface 2 min read

I’ve been running OS X full-time since Saturday 24th March 2001 (before noon!), yet even now, on Jaguar 10.2.3, I still find myself quitting apps when I won’t need them for a while. Even things like Mail, or TextEdit or Terminal. Now why would that be?

Perhaps it’s because I want to conserve memory. That can’t be it, since OS X pages memory to disk all the time; I have plenty of free drive space, and I’m rarely doing anything that requires a lot of memory anyway (I have 512Mb of physical RAM installed).

Then maybe it’s because I’m afraid that a rogue application, left running in the background, could bring the system down. That’s so unlikely it makes me laugh out loud. IE crashes; other stuff, by and large, doesn’t. And even if one of my workhorse apps did “unexpectedly quit”, it would never bring down the whole system. I’ve had exactly two kernel panics since installing Mac OS X 10.0, and both occurred when IE was running and frontmost. Hmm.

Could I want to keep my dock’s keyboard tab-loop uncluttered? Nope, since in Jaguar (and maybe also in 10.1; can’t remember), it has this “back and forth” behaviour, where quick presses of command-tab bounce you between your two most recently-used running apps, rather than cycling through all running apps (which you can still do by holding down command-tab for slightly longer initially). I used to hate that change, but now I’ve come to depend on it, especially when flicking back and forth between BBEdit and a browser.

OK, so surely it’s simply because I want to keep my screen uncluttered? But that can’t be it either, since OS X still lets you hide entire applications with all their windows. Even so, I could always minimize what I don’t want to see at the moment.

Performance? My original PowerBook G4 Titanium (500MHz) copes beautifully with my standard complement of BBEdit, Mail, Safari/OW/IE, BloggerOff, Project Builder and Interface Builder (with Terminal and Preview thrown in from time to time). No noticeable slowdown anywhere. It’s also great with Final Cut Pro 3 hooked up to my Canon XM2. So performance can’t be the issue.

Having thought long and hard about this, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no current logical reason for my fingers’ insistence on command-Qing every app as soon as I’ve closed the last window. It’s down to habit, and specifically habit from Mac OS 9.x-. Back in those bad old days, leaving IE running really would kill your entire system, and on a regular basis. Launching Eudora whilst running an Unsharp Mask was wisely accompanied by words of prayer if you hadn’t saved recently. You couldn’t just hear it thinking via your hard drive crackling, you could actually see it.

How the hell did we live with it for so long?