Tiger? Where did you go?

by Chris Howard Sep 21, 2005

Who’s still using Tiger? Well, the key new features anyway. Spotlight? Automator? Dashboard? Were there others? See I’ve forgotten. I don’t doubt at all that many people are benefiting from Tiger’s features but have they lived up to their hype? Have they outlived their hype?

Like everybody, I dived in to using all Tiger’s new features as much as possible - or trying to. But this article was inspired when I reached for my desk calculator rather than Dashboard’s. I realised I wasn’t using some of Steve’s babies anymore. So here follows a review for where I am at now with Tiger’s new features. Have a read then tell us where you’re at.

With over a thousand widgets it seems Dashboard is still quite popular - or is it just popular with widget developers? I’m over the hype. There is no widget I use regularly - I’m lucky if I use it once a week. The widget I most wanted was the calculator but its disadvantage is the figures you want to work with are often on the screen, so you have to shuffle other widgets to see what you want. Secondly, the delay in it becoming active after the Dashboard appears, is annoying.
It’s much quicker and easier to reach for my calculator on my desk - and it’s easier to use.

Other widgets I have open are:

- the converter (thank god they fixed its resource gulping problem but I still only use it rarely);
- the weather for my town (rarely use it - my chair’s right next to a window, and my day and life aren’t affected by the weather);
- the calendar (what for I don’t know. I think I’ll ditch it now. If I need to use a calendar, I need and use iCal);
- a usage meter for my ISP account (only check it late in the month)
- a daily quote (since I don’t use Dashboard often, I forget to check it)

I’m also guilty of simply forgetting Dashboard is there. Maybe I would use it’s calendar more if I remembered to. Dashboard should allow widgets to run on the desktop. Make it an option. (I know there’s a hack, but the widget floats above all windows - which is not exactly useful for something you might refer to occasionally.)

Rating: 2/5. Can live without it.

I found this still requires a bit of programming nouse to use. What’s more, if the functionality you require is not available, then you’ve got to write an Automator action. And for that you do need to know a fair bit about programming. In the early days, several things I wanted to do with Automator I couldn’t because the action wasn’t available. For example, I want to print the current web page I am on to DevonTHINK. Three clicks to do this currently. I want to create a Automator workflow to perform those three clicks for me so, as I’m browsing, I can simply hit a shortcut key assigned to that workflow. Don’t start saying “but Automator doesn’t work that way, that’s not what it does” etc etc. That’s the process I want to automate. If it can’t do that, then it’s not fully developed.
A poll on Mac OS X Hints had Automator fourth on a popularity for new or improved applications, behind Safari, Mail and Dictionary. People are finding dictionary more useful than Automator. Maybe Steve should have raved more about dictionary at WWDC 2004 and MacWorld SF. (Note, that poll didn’t include Spotlight as it was only about applications.)

Rating: 2/5. Somewhat difficult to use and still needs a lot more functionality. Can live without.

Spotlight was an early favorite of mine and the one I do still use the most. I haven’t had much call for the Smart Folders - I have one I use which shows me applications I’ve used in the last two days which is a bit better than the recent apps list.

I probably use Spotlight more than once a day. It’s become such a habit that I forget I’m using it. I use it for finding documents but just as useful is using it to find old emails in Mail. I did discover the other day though that it doesn’t index PHP files. Here’s a hint from MacOSXHints on how to get it to index them. Spotlight should include an advanced options tab, where you can select or deselect file types to be indexed as well as a button to rebuild indexes.

Another annoyance is the way in the Finder search box, it starts searching as soon as you start typing. I know, I know, that was the thing that Steve said made it so great. Problem is when you type “elephant”, it’s already searching for “el”. Now that can be a particular pain if it decides to search your whole computer. So you’ve got to try to type really fast to get in as many letters as you can before it starts searching. The way I get around this is to press the space bar first which brings up the search paths, so I can select the search path first - coz usually I just want to search the folder I’m in and Spotlight remembers the last path I searched - i.e. computer, home or current folder. Spotlight should have an option to allow changing the the wait time before it searches or the number of characters before it begins searching.

Rating: 4/5. Needs a few annoyances attended to but definitely can’t live without.

I’ll just go check the Apple site to see what else they were trumpeting about Tiger…

Safari RSS
I don’t use Safari’s RSS reader (I use NetNewsWire) because I wasn’t happy with the layout of newsfeeds in Safari - I like the traditional three-pane approach that NetNewsWire employs. But I do appreciate that Safari now integrates with third party news readers, but it’s no big deal.
Safari is the one application that slows my computer down more than any other. That said, it is when I have many sites open. But this is something that Apple need to work on. Sometimes it can take literally five minutes to switch into Safari if I have too many pages open.

Rating: 2/5 (For the RSS side of it). I don’t use as an RSS reader and could live without the integration.

Context Thesaurus/Dictionary
This is not the Dictionary application, the the context sensitive Thesaurus/Dictionary you activate with the right-click or command-click. As a writer… when don’t I use it! Regards how often I use the new features, this is the one I use the most. Thanks Apple. Could you do a grammar checker in Leopard? The Dictionary application and Dictionary widget though, I barely use.

Rating 4.5/5. Love it but sometimes lacks synonyms

Of the others: Quicktime 7 can’t say I’m aware how that’s benefited me; iChat AV the audio is somewhat ordinary so I don’t use it for that; .Mac Sync I am using the extra features for backing up other key data, so I like it; Parental Controls would be something I could use but haven’t got Tiger on the kid’s PC.

This has been my experience of Tiger’s new features. Your experience will differ and that’s why Apple put in more than one new feature. So what has been you experience of Tiger some three or four months on? What features do you use? And not use? Are there any widgets or workflows you can’t live without? Do you use Safari’s RSS reader or still a third party one? What features are do you think are merely feature bloat? What features can you not live without?


  • I wasn’t an early adopter of Tiger - waited 6 months or so to let a few of the bugs get worked out - but on the whole I also haven’t found many things I just can’t live without. The one major exception: the upgrades to Mail are wonderful, especially the searching (easier and faster than Eudora, though still not as powerful) and general layout improvements.

    But I generally don’t expect quantum leaps in operating system improvements, or at least I don’t expect to use many of whatever the big new features are. That’s because my daily tasks are mostly pretty simple: word processing, checking email, surfing the net, using a small # of other programs briefly. There aren’t many improvements I yearn for anymore; most improvements aren’t revolutionary to my life, just nice conveniences. Besides, the real quantum leap happened when I finally ditched my peecee and rejoined the Mac community.

    xnedwriter had this to say on Sep 21, 2005 Posts: 3
  • I hate the Dock (prefer the old MultiFinder) and the Dashboard does not exist for me. There will always be features in an OS or other app that some people use, while others do not. Is that bloatware? Not unless it’s totally beyond the margins and off the page, like embedded video in Word.

    Metryq had this to say on Sep 21, 2005 Posts: 7
  • In contrast I was an early adopter for no good reason.  After installing Tiger I pretty much went about my business without giving it a whole lot of thought until a month later when I bought a new iMac with it installed.

    I use the dashboard roughly 10 times a day for something, but mostly just using the default widget set.  I find the dictionary useful, the calculator indispensable, and the yellow pages an absolute godsend.  I use more than that but those are my primary needs I guess.  As for third party widgets, I’ve really yet to find anything too useful, a lot of it is just novelty.

    Spotlight took some time but I’m finally realizing that it’s faster than folder-hunting.  I’ve got 20 years of folder idiocy to untrain so it’s been a bit difficult to remember that “gee, there is an easier way”.  I’m probably using it as much as dashboard now.

    Automator is the same way.  It’s a pain in the butt to use and get started with but it does save me time with certain tasks, especially when dealing with web publishing - which I’ve been doing a lot of lately.  If it hadn’t been for that particular need I might never have even tried it.

    Of the rest, RSS does nothing for me and I’ve yet to figure out the hype behind it, let alone the Safari implementation.  iChat AV is very cool but very limited just in that I have few friends and family with a Mac.  I love iCal, Mail, and Address Book - but I already loved them before Tiger. 

    Oh yeah, and Quicktime 7 (if you can even count this as a Tiger enhancement-Apple does for some reason) still doesn’t cut it.  I like the HD stuff, yeah, neat - but Mac as a platform is in serious need of a better video player.  Between VLC, mplayer, and Quicktime, not a single one is up to par with what Windows has just in Media Player.  I want simple glitch-less playback and I get anything but that.

    dickrichards2000 had this to say on Sep 21, 2005 Posts: 112
  • Chris! You CAN have the Calculator open all the time. I do this as they have a way if disappearing at work…here’s how.

    Press F12 to bring up dashboard, grab the calculator widget off the bar to add a new one but DON’T LET GO OF IT YET. Press F12 and dashboard goes away but the calculator yoiu grabbed is still under the mouse, now let go…..see? The calculator is now free from Dashboard and ALWAYS ON TOP OF OTHER WINDOWS!

    I love this….I can post a screen movie if you need…mike

    nymegadaddy had this to say on Sep 21, 2005 Posts: 1
  • I use spotlight a lot. 

    The Dashboard for me is a very useful feature.  For example, the other day while in the car with my wife, we were translating words in french ( I live in Quebec, Canada) for our daughter. We came up to a word that neither of us could tranlate in english, and then it hitted me; I could do it in the Dashboard translator widget.  On the weekend at the lake, I could use the Dashboard weather widget.  I use Dashboard everyday, for converting, translating, reading comic strips or listening to radio stations.  I can’t wait for the yellow pages directory to be available in Canada. (if ever)

    Another cool feature of Tiger that i use everyday is the Jabber compatibility of iChat.  I have people using iChat, but more people I know are on MSN, so I now use only one IM software.

    As for feature I don’t use; I have never even open Automator :-(


    J-F had this to say on Sep 21, 2005 Posts: 9
  • I guess I’m the only person that uses the RSS feature in Safari a lot.  I have a folder on my bookmarks bar labeled “RSS Feeds”.  In that folder I have all the sites that I like to follow.  Apple Matters (of course) among other Apple related sites, Digg, Gizmodo, new scientist, etc…  whenever I click on that folder on my bookmarks bar, I can see if someone posted something new at Apple Matters, or wherever.  I never have to check back with a website to see if something new is posted, Safari RSS does it for me!  I’ve used other RSS apps before Safari RSS came out, but it’s nice to have this feature built into Safari.

    Jim Caruthers had this to say on Sep 21, 2005 Posts: 13
  • Very boring article.  Anecdotal experiences rarely benefit the reader. Sorry but this article was “mailed in”.  How you use Tiger is of no importance to me as I have a totally different workflow.  Glad you got that off your chest now get back to writing about the goings on of the Mac community that we can all share in. Regards.

    hmurchison had this to say on Sep 21, 2005 Posts: 145
  • Dashboard - I like, but on my year-old eMac it is slow as mud and it takes forever for them to even be usable.  I don’t even bother with it anymore.

    Dictionary/Thesaurus - I use the Dictionary program, but I didn’t really hit me about the right-click thing until I read this.

    Safari RSS - I love and is the best feature ever!

    Spotlight - I need to find file names, not content.  For the first time ever since 1985, I feel completely lost trying to find something now on the Mac.  In these situations, it kind of reminds me of trying to figure out what to do in Windows.

    TheTSArt had this to say on Sep 21, 2005 Posts: 4
  • I use Preview a lot to look at photos and PDFs. This version of Preview is the best ever. You can grab a lot of photos and drag them to preview for easy any good viewing or a slide show. It will do simple editing to images and PDFs.

    I never use dashboard and spotlight is a pain. Spotlight in Mail is very good. This is the first version of Mail that I find usable for me. I want to use Automator but never have a reason; Same as with with Apple Script.

    I understand that Tiger changed and improved vast amounts of OSX under the hood; As with other major OSX updates it is taking awhile to fix a lot of things that were broken or impaired. In 10.2 and 10.3 we were about halfway through the updates before thing were really smooth. Some of Tiger is very nice but I was in better shape overall with 10.3.8. I am putting together another production Mac with 10.3.8 so apps like Illustrator 10.03 and my font managment applications will work correctly. On 10.4.2 many critical apps of mine are running with problems.

    I would and have updated some of the applications with marginal gain. Some of the Adobe apps are not doing all that well in newer versions, so I will wait to upgrade those until they have less problems.


    Roger had this to say on Sep 21, 2005 Posts: 2
  • I’ve actually switched back to Panther and will remain there until 10.4.3. But I miss Dashboard by far the most. I used it regularly for the weather, calculator and quite a few excellent 3rd party widgets.

    Spotlight I can totally live without. I actually dislike the way it searches and prefer the Panther way.

    Automater, I haven’t found or heard of anything about it I really need.

    RSS is Safari crashes a stupid amount still. NetNewsWire is better.

    I like that Disk Utility is more powerful in Tiger. That’s a significant bit that wasn’t mentioned.

    donovan had this to say on Sep 21, 2005 Posts: 19
  • Why do I upgrade? I can’t remember the last time I upgraded software because of a new feature. I upgrade mostly for bug fixes, including bugs I don’t even know exist. Sometimes the new features are a nice bonus (Spotlight), sometimes not (Adobe’s new licensing scheme). But for me it’s really about running the current products.

    So thanks for making me look to see if I’m really taking advantage of Tiger, or if I’m really using 10.3 habits under 10.4. I like Spotlight, and use it more every week. And Dashboard? I use the weather widget to see the weather an hour down the road at work. I have two clocks set to different time zones I call often (adding 17 hours can hurt your head). And the BBC radio widget. A few widgets, but every day.

    For hmurchison: sorry you didn’t find this article completely useful to you: maybe you should ask for your money back…oh, wait…this is free.

    Leigh Chapman had this to say on Sep 21, 2005 Posts: 1
  • spotlight: good. I use it mainly within the finder, all the time. Mail’s use of it needs help though. It never starts searches where you are at, which is annoying.

    dashboard: slow-loading. I find staying in the browser more efficient than getting info from so many different widgets, after they finally load. I might use it more if I could just access one isolated widget from the dock icon, rather than enter into that hidden underworld interface they are in.

    How many more upgrades until I get the ability to color-label my folders in the favorites pane? This pane also needs many of the features now found in panes like iTunes and Mail, and needs to remember my preferred width, arrgh.

    And when are they going to implement all those greyed-out ‘Services’ in the Application menus?

    eyehop had this to say on Sep 21, 2005 Posts: 19
  • “Redgards how often?”

    And you’re a writer?

    cabinet sanchez had this to say on Sep 22, 2005 Posts: 1
  • I don’t mind 10.4.2…but then again this is the first Mac I purchased.

    cactuslou had this to say on Sep 22, 2005 Posts: 1
  • The analysis was a bit too harsh in my opinion…the problem is that Panther was already a GREAT OS, so the improvements in Tiger were of a more incremental nature, not anything groundbreaking (apart from Spotlight, probably)...

    Anyway, on to the main Tiger features:

    - Spotlight, great…at least 4/5

    - Dictionary, awesome and always there…5/5

    - Dashboard, wonderful for the following widgets…Translator, Weather (Apple’s and Swiss Meteo), Dictionary/Thesaurus, Garfield Comics, Stickies and Calendar…they are ALWAYS on…3.5/5 or 4/5

    - Safari RSS, ok…used sometimes, 3/5
    - Automator, never tried actually…don’t have time to dig into it…2/5
    - iChat AV…unfortunately for the world outside U.S., MSN is the de facto standard, so iChat is barely used, even though it’s great…2/5
    - Sync…not used because I don’t have a BT mobile or anything like that…1/5
    - Quicktime…used sometimes, always on anyway…could have more codecs, though…3/5
    - Mail 2.0…MY client, works great…4/5
    - DVD Player…always used too…4.5/5

    And no, I haven’t had any issues with Tiger since 10.4.0…GO APPLE!

    brlawyer had this to say on Sep 22, 2005 Posts: 7
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