Tuesday, August 2, 2011 [Tweets] [Favorites]

iCal’s Missing Months

Khoi Vinh:

It shows all seven days of the week, obviously, but what it’s missing is an overview of the whole month, which to me is a necessary complement. By contrast, here’s how iCal looked and worked in previous versions of the operating system.

Note that the single month view can be expanded to a two-month or even three-month view by pulling on that bar just above the “April 2011” header to reveal additional months. Very handy.

The weekly and monthly views are missing the “mini-month” displays, which I found quite useful. Now I do a lot of flipping back and forth. My least favorite parts of Lion are the new iCal and Address Book, and the page-turning animation and regressions in Preview. Most everything else has been working well.

17 Comments

You might want to try BusyCal. It is modeled after the pre-Lion iCal, but with several significant features added (it has more view styles than iCal, and all of them can display mini-month calendars). It is better than any version of iCal, IMO, and it uses the iCal database you can go back to iCal without migrating any data if you don't like it.

@Mason Thanks. I’ve heard nothing but good things about BusyCal. Time to try it out, I think.

"My least favorite parts of Lion are the new iCal and Address Book, and the page-turning animation and regressions in Preview."

Personally, I've been using a spatial grid of virtual desktops since I got my first Mac in 1993, first through 3rd party software, and since Leopard, using the (inferior) Apple implementation. Lion seems as if it's going to Steve that workflow on the platform. I can't imagine a 3rd party vendor coming in to fill the gap with Mission Control keeping the masses happy, and the hooks to implement are probably being taken away anyhow.

So, at least for me, the loss of a spatial grid of virtual desktops ranks up there with iCal and Address Book entering the Dark Ages as least appealing parts of Lion.

"Most everything else has been working well."

Good to know. I'm not looking to upgrade in the foreseeable future, if ever, but still good to know.

Anything working better?

(I fully understand that as a dev, you have zero choice about upgrading. As a user, I think I've got a few years of flexibility here.)

"I’ve heard nothing but good things about BusyCal. Time to try it out, I think."

FWIW, I did a trial run of BusyCal a while back, since I didn't think Leopard/Snowy iCal was anywhere near perfect. And I didn't notice any problems in functionality.

But I ended up finding the software usage design a bit less elegant in practice than Leopard/Snowy iCal, and since I didn't need the extra features of BusyCal, I never bought the product.

But if I were moving to Lion, I'd strongly consider both BusyCal and Outlook, with Outlook gaining initial preference since it could potentially solve the Address Book problem as well.

"And I didn't notice any problems in functionality (in BusyCal)."

Actually, I'll amend that. If hazy memory serves, I did experience some non-100% reliability with alarms, which, if true, definitely would've been my deal-breaker moment. But my memory is hazy, and the product has had lots of bug fixes since then anyway, so I'd guess it's no longer an issue. I'd still try it out along with Outlook if I were to migrate.

@Chucky I can see how the loss of the Spaces grid could be a problem, although switching to the linear arrangement turned out to be fine for me. I like Mission Control.

I suppose the biggest improvement over a pre-existing feature is FileVault 2. Auto-correct is nice. Speed seems good. Most of the other new features are fine, but I wouldn’t miss them if they were gone.

iCal itself has always had poor alarm reliability for me, so I’m not sure whether that’s BusyCal’s fault.

"I can see how the loss of the Spaces grid could be a problem, although switching to the linear arrangement turned out to be fine for me. I like Mission Control."

I actually agree that Mission Control is a better solution for the majority.

But as stated, I've continually been using a virtual desktop grid on Macs for the past 18 years. And I absolutely love the spatiality of the grid. (And given the 3rd party implementations of virtual desktops on all the different platforms, the spatial grid is indeed what hardcore virtual desktop users do seem to want.) I long ago settled on a 3x3 arrangement, and I always know where stuff is on the nine spaces in relation to one another. There are real advantages a spatial implementation for folks who want more than just a few virtual desktops.

Apple's Spaces implementation, which killed the 3rd party product I was using at the time, the excellent CodeTek VirtualDesktop, was actually a significant downgrade for me. And while I could certainly survive with Mission Control, it'd be another significant downgrade for me.

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"I suppose the biggest improvement over a pre-existing feature is FileVault 2."

Against the grain, I actually think FileVault 2 is a subtle downgrade.

Of course, I've already done the plumbing in Snowy that Apple should have, and created a workflow that lets FileVault 1 handle TimeMachine and clone backups while logged into an encrypted account. If Apple had simply implemented that workflow in a seamless manner for Lion, it would've counted as a big upgrade in my mind.

But here's why I think whole disk encryption is a downgrade from the more elegant user folder encryption:

- Your account is not encrypted if someone else is using the machine.

In practice, this means you can't let any non-trusted user use the machine, which is a big change.

- You no longer have security through obscurity when dealing with the government.

At customs particularly, or in other dealings with law enforcement, you can no longer yield to a request for computer access without attempts to shield your user folder.

Both of these are only of interest to the paranoid, but if you're using encryption in the first place, you have at least some degree of paranoia...

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"iCal itself has always had poor alarm reliability for me, so I’m not sure whether that’s BusyCal’s fault."

Now I remember that we've discussed this before. I've always experienced 100% reliability with iCal alarms, but you've experienced issues.

@Chucky Well, I didn’t trust FileVault 1 enough to use it, plus there were various weird compatibility problems. I’ve moved from an unencrypted drive with various encrypted sparse bundle disk images, to an encrypted drive with those same sparse bundles. So while you make good points, for me it’s an upgrade in security with seemingly perfect compatibility and very little performance hit.

I started using virtual desktops in the 90s but never wanted more than three or four, thus no need for the grid.

"Well, I didn’t trust FileVault 1 enough to use it, plus there were various weird compatibility problems."

I encountered some problems back in 10.4. But by the time of 10.6, Apple seemed to have ironed out all the compatibility problems. In Snowy, Apple has abstracted the thing away enough that I don't encounter any problems in the universe of Apple apps, 3rd party apps, AppleScripts, and UNIX that I deal with.

In other words, AFAIK, by Snowy, FileVault just works, (with the lone exception of not providing a useable backup workflow out of the box.)

"I’ve moved from an unencrypted drive with various encrypted sparse bundle disk images, to an encrypted drive with those same sparse bundles."

That's one part of why I think it's a subtle downgrade.

Those "various encrypted ... disk images" were part of my workflow too before 10.4. But with FileVault 1, I was able to get rid of manually managing various encrypted disk images, and simply never have to worry about what should or shouldn't be encrypted. Yay!

If I were to migrate to 10.7, I'd have to bring manually managed encypted disk images back into my user-level workflow. It's not the biggest deal in the world, I'd readily agree, but it's a chore I was quite happy to be rid of.

@Chucky There are more, but off the top of my head, in 10.6 setting folder background pictures via AppleScript doesn’t work with FileVault enabled.

I prefer the granularity of being able to keep most of the disk images unmounted most of the time. It’s sort of like the sandbox…and CrashPlan sees the already-encrypted data.

[...] iCals Missing Months – I’m trying iCal for a bit, but expect to be back on BusyMac shortly. [...]

"I prefer the granularity of being able to keep most of the disk images unmounted most of the time. It’s sort of like the sandbox"

Of course, it was the additional granularity in FileVault 1 that makes me see FileVault 2 as a subtle downgrade.

But I will say that forcing paranoid users into more manual management of disk images is good for C-Command. So given that I'd like to see you thrive as a developer, maybe it's all for the best in the end.

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FWIW, I finally managed to locate the first feature in Lion that I actually want. Lion's AppleScript Editor lets you toss Cocoa methods in AppleScript apps that run on 10.6 & 10.7 without having to build anything in Xcode. That'd be a big win for me, should I decide I continue to have a long-time platform to learn to here.

(My initial thought was that I should buy a copy of Lion, install it into VMWare, and just use it as a $30 AppleScript utility for creating 10.6 AppleScript apps...)

@Chucky Actually, I don’t think you need Lion for that; you could use AppleScriptObjC Explorer. It’s too bad that Apple wants AppleScriptObjC to be just a way to write AppleScript Studio–style standalone apps without using Xcode. It would be more interesting if it could call into Cocoa from scripts like you can do from the Python and Ruby bridges.

"Actually, I don’t think you need Lion for that; you could use AppleScriptObjC Explorer"

Stuffing Lion into VMWare is half the price of AppleScriptObjC Explorer, but the 3rd party utility may have additional features. First time I've heard of it, so thanks for the tip. (I never bothered migrating from classic AppleScript Studio apps to AppleScriptObjC, so I stopped keeping up on the news in the area.)

"It would be more interesting if it could call into Cocoa from scripts like you can do from the Python and Ruby bridges."

Fully agreed.

You could essentially get there the long way around, however. I keep a few stay-open AppleScript background apps running so my various simple AppleScripts can rely on calling methods in them. And you could use the same workflow to call Cocoa methods wrapped in AppleScript methods in your stay-open background app from scripts that way...

@Chucky Sure, you can use stay-opens scripts or “do shell script” to Python. But this stuff should be really easy. The real potential, I think, would be if Apple extended the AppleScriptObjC bridge with the equivalent of F-Script Anywhere so that you could AppleScript-Cocoa-message the application’s own objects. This would allow plugging holes in the application or system’s AppleScript support. For example, with Lion’s Full Screen feature the frontmost window is no longer necessarily “window 1” in AppleScript. But if your script could just message the NSWindow and ask whether it has NSFullScreenWindowMask… The pieces for this are all there, but Apple seems to be moving away from this sort of interoperation.

"The pieces for this are all there, but Apple seems to be moving away from this sort of interoperation."

That's part of why the whole thing approaches minor tragedy. From a "pro" user POV, the platform they were shipping from 2002 to 2010 was, as Muhammad Ali would have said, the greatest of all time. And it was just finally developing into maturity.

'Cut down in its prime' is always a tragic story.

[...] of the more egregious problems with Lion’s Address Book and iCal seem to be fixed. (The skeuomorphic chrome remains in place, though.) And there’s some cool [...]

[...] initially tried BusyCal due to the iCal regressions in Mac OS X Lion. With Mountain Lion, I am back to using Calendar, chiefly because I [...]

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