OS X Mouse Pointers as a Metaphor

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Why in the world would this topic be worthy of a blog post? Because the issue of mouse pointer icons in OS X is indicative to me of the whole Windows / OS X schism.

So here’s the deal: You can’t change your mouse pointer icons in OS X. Seriously. While looking for how to do this simple thing that was available as a UI feature in Widows 3.1, I ran across the following post in a news group.

I have not seen any programs that will change your pointer in OS X. This took a little getting used to when I first switch from the windows world to Mac. Now when I find some unusual pointer on a windows computer I cringe. I have grown to love the Mac’s mouse pointer.

Are you kidding me? Here’s how I interpret this post: Since I can’t do it in OS X, and Microsoft is the devil, you shouldn’t really want to do it.

It turns out there is actually a nice piece of shareware out there that supports this functionality, but it is not built into OS X. If you want to change your LAME mouse pointer icon you can use this software:
http://www.unsanity.com/haxies/mightymouse/

I am running across this attitude of elitism more and more as I have spent the last week living primarily in OS X and learning to use it. Frankly, I love the user experience of windowing and desktop navigation in OS X, but that’s about it, really. Apple tries so hard to hide so much from you that I find it difficult to manage some basic tasks, like changing mouse pointer cursors, or navigating the file system through Finder.

Admittedly, this failure to grok on my part may simply be a lack of time spent in the OS, but with my new copy of Leopard on track to deliver tomorrow and the ability to dual boot into Vista 64 only 36 hours away, I think my OS X diversion may be short lived.

Frankly, I don’t want to have to treat a local web server as unintegrated add-on. I want to be able to change my mouse pointer icons without freeware. I want a free WYSIWYG offline blogging client (Windows Live Writer is the bomb). I want MS Office (did I just say that?). I want Visual Studio. I want a free virtualization solution (Virtual OC). I want baked in remoting capability.

Simply put, I just want Windows. It’s amazing what you get out of the box and I am excited to get back to it.

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9 thoughts on “OS X Mouse Pointers as a Metaphor

  1. Let me tell you how I interpreted the post that you mentioned… OSX prides itself on its simple elegance. A pointer is simply a pointer; it is not something that needs to be customized. This falls in line with the convention over configuration mantra. I cant count how many times I’ve helped other people with their computer and had a tough time figuring out what the heck that pointer is that they have set up. One particular one comes to mind: a client had set up a beach theme for windows. His pointer was a sand bucket… How the heck is *that* intuitive?

    I’m not sure what you mean by “treat a local web server as unintegrated add-on”… OSX ships with Apache. All you have to do is turn it on. (System Preferences | Sharing | Personal Web Sharing).

    “what you get out of the box” … all of the items that you mentioned (with the exception of changing icons and a local web server) do not come “out of the box” on windows. Windows Live Writer is free, and I’ll give you that it’s probably the slickest blogging client available.

    MS Office is far from free… Neither is Visual Studio… Remoting comes only in the Professional, or Super Duper Ultra Ultimate versions. The elitism really seems to run both ways, dont you think?

  2. No. I don’t think the elitism runs both ways. I think if you are a cool kid, you are Agile on an Apple coding a Ruby on Rails app. Otherwise, you are not a cool kid and aren’t invited to the party.

    Whatever.

    I am just sick of the idea that MS is the devil and Apple farts candy.

    And I realize the items I mentioned are not free. They are just good applications that I want to run, that’s all.

  3. Perhaps I’m missing the essence of your comments, but it could certainly be argued that dismissing an operating system based on not being able to hange the mouse pointer is elitism. Frankly, the way I am interpreting your comments are that if it doesnt come out of Redmond, it isnt worth using.

  4. As a power user, I would hate to be thrown in to OS X without some hints and cheat sheets. It is a real pain to figure out some of the power user tricks and techniques. They are there though. If you are used to being an efficient user and you are thrown into a new system, it can feel like being a newbie again and the frustration is easily blamed on the operating system.
    Yes – apple is easy to use if you just want to do basic things. However, it is also easy to use, reliable, and powerful in deeper ways than Windows if you are willing to go out and get the information you need. Unix is a robust, powerful system but the conventions are indeed different than those of Windows.
    Pull up a terminal window and notice that you have access to crontab, chmod, scripted console based email, and a host of other tested, well thought-out, useful administrative utilities which have been around since the beginning of time but somehow never found their way in to Windows. These are not “easy” until you learn them. Once you do, they are clearly better though, and faster, and more secure, and more stable. The same is true of the windowing system. Any power user will need to tweak their OS. Put in the time. It’s worth it.

  5. I grew up using PC’s and built my first computer myself as a kid.
    i also used the commodore apples precursor to the market. they in some ways started out very much the same. one based on intel the other the Motorola cpu. different language in small ways but a lot alike in many. the argument now is witch evolved software is “best” ms or osx. after coding for both and spending hours troubleshooting windows based insanity i settled on a mac. they are more elegant but for a new user can be frustrating coming from a tech background i missed the hands on needed t maintain a PC but not the frustration of constant incompatible software. not to mention the terrible vulnerability PC’s seem to suffer from worms viruses and the like. my mac is mostly immune to this but not the pc’s unfortunately. i have seen PC’s grind to a halt after being swamped with spy-ware. perhaps vista will address this but i doubt it as they always ship there software known its full of bugs to meet deadlines. i still like windows when its clean and on a good machine it can be lightning fast when freshly installed but who wants to deal with reinstalling every month. again i dont know vista as i only used xp in the past but i love my MAC. But i think this is all arguing apples and dare i say it oranges. Piece be with your software.
    Chaz

  6. I stumbled here after googling ‘os x mouse pointers’, as i had an idea that i wanted just a black dot to be my pointer. I own a windows box. I own a mac book pro. I use parallels on my mac to run the windows apps i have to (visual studio when necessary, internet explorer for testing, etc).

    Odd thing is, 90% of the time, I have eclipse, safari, ie, and about a dozen terminal windows open. For most people, it shouldn’t make a difference whether i’m using a pc or a mac for these tasks, but to me it does. Ease of use. Comfort. Control. I’ll quickly get over the fact that i can’t (or just gave up on) finding an esoteric pointer for my gui. I can’t get over the fact that I’m running a sophisticated os that I have *complete* control of…at least the *important* stuff.

    With virtualization, it really doesn’t matter…the lines have been blurred significantly, and we all are now able to use the right tool for the right job (except windows-only users, who are unable to run os x). My apple laptop more than happily runs itself, windows, and a linux distribution happily, simultaneously, and quite efficiently.

    I, like everyone else who responded to this post, just gave an in-depth diatribe about *my* computing experience. I, however, did it to prove a point. Who cares what OS you prefer and what you’re using? Use what you use, and use it well. It really doesn’t matter what anyone else’s opinion is. You think something sucks? Don’t use it. Just don’t convince me that one ‘rules’ the other.

    One last thing…could someone *please* explain to me what a “power user” is? Someone that has to quantify the type of user they are to make them feel better?

    “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance”

  7. I see a lot of comments telling folks to get over not being able to control what their mouse cursor looks like. Darned if I can understand the reasoning, though. Why is it a bad thing to want to be able to do that?

    I use a Mac at home and love it. I would like to be able to control what my mouse cursor looks like. To me, it isn’t much different than being able to control the screen background and we can do that pretty easily. That feature adds no more ‘value’ to the Mac than would being able to control the mouse cursor. I suppose you can flame me over this, but it will reflect more on you than it does on me.

    Now, Unsanity software has a program that will do this (for most OS X versions, at least). And, it only costs around $5. To me, this indicates that the solution to the problem is probably pretty simple (else the software would be more expensive). I, for one, would like to know how they do it.

  8. Was a windows user & switched to OS X. I was long a linux guy at heart but hated the lack of professional applications. When I first switched to OS X I didn’t prefer the interface over Windows but much preferred the added stability. However, with the coming of each version of OS X they have made great strides in the user experience, & with the coming of Vista Microsoft created a lot of cool looking effects that add 0 practical functionality to the OS.

    I agree 100 times that Apple needs to open up the OS to more customization, but I also understand why they don’t. Just as a system has the option for Standard User & Admin they should also have a checkbox somewhere that allows you to switch from elegant & simple to “Crazy customizable!”. This I think would satisfy the minority that actually cares so much about cursors that they will stick with Windows just because.

    As a network Admin I will never switch back to Windows, I’d die without the terminal & the Unix backend to the OS (I love CLI!). I am not a Mac zealot & would gladly switch to any OS that better fit my needs, but for now OS X has made my work a million times easier than Windows or Linux ever did.

    I like to think I’m a realist, & for now my technical know how & many years using both OSes has taught me that OS X works best for me, but I would never tell someone to get OS X just because I like it, everyone is different.

  9. I’ll be quick and honest. I’ve never used OS X. But I do occasionally read about OS X since it became such a popular thing to talk about, so much that I see some cars put ‘MACBOOK’ on their license plates or those mac logos- got me thinking what’s all the craze about?
    Due to my disappointment with Vista, mainly because of the sluggish speed compared to older versions, I downgraded back to XP and have been testing different flavors of Linux. I am a power-user because I do a lot of tinkering with system core files and run many professional applications for programming and 3d graphics development. With Vistas poor success there is trend of growing community of Mac converts shouting back unhappy, sometimes biased, comments about windows.
    The reason I ended up on this blog is because I do like Apple’s interface and have transformed my XP completely to look like one. However, I am not convinced in any way to switch to OS X because I simply do not understand one part of the argument- stability and viruses. I realize there are problems with windows being buggy and that most hackers target specifically windows for their new viruses. But in my 10 years of using windows, I have never had any major viruses or blue screens of death. And I was never forced to reinstall windows because nothing could run properly. I’ve had programs halt and crash, but that was mainly due to program’s code or lack of proper hardware, not OS. I’ve been downloading a lot of stuff from warez sites as long as I can remember and none of the viruses ever had me reinstalling my system in a major way and that’s considering the fact that I do not run any virus or firewall at all! And it really catches me by surprise when people say there are so many bugs and viruses on windows- just be aware of what you install and how you install it and constantly maintain your system like you clean your house every week, hopefully.
    Running different linux versions was a bit of disappointment even though I love the concept of open source. And that’s actually where I found out what instability is when I opened Fedora 10 to install an upgrade through repositories and it would get stuck looping endlessly or some programs would never get executed. I’ve had a chance to use UNIX bash. Nice and cool but more of nuisance than joy. And that’s the closest I ever got to mac considering that it is based on UNIX.
    Anyway, my point is that, like someone said before, there is no major reason why one system is better than another, it really comes down to personal preference in the end.

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