An[other] OS X 10.6 to 10.8 Survival Guide for Editors

Test rig: 10.7.4 MacBook Air, 10.6.8 MacBook Air, three different kinds of antacids, dual-boot 10.6.8/10.8 Mac mini (display; mini itself hidden behind MacBook Pro), 10.8 MacBook Pro.

With the release of Mac OS X 10.8 (the word “Mac” has been struck from the name of the OS), an increasing number of apps requiring 10.7 or later, and the presumed end of Apple’s support for 10.6, it’s getting to the point where Mac users have to decide to make the jump, or remain forever on 10.6. I’ve spent the last two weeks systematically testing 10.8 in real-world scenarios, and I’ve got both good news and bad news, or, more precisely: the good, the bad, and the ugly… and the just plain “think different” stuff… and how to fix [most of] what’s broken.

[Updates: 2012-17: contact info added; 2012-8-15: MPEG Streamclip works; Canon XF importers won’t install, but there’s a workaround.]

(You’ll notice I don’t use the cat names, not if I can help it; version numbers are much more comprehensible and are naturally ordered. Quick now: was Puma before Cheetah, or after? Sheesh.)

What follows is my list of what’s good, what’s bad, and so on. It’s based on my experiences and preferences and working habits, leavened with some of the more significant complaints I’ve seen from other early adopters. I don’t pretend to cover every single thing that people have found fixed/broken/different, I just discuss what caught my eye.

You may find my writeup to be right on, right off, or not even worth writing off, depending on how your experiences, preferences, and working habits differ from mine. No worries: I’ve got links to other resources at the end of the story, so you can plot your own way through the 10.8 minefield.

Minefield? Every new major OS release is a minefield. Or, as Bruce the Wonder Yak said of the C switch statement, “Mmmmmm! Chock full of nooses!”

If you have comments / questions / additions / corrections, please email ’em to me at “awiltatprovideocoalition at gmail dot com”. I’ll try to keep this article as up-to-date and as accurate as possible.

I’ve put 10.8 on three different machines:

  • a 2011 15″ MacBook Pro (upgraded from the 10.7 it came with),
  • a 2010 Mac mini (dual-boot 10.6.8/10.8), and
  • a 2009 Mac Pro (dual-boot 10.6.8/10.8).

In addition I used two MacBook Airs, one running 10.6.8, the other running 10.7.4, so that I could cross-check behaviors across versions.

I’ve tested with the following software, hardware, and media:

  • Final Cut Studio 3: Final Cut Pro 7.0.3 and Color 1.5.3, with RED, Sony, and Canon add-ons/plugins.
  • Final Cut Pro X 10.0.5.
  • Adobe CS6: Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and SpeedGrade.
  • REDCINE-X PRO version 14.
  • Shake 4.1.
  • AJA Io HD FireWire 800 ProRes I/O interface.
  • Blackmagic Designs Intensity Pro PCIe analog/HDMI I/O card.
  • Sony HVR-M10 DV/HDV deck, and some six-to-ten-year-old tapes.
  • Sony PMW-EX1 (source of HD-SDI video).
  • On-disk copies of CF cards from Canon 5D Mk II and C300 cameras, and SDHC cards with AVCHD media from Sony NEX-FS700 and Panasonic DMC-GH2 cameras; SDHC cards of AVCHD media connected through their cameras as well as loaded using USB card readers; folders of RED ONE media, XDCAM-EX media, DPX files, and Quicktime clips using various codecs.
  • Wired and wireless networking with other Macs running 10.6.8 through 10.8; a Windows 7 machine; and multiple NetGear ReadyNAS boxes running version 4.2.19 firmware.

The software was for the most part already installed on a disk when I upgraded, or moved across with Migration Assistant; so I didn’t test whether I could, say, do a fresh install of Shake on 10.8.

The Good

OS X 10.8 has many things to recommend it:

Video stuff [mostly] just works. I didn’t find anything dead in 10.8 that worked in 10.6: FCPX, Premiere Pro CS6, even roundtripping from FCP 7 to Color—it all ran fine. Firewire decks and the Io HD worked; AJA TV and AJA VTR Exchange had no problems; RED’s stuff installed and functioned normally. All media types I had available imported into the three NLEs just as easily as in 10.6; FireWire VTR control and I/O were unchanged; exports rendered with no surprises.

If anything, 10.8 worked better: FCPX on my 10.6 mini is wonky, usually not displaying the Viewer and hanging for somewhere in the range of 1 to 100 minutes (yes, I measured it) when I press Play. Yet the same mini in 10.8, with the same account data and same apps migrated to 10.8, runs FCPX without any hiccups at all. Similarly, I have clips that crash AJA TV every time if I turn on 23.98-to-29.97 conversion in 10.6; in 10.8, these same clips crash AJA TV only about half the time.

Now, I haven’t tried Avid’s apps on 10.8; I haven’t tested older versions of Adobe’s apps; and I haven’t played much with Motion, After Effects, Illustrator, Encore, Audition, or DVD Studio Pro. Even so, I’m happily surprised with how easily and how well my core editing tools Just Work on 10.8.

I have MPEG Streamclip Version 1.9.3b3 already installed on the Mac Pro, and it still appears to be working properly.
Michael Sanders writes from the UK: “Canon’s XF utility and FCP X import plugin installers don’t work under 10.8. If you have them installed they will still work but the updaters/installers don’t work. And Canon don’t reckon support will happen till Oct!” I tested this out on the previously Canon-free Mac Pro; I was able to get the Canon XF Utility for 10.7 to install and run, but the import plugin installers complained about “wrong OS”, and neither will install.
There is a workaround to trick the installer, by changing the version number OS X reports. I tried it for the FCP X plugin installer, and it worked on my Mac Pro; its copy of FCP X now reads Canon XF files. This procedure may also work for other installers that get upset about version numbers. Proceed at your own risk.

AVCHD handling. Camera-original AVCHD content is usually contained in a folder structure like:


The BMDV folder also contains INDEX.BDM and MOVIEOBJ.BMD metadata files, and the actual essence consists of numbered MTS (Multiplexed Transport Stream) files in the STREAM folder. This multi-layered organization is derived from that of Blu-ray Discs and is an unending source of frustration for many people.

In 10.8, AVCHD folder structures (usually) show up in the Finder as “AVCHD content”, and are treated like packages: standalone objects, not folders with viewable contents. This means that if you want to dive deeper into the folder structure, you have to right-click or control-click and choose “Show Package Contents”.

AVCHD folders show up as packages with a QuickTime icon.

This change annoys some, but it does prevent inadvertent deletion of any part of the folder structure. Both FCP 7 and FCPX depend on that folder structure to be able to import the contents thereof, so this is a handy safety measure—and it removes the uncertainty about how deep to dive in a folder in either program’s import / transfer windows: just look for the QuickTime document icon, and open it.

Premiere normally lets you import an entire folder of AVCHD media, or dive all the way down into the STREAM subfolder for a single clip. You can still do this in 10.8: Premiere’s browser shows AVCHD folders with QuickTime logos, but they’re treated as ordinary folders, so you can dive deeper if you desire.

Even better: QuickTime itself can open an “AVCHD Content” package, and display all the clips inside; you can now browse and play AVCHD clips directly from the Finder with no third-party add-ons or the need to open an NLE.

QuickTime now understands AVCHD as a native type.

Note that 10.8 doesn’t change the folder into a package, it simply treats it like one. SDHC cards exposed to 10.8 aren’t modified in any noticeable way; the AVCHD folders still show up as regular folders in 10.7 and earlier, and neither of the cameras I had handy (Panasonic GH2, Sony DSC-TX20) treated their cards any differently after they were explored with 10.8.

On my Sony cards, it’s the AVCHD subfolder that gets shown as AVCHD Content; on my GH2 media, the enclosing PRIVATE folder is also treated that way. Sony’s enclosing folder is “private”, in lowercase; if I rename it to PRIVATE, then it too appears as an AVCHD Content package.

When I copy camera cards to my ReadyNAS server (a NAS with AFP connectivity, but using an ext3 filesystem natively), the GH2 footage still shows up with PRIVATE as a package, but the Sony media doesn’t retain its special status regardless of the capitalization of the “private” folder. I can browse the folder structure all the way down, and can’t open the folder in QuickTime with a double-click… but the INDEX.BDM and MOVIEOBJ.BMD files still appear as QuickTime objects, and opening either one brings up QuickTime’s AVCHD browser for all the contents of the package—so that’s all right, then.

Even on the NAS, you can see “AVCHD Content” objects openable in QuickTime.

Copying folder structures back from the NAS to the local disk restores their special treatment, and browsing another Mac’s shared storage via AFP treats the folders the same as if they were on your local disk.

Auto Save with versioning: This new data-saving paradigm, introduced in 10.7, lets you edit without fear of losing work due to power loss or crashes, and gives you undo capability across multiple editing sessions. It’s very cool, and it’s the wave of the future. It’s also “chock full of nooses”, as you’ll see below.

Notifications. Notification Center pops up floating notifications in the upper right corner of your screen, and you can swipe in a complete notification listing, like swiping notifications down on iOS. If you don’t want to be distracted for a while, Option-click the Notifications icon in the top right corner of the menu bar, and they’ll stay offscreen until (a) tomorrow or (b) you re-enable ’em. If you just plain old don’t like notifications, you can turn ’em off (or customize their appearance, noisiness, and order of listing) in System Preferences. You can even include Growl in Notification Center using Hiss.

Messages. Interoperates with iOS Messages; it’s a one-stop-shop for iChat, SMS, and Messages conversations, complete with file transfer and FaceTime launching.

iCloud integration. Apple’s iCloud lets you sync calendar events, contacts, Safari tabs, notes, photos, and documents across Macs and iDevices; it also includes Find My Mac / Find My iDevice remote-tracking and remote-wiping, as David Pogue used to recover his stolen iPhone and Wired’s Matt Honan found to his distress.

Not-so-secret secret: iCloud’s document sharing isn’t intended as a Dropbox replacement, because docs are stored in the cloud by individual apps. But that doesn’t stop you from dragging all manner of docs into a single app’s Open dialog:

Using TextEdit as a carry-all iCloud container.

I’ve used this method to move files between home and work Macs without having to carry physical media, dial into the work VPN, or email ’em. True, you can’t open “non-native” docs in the cloud using “Open With…” as you don’t get that option on cloud docs, but you can drag ’em out of the cloudy dialog into local folders to work on ’em.

Resize windows from any edge: this started in 10.7 and carries over into 10.8. Move your pointer to the edge of a window—any edge—and it’ll change into a left-right arrow, an up-down arrow, or an on-the-diagonal arrow,showing you how you can resize the window from that position. Click and drag. A small thing perhaps, but it’s the thing I miss most on 10.6 now that I’ve used it for a while. (Yeah, been-there-done-that-since-Windows-3.0 guys, stop snickering!)

It’s the current OS. Like it or not, 10.8 is where all the kewl kids are playing: it’s what the current XCode libraries are configured for and what the documentation describes; it’s what Apple is actively supporting. Traditionally, Apple drops support for OS X two versions back, which means (if tradition holds) that 10.6.8 and earlier are dead as far as updates, security fixes, and any sort of support are concerned. So, if you want to keep current and run new apps, you pretty much have to stay current with the OS.

Sounds pretty good, huh? Now how much would you pay? But wait: there’s more…

The Bad

It just wouldn’t be a major OS X update unless Apple broke certain things, and broke ’em hard. With 10.8, Apple didn’t disappoint.

A lot of what I’m going to say sounds scary. Some of it really is scary: Mail’s hidden-duplicates design flaw makes it hard to know when and where you’re received mail, and easy to throw away mail you don’t even know you’ve received. If you don’t grok how Auto Save apps work with networked storage, you’ll be horrified at what happens when you try to use “Save As”.

The rest of it sounds worse when I describe it than it turns out to be in practice (well, at least for me. Your workflows may differ). A lot of what I write—in sorrowful, annoyed, and frustrated terms—comes out the way it does because I know that Apple can do better: after all, many of the things I’ll mention worked better in earlier versions of OS X, and appear to have been broken (a) by mistake, (b) out of a lack of understanding about basic UI design principles, and/or (c) by user-abusive intent.

Fortunately almost everything I’ll complain about is fixable by one means or another.

(Oh, and you Windows users reading this for the pleasurable frisson of schadenfreude? I have only four words for you: Windows 8 Modern UI!)

Mail fail: by default, duplicate messages are no longer shown. In certain cases, this can easily lead to your deleting messages you don’t even know you received; and in many cases you’ll wind up never knowing if you have received a message, even if you’ve been looking for it.

For example, if you have more than one account and send yourself mail from one account to the other, while BCCing yourself, you’ll wind up with two copies of the message, one in each account (you might BCC yourself as proof that the message at least reached your outgoing mail server).

This message should result in three receipts: one in my “AJW” inbox, one in GMail, and one in “MTE”.

By default, Mail condenses dupes into a single displayed message. By default, Mail doesn’t give you any indication at all that this has occurred. If you turn on the sidebar (the mailbox list) and if you’re watching the per-mailbox unread-message count, you’ll notice that you have multiple incoming copies… but if you just look at the combined inbox, you won’t have a clue.

The AJW and Gmail copies have just arrived. But the only way I know is that I have the sidebar open, and can see the unread-message counts. Once I mark the message as read, I can’t tell I have more than one “test two” message unless I open each inbox individually.

In my example, where I’ve sent myself something at my work account, I’ll often delete the BCC copy. My work copy often won’t get delivered for about an hour, due to infelicitous communications between ISPs. With 10.8’s Mail, as soon as the BCC arrives, that’s it: I get no further indication when the work copy arrives… if the work copy arrives (in the case of the test message shown it took three hours and two minutes for the MTE copy to arrive. But I digress).

Even better: when I go to delete the BCC copy from my combined inbox, the work copy gets deleted as well (assuming it’s been delivered; there’s no way of telling from the combined inbox, especially as the message list only shows the inbox of one of the messages, not matter how many different inboxes you may have dupes in!).

Unless I turn on the sidebar and go into each account’s inbox individually (why, it’s just as inconvenient as dealing with Mail on the iPad!) I have no way of telling the BCC apart from the work copy, or of dealing with them separately, or of even knowing that I have multiple copies to begin with… which I might not have, if delivery failed.

Yes, you can go into Mail Preferences and also change Viewing > Show header detail to “Custom” (and then just click OK in the pop-up that appears; I didn’t say this met normal Mac standards of clarity and transparency), and then, in the message pane itself, you may see a left-justified header line that says “1 Duplicate” (and that’s assuming you’ve previously seen the little right-justified “Details” link in the header, and clicked it; again, you may or may not see this link, depending on how Mail feels at the moment: Mail shows it to me perhaps 50% of the time).

Tempted to say, “arrgh”? I don’t blame you in the slightest; I said it a lot in the past week.

This bug, unfixed, immediately disqualifies Mail from any use whatsoever. Fortunately, it’s fixable with a Terminal command, described in the Fixes section below.

Mail with the “show duplicates” fix. There’s now a message count in the message list and the two dupes are shown in the preview area.

In this mode, double-clicking the message count expands the message list itself to show the two messages, but the individual listings still don’t indicate which mailbox the message is in.

Switching Mail to “Use Classic Layout” reverts to a message list that does show where each message resides.

(As I was finishing this writeup, I saw a group of messages in the preview pane show their locations with a blue line of text in the header, next to the message number: a line like “Inbox – AJW” or “Inbox – GMail”. It is the first time in two weeks I’ve seen such a display.

I moved to a different message, and the location info vanished. I moved back to the conversation that just a second before had shown that information, but it didn’t reappear, and I haven’t been able to see it since. No, I didn’t change any settings. It’s just another instance of Mail’s inconsistency in 10.8.)

Also, those little spinning progress indicators that appear next to mailboxes in the sidebar when Mail’s trying to communicate with a slow server? They’re gone in 10.8, and there’s no apparent way to make ’em reappear. If you need to monitor connectivity, you have to open Mail’s Activity Window and park it off to the side, where it’s out of the way. Maybe they’ll fix this in 10.8.1 (or 10.8.2, or…). Don’t like it? Give ’em hell at

Notes is spun off from mail into its own app, mirroring iOS. As long as you only use notes “on your Mac”, synced through iTunes to any iDevices, or use MobileMe / iCloud for multiple-machine syncing, you’ll be OK.

But if you’ve been syncing notes through your ISP’s server or through GMail or other non-Apple services, you probably won’t be so lucky: at the very least, Notes ignores the IMAP Prefix used by Mail (typically “INBOX”), resulting in misfiled notes or complete failure.

With GMail, 10.8’s Notes wind up stored in the “Notes” folder, whereas Mail’s notes in 10.7 and earlier and iOS’s notes get stored in “INBOX/Notes”. The result: iPhones / iPod touches / iPads / 10.7 Macs / 10.6 Macs see one set of notes, 10.8 Macs see a completely different set, and never the twain shall meet. Sheesh.

With my ISP, Notes simply fails to connect. If I try to create a note in my email account, the note sits there a minute, then also appears in a new “Recovered Items” section of “On My Mac” (while Console shows lots of errors messages). The new note never makes it onto the server and never appears on other Macs / iDevices, while notes freely shared amongst those other devices never appear in 10.8’s Notes. Sheesh.

You can select multiple notes and move them from one “container” to another (iCloud, On My Mac, GMail, etc.). You can also copy ’em by holding down Option as you drag (which you must do via drag ‘n’ drop as the edit menu isn’t available for these functions, only for text editing within a note). But you can’t share the contents of multiple notes at one time, as the Share menu (File > Share, or the little arrow-out-of-a-box icon at the bottom of a note) is disabled when multiple notes are selected. Sheesh.

I use notes a lot, so I turned on iCloud syncing (on 10.8, 10.7, and iOS) and MobileMe (on 10.6; iCloud uses MobileMe servers for Notes sync). But still: sheesh!

iCloud integration includes possibly the single worst save-a-new-file workflow seen on any computer since the dawn of time.

When you go into System Preferences and turn on iCloud > Documents & Data, iCloud-enabled apps use new Open and Save dialogs that offer both iCloud and local storage (“On My Mac”) options. The Open dialog is a model of clarity and efficiency: it has one pushbutton for “On My Mac” showing you a familiar Finder-like window complete with persistence of the last-used folder, the window-expansion state and the viewing mode; and an “iCloud” button switching the view to an iOS-like view of that app’s cloud files. Simple and effective, no?

An iCloud-enabled app’s Open dialog comes up in whichever state it was last used in, and changes between cloud and local storage with a single click.

You might reasonably expect a similar economy of operation when it comes time to save a new file.

You would be wrong. Oh, how you would be wrong.

A new file’s Save dialog always comes up with iCloud selected:

Even if you were on local storage for your last save, this is what you’ll see when you save a new document.

If you want to save “On My Mac”, click the dropdown, and figure out where in the bloody heck you want to send this file. (Hint: if it’s in the most-recently-used location, that’ll be the top line of the third section, about 2/3 the way down the dropdown list.)

Apple could have pessimized it further; by Fitt’s Law it’s only 66% as awful as it could be, so don’t feel too bad. And if you have multiple recent locations of the same name, say, a “Documents” folder on your desktop Mac, on a server, and on your MacBook Pro, they’ll all appear identically in the dropdown, so I certainly hope you remember which one is which!)

Pessimize, verb. Endeavor to make something as bad as it can possibly be. Antonym: optimize.

Confronted with this mostly-context-free list, my brain usually seizes up: the presentation is at odds with my spatial-memory model of storage. I usually wind up picking the top item (my local Mac) or, if I’m not too flustered, I’ll mouse down to the top “Recent Places” item and choose it.

I’m assuming that “Documents” was the closest thing to the right choice from that dropdown. But I still can’t see my filesystem.

If you’re very, very lucky, what you pick will be exactly and unambiguously the location you want for your file. If not—or you have the gall, the insolence, the cheek to want to see that location in the Finder’s spatial context—you’ll need to go back up to that disclosure button beside the filename field and expand the window to show you the Finder.

Finally, after clicking the button next to the filename, I can see where I am.

Now, and only now, can you navigate within your filesystem. What took at most one click in the Open dialog takes a click, a movement, another click, a movement back, and another click. Again I say unto you: sheesh.

Tinfoil hat time: clearly, Apple knows how to make the choice of iCloud or On My Mac simple and, um, Mac-like: they’ve done it with the Open dialog. The Save dialog is so poorly designed, so inefficient, even reasonable people can be excused for thinking that the goal of the Save dialog is not to make saving files easy, but to unsubtly “encourage” you to use iCloud, and only iCloud.

(Consider also what happens if you wish to turn on iCloud syncing of Notes:

Translation: if you want to use iCloud, we’re gonna move your notes there, like it or not. Back in the days when user experience was paramount, this would have been presented as a three-option choice: Cancel, Merge, and Don’t Merge, e.g., use iCloud, but leave existing notes alone, thanks very much just the same.

And yes, after the forced merge, you can manually drag ’em back to “On My Mac”, but reasonable people might sensibly wonder why Apple is making it harder than necessary to keep your stuff out of iCloud.)

I don’t think I’ve seen anything else so user-abusive on a Mac. Come to think of it, I can’t recall seeing anything quite so dunderheaded on any platform. Jef Raskin is spinning in his grave, and Bruce Tognazzi is probably one step closer to his.


1) Disable Documents & Data in iCloud. A bit drastic, but it gives you back a humane Save dialog. If you need cloudy storage, there’s always Dropbox.
2) Go ahead and save into iCloud the way the control-freaks blatantly ignoring the OS X Human Interface Guidelines want you to. Then use Command+O to bring up the Open dialog, and drag your new document from it to a local Finder window.

I usually use workaround 2, though I seriously considered workaround 1.

At least five different data-saving paradigms. With 10.7’s addition of Auto Save with versioning, OS X now offers five different persistence models. It’s not that any of ’em are wrong (and I happen to think that Auto Save with versioning is mighty nice), but gosh: there’s so much app-specific modality you need to keep track of nowadays. The way you work with data in an app depends on which of the five cases it falls into:

1) Traditional, manual saving. This is how most apps have worked since the dawn of time. What’s on disk doesn’t reflect changes you’ve made unless and until you save. Wanna save a file? Save it. Don’t want to? Don’t. FCP 7, Premiere, and Photoshop work this way.

2) Traditional autosaving. Apps like FCP X and Aperture continuously save their state as you work with them. They may still employ user-accessible storage (FCP Event and Project folders; Aperture libraries, iMovie and iTunes libraries), but they don’t have “save” in their menus. There may be undo/redo, but typically only within a single session: you can’t roll back to changes made before you most recently launched the app.

3) Auto Save with versioning. Most of Apple’s document-based apps (TextEdit, Pages, etc.) now work this way. You don’t ever need to explicitly save changes to a document, though you can. Changes you make are constantly being auto-saved to disk. Every time you explicitly save a document, you’re essentially creating a “snapshot” or “version” you can roll back to. If you decide to throw away any changes you’ve made, you can either revert to the last such save, or use a Time Machine-like interface to browse previous versions and choose whichever one you want, including versions from before the last save.

A 10.8 TextEdit document, freshly opened.

The same doc with unsaved changes made. If I click the close button, the window vanishes, with my unsaved changes preserved in the document.

Only when I mouse over the title bar do I see the downward-pointing triangle….

…which, when clicked, reveals available options.

“Browse All Versions…” brings up the Time Machine version browser.

In short, within certain (ill-defined) limits, you have a complete version history for a document, even across multiple runs of the app and reboots of the machine—and because OS X is constantly saving your work, the on-disk representation of your document always tracks what’s onscreen, so if you have a crash or a power failure, you won’t lose your work. Sweet!

4) Auto Save with versioning, but not on your local disk: like case #2, except with your file on a networked server or a non-HFS+ disk. Upon closing the document you’ll be warned that the location doesn’t support “permanent version storage” and your version history will be lost. If you say “OK”, the document is saved in its current state; if you choose “Revert” the changes since the last save are thrown away. In short, it’s just like #2 except, erm, for the persistence part.

To complicate matters, you can turn off the warning dialog in case #4, so that the experience of closing a file in case #4 is identical to that of case #3. If you become used to closing files with wild abandon on local storage with the experience of being able to roll back your edits when you re-open ’em, you’ll be in for a nasty shock when you try the same thing on networked storage.

5) “Shoebox” apps with no user-accessible data. Notes is one example: there’s no save, as in case #2, but neither is there any user-accessible data store on disk that you can duplicate, back up, or otherwise interact with, except through the app itself.

There, got all that straight?

If you don’t like Auto Save with versioning (and a lot of people don’t like it very, very much), it can be turned off with a Terminal command; in my limited testing it seems to work properly, but other folks report mixed results, so proceed at your own risk.

Save As in 10.8’s Auto Save apps is an unfortunate mistake. It wasn’t there in 10.7; instead, 10.7 had a “Duplicate” command. Public outcry apparently brought back Save As, but as in the The Monkey’s Paw or The Frogs Desiring a King, you don’t always get quite the outcome you asked for.

In most apps on all platforms I’ve used, “Save As” causes the current document to be saved under a new name. Any changes made since opening the document are saved in the new document, leaving the original source document unchanged.

Lots of people use this functionality to create new documents derived from old documents, essentially using the source docs as templates.

Auto Save apps on 10.8 do it a bit differently: “Save As” saves the document under the new name, but it also saves any changes made in the original document first! This is actually consistent with the persistence model used by Auto Save. That it’s different from the way everyone expects it to work based on prior experience is, apparently, of no importance.

If the source document resides on a local disk, you can always re-open it and use the versioning interface to roll back to the prior version, but if the document resides on a networked volume, you won’t get that chance—and unlike closing the window in case #4 above, you get no warning that Save As is about to alter your original document irreversibly.

So now you have three different things that can happen when you use Save As:

  1. In traditional apps, Save As saves the document with a new name, leaving the original unchanged.
  2. In 10.8’s Auto Save apps working on a local disk, Save As also changes the original document, but you can always reopen it and back out of the changes.
  3. In 10.8’s Auto Save apps working with networked storage, Save As also changes the original document, and throws away the ability to back out those changes.

True, Auto Save apps have “Save As” well-hidden: Shift+Command+S is “Duplicate”, which only changes to “Save As” if and when you also depress Option. But still, it’s called “Save As”. You might reasonably expect it to work in a manner consistent with “Save As” in all other apps on any OS you’ve used before. Once again, you would be wrong. In 10.8, you can’t expect consistency, you must always be mindful of what kind of app you’re working in, and what manner of storage your file resides on. Sheesh. Wasn’t the Mac (“the computer for the rest of us”) supposed to hide complexity, not generate it?

(On Monday 14 August Seth Lewin reported that an Apple functionary told him that “this problem will be fixed in an upcoming update”, so it may be worth waiting for a point-release or two before digging out the pitchforks and flaming torches.)

My advice? Always use Shift+Command+S; if it’s an old-school app you’ll get the expected Save As behavior, and if it’s a 10.8 (or 10.7) Auto Save app you’ll get the somewhat clunkier “Duplicate” workflow, which also lets you save a new copy under a different name, but leaves the original document open so that you can back out any changes you’ve made before closing its window.

Of course if you’ve turned off Auto Save with versions altogether, you shouldn’t run into this problem.

No Rosetta; other apps may break, too. Starting with 10.7, the Rosetta translation layer that allowed PowerPC apps to run on Intel has gone missing. AppleWorks, Illustrator 10, Art Director’s Toolkit, Keynote 1.0, Rally Shift, Microsoft Office X: all dead.

Not that I’ve fired up Office X in several years, mind you.

I have a couple of AppleScript apps I’ve had for a long time; they no longer ran as they were packaged as PowerPC apps. I opened ’em in 10.8’s AppleScript Editor and re-saved them, thus creating Intel apps, and now they’re fine.

Bad battery life? There are reports of MacBook Pros sucking batteries dry much faster than they did before being blessed with 10.8, possibly because 10.8 more aggressively uses the discrete GPU in those machines. I haven’t noticed a huge change on my own MacBook Pro. Your mileage may vary.

The Ugly

Contacts, Calendar, and Notes all look just as bad as their iOS counterparts: instead of a clean, minimalist design, they’re burdened with gaudy skins that mimic the real-world desk accessories your grandparents used, assuming they were colorblind and/or the local general store didn’t have any other choices available. Jesus Diaz channels disgust better than I can and I tip my hat to his superior curmudgeonliness.

There are fixes available to re-skin Calendar and Contacts, but we’re still waiting for someone to rescue Notes.

Disappearing choices: A lot of what OS X 10.8 does is remove checkboxes and choices in various Preference panes, and the defaults you’re left with are almost always those that favor whizzy visual effects over skip-the-crap-and-let-me-work efficiency.

For example, you can no longer choose between smooth scrolling and instant-jump scrolling, you’re stuck with smooth—I was determined to live with this, but by the second or third time I tried to scroll through a long webpage or PDF doc with the PageDown key, it got really old, really fast. Similarly, windows animate into place, taking 1/3 – 1/2 second to zoom up and bounce instead of simply appearing. It may not sound like much, but when you’ve got a bunch of Photoshop files loaded that you’ve saved for web, and you’re closing ’em all with Command+W (close window), Command+D (Don’t Save), that half-second delay while the “Save changes?” dialog animates onscreen can really disrupt your flow.

Fortunately there are command-line fixes for most of these productivity-sappers.

Diminishing contrast: this really started in 10.7, and 10.8 does nothing to repair the damage. Finder sidebar icons and toolbar buttons are pale gray monochrome images, not the crisp colors of 10.6 and earlier. Safari’s Back / Forward buttons, when enabled, don’t have solid black arrowheads any more, just slightly-darker-than-the-disabled-variety arrowheads. Those nice, shaded, dimensional blue scrollers that have we’ve had in one form or another since 10.0? Gone: at best you get flat, gray sliders, and if you let 10.8 have its way you often won’t see those (in keeping with iOS thinking, you’re not shown a scrollbar unless you’re actively scrolling. That a scrollbar and its scroller also indicate that there’s more in a window than is immediately visible, and that they show you where in a larger document you are, are apparently not considered important!

TextEdit iCloud Open dialog in icon mode. Clearly we only have eight documents here. Right?

The same Open dialog in list mode. Whoops, there’s a lot more!

Fortunately, you can still force most scrollbars to be visible… though not in the iCloud dialogs, alas).

Affordances bad! Status indicators bad! Easter Eggs good! “Affordances” is a term of art for controls that telegraph their existence and purpose: a doorknob “affords” turning, pushing, and pulling, while a push-plate only “affords” pushing. In UI design, proper affordances make interaction easy, since you can see where controls are and get a sense of what they do from looking at them. Title bars afford grabbing and dragging; scrollbars afford scrolling; the little resizing triangle on the lower right corner of pre-10.8 windows affords grabbing and dragging around.

If a window’s close button had a black dot in it, that meant the document was edited. Spinning indicators beside a mailbox in Mail meant that Mail was still talking to the server and your mail wasn’t updated yet.

10.8, like 10.7 before it, abandons visible indications in favor of “Easter Eggs” you have to go hunting for.

If you’re using a trackpad, scrollbars are invisible by default; they only appear when you’re actually scrolling.

A changing mouse pointer affords window resizing, but only if you hover right over the edge of the frontmost window.

Auto-Save apps drop the dot in the close button in favor of a light gray “edited” in the title bar, which isn’t the end of the world, but the title bar’s dropdown menu is indicated by a small triangle that only appears if you hover over the title bar (see images in the discussion of Auto Save above). Plenty of folks have run 10.7 for the better part of a year without ever noticing it; they’ve been traveling back up to the menu bar’s File menu to invoke all the necessary functions therein.

Progress indicators in Mail? Why, that would only inform you of things; who needs all that clutter? Mail’s new layout also makes it impossible to see what mailbox a message in a conversation is in: only one mailbox is shown per conversation even though the messages involved may span many mailboxes. This can be set to rights by choosing the “Classic” layout, but that simply dodges the question of why useful information has been deprecated in the first place.

Safari’s tabs also lose their progress spinners: I can no longer click “Submit” on the editing page for a PVC article, switch to a tab with the display page, and hover over the “refresh” control while watching for the editing tab’s spinner to stop spinning.

Apple Help is still user-abusive. Apple Help is still an always-on-top, always-in-your-way window. Third-party tweaks can force it to behave like a proper window, respecting Command+Tab switching and letting other windows come to the front as appropriate, but left to its own devices it’s a pushy, greedy bully of a window.

Help contents continue to be an interaction-heavy nightmare, too: why simply lay out needed info in a straightforward manner when you can force the user to Easter-egg his or her way through multiple disclosure triangles to learn anything?

Not that I have an opinion, mind you.

All manner of “first version” glitches. Mail often doesn’t properly highlight unread messages in the message list, shows header detail only infrequently and unpredictably, and random garbled graphics appear—sometimes—in some messages.

I changed one iCloud-related setting in System Preferences without doing some other required step beforehand (I think I enabled Mail in iCloud before setting up an account, but I don’t recall for certain), and its checkbox changed to “checked” and “disabled”, so I couldn’t change it back without diving into Mail’s preferences file and removing the offending line by hand.

Sometimes when I delete a “folder” in Notes, it disappears from the the sidebar; other times I have to close and open Notes for its listing to go away.

Crikey, this is horrible! But wait: we can repair it, we make it better than it was. We have the technology. Fixes follow…

Thinking Different

Safari is quite different in 10.8: it has a unified search / URL field; the Delete key no longer does double-duty as “previous page” as well as “delete”; the Activity Window has disappeared; lots of options have changed menus (you’ll need to turn on the Develop menu if you want to empty caches, for example). See Safari 6 reader reports on Macintouch for more details.

You can no longer set default fonts in Safari preferences; you have to use terminal commands instead.

Disappearing apps: starting in 10.7, OS X may automatically terminate an app that isn’t the frontmost (active) application and doesn’t have any windows open. For example, if you open Preview because you want it handy in the Dock to scan some papers, then switch to Mail or Finder or FCP or something else, you may find that Preview silently goes away while you’re not looking.

If this bothers you, there’s a fix.

No alphanumeric keyboard repeat: in 10.8, holding down an letter or number key doesn’t cause it to repeat. Instead, as on iOS, characters with alternate forms (such as accented letters) will pop up a character-picker window. Characters with no alternates just sit there sullenly.

Punctuation, special characters, and navigation keys still autorepeat: arrows, periods, at-signs, Command+V, and the like happily keep on spewing out. It’s only letters and numbers that are affected.

If this bothers you, there’s a fix.

Reopening windows: by default, reopening an app reopens whatever windows it had open when it was closed. If you had two documents open in TextEdit when you quit it, for example, restarting TextEdit will reopen those two documents. Don’t like this? Turn it off in System Preferences: General > Close windows when quitting an application.

Also by default, OS X will now reopen windows that were active when you shut your Mac down. There’s a checkbox (“Reopen windows when logging back in”) in the shutdown dialog that controls this behavior.

You can’t just drag apps out of Applications any more. Instead, you have to hold down the Command key to drag an app out of Applications. Just dragging an app creates a shortcut (alias) in 10.8.

Sandboxing, a security measure (and a requirement for new apps on the App Store) segregates app data in its own iOS-like container folder, stored at ~/Library/Containers/[app-identifier]/Data.

Normally it’s not an issue, until you need to hack a preferences file or dig into the Library. Regular, non-sandboxed apps have their data rooted in your home folder; for example, you’ll find your FCPX prefs at ~/Library/Preferences/ Mail is sandboxed in 10.8, and its container folder is ~/Library/Containers/, so you’ll find its preferences in ~/Library/Containers/

Gatekeeper is another security measure, designed to keep you from running dodgy code from unapproved places. Downloaded installers and apps that are (a) not from the App Store or (b) do not have a registered Apple Developer signature are not allowed to run.

With Gatekeeper at its default setting, you’re simply told “no, you can’t do that”.

If this blocks you from running something you think is OK, or you just want to revert to pre-10.8 behavior (where OS X warns you about “apps downloaded from the Internet”, but lets you run ’em anyway), go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General and change “Allow applications downloaded from:” from “Mac App Store and identified developers” to “Anywhere”.

The Fixes

Terminology and Tools

Some of the things you’ll want to fiddle with are accessible in System Preferences, Mail Preferences, and the like, and are indicated using the symbology:

App > Tab or Pane > Setting

e.g., System Preferences (the app) > General (the pane) > Close windows when quitting an application (the setting)

Many of the other fixes described (and many more besides) can be tweaked simply and easily using one or another of these tools:

TinkerTool, a freeware system tweaker. Highly recommended.

Onyx, a donationware system tweaker / cleaner / checker / maintainer with additional functions not present in TinkerTool. There are versions for OS X releases back to 10.2. Highly recommended.

Mountain Tweaks, a donationware system tweaker. Light on documentation and it doesn’t show the current state of the tweakable parameters, but it’s useful nonetheless. Has some settings that Onyx and TinkerTool don’t yet support.

If these tools can’t do it, you’re back to the command line in a Terminal session; such commands are shown in "code" typeface and can be copied and pasted into a Terminal window (watch out for wrapped lines caused by PVC’s narrow columns; some long “defaults” commands are wider than PVC can display on a single line).

Most commands can be reversed should you not like the result by substituting “true” for “false” or vice versa. You can also use “yes” in place of “true” and “no” instead of “false”.

Some terminal commands take effect immediately, while others won’t show up until you [re]launch affected apps or log out and in again.

As always: proceed at your own risk… and make full backups first!


These are my fixes, in priority order. Pick and choose from them as you see fit. Where I can, I’ve listed source for fixes, in case you want to explore the topic further.

Required if you use Mail

Mail: show duplicates
defaults write AlwaysShowDuplicates -bool true

Sanity Preservers

Make your Library folder visible in the Finder
chflags nohidden /Users/USERNAME/Library
where USERNAME is the name of your home directory.
(Source:, others).

Turn off time-wasting smooth scrolling
defaults write -g NSScrollAnimationEnabled -bool false
(Sources:; also in Mountain Tweaks)

Turn off time-wasting window animations
defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSAutomaticWindowAnimationsEnabled -bool false

Replace ugly skins in Calendar and/or Contacts
Standalone installers at
Mountain Tweaks has its own installers for new skins.
Sadly, there aren’t cleanup skins yet for Notes. Or for Game Center, gack!

Mail: be given the possibility of seeing that dupes exist, if not the certainty thereof, assuming you haven’t made the fix above
Mail > Preferences > Viewing > Show header detail > Custom… (and just hit “OK” on the popup)

Mail: see where dupes live, without having to select individual inboxes
Mail > Preferences > Viewing > Use classic layout
or, in Mail’s menu, turn off View > Organize by Conversation

Mail: show the Format bar in the message-composer window
Mail in 10.7 and 10.8 offers a rich text formatting bar just below the toolbar, but if you’ve upgraded from 10.6 you’ll probably never see it or even know it’s available. The only way I know of to get it in this case is to:

  • Open a New Message window, then right-click / control-click the toolbar and select “Customize Toolbar…”
  • Drag the “Format” button onto the toolbar.
  • Hit “Done” to close the customization sheet.
  • Click “Format” to reveal the Format bar.

You can customize the toolbar again to remove the Format button, or you can leave it there. Mail isn’t clever enough to hide/show the Format bar based on whether your message is plain text or rich text the way TextEdit does, but at least now there is a Format bar.

Reverse the vertical scrolling direction (if it’s backwards for you in 10.7/10.8)
System Preferences > Mouse > Scroll direction: natural
System Preferences > Trackpad > Scroll direction: natural
as necessary for your pointing device(s).

Stuff that may or may not be useful to you

Change the OS version number to let Canon XF installers (and possibly others) work
Temporarily change the version number in /System/Library/CoreServices/SystemVersion.plist to what the installer expects; install; change it back. Details at’s forums. I tried this out using the Canon XF importer plugins for 10.7, and it worked. Just be careful editing SystemVersion.plist, and make sure you change it back or replace it with a backup when you’re done—and remember, you proceed at your own risk!

Disable Auto Save with versioning
defaults write -g ApplePersistence -bool false
For a given app only, e.g. TextEdit:
defaults write ApplePersistence -bool false
or, try (in the case of Numbers):
defaults delete ApplePersistence
With this change, OS X seems to consistently take an additional 15 – 17 seconds to show the desktop after logging in, whereas without this change, I notice a 15 second delay only sometimes. The reasons for either behavior are unknown.

Disable Automatic Termination
defaults write -g NSDisableAutomaticTermination -bool yes
(Source:; also settable in TinkerTool, Mountain Tweaks)

Setting default fonts in Safari
An example for the proportional font:
defaults write 'Lucida Grande'
defaults write 14

An example for the fixed width font:
defaults write Monaco
defaults write 12

If your desired font name contains a space, you need to wrap it in quotes, as shown with ‘Lucida Grande’.
(Source: multiple references on,,, etc.)

Turn on alphanumeric key repeat
defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool false

Turn off reopening windows
When restarting apps: check System Preferences > General > Close windows when quitting an application
When restarting the system : in the Logout, Shutdown, or Restart dialog, uncheck “Reopen windows when logging back in”

Make Auto Save apps behave slightly more like traditional apps
System Preferences > General > Ask to keep changes when closing documents
This option pops up a warning dialog when you close an edited document, giving you the option to save your changes or revert to the last save. It also brings back the “edited” dot on the window’s close button.

Move Growl notifications into Notification Center
Hiss will do this, or so I’m told by I haven’t tested it myself.


Mac OS X 10.8 is a mix of old and new, good and bad (and ugly and just plain different), and finished and unfinished features. It has a lot of rough edges, some of which may be polished up in point releases—10.8.1’s first beta was pushed out last week—and some of which, sadly enough, may be with us from here on out.

If you’re excited by the new stuff like iCloud, Notifications, the new Auto Save model, and so on, you might find 10.8 a compelling upgrade. If you find the increased complexity of multiple document persistence models, the removal of useful status indicators and affordances, the embarrassingly buggy Notes, and the user-abusive iCloud-enabled Save dialogs distressing, you might feel equally compelled to stay on 10.6.

I’m in the middle: I thought that 10.7 broke more things than it fixed, while 10.8 adds enough shiny new features to offset the inelegant deficiencies of the post-10.6 era. I’m hugely annoyed by the inconsistencies in Auto Save behavior depending on where a document is stored, but that annoyance is more academic than practical; once I understood the persistence model, I easily adapted to it. I’m gobsmacked by the aggressive way Apple “encourages” me to keep my data in iCloud, yet I find iCloud’s ease of use compelling: I’ve built this article using TextEdit and Pixelmator on multiple Macs, with both apps keeping their data in iCloud, and it all Just Worked.

(I should note that I use iCloud for short-term “working storage” only; once I’m no longer actively using a document, I move it to a folder “On My Mac”. Apple doesn’t have the world’s best track record when it comes to long-term provisioning of cloud-based storage: AppleLink, eWorld, iTools, iDisk, .Mac, MobileMe, and have all come and gone, and those who trusted these cloud services as data repositories wound up unhappy in the end.)

I’m not switching my Macs wholesale to 10.8, not yet: I still have data in PowerPC apps that I need to migrate to modern formats and applications first. Besides, Apple usually smooths off the jagged edges of a new OS with the follow-on point releases; if they hold true to form you might want to wait for 10.8.3 just on general principle.

But even this first release of 10.8 interoperates well with 10.6 and 10.7, so I can keep a mix of machines cohabiting with minimal stress. When push does come to shove, I won’t have any problems upgrading.

Good luck!


Macintouch has quick, easy-to-digest reviews of the new stuff in 10.7 and 10.8: 10.7 review 10.8 review

Ars Technica has much deeper, detailed, techno-geeky reviews: 10.7 review 10.7 review

Other stuff: Safari 6 reader reports Mountain Lion is (Still) a Quitter [discussing automatic termination]

Apple: iCloud: Configuring Mail with Mac OS X v10.6 or iOS 4

Apple: iCloud Mail overview

Apple: iCloud help How to Fix Every Mountain Lion Annoyance With Third Party Apps The OS X Mountain Lion Survival Guide Making Lion and Mountain Lion more like Snow Leopard (The last tip, “Turn off autosave”, doesn’t actually turn off autosave, it simply turns on a prompt when you close a document without first saving the changes, and brings back the “edited” dot on the window-close button.) Terminal 101: 10.8 UI Tricks

Feedback, please

If you have comments / questions / additions / corrections, please email ’em to me at “awiltatprovideocoalition at gmail dot com”. I’ll try to keep this article as up-to-date and as accurate as possible.

Disclosure: No material connection exists between me and Apple or any of the vendors mentioned in this article. No one has offered any payments, freebies, or other blandishments in return for a mention or a favorable review.

Adam Wilt

Adam Wilt

Adam Wilt has been working off and on in film and video for the past thirty years, while paying the bills writing software for animation, automation, broadcast graphics, and real-time control for companies including Abekas, Pinnacle, Omneon, CBS, and ABC. Since 1997 his website,, has been a popular reference for information on the DV formats. He reviewed cameras for DV Magazine and started its “Technical Difficulties” column, and taught classes and led panels at NAB, IBC, and DV Expo. He co-authored the book, “Optimizing Your Final Cut Pro System”, part of the Apple Pro Training series. He currently writes for and, and creates iPhone apps like Cine Meter II and Wi-Fi WFM.