Is it all relative?

I have been trying very hard – and largely succeeding – to put aside my “PC Man’s” prejudice against Macs

This is being made much easier by my continuing very high opinion both of the iPad Mini and my secondhand iPhone 3GS (that never misbehaves apart from the keyboard being tricky).

Surprisingly often, clients ask me why I had the prejudice against Macs in the first place. I think there are probably quite a few reasons and they are not all unreasonable! For instance, I’m sure a lot of “PC people” will recognise my opinion that Macs have a certain way of seeming to be simplistic (and I do mean that word, rather than just “simple”) and patronising to their users. They set up specific – and often irritatingly wrong – ways of doing things and then don’t offer any option to change them. I appreciate that Apple do this on purpose. They want to make their computers accessible and easy to use. Choice brings complexity. Telling us how we must do things keeps it simpler.

One example of this is the listing of names by putting the forename first and surname last, and then sorting on the forename. OK, so this is just the way that they do it in the USA. My point would be that they could try to be a little more conscious of the way other countries and cultures work by providing options. Maybe this sounds like sour grapes, coming from a Brit long after the sun finally did set on the British Empire. Nevertheless, it still seems logical to me to give us a bit of choice.

Relative Dates in Mac Finder
Relative Dates in Mac Finder
Another example is the “relative date”. This is when dates are not displayed as fixed, real, absolutes – eg “20/04/2013”, but as slippery, shapeshifting things such as “yesterday” or “3 days ago”. If I’m looking for a file date or an email dated “20/04/13”, then I don’t want to have to work out what the date is today, subtract the date I’m looking for and then start looking for something that happened “3 days ago”. It’s just bonkers. I challenge you to work out what the day and date were “3 days ago” without using your fingers. And then they’ll all be different again tomorrow, of course.

So, I’ve been trying to find a way of changing how these are displayed in email listings on the iPhone, iPad, and Macs and there doesn’t seem to be one. If anyone knows better, please let me know.

The "relative dates" switch in Mac Finder options
The “relative dates” switch in Mac Finder options
The irritation can, however, be magicked away on a Mac when it comes to file dates being shown “relatively” in “Finder”:

  • When in Finder, click on the “View” option.
  • Then click on “Show View Options”.
  • Then it’s simply a matter of unchecking the box next to “Use relative dates” by clicking on it.

Absolute Dates in Mac Finder
Absolute Dates in Mac Finder
And while I’m on the subject of Americanisms, I would like to see a UN resolution banning the use of the phrase “British English”. This is often listed as a choice of language when setting up software (and I’m not just having a go at Macs here). Apart from the obvious tautology, it suggests, somehow, that we have a variation of the language that is less than the “original and best”. Isn’t it patently obvious that the USA should, instead, be referring to its own version as “American English” and leaves ours as it is – “English”?

Here I go again – Victor Meldrew meets Angry of Tunbridge Wells, but at least I’ve got proper dates back in Mac’s Finder.