Wed 24 Oct
If I’m going to be such a persistent critic of .Mac’s anemic state, it’s only fair that I give Apple’s service its due when it does something right. Well, it’s not so much that .Mac has done so much right lately as it’s being used by third parties for the right thing.
Specifically, I’m talking about the latest version of Smile on My Mac’s TextExpander, the keyboard shortcut utility that, in the past nine months or so, I’ve become incredibly enamored of. I’ve created dozens of shortcuts for the snippets of text that I type repeatedly — fragments as small as “<a href=""></a>” or as long as the instructions for getting to my house — and I’ve become almost addicted to the highly satisfying bonk! sound that TextExpander plays each time I successfully invoke one of them.
That’s why I was pretty happy to see that, in its latest version, TextExpander now provides support for synchronization through the .Mac service. It makes sense. TextExpander is the kind of utility that works best when it’s nearly invisible, and .Mac synchronization makes it even more transparent. Before this update, I had to manually back up copies of my shortcuts, which I’d then shuttle from computer to computer, laboriously importing them into each instance of TextExpander and weeding through duplicates by hand. Now, I can happily create shortcuts on any one of the three Macs on which I have the utility installed and almost instantly have them available on the other two.
This marriage of desktop functionality and network presence is exactly what I want in most applications, and .Mac, for all its deficiencies, is a powerful tool for making that happen. In fact, it’s really the only such available tool at the moment, at least on the Macintosh platform, which presents a kind of quandary.
On the one hand, we’re clearly limited to the functionality that Apple provides, and as their tending of .Mac has shown over the past several years, this service is clearly low on their priority list. On the other hand, any third party developer or group of developers are free to create their own independent service to compete with .Mac and, hopefully, provide a more robust environment for synching innovations. With a concerted effort, it really wouldn’t be that hard to displace .Mac at all.
Unfortunately, it’s unrealistic — though not out of the question — for us to expect the the latter to happen, at least in the short term. The market is probably insufficiently large for anyone but Apple to make money selling net-based synchronization to the minority of computer users that use Macintoshes. Maybe the worst scenario would be that some attempt at an independent or open source synchronization service is made by a community that ultimately splinters, resulting in separate, parallel and not necessarily compatible schemes — in which case users would have to maintain the overhead of at two or three duplicative synchronization services on their machines. No one wants that.
Really, the best solution for everyone, at least in the short term, would be for Apple to just get its act together and pay some attention to .Mac. I’m as sick of complaining about it as you are of hearing my complaints.