At Taodyne, we mostly use Apple Pages to create our documents. For large documents, I’d like to be able to create numbered chapters, something like “Chapter 1″, “Chapter 2″, and so on. Apple Pages does not seem to have that feature. Let’s not get used to it, and let’s fix it.
Apple Pages can read numbered chapters from Word
One thing that I observed is that when you read a Microsoft Word document that contains numbered chapters, Apple Pages preserves that formatting. In other words, if the user interface may not know how to edit numbered lists with text in them, the rendering engine knows how to render them, and the regular editing within Pages will correctly renumber these documents.
To verify that my recollection of this capability of Pages was correct, I first created a document in Microsoft Word that looks like this:
Section 1 – Hello
Chapter 1 – This is a chapter
I. This is a numbered section
1. This is a numbered sub-section
It doesn’t just “look like” this. The Section and Chapter text were edited in the Numbering section of Microsoft Word, so this is auto-numbering.
Then I saved this document to disk, and imported it into Pages. And indeed, when I edit it in Pages, numbering works just like in Microsoft Word.
The Pages XML format
Let’s look inside the document to see what’s there. A quick tour through the command line shows that Apple Pages documents are really zipped collections of files, including XML files representing the document itself:
% unzip Hello.pages Archive: Hello.pages extracting: thumbs/PageCapThumbV2-1.tiff extracting: QuickLook/Thumbnail.jpg extracting: QuickLook/Preview.pdf extracting: buildVersionHistory.plist inflating: index.xml
The most interesting of these documents is the index.xml file. It contains the actual description of the document in XML format. And if I look inside, I see something interesting:
<sf:list-label-typeinfo sf:type="text"><sf:text-label sf:type="decimal" sf:format="Section %L -" sf:first="1"/>
So this sf:format= accepts a rather general format, with %L serving as the marker for where the number should go.
The solution for adding chapter numbers
So the solution for adding chapter numbers is simple:
- Once, you will need Microsoft Word to create a document that has the kind of chapter numbering that you need. You may have multiple levels of numbering (e.g. chapter, section, etc).
- Import this document in Pages. This will give you a new list style.
- When you want to number chapters, select the given list style.
- To edit the formatting of the numbering text, select the whole line, change colors or fonts, and in the list style, select “Redefine style for selection”. In other words, the list style defines the font and color for the numbering independently from the paragraph style, and can do that for multiple levels.
Now, you have proper chapter numbering in Apple Pages.
The following video shows Steve Jobs as an entrepreneur, starting over with NeXT. To me, it’s reassuring to see that the Great Steve Jobs himself sometimes found the task overwhelming, despite having $7M (1990′s dollars) in the bank.
If you only have 10 seconds, look at 13:18 into the video. Steve Jobs says:
I forgot how much work it actually is to create a company. It’s a lot of work. You got to do everything.
This is exactly how I feel right now. Doing everything. Vaporized, atomized. It’s fun, but it’s hard. I had not forgotten, I plain didn’t know.
Steve Jobs was also known for his focus on focus. If you are creating a company, you should probably read this.
When your product is not even built yet, none of this stuff matters. But your startup, in the pre-product phase, is basically a ticking time bomb. The only thing that can prevent it from exploding is user delight. User delight attracts funding, enhances morale, builds determination, earns revenue…Until you get to user delight, you’re always at risk of running out of money or, much more likely, losing a key engineer to something more interesting. Time is your most precious resource.
This is why building a company is an exercise in humility. It’s a case where you don’t need to assume you are below average: you are. You have less funding than your competitors. Your product has less features. Your have less customers, less engineers, less press coverage. If you do something really innovative, most people will think it’s stupid and explain why you are doing it wrong. And most of the time, they are right, you are doing it wrong.
But here is the difference compared to my past experiences in larger companies. In a startup, when you do it wrong, you fix it, and you fix it so quickly you sometimes don’t even realize it. In my opinion, that’s the single reason why startups sometimes succeed. They fall a lot, but then they learn how to walk, and once they get the gist of it, they run circles around more “adult” companies.
Some companies know how to provide an excellent customer experience. Most companies just don’t get it. Two experiences in the past weeks.
Orange is a large mobile phone provider in France. In over one month, I have been unable to have them to replace a cell phone I lost in a storm. I had to wait in a store only to be insulted by angry store representatives. Then I had to wait on the phone only to have them hang up on me. I had to write and call and write again, to receive only automated replies or replies that simply ignored the insurance contract I had. As a result, I cancelled my contract with them and went to another company.
Apple is another large company. They recently opened an Apple Store at CAP3000 in Nice. I went there to get a hard disk replaced in a 20″ iMac. I was greeted by a dedicated person at the store’s entrance. I was greeted by another person at the Genius bar. After I waited a little, this other person helpfully explained to me that I was waiting for a Mac Genius, that the only folks at the bar at the moment where specialized in the iPhone. In other words, he cared that I waited. Then the repair was quick and efficient. The next day, it took less than 5 minutes to get my repaired machine back, despite a crowd in the store that would make the Orange stores cry with envy. And when my wife didn’t show up at our rendez vous, another representative asked me if I needed a cell phone to call her. This is the reason I stick with Apple, time and time again.
Apple and Orange are only two examples. Darty, for example, always served me well. Unlike Orange, they honor their insurance contracts when you need them. I had so far a pleasant experience with Bouygues Telecom.
Vote with your wallet.
There has been some stir around a change in the software development kit for the iPhone. See the Tao Effect Blog for an exchange between an iPhone developer and Steve Jobs on the topic.
Apple decided to change the wording of the license to forbid use of non-approved development tools. I believe that Steve Jobs is dead wrong on this one. Our own application requires an interpreter, which was pretty much already verboten. The new language in the SDK makes it even worse, blocking some workarounds we could have considered. Well, there is no way I would go for a subpar solution and substandard user experience just because Steve Jobs happens to have a beef with Adobe at the moment. So we will skip the iPhone platform entirely.
I can only hope that our application will one day matter enough that people will make it a factor in their choice of mobile phone. But even if it doesn’t (quite likely), I can’t imagine that we are alone in this situation. It only takes a few killer apps that can’t reach the iPhone due to Apple’s control-freakness to tip the balance away to some other platform.
Steve Jobs should know, of all people. Apple was once so dominant in the field of personal computers it could laugh at IBM, much like the iPhone in smartphones today. Well, guess what? A few years down the road, IBM’s presence in the Macintosh core market was no longer laughing matter.
The parallel is striking. Back then, Steve Jobs wanted complete control on the Macintosh, to the point of not allowing expansion slots. The iPhone has no expansion of any kind, no SD card, nothing, except for an Apple-proprietary connector. The Macintosh unique software would not be licensed to anybody. The iPhone OS only powers the iPhone. To program a Macintosh, you had to buy a Lisa. To program an iPhone you need a Macintosh. Apple told you what was OK and not OK on their platform (Inside Macintosh User Interface Guidelines), and still does (SDK license agreement and AppStore approval process). Microsoft got advance notice of the Macintosh, and they loved it. Google got advanced notice of the iPhone, and they loved it.
But Microsoft didn’t want to become Steve Jobs’ puppet, and after a while they walked, something which Jobs took as a betrayal. Years later, Google didn’t want to become Steve Jobs’ puppet either, and they too walked. And Steve Jobs felt betrayed again. Twenty five years ago, Microsoft ended up developing their own competing platform. Steve Jobs saw that as stealing their IP, and sued. Today, Google ended up developing their own competing platform, and Steve Jobs is suing (HTC).
I can’t help but wonder if there’s something that I’m missing. Steve Jobs must be smarter than this, after all he’s contributed to our daily lives. Yet history is repeating itself. Steve Jobs seems to believe that he’s entitled not just to benefit from his own creativity (perfectly legitimate) but also to control and limit the creativity of others (perfectly not legitimate). That’s quite unfortunate, because the iPhone rocks and keeps getting better, like the original Macintosh did. Still, if the iPhone in a few years turns into a marginal platform with a shrinking market share, Steve Jobs will only need a mirror to look at the person to blame. No amount of suing will repair the predictable result of his own mistakes.
Nothing is irreversible at this point, though. Steve Jobs is smart, and the team at Apple is top-notch. Maybe someone at Apple can convince Steve Jobs that he should return to what he does best, winning by delivering insanely great products, rather than be at his worst by delivering inanely closed products. Please Steve, for the good of your own company, get rid of paragraph 3.3.1 in the iPhone SDK, and then work a plan to attack Android where it would hurt them, e.g. by licensing iPhoneOS (gasp) and allowing other teams to not just use your device but improve it (re-gasp). Otherwise, it’s safe to predict that in a few years, I will be using an Android phone and regret the good old times when the iPhone had a shot, much like I was forced to use Windows for most of my professional life and hated it.
I finally purchased MacOSX Leopard. For a long time, I had purchased every single update of MacOSX as soon as I could, because they were generally worth it. This was the first time I had some second thoughts. There were a number of mixed reviews over the net, like the excellent Ars Technica review.
The main problems that these reviews were reporting were drops in looks and usability. Looks: folder icons that look bad, inconsistent shadows, translucent menu bar, overly bright window widgets, and so on. Usability: initially, folders placed in the dock would show as “stacks”, in other words a big pile of stuff, and fan out in a way that made it quite hard to pick up anything in the folder. Overall, the new OS was also reported to be much more resource hungry than the older ones, not a big surprise here…
To me, it was annoying to have a trade-off between features I’d get, like Time Machine or Parental Controls, and features I’d lose (something Apple does not advertise much), like Classic (the environment to run MacOS9 applications). In previous releases, there was a net gain in functionality, but the loss of Classic was a pretty big deal to me. In particular, I wanted to have Parental Controls on the kids Mac, an old Dual G4 which contains tons of MacOS9 games.
But a few weeks ago, having learned that 10.5.2 was finally giving users options about the dock icons and menu bar, I thought that it was safe to jump, at least for my Intel-based Powerbook, which can’t run Classic anyways, and which was acting weird lately. In particular, it jut can’t run straight any time I have run any virtual machine with Parallels Desktop. That was most likely a problem with Parallels, not with Apple, but I thought that the latest Apple OS might help. Another problem I kept hitting was that the machine would lock-up when I tried to unlock the screen saver. Hoping to get rid of these annoyances, I went ahead, purchased it and installed it.
The first thing I noticed is that my machine had become quite slower than before. Starting applications, in particular, seems to take quite a bit longer. This is particularly noticeable at login time. I now need something like one minute to log-in, which is too long for my taste. Unfortunately, the problems I had before were both still there: crashes or hangs after running Parallels, and even without running it, I still have the “black screen of death” way too often when I try to get out of the screen saver.
So I decided to try it on another machine, see if the experience would be any better: on the kids computer. Here, the experience is nothing but miserable. First, the installer forced my screen resolution to 640×480 on a flat-panel LCD that normally runs at 1280×1024. No big deal, it’s just the installer, right? Wrong! The screens do not fit at that resolution, so to get anything you have to hit “tab” at random and hope to hit the “Continue” button with the space bar (you can’t reach it with the mouse, since it’s out of the screen…)
Once you went through the whole installation routine, you are greeted with a screen that looks like this:
That’s right: the menu bar is a bright pink, and the background image is pink colored more or less at random. Performance is abysmal, my kids had to downgrade the various tunable parameters of World of Warcraft by a couple of notches. And I got at least one lock-up.
The upgrade process is not smooth either. To install 6 updates on the G4 took me 3 or 4 attempts. It seems to install, but after the install-and-reboot, it still wants to install the same thing. On the Intel PowerBook, I have been unable to update so far, it tells me that it “cannot write to /”. Repairing disk permissions failed. One of my disks, that reads fine with 10.4, appears as “unrepairable” with 10.5. Granted, it was probably damaged in some way, but I’d like to avoid losing 350GB of data, please?
So, overall, MacOSX 10.5 is a disappointment. Apple is probably focusing a lot of energy on the iPhone right now… Or something else happened. Regardless, the quality of that product is not what I am ready to pay for.
Update: I had the same kind of color problem on my MacBook with an external HP monitor. The colors just looked way off, and trying to adjust the ColorSync profile only made things worse. This monitor used to work really well with this machine. What’s going on here?