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OS X is a great platform. Both for users and developers. Cocoa is the most dazzling Unix GUI ever, light years ahead of the pack back in the 1980s and still as far out in front today. Developers migrating to the platform invariably ask themselves 'why haven't we been doing it like this all along?' And users migrating to the platform never switch back.

But OS X is more than NeXTSTEP and Unix. Unfortunately it's also a concession to ISVs working on an unrelated Apple platform known as 'MacOS'. And perhaps nowhere else is the observation that software engineering has become a wannabe art more true than on OS X.

The casual user can be met by a veritable jungle of products at the software sites and is not going to know what separates the wheat from that other stuff. These reviews can't cover everything, but they can point out what some of the gems are and also have a bit of fun with the most lacklustre of the lot.

Remember a few choice things when searching for software.

'Keep your hands off the drivers.' - Ken Thompson, father of Unix. In other words, avoid software that tries to enhance or modify the operating system itself. Be very wary of software that claims it needs your administrator password to install or to run. And watch your '/Library' directory for interlopers - it's not protected well enough out of the factory and bad or dumb software can creep in there.

Shop around. See what reviewers say but always take what they write with a grain of salt. Professional reviewers will always try to gloss over inadequacies in products as they're living in a lucrative symbiosis with their sponsors and are not permitted to be negative, no matter how bad the product really is; ordinary users won't always understand what's really going on.

One program and one folder to put it in. Things have changed: this is not a 'MacOS' - it's Unix, and Unix has its own way of thinking. As Doug McIlroy, mentor of the creators of Unix, put it: 'make each program do one thing and do it well'. Avoid monsters that try to do everything. As noted guru Dan Geer put it: 'simplicity is the goal of all good design'.

Interoperability. If your software has a hard time communicating with others on the Internet, something is wrong. The debacle back at the end of 2001 about creator codes, file types, and resource forks demonstrates how deep this rift goes. Like it or not, these things - as HFS - are on the way out. If your software is dependent on them, it is weak software on the way out too.

Size does matter. But in general, the more moderate the size of a download, the better it is going to be. REALbasic and AppleScript applications are notorious for their bloat; developers who know no better than to use these platforms are invariably amateurs, and you can count on bugs and even system damage.

Have fun - and enjoy. Schadenfreude can be sublime.

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