My Steam for Mac Wish List

I’m extremely happy that Steam has come to the Mac. I’ve been playing Counterstrike Source along with a tiny bit of Portal and am anxiously awaiting the release of Left4Dead and Left4Dead 2 on the Mac so I can start playing with some friends who only have or seem to like those games.

Sure I have Windows 7 installed via Bootcamp with Steam all set up. It runs my games great, but there’s something to be said about being able to quickly just start playing and stop on a dime. Alt-tabbing to handle emails and chats, monitor servers, or to quickly look something up is also pretty handy. I have an iPad – I could do it there, but I still really like my hardware keyboard for doing things fast. I guess it’s a curse of spending the extra time figuring out keyboard shortcuts for everything.

So, now that I’ve been using Steam for Mac for a couple months now, here’s my wish list.

1. Smooth Scrolling

It seems to be a requirement of using a Mac these days, but not only would Steam for Mac fit in with the rest of my apps a bit nicer, smooth scrolling just feels more natural with a touch-based trackpad and mouse (Magic Mouse).

(No I don’t use my Magic Mouse while in game).

2. Better positioned aqua buttons

Note: This has been fixed in the beta version released today (July 30, 2010)!

For reasons unbeknownst to me, Valve decided to place the aqua buttons with a huge left margin – different from the UI of all other windows in OS X. It’s weird and seems out of place, although it is admittedly not a show stopper.

3. Tabbed chats

Note: Apparently this was added in the July 30 update (or recently anyhow).

I don’t consider the chat system an elaborate IM application, but tabbed chatting is really handy and helps keep window clutter to a minimum. I think this would be especially useful while not in a game, but still chatting with someone who is – perhaps about potentially joining them in an epic battle in L4D. I say while not in game specifically because you typically want to cut down on window clutter while not in a game.

Once the game becomes full screen, the window clutter in-behind is largely irrelevant – the game takes over your entire field of vision and flattens your layered windows into nothingness while you’re sucked into the depth of the game environment instead. Since the Valve Community system already brings those windowed chats to the world of the game, tabbed chats would serve the same purpose as before but in a different place, they would de-clutter your Steam Community overlay.

4. Better (lower) memory usage

Way back before I got my first Mac, I used to have no trouble leaving Steam running in the system tray because it only took up 20-30MB of memory – at most. On my Mac, it seems to always be eating 150MB+. Now, I’m quite used to my Mac apps using more memory (on average) than my Windows apps did for two reasons. One, apps just use more memory now that more is available and the software is more complex, and two I think the architecture for memory management on OS X requires it. That said, most IM programs like Skype and Adium can easily manage 60-80MB. Since Steam is basically a browser (store) mixed with an IM client and Finder (for the games list), prior to launching any games, I don’t see why it needs to take up 150-250MB consistently.

This becomes a usability problem. I want to know when my friends are playing games, so the notifications that arise from having Steam running constantly would be very useful to me, but I simply cannot leave it running when its memory footprint is so large – I need that memory for my more important apps, including Safari (which eats too much memory itself), Espresso, Mail, Calendar, Tweetie, iPhoto, Pixelmator, Adium, Skype, you name it… my productivity apps trump gaming apps any day.

For the record, I don’t care if the games themselves take up every last morsel of RAM – that’s what I expect of them. It’s purely Steam I’m referring to here.

5. Growl notifications

It baffles me why any Mac application would come up with its own proprietary notification system for OS X. Growl has plenty of features, customizable themes and is open source! If Valve wants to make Steam fit in with OS X, then Growl would be one of the key methods of accomplishing this task. If they need a feature that is missing, help out the project and submit a patch! The guys that work on it are easy to get along with and I’m sure they would be happy to work with the Valve devs.

I’m sure more ideas will come up. If you have a suggestion, let me know in the comments.

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