A few days ago came the news that Apple had changed Recovery modes as of macOS 10.12.4. My immediate response was to put together a quick flowchart using Scapple, a lightweight diagramming app, then return to revise my Tinderbox/Storyspace document on troubleshooting Macs, in slightly slower time. In the middle of this, I had a writing deadline to meet, so this article is rather later than I had hoped. My apologies.
Prior to macOS 10.12.4, there were two Recovery modes, local and remote, and all was simple. Now there are three Recovery modes which work differently according to which version of macOS is installed, and some nuances which make the situation too complex to describe in a paragraph or two of text.
I decided that readers of this troubleshooting guide need a (sub-)guide as to how to choose the most appropriate Recovery mode. Although I had expressed this already as a flowchart, and it would have been very easy to have implemented that chart in Tinderbox, I am not a fan of flowcharts. In their rigour and pedantry they all too often become lumbering and pedestrian – fine as a formal method, but not ideal for ordinary life.
Flowcharts are also limited by simplicity of content which necessarily goes into each box. Tinderbox can do much better than that, and I hope that you’ll agree.
What I did was to make a container, titled Which Recovery mode?, into which I started with a note Why Recovery mode? The initial question must be why the user is considering Recovery mode in the first place. That takes the reader to one of two notes, using Quick Links: to reinstall macOS, or for another reason.
The note to reinstall macOS then poses the top-level question in the flowchart: which version of macOS do you wish to reinstall? The three possible answers are then tackled in three more notes. Unlike the original flowchart, though, in two cases the chain of notes can end there.
In wiring this decision tree up, it’s important to get the links looking clean and ordered. Automatic placement normally does very well, but you must be prepared to assist it on occasion. Each note has four link terminals (top, bottom, left, right). To manually set the start or end terminal of any link, select the note from which that link runs, so that the link is selected. This reveals at the mid-point of the link an Ⓧ tool to delete that link, and an ⓘ tool to edit it. Click on the latter, and the link editor appears.
At the lower right, you can control the placement of the start and end terminals using popup menus. Switch from automatic to the side which you want. When you’re done, click away from the link editor and the changes will take effect.
The central decision note links out to its three options, as shown.
Notes at the end of the decision chain then detail the two options available at that point, and conclude with a Quick Link back to the initial note. This makes it easy for the reader to try alternatives, or to run through the process a second time to check.
Having added and tested this against my flowchart, I then had to work through all the other notes which mentioned the different Recovery modes, or reinstalling macOS. In most cases it was straightforward to add Quick Links through to the first note in this guide. In a couple of places, usually in the middle of existing text, the Quick Links wouldn’t take properly, and I resorted to inserting regular text links using the Parking Spaces. It’s quite good to be reminded of just how labour-saving Quick Links are.
An interesting difference between Quick Links and regular text links is the text anchor: in a Quick Link, that is automatically set to the Name of the note which is linked. If you want to change that, you can manoeuvre the insertion point into the anchor using the cursor keys, and edit it to read what you wish. When you use a normal text link, you select the text anchor, which can be any text you wish. These differences are worth bearing in mind when deciding which to use in any given context.
I also spent a little time tidying up the notes inside the containers, which are now I hope a little less higgledy-piggledy. The revised troubleshooting guide is available for download here: MacProblems3
Next on my list of tasks with this document is a series of jobs to make it more friendly to those less used to Tinderbox/Storyspace, and generally tidier and more accessible. I’ll be back when they’re done.