Nobody likes to see the beach ball (aka pinwheel, aka the spinning pizza, aka spinning wait cursor) in OS X, but have you ever wondered why you see different ones from time to time? Or, when things get real weird, you'll sometimes see a ticking watch? It turns out that the answer has to do with the app you're working with.
Depending on what you're doing in OS X, your mouse cursor can turn into a rainbow coloured spinning beach ball, a blue spinning beach ball, and in some rare instances, a ticking watch. Each of these occurs for different reasons, and knowing why can help you with problem solving:
- Rainbow beach ball: This is the most common wait cursor you'll see because it's the standard in OS X. If an application can't handle the events it receives and doesn't respond for 2-4 seconds, this cursor is displayed. This is usually application specific, which is why you can mouse over to another app and it will go away. Basically, if an application is a little overwhelmed and "thinking," you'll see this cursor.
- Watch: The old watch cursor has always been the most baffling to me since it's originally from pre-OS X versions of the Apple's operating systems. It occasionally pops up in Photoshop for me, but I've seen it elsewhere. It turns out that the most likely reason it shows up is when an application is using an old Apple API called Carbon, which was used to port "classic" Mac apps to OS X. It also seems to appear in other apps that aren't native to OS X, or that don't use the common Cocoa API.
Of course, regardless of the colour or shape, if that spinning wait cursor stays on the screen too long, you might be having any number of problems.