First off, why can't we have a grid view of all the Collections, where each collection is represented as a folder/stack with a top image that represents that event? Then you could double click a stack to open that collection.
In Preferences > Interface > check "Show Photos in Navigator on Mouse over"
Mouse over all collections shows the first image in that collection
Click the collection to open a grid view of all the images in that collection. Grid view thumbnails (only in a Standard Collection- Not Smart Collections) can be sorted several ways, including Custom.
What about a year view
Make a Smart Collection- (Lightroom does not automatically create "Dated" collections in the manner of Mac programs)
Eg. Year 2015
You can also Select MULTIPLE Collections by holding down [Ctrl] as you select each collection-
eg: you could select both Smart Collections to see Green and Red labelled images together in the grid:
The Collection Panel sorts Alpha-numeric, so you can use Collection "Sets" with numbers (01 02 03 etc) to hold other collections in a sorted manner.
but finding photos is still terribly unorganized
Research the Keyword functions of Lightroom then you can use Metadata search filters very creatively!
Using folders to find images is not best practice! Folders are for storage. Keywords, Rating, Flags, Labels, are for data management.
I only use Standard Collections for special jobs, like a book, or images to export for Grandma, Images for the print lab, etc. Standard Collections are images of MY choosing.
Smart Collections are automatic- they are images of Lightroom's choosing, dependent on the criteria you define in the dialog.
Let's see some other replies-
What about a year view (like Photo's > All Photos view) that automatically groups images shot together in a location/date? As it is, it is very difficult to browse through thousands of images that have no apparent grouping.
The filter bar lets you select all photos in a year (or all photos in a year/month, etc.) or multiple years. Built right into Lightroom, you don't have to create a smart collection to do this.
Let's say for example I have an Event for "Christmas 2015". When sorting through Collections, I want to see All Collections for 2015, so it should show up there. I want to see All Collections that are Tagged as "Holiday", then it would show up there.
The Filter Bar selects the year, and then in the FIlter Bar you can see what keywords are available for 2015.
Honestly, I think just about everything that you are asking for can be done in Lightroom, and it won't take a huge amount of effort either (exception: collections cannot have keywords assigned to them, you'd be better off using keywords than collections for most stuff anyway).
One of the problems you have is that you want things to be done exactly the same way you do it in Apple software. That simply isn't going to happen. If you expect that, you will be disappointed with Lightroom. If you try to find Lightroom tools to accomplish the same thing, you might find that it does an awful lot of the things you want without a whole lot of effort.
Thanks for the replies. Guess I just need to explore and learn more about using keywords and filters to find things.
Thank you for the tips and suggestions.