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  • Newsletter #362 Preview:
    The Leopard Report: Should Apple Tinker with the Interface?

    November 6th, 2006

    As some of you may have heard, Microsoft has been making an effort to be a trifle innovative in the user interface of Internet Explorer 7 and the forthcoming Office 2007 for Windows. The default look, for example, ditches the traditional menu bar, which means you no longer see such familiar labels as File, Edit, View and all the rest. These are conventions that have been part and parcel of graphical user interfaces on personal computers for over two decades.

    Instead, all commands and drop-down menus are accessed by icons. I suppose, once you remember which icon engages which function, you might get used to the new scheme, or you can just use the “Tools” settings to revert to the “Classic” menu, which will end your struggle.

    While I suppose some might actually prefer the change, if only to be different, it seems to be a feature in search of a purpose. I don’t know about you, but I fail to see the logic in making a change for change’s sake, and ditching tried-and-true graphical elements without having a strong reason to do so.

    That, of course, takes us to Apple and how much it should meddle with Leopard to deliver new eye-candy and, perhaps, to alter a look and feel most of you have become comfortable with.

    Story continued in this week’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter.



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    4 Responses to “Newsletter #362 Preview:
    The Leopard Report: Should Apple Tinker with the Interface?”

    1. Paul says:

      I could not agree more about the lack of consistency (and click and drag-ability) in OSX. This and the how the finder stutters when scrolling in icon view, even with a screaming fast machine with a lot of RAM, are at the top of my wish list of fixes in Leopard.

      Paul

    2. KT says:

      One of the ugliest aspects of many Windows apps is at the top of the application window. First you have the unnecessarily tall title bar (somewhat thinner if using the classic theme), then the menu bar, then the almost always useless tool strip.

      IE-7 basically still has menus masquerading as icons; some even have labels (“Tools”) others don’t like the print menu. And why should my brain associate a little star with “Favorites”. It doesn’t – my dumb brain. Does MS actually do usability studies?

    3. Missing Person says:

      Okay, if I was Steve Jobs and I decided GUI design needed to become a priority at Apple again, this is what I’d do:

      1. Hire a pro UI designer that reports to me (but who I won’t micro manage). Apples own engineers would report to he or she. This person will oversee the consistent look and behavior of Apples OS and apps.

      2. I’d dust off the HIG and have a read. Although I’d find many contradictions, I’d also come to realise why many developers have become extremely critical of my company’s UI tinkering, because they’re looking to us for direction in this area with their own apps. (After all, how can we set a design direction for others when we haven’t set our own?)

      3. I’d actually hire a cross section of our users under a NDA to assist beta testing. This would help determine the quality of our software design and direction, rather than us just assuming what users want. That way we can work on building the very best experience – not just the most ‘lickable’.

      But hey, I’m not Steve Jobs and I guess we have as much chance of seeing any of these things happen as Apple making height adjustable monitors. Steve had already commented the classic Mac GUI ‘sucked’. (I guess that’s why he disbanded the original GUI team on his return, along with features like Windowshade and pop-up tabs. They all sucked too, right?)

      As for Leopard, hopefully the ‘Top Secret’ tinkering will be more than skin deep – such as a more advanced finder that doesn’t hang over a network and can retain its view settings, more functional open and save dialogues and better window management. Wait a minute – I use Pathfinder, Default Folder and WindowShade X. What am I worried about?

    4. Paul says:

      Missing Person,
      Your comments reminded me of another wish I hope to see in Leopard: The finder remembering its view setting. Also, in icon view in the finder I hate it when you go to move a files icon and all of a sudden the go flying out of view to the right and are spread out everywhere!

      Paul

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