Posted February 10th, 2003 @ 01:32pm by Erik J. Barzeski
Matt and I were IMing today regarding Apple's blatant disregard for its own UI lately. Matt's got a further post up here, called "Death of a Dogcow," in which he lists three primary flaws and many other smaller ones. Let's investigate a bit more.
First, Matt notes that Apple uses TIFFs and other images for buttons when the same exact widgets already exist: that is simply stupid and silly. A good example? The checkboxes in iCal. Checkboxes have existed in both the Carbon and Cocoa frameworks for quite some time - nearly every developer has used them - and they work fine. There's absolutely no reason to use your own images for checkboxes. In fact, it's downright silly to do so, because behaviors expected of normal checkboxes - such as respecting a user's graphite/aqua system-wide setting - require extra work or may go ignored.
The next question centers on Apple's use of keyboard shortcuts. For example, Apple's own apps can't stick to a common theme regarding the "Preferences&hellip" item: iTunes and iCal use command-Y, Safari uses command-comma, Mail uses command-option-semicolon, and the Finder and many other Apple apps have no shortcut at all. "Hide Others" used to vary (I don't have the patience to check right now). Many other Apple-supplied apps vary across applications in unwarranted fashions. Consistency is key, and we sure as heck don't have it in our menus.
Next, let's tackle the Metal UI: Apple's own HIGs say that it should be used for single-window applications: Safari is most certainly not a single-window UI, nor does Safari interface with a "real-world digital device" (Apple's own HIG wording may be different). iTunes doesn't really do this either - nor does Address Book or iCal - but at least they're mostly one window. I'm fine with metal - this isn't a "metal sucks" rant - but if you're going to go through the trouble of writing HIGs, and expect other developers to follow them, follow them yourself.
Next, we have the issue of these metal windows with sunken widgets bringing their applications forward, completely disobeying the laws of window ordering. I should be able to close a window in the background without bringing that app forward. Other windows work this way, and on a Mac OS that prides itself on its consistency, anomalies like this are nothing better than bugs that need fixed. I previously wrote about this.
Sticking to consistency, or the lack thereof, Safari uses a pair of non-standard toolbars: one of the bookmark bar items - the Bookmarks item itself - doesn't act like any of the other items (as menus or buttons), but instead acts as a toggle, yet it sits there beside the others. Items on one toolbar (the bookmarks bar) can be rearranged, while items in the location area cannot. Yet another kind of round search box - this time without a handy "X" for clearing the content - is present - and a progress bar (a non-standard one, and also one that disrespects a user's choice of the "graphite" theme) shows up behind a text box, thoroughly confusing many people. But I'll cut Safari a little slack: it is beta, after all.
However, I won't cut the font panel any slack. How many people knew there was a preview? Have a look at this:
The reason you didn't know there was a preview was&hellip drumroll pleaseÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ Apple didn't provide a single damn clue to tell you! Who knew that dragging a plain old grey striped area downward (as seen above) would present a font preview area! Wow, the hidden secrets of the Mac UI - the bad Mac UI. They should have used a separator - that little "handle" with the three lines - used to separate split views. Apple's Ken Bereskin even prattles on about it as if nothing is wrong.
Let's look at iChat. The buttons at the bottom do nothing other than:
- Open a drawer
- Toggle a state
- Display a drop-down menu
- Display an Open sheet
It does these four things with five buttons. If that's not close to being 100% inconsistent, I don't know what is. The Bold and Italic buttons don't even remain "depressed" to indicate their "on" state.
What else have we got? iMovie is a prime example of several bugs, flaws, and examples of horrible UI. I wrote about it here, and will not rehash those points again.
Like Matt, I could sit here and think of several other examples of this crappy, crappy state of the UnIon, but I get depressed when I do that. I'd rather ask you to list some in the comments - and I'll contribute as I think of some - as Matt has done.