Saturday, May 3, 2003 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Interface Criticisms

John Gruber rightly blasts Safari’s use of click-through. And Erik Barzeski voices some of my criticisms about drawers. There are only two drawers that I recall liking: the pages/thumbnails drawer in Preview and the Preview drawer in Path Finder. Apple’s guidelines for using drawers are vague.

Use drawers only for controls that need to be accessed fairly frequently but that don’t need to be visible all the time. (Contrast this criterion with a utility window, which should be visible and available whenever its main window is in the top layer.)

Huh? Utility windows aren’t visible all the time, either, because you can hide them. So where is the guideline that tells me when to use a drawer rather than a utility window? Presumably we should learn by example:

Some examples of uses of drawers include access to favorites lists, the Mailbox drawer (in the Mail application), or browser bookmarks.

In my experience, favorites and bookmarks work much better in separate windows, because of width issues. I’ve used programs that put the mailbox list in panes, and others that put it in a separate window. Both worked better than Mail’s drawer, which isn’t even in the keyboard loop.

A drawer’s contents should be included in the window components that the user can select by pressing Tab.

I think the key difference between a utility window and a drawer is that you never have more than one copy of a given utility window on screen at a time. So you would use a drawer when you want to be able to see two drawers at a time. For instance, Transmit uses drawers to show FTP transcripts. That’s potentially useful. But I’d still prefer separate windows because I probably don’t want the width of the transcript to be the same as the width of the connection window. And I might want to view a full screenful of the transcript next to a screen-high connection window.

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