Archive for November 6, 2003

Thursday, November 6, 2003

Source Lists and Brushed Metal

Apple has updated the Aqua Human Interface Guidelines and changed its URLs (again). The new guidelines define source lists:

A source list is an area of window set off by a movable pane splitter to provide users a way to navigate data. Use a source list when the data presented in it is a primary means of navigating within the application, as in iTunes or the Finder. Users select objects in the source list that they act on in the main part of the window.

And source lists are apparently the reason that the Panther Finder’s windows are (sometimes) metal:

You can use a brushed metal window if your application:

  • Provides an interface for a digital peripheral, such as a camera, or an interface for managing data shared with digital peripherals—iPhoto or iSync, for example.
  • Strives to re-create a familiar physical device—Calculator or DVD Player, for example.
  • Provides a source list to navigate information—for example, iTunes or the Finder.

Don’t use the brushed metal look indiscriminately. Although it works well for some types of applications, some applications appear too heavy when using this look. For example, it works well for the iSync application window, but it does not work very well for the TextEdit document window.

Of course, by this logic, Xcode and System Profiler windows would be metal, Safari browser windows would change to metal only when you viewed the bookmarks, the Safari Downloads window wouldn’t be metal, and on and on. It’s not worth thinking about this too deeply, because the brushed metal guidelines are more a retroactive justification for Apple’s design fetishes than a set of sound principles for designing usable, consistent interfaces.

Also note that they’re now called “brushed metal windows” rather than “textured windows.” Hopefully this is meant as a reassurance that the texture won’t be changed to Blue Dalmation in Mac OS X 10.4.

Mac Developer Journal

Apple sent me the first issue of Mac Developer Journal, so I read it. There are some good articles, and contentwise I think it compares favorably with MacTech. But the Zinio format has to go.

From the reader’s perspective, it basically combines the worst features of online and print publishing.

Open Source Quality

Cameron Purdy:

Sometimes I read these rants about how open source automatically obtains magical god-like quality. It’s true in a twisted way: The ten open source projects that religious open source advocates will choose to point to probably have better quality than the average non-open-source product. My advice is to look at open source with an open but critical mind, the same way you should look at non-open-source products. Don’t get caught up in the religion, because in the end, there’s still poison in that kool-aid.

Xcode External Editors

Nat Irons:

Rather than fix this apparent oversight, Xcode makes the situation much worse. I can’t even view a source file in Xcode when an external editor is in use. That’s beyond sloppy, and into the realm of the punitive. It suggests that external editors were a check-off item for the Project Builder team, and once the feature was hacked together the subject was closed.

After switching to Xcode recently (Project Builder isn’t supported on Panther), I finally had to turn off external editing yesterday so that I could step through my code in the debugger. I had almost turned it off earlier, because with external editing on Xcode doesn’t show you any context with compiler errors.

Also, I can’t use Xcode’s rather nice SCM window because it insists on showing diffs (a) in the third pane of the project window that I’m constantly telling Xcode to hide, or (b) in FileMerge. The option to show them in BBEdit doesn’t work.

All this pales in comparison to the fact that Xcode often throws away changes that I make to my projects. Not only does it not always detect when I make changes and save the project automatically, but it also doesn’t offer a way to save manually. There’s no Save Project command in the File menu. What is this, an iApp?