Saturday, February 21, 2004

Matthew Thomas on Mac OS X

Matthew Thomas switches to Mac OS X and critiques it in 48 points.

John Gruber disagrees with 1.5 points, which is about 1 fewer than me.

Thomas didn’t report these problems to Apple, saying that would be a waste of time. In principle, I do think people should report bugs to Apple, but Thomas is right that with issues such as these it sometimes doesn’t seem worth it. It’s frustrating enough reporting what you think is a serious bug and having it languish in Radar purgatory for more than a year. For UI issues, it’s even more frustrating to list all the surface problems, knowing that the real problem is at the root. Thomas is right that the solution is for Apple to hire people who will make sure this stuff is fixed before it ships.

My point is that the quality of Apple’s human interface has declined and continues to decline. That other current platforms, both Free and non-Free, continue to be even worse does not make this situation any more satisfying. Mac OS X is like Sir Winston Churchill’s description of democracy: the worst possible system, except for all the others.

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"Thomas is right that the solution is for Apple to hire people who will make sure this stuff is fixed before it ships."

Like me. :-)

Thomas gets a few other things wrong, too.

Matthew resurfaces... quietly.

As such lists go, there'll certainly be something to all of the points. They'll seem more or less severe depending on the angle you're coming from.

While I have been guilty of compiling lists of UI problems, I am not sure that taking on the whole OS at once is a good idea as really important issues (non-spatial Finder, say) are mixed with almost irrelevant issues (buttons in Mail's progress window, say).

It's interesting to see which things someone who comes late to the party that is OSX considers problems - although I assume Matthew may have done some reading up beforehand.

(a) I'd really like to see a similar cross-application review of GNOME by this guy. I think his head would implode.

(b) I suspect the whole point of his post is to draw attention to Apple's failure to adhere to the high standards of computer-human interaction it had previously set for itself. Which is fine. However, he dilutes his impact by bogging down in superfluous details. Some of his commentary is on target, but some falls in the category of "This is the way I want it to work, and to hell with everyone else's opinions." I suspect maybe even a little of "Mac OS 9 is always right, because it's what I'm used to." He also shows no ability to prioritize his complaints. This really weakens his case. For example:

#3. He asserts this makes menus "slower to get at." I'd like to see the user study behind that assertion. I have a feeling he's just spouting off for no good reason. I know what he's trying to say -- I just don't believe there's any evidence to back him up.

#10. He's actually wrong that it's universal -- it only works for Carbon non-Window Server drags. Which is probably a bug that should be fixed in the Window Server. OK, so chalk up another accurate demerit.

#11. Can't escape the window drags via menu bar. The problem is that (surprise) users want to be able to peg the window against the menu bar.

#12 . Can you imagine the confusion being able to independently move a sheet (presumably by dragging the background?) could cause?

#13. Excuse me? What exactly is the problem?

#14. Huh?

#16. Yes, if you drag a window under the dock, the contents under the dock become inaccessable. It's called consistency.

Re: #1 on Matthew's list (I'll just write this here as he doesn't seem to have comments and my own server is down, hope that's OK Michael)

That's just not true, at least on my Powerbook (1st generation TiBook). Indeed pressing a _proper_ mouse button on an external mouse will wake the computer from sleep. Just pressing the trackpad's button won't wake it.

While I haven't used the computer in OS9 for over two years, I think this behaviour isn't OSX specific but rather hardware-related. (Perhaps because Apple's 'legacy-free' hardware still drives the trackpad via ADB?)

And what's the deal with his claiming that there is no way to temporarily hide the dock? Command-control-d, anyone?

#15 - think back to high school physics. The scroll bar is obviously polarized and the throbbing is the result of the light shining through the polarized filter.

Yeah, I know. I freaked out the first time I put on polarized sunglasses and looked at the rear windshield of a car.


...and don't beat on my theory too hard. I never made it past Physics I in school and that was at least 5 years ago.

"I agree that the ellipsis is used inconsistently, but I don't find his examples inconsistent."

When you want help, going to the front page for an application's help is (practically) never enough. You need to do more to complete your task. So the help menu item should end in an ellipsis, but it doesn't.

"I'd really like to see a similar cross-application review of GNOME by this guy. I think his head would implode."


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