Monday, June 11, 2007

Leopard’s Menu Bar

Third-party opportunity: write a little utility that changes the top of an image file so that when it’s used as a desktop picture in Leopard the menu bar doesn’t look transparent.

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If the default opacity isn't adjustable I'm gonna kick Steve's shin the next time I see him at lunch!

Michael, you're all over this. Meanwhile, we commented on that fabulous iPhone SDK:

Wouldn't it just be easier (assuming the opacity isn't adjustable) to write a utility to make the menu bar opaque than to change and resave background images?

Lee: Easier, perhaps, but I don't like to run utilities that modify the system.

Rather than do either of those, why not just make a little background app that puts an opaque white (or whatever) window underneath the menubar?

Nick Fagerlund

Upside down and backwards of the "fake transparency" option in MenuShade, Rick's idea sounds like.

great idea. also, how you are going to get rid of the silly reflections on the dock 'floor.'

Rick: Sure, that would be great if the OS will let you put a window under the menubar. I didn’t realize it allowed regular apps to do that.

Mac user for 20 years, usually 10 hours at it a day (and less than 30 hours of Windows total in that time, yeah!); i love the transparent menu bar, and the dock reflections too. But i am no developer, and it's good to know that you guys are already busy tearing the thing down, or improving it -whatever. As a certified Terminal cretin, i can only say "Bravo, keep the passion!".

Good lords! It's because of people like this that we will never be able to move on. Maybe, just maybe, you have to take the hints that it is time tp pn.

Whooda: What did you think of striped and brushed metal windows and excessive menu transparency seven years ago? Were people who thought they were dumb then holding Apple back or ahead of their time?

I'm banking on Skitch to offer transparency screenshot settings.

Dude, you're being totally silly. The menubar opacity is just a plist value, even if they don't expose it, it's just a defaults command away.

Fred: Well, that's good news. Are you guessing or breaking your NDA? :-)

You can get some windows to move under the menu bar, but not all. I didn't realize this until I tried out MondoMouse from Atomic Bird ( Use the "move window" shortcut (command-option by default) to move Safari windows up and they stop at the menu bar, but give it a shot with iTunes and the window happily keeps on going.

You can just make your desktop pattern pictures with a white stripe on the top. I've always done this anyway, since I use well known paintings where they would be somewhat mutilated if a strip at the top were covered up.

better idea: make a little app that shows something like CPU usage as a percentage of the whole screen width. if the left half of the menu is blue-ish, 50% of the CPU are used.

Yahoo Widget windows can be tucked under the menu bar.

If there's no plist setting for the opacity, I know a certain Menu Bar Tinter Widget that'll be created in a hurry.

The translucent menu bar is the most laughable of the UI innovations. I really think it's a bad idea. It will either get laughed out of the release before it ships, or else it will be one of those things that gets ceremonially "fixed" in a future release, once the drugs wear off at Apple design HQ.

Remember the Apple menu in the center of the menu bar? That was funny, too.

I actually liked the new menubar (although I will have to see if it would work for me in practice). And I think this is a shift of focus from apple's side: from highlighting and focusing on all the options(did someone say Windows?); to a more work oriented focus. What should be in focus at all times is the current application (Spaces are another addittion which further lets you focus on one set of task at a time) and not all the menus (that includes the top one).. At least I can see myself increasing productivity and focus with this new look (if only Xcode 3 would become simpler to look at!).

I don't remember the center menu bar, because I didn't use a mac at that time, and was just a teenager at the time - perhaps this is why I can accept the new look so quickly.

@Ben Mitchell: In Cocoa, it depends on whether your window has a title bar, IIRC. If it does, your window's top left corner will be forced to be within [[window screen] visibleFrame]. Carbon apps are different, as I've learned from misplaced MS Office windows much too often.

And yes, this was my first thought, too: I'm guessing there will be quite a lot of window-behind-the-menu-bar apps. :-D

Addendum -- actually, I couldn't resist:

Oops. I shouldn't have put that link in pointy parentheses:

(I'm terribly sorry for flooding your comments, Michael.)

Someone has already said (that's tried used a beta copy of Leopard) that you can turn off the transparency for the menu bar.
So it looks like there doesn't need to be any workarounds or hacks.

@Michael: My pleasure.

@Jono: As Michael already pointed out, someone may either be guessing or breaking his NDA. But even if it's true -- this one took approximately 5 minutes; and if all else fails, it can still serve as a "How to write my own MenuShade competitor" tutorial. You could even extend it to let the user choose a custom background pattern.

Will Parker

@Daniel Jalkut:

"Remember the Apple menu in the center of the menu bar? That was funny, too."

Actually, it was much, much funnier than that.
(BTW, Daniel's referring to pre-Public Beta versions of Mac OS X.)

It wasn't a menu. It was just a 'decorative' Apple icon.

So useful.

A useful behind-the-menubar tool would be one that changes color as a means of notification of some condition.

For instance, if a developer is running an app that is pointing at a production database, the menubar could turn bright red.

Or maybe the root account could be set up with a login script that tells the under-menubar app to display black-and-yellow caution stripes under the menubar.

In general, though, I'm not a fan of the transparency. It's copying one of the more reviled ideas from Vista.

Bit late and all, but that “idea copied from vista” was itself copied from OS X 10.0–10.2. At least, when I saw Aero Glass for the first time, I immediately thought of the silly transparent title bars we used to have. Of course, Microsoft may have innovated that one on their very own; it’s not hard to come up with an awful idea.

I would imagine that somewhere in the system is a preference to set the transparency. So the question really is:

default write????

It would seem that, with the way Leopard is coded, my idea of editing the image file itself may be better.

Fred wrote:
"The menubar opacity is just a plist value, even if they don't expose it, it's just a defaults command away"

So now that Leopard is released, can you tell us which plist to edit or which defaults command to issue to change this?

I don't understand why Apple didnt put a small app to modify opacity of the menu bar and dock. It seems so simple to do for these guys and still it hasnt been added on release. Maybe they are keeping these little addin for the next release?

Apple don't like things to be too configurable. Lots of options everywhere make things complicated and cluttered. But I think they should publish the defaults commands for things like this so that advanced users can change them by hand, or make a combined utility to change all of these options from one app (like XP Power Toys)

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