Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Transparency in macOS 10.14

Dr. Drang:

Why should the Dock appear as if it’s transparent? It’s not as if there’s anything interesting behind the Dock. That space can’t be used for icons, and I wouldn’t put any there even if it could be. So there’s no value is seeing through the Dock, but there is value in distinguishing the icons in the Dock from those that may be next to it on the Desktop. The distinction between the icons in the Dock and those on the Desktop is unnecessarily reduced by the excessive transparency of the Mojave Dock.


This is ludicrous. This menu isn’t directly in front of the Desktop, it’s in front of the browser window (which is white because I was on Google’s home page when I took the screenshot). There is no reason for it to look like you’re seeing through it to the Desktop. That it looks that way screws up the sense of layering, especially since it still has that shadow around its border.

This absurd fake transparency isn’t confined to Safari. The little popup boxes that appear in Maps have the same muted Desktop coloring even though their conceptual position is floating on top of the map, not on top of the Desktop.

“Reduce transparency” is less effective than before. I usually run with “Increase contrast,” which further reduces the transparency and makes text more readable. But it also exposes a variety of bugs with standard controls and with built-in apps (e.g. the top of the main table view in Mail and the Show Desktop pop-up menu in the Mission Control preferences).

Nick Heer:

For what it’s worth, I don’t necessarily share Drang’s complaints with transparency more generally on the Mac; I think it’s more decorative than helpful, but it’s fine. But I keep the “Reduce Transparency” setting switched on mostly because I prefer a solid background for the menu bar. The resulting layering and compositing doesn’t make any spatial sense and, especially with a saturated desktop picture, is often jarring.


Update (2019-02-13): Tony Arnold:

I have to be honest, recent changes to macOS’ design have me scratching my head, too. How and when things show through seems like a massive mess. The content of vibrant sidebars is less emphasised, and harder to read when the window is focused.

Update (2019-03-26): macOS 10.14.4 fixes the bug with the Dock and Reduce Transparency.

5 Comments RSS · Twitter

Transparency/vibrancy has bugged me ever since it made its way to macOS. I dislike the aesthetic, and as others note it doesn’t seem very well thought through logically.

Usability-wise, I think sidebars are the worst offenders. The one in iTunes has a very transparent background, and the currently selected item has so little distinction that I keep thinking it’s indicating the window is in the background instead of the foreground window.

How on earth do people live with Reduced Transparency turned off? I briefly turned it off just now and it is awful. The affect on the Dock and Menu bar are horrendous.

The whole transparency thing just makes me think there are bugs or display glitches or my monitor is failing (which I also get from the horrible burn in on my 5K iMac screen, sigh).

One more little thing that you can do, are of Marc Edwards


When you set the Mojave Accent Color to "Graphite" (the gray dot) all the dark mode "blacks" stop mixing the desktop color into everything and making muddy weird colors. In Graphite-Dark-Mode blacks are just black. When combined with Reduce Transparency things are almost tolerable.

Sometimes a little more user control is a good thing. The myth is Apple will guess correctly for default settings and my experience is the opposite. If Apple cares about user experience, there would be a coherent set of user accessible controls to tweak the experience. The transparency complaint has been around for years and the fix is still not clear.

The transparency always makes me think of Windows Vista. It's not as bad as Vista and Win7 were, but it's definitely not a good look. I remain convinced that they put it in because the OS was too colorless once they got rid of colored icons in the sidebar. Which was also a mistake IMO although at least I get the tactic. The idea was to make the document the focus and not the tools. Unfortunately it made the tools hard to find as quickly since there was less to distinguish them. I like the flattened look they added a few years ago without going all iOS7. But both macOS and iOS are overdue for a redesign to keep them fresh.

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