Friday, September 11, 2020

Big Sur’s Transparent Menu Bar

Tyler Hall:

Here, let’s go back to Jobs on stage at WWDC 2007. (I had third row seats that year.)

He justifies the translucent menu bar by saying that most users choose their own digital photo instead of the default wallpaper. The updated design adapts to that photo and, I assume, makes your desktop feel more immersive.

Regardless of the reasons for the change, Apple did eventually add a system preference to turn off the translucency. And at some point, even that preference went away in favor of an opaque bar again.

But it’s back in Big Sur.

I’ve been following along with screenshots and design critiques of the new OS since it was revealed. I really was (still am) excited to explore all of the UI nooks and crannies. But in less than a day of using it, I’ve lost track of how many times my eyes have had trouble settling on menu items because, well, I can’t see them.

So he made an app to make the menu bar opaque.

Tyler Hall:

Also, I don’t know why I keep harping on menus lately (other than them being a primary means of using macOS), but every time I see this I think “Huh, why are all those items disabled?” before I remember all over again they’ve just grayed out the shortcut keys.

Frank Reiff:

macOS 11 Big Sur does many things right and after a bit of getting used to, the visual style really grows on you. The transparent menu bar, however, is a bit of a legibility nightmare and something I could not live with. So I developed Boring Old Menu Bar to bring the “perfectly fine” macOS Catalina menu bar to macOS 11 Big Sur.


14 Comments RSS · Twitter

Even pre-BigSur, there's parts of the OS, and apps that still punch through to the desktop, so I've been using a solid white background.

While the transparency thing surely is stupid, the most critical issue for me is the wide spacing between the menu bar app icons. I constantly have 66 (!) active menu bar apps, counting all iStatMenus and BitBar instances, with approx. 10 optional menu bar apps I sometimes launch (but not all at once). Since I'm on a 15-inch MBP with default Retina resolution, I can't do without Bartender, but with this new Big Sneer design, not even Bartender will be able to help, at least not within its current scope of functionality.

What in God's name were they thinking at Apple?!

I just hope that Bartender (or another app) can fix this insanely stupid UI move.

BS seems even worse than Catalina from what I've read from people who are beta testing it. Based on the screenshots it looks horrible too. I was reluctant to install Catalina (I waited a month after release for the first time ever) and while I still think it's super annoying and going in the wrong direction, overall I don't think it was as bad as reports led me to believe because I didn't experience any of the Mail bugs etc. But BS looks like a whole 'nother train wreck entirely -- they're using the chance to revamp the UI from the ground up by making (IMHO) some *very* questionable choices.

I didn't want to say too much about it until I had time to kick the tires, but I've switched to Windows 10 as my primary workstation for 3 weeks or so now and it's actually not so bad. Performance is incredible, it cost me half the price of an equivalently specced iMac (I'm not even remotely exaggerating), and any issues I've had with it have been no better or worse than issues I've had (or others reported) with Macs in the past 3 years. One of my main gripes about Windows (since forever) is the inconsistency between apps -- general UI is never predictable, settings are never in the same place, toolbars are all wildly different shapes and sizes, some apps display text too small even though my system settings are for big text, etc.

But honestly Apple has obliterated that advantage on the Mac side since hardly anything follows the HIG anymore, Catalyst apps are awful and confusing, and the majority of cross platform apps are some bastardization of Electron or Java or whatever else since Apple has slowly alienated developers from the Mac over the past 10 years (the irony is that often these same apps actually look and behave more natively and with better performance on Windows).

The other advantage is that, somewhat miraculously, Windows 10 can run most apps made 15 years ago (or even older). Everything supports Windows, unlike the Mac where Apple is constantly making old apps incompatible with each annual release of OS X -- so if you're trying to use your new Mac with any older external hardware or need to run an app from 2012 for any reason, you're probably screwed. Even my new Canon printer has loads more functionality available in its Windows driver than it does on the Mac. Oh and I didn't even mention WSL, where you can also run the entire world of Linux natively alongside Windows.

I will probably always hope that the day will come when Apple will woo me back to the Mac. It looks like they're going in the wrong direction for the foreseeable future, though.

For anyone who has made the switch to Windows, if you miss the navigation of MacOS, there is a small app called WinLaunch that replicates Launchpad functionality with hotcorners. I basically use this all the time instead of the ugly Windows 10 start button tiles. One less click.
And there is an app called Seer or QuickLook that replicates the MacOS Finder's Quick Look functionality with spacebar. I won't post any external link but you should be able to search for them easily.
I miss the 3-column navigation of Finder and Cover Flow (no more since Mojave), but there is no choice.

>It looks like they're going in the wrong direction

For years, over a decade, I had this hope that, any day now, Apple would realize their mistakes, fix OS X, bring out an actual professional desktop and notebook computer, allow sideloading apps on iOS, and so on, and it never happened. I'm now at the point where I've accepted that it will never happen, and the only thing I regret is that it took me so long to realize this. I should have switched to Windows years earlier than I did.

It's really incredible that Windows has become as good and stable as it is, still supporting software and hardware 10+ years old on even the newest PCs. Meanwhile every year Apple deprecates lots of important stuff within OS X -- yet they don't reap the supposed benefits of not having to support legacy software and hardware (i.e. a supposed disadvantage of Windows). Macs are no more reliable than Windows now. And actually it's probably even worse, because Apple obfuscates everything so there's no solution at all when you do have a problem (why isn't iCloud syncing? what happened to my Time Machine backup? where did my email disappear to? who knows! it's a black box) and you certainly can't repair it yourself. Meanwhile with Windows, if you do have an issue you'll probably find lots of solutions online from other people who had the same problem. And if it's a hardware issue, you just open the case and replace what's gone wrong. I remember when the Mac was like this. It's nice to have that feeling again.

"macOS 11 Big Sur does many things right"

One of the many things it does _not_ do right is the new switch button for the WiFi menu. There are more frictions on Big Sur to enable/disable WiFi than on previous OS versions.

I finally deleted the last Mac OS volume on my 2008 Mac Pro 2.8x8 once I finally upgraded the Windows volume from 7 to 10. Win 10 is very nicely done. And with 12GB of RAM and a GTX1650 Pro, I'm able to play modern games just fine. I never thought I'd say it, but I'm thankful Microsoft is there for a fallback when I can no longer tolerate Apple's betrayals and bad engineering.

In response to Stephane,

There's the same number of steps to disable Wi-Fi if you drag the Wi-Fi control from the new Control Centre on to your menu bar. Bam, back to the old behaviour for those who want it; hidden in the Control Centre for those who don't.

you can also just simply turn the menu bar opaque (for free) by setting "reduce transparency" in preferences/accessability/display and select the checkbox "reduce transparancy"

@Christian Yes, that’s what I do. The issue is that some people like to have transparency elsewhere throughout macOS, just not in the menu bar.

Nice find. Took all of two seconds for me start looking for a solution to the transparent menu bar. Impossible to see.

I wish they was more control over making the Menu bar bigger again. I tried the accessibility option but it barely does much to increase size. Maybe it's because I don't use a retina screen or that Apple has simple decided to incrementally shrink everything in Big Sur just a tad for space? Font's in everything look a bit smaller as well which with my 50 something eyes isn't so positive. Being transparent with the Menu bar only aggravates the vision issue. I do like that the UI improvements make MacOS appear more colorful and attractive. But some aspects have been made worse not better.

Ok after a few weeks of using Big Sur on both a desktop monitor and a MacBook Air. I can see many weird choices in new UI changes. Like the menu bar seems weirdly shorter in height, but they increased the height of Safari's toolbar?? So they give extra space to a window but then take the gain away in the app? Just too much White on white stuff the lack of contrast makes even a dark mode hater consider using it. I don't mind the attempt to marry icons of IOS and iPad OS to the Mac OS for better continuity. But it either seems like a work in progress or they didn't bother with some icons. On a stability note, Big Sur has absolutely been another nightmare for some to upgrade too. This should not be so difficult given Apple controls all of the important pieces. You would think Apple had beta tested all the hardware combinations that could run Big Sur? I have to question whether the timing of releasing Big Sur to the public was premature?

Leave a Comment