Monday, October 5, 2020 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Big Sur’s Hidden Document Proxy Icon

Marco Arment:

The Big Sur auto-hidden document-proxy icon is so frustrating — it hides functionality behind an invisible mode, and introduces a delay for anyone trying to use it.

How does this help usability?

What problem does this solve?

It looks cleaner in a static screenshot, and it saves a little space for another toolbar button now that the window title and toolbar are squeezed into the same row. But I miss seeing the proxy icon, too. I drag these every day (though rarely from Finder).

John Gruber:

I would definitely argue that this change makes the whole thing harder to discover in the first place. One of the neat things about document/folder proxy icons is that they’re discoverable. All it takes is a moment of inspiration, “Hey, I wonder if I can drag that icon...?”

Jason Snell:

I’m going to co-sign this. I use proxy icons all the time and Apple hiding them behind a delay and animation is infuriating.

I don’t mind the look of Big Sur but this is a regression in functionality.

Joe Groff:

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but

defaults write -g NSToolbarTitleViewRolloverDelay -float 0

Marco Arment:

People keep sending me this, but it doesn’t fix the problem — it just makes the delay shorter. (There’s still an animation delay — it just starts on hover instead of shortly after.)

It’s still a needless mode with a needless delay to achieve only the shallowest visual appeal.


Update (2020-10-07): Daniel Jalkut:

It’s not about the Finder but about a long-standing affordance for working with the file representation of any document window. Cmd-clicking in the title is a related, priceless affordance.

Matt Birchler:

Looks like you guys were more familiar with proxy icons than I expected! It’s still a minority of a nerdy group, so I suspect it’s lower among the general public, but still, not as niche as I assumed.


Yikes, I didn't know about this. Much like drop-down sheets, the proxy icon is something I used and enjoyed a lot on the Mac, something that made the OS stand out to me, something that told me thought or care was put into its design, something I miss on other platforms. Apple seem committed to systematically removing or downplaying the parts of their OS that remain unique or advantageous...

What problem does it solve?! I imagine it's their misguided quest to remove "clutter". ;(

Turns out you can Cmd+click the window title to show the path popup menu. Avoids the delay, but doesn't help discoverability... I suppose one could argue that discoverability of the proxy icon was never great.

@nhojb Yes, but Command-clicking doesn’t help you drag the proxy icon.

I really feel like macOS is steadily losing its coherence as a platform that works for novices and power users alike, all in the name of some fetish for extreme design minimalism. I'm thinking more and more about leaving when Mojave stops getting security updates.

Curtis points out you can show the path bar instead, and that’s a nice feature, too. But it’s no substitute.

Most critically, because it’s not on by default, it has the same problem as the current proxy icon: it’s so hard to discover and to remember that it exists that usage will decline, and that in turn will (seemingly) prove those who wanted to hide it by default right. Which means a few releases from now, they can remove the proxy icon altogether.

The proxy icon is one of those hidden-gem features in macOS, and while this may sound overly get-off-my-lawn-y, removing it while also not having added all that many cool things in recent releases is a net loss.

I still haven’t tried Big Sur, and so many things I read and see about it (those screenshots! Gah!) makes me reticent to try. I kind of like the Yosemite-era look. The vibrancy is mostly a gimmick and not that useful, but it’s also just plain fun to see what blurry background hides underneath Safari’s toolbar sometimes. In contrast, what I’ve seen of Big Sur so far just seems… bland.

all in the name of some fetish for extreme design minimalism

Yeah. We’re losing discoverability and clarity in the name of… I’m not sure, frankly.

@Sören The path bar is a possible alternative in Finder, but many apps with proxy icons don’t offer a path bar.

The path bar is a possible alternative in Finder, but many apps with proxy icons don’t offer a path bar.

Yeah, I didn’t comment on other apps because I haven’t seen them yet. (I don’t have the beta here. I could install it on a different volume, but then again, I remember Siracusa’s bridgeOS horror story, so…)

And, even with just the Finder, I don’t think it’s enough of an alternative.

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