Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Layers of UI Inconsistencies in Windows 11

NTDEV (via Hacker News):

Windows 11 brought in a new design language, putting an emphasis on rounded corners and gradients and a new transparent background called Mica, which aims to replace the old Acrylic design.


Unfortunately, we still have plenty of Windows 8 elements throughout the OS, like the Autorun prompt or the error that appears when one runs an incompatible program.


The Remote Desktop Connection program is still exactly the same as it was 14 years ago, complete with Aero icons and skeuomorphic common controls.


Just like with Windows 10, the driver copy screen hasn’t been updated, so it still has the Windows XP icons.


And last, but certainly not least, in the ODBC Data Sources utility there is a Windows 3.1-styled folder selection window!

Is there a similar article for macOS or iOS?


9 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

Olivier Simard-Casanova

In Microsoft's defense, the new UI is really nice. But these eyesores are really something.

Agree with @Olivier. The Windows 11 Settings app puts Ventura's System Settings to shame. But Microsoft's insistence to keep Control Panel around is almost ridiculous now.

macOS isn't much better. There are now six dialog styles in macOS Ventura, compared to two in Catalina.

Another issue is all these widget toolkits have different font rendering engines, so text is displayed at different sizes with different antialiasing in different apps.

The size thing is especially bad: Windows still hasn’t figured out a consistent story for “High-DPI” text.

Honestly Ubuntu Linux offers a more consistent UI experience. Text is rendered at the same size with the same antialiasing in all apps and the Settings pane (inspires by iPad’s Settings) is consistent.


The inconsistencies described in this article for macOS Monterey are not remotely similar to the kinds of things in Windows. Comparable would be 1990s NeXT UI, brushed metal, dialogs from classic Mac and all sorts.

I think that's fair. This is also very noticeable when using screen readers, as all the different toolkits behave subtly differently in the way they expose #a11y information, respond to keyboard events, etc. macOS has Catalyst and it's particularly awful in that respect, too. At this point the fight for OS dominance is on functionality, not UI. I think it's a shame--never has the truism that it's how it works, not how it looks been more relevant--but as long as we're griping, might as well gripe about engineering quality too.

This is now an unsolvable problem for Microsoft. Recently, I connected PS3 microphones to a Windows computer, and had to set it up so the single USB receiver for the two microphones was read as two separate microphones. There's a setting for this, but it's in the old XP style.

What's Microsoft going to do? Just remove the thousands and thousands of niche things like their obscure microphone settings? That seems like a terrible idea. Get rid of the UI, and provide some kind of command line tool to change these settings instead? That doesn't sound like an improvement. Move all of this stuff into the new UI? That'll just make it harder to use for the 99% of people who want to change the stuff a normal person actually needs to change.

I think what MS is doing now - keeping all of this old cruft in maintenance mode, and picking some of the more popular things to bring them forward - is probably the best out of a list of bad options.

@Plume I don't disagree, but they could at least refrain from adding to the problem by burying newly-created advanced settings and UI in even harder-to-reach places, like PowerShell cmdlets, Group Policy or, worst of all, the registry. I know Windows has a long pedigree of arcana but if it really is Microsoft's intention to move Windows into the light then they still need to find a new home for the settings "Advanced" users need that you don't reach by typing the right words into the Run box. I guess the equivalent problem on macOS is the (over-)reliance on undocumented "defaults" and plist file modifications, except there Apple doesn't even try to disguise their contempt at advanced users; they just take features away and expect you to live with it.

This is my biggest complaint on my Windows PC. It’s insane that a company as big as Microsoft can’t assign a handful of engineers to move old UI elements into the new UI. It’s also a joke that there’s still no way to magnify/scale old apps on a 4K display so that they’re legible (e.g. like “2x” mode when running iPhone apps on an iPad). Newer stuff mostly looks okay, but anything that’s even just a few years old often looks terrible and is borderline unusable on a modern display. We are now several years into Windows Hi-DPI support and MS still hasn’t figured it out and made it usable.

Just updated a PS5 controller today and ended up in some pixelated interface from my youth.

But oh boy how Death Stranding sings on the PC. Buttery smooth. And free from the EPIC have store as well.

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