Quarter Life Crisis

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UI Hell

555 words

John Gruber writes on Apple's recent trend to deliver inconsistent UI, along with a couple of interesting references. He makes a remark on the new standard preferences shortcut. While it primarily annoys me that Apple's chosen shortcut for this is the same that the neat WordLookup service uses, I also asked myself why there should be a keyboard equivalent for the Preferences menu item anyway. If you need to go adjust the preferences frequently enough to need a keyboard shortcut for them, the application is badly designed and broken. Making it easier to access the preferences, will make programmers even more reluctant to come up with reasonable designs for their applications (just look at the recently added preference panel of vlc to see how wrong things can go).

On the topic of keyboard shortcuts there's also another tremendously silly change I had to discover in the German localisation of Apple's Mail application in the recent update to Mac OS X.2.4. They introduced keyboard shortcuts of command-left/right-arrow for the de/increase quote-level command. Of course this breaks your ability to use the standard shortcuts to jump the beginning/end of a line. To add insult to injury we recall that it's Apple who normally run arguments à la uh-oh we can't have command-arrow key shortcuts as (advertised) back/forward navigation commands in the Finder or other places. Sure the Command-[/] shortcuts we suggest are anything but usable for most people in the world, but it could break consistency with standard editing shortcuts. Never mind that you hardly ever have text editing in those cases. Never mind that there are reasonable ways to deal with those possible inconsistencies. And then Apple introduces those very commands in a situation where text editing is the only thing you do. Stupid? Indeed it is.

I just read Bill Bumgarner's remarks on bug reporting. He suggests not to preach in bug reports. But having in mind bugs as blatant as the one just mentioned – expressing sheer carelessness – makes it hard for me to even stay polite.

For the time being, the old virtues of Cocoa flexibility will restore text editing capabilites in Mail by using a command like

defaults write com.apple.mail NSUserKeyEquivalents '{"Zitatebene zur\U00FCck" = "^\UF702"; "Zitatebene weiter" = "^\UF703";}'

Just because I can fix it myself doesn't mean it's not broken.

And while I'm at the topic of keyboard shortcuts and menus – make every programmer read Apple's checklist for making menus. I keep seeing more and more applications ignoring these.

Finally, Original download window designa little remark I intended to make for quite a while now. Sometime in December, Chimera got a new download manager. The old one wasn't very good as it spawned a new window for every download. As the window could close itself on completion of the download, this wasn't too bad for beta software.

Then Calum Robinson came up with a Finder-style download window. A nice bit of work – clean and easy to understand. Bloated 'improved' download window design However, as the discussion went on, it was 'improved' by adding feature by feature, turning it into the bloated messy thing it is today. In addition to the confusing layout and buttons as seen in the window, it will keep getting in your way and make completed downloads stay around. Another instance of Free Software UI suckiness.

February 18, 2003, 18:30

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