Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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In the past years there has been a trend in Apple’s applications towards what people call Head-Up Displays. Usually these are dark, slightly transparent windows hovering above the rest of the user interface offering the ability to adjust some settings. The most prominent example for this trend will be the adjustments window in iPhoto:

iPhoto ajustment palette

This window is also the one which makes it most obvious that the naming as Head-Up Display (HUD) is inappropriate. If you keep in mind that the very point of a real HUD is that you can see through it and it doesn’t get into your way while displaying auxiliary information you may need, this is quite obvious.

Not only is the transparency of this inspector window hardly more than eye candy – it’s almost opaque, there are many sliders on it making it hard to see through and there’s no way to actually judge the image beneath that window from what you see through that extra layer of grey (brown?). In addition that darn window is there to be interacted with and it does get into your way all the time.

Has anybody else though that iPhoto’s design of keeping the photo centred in its editing mode is as stupid as it is pretty? Because of this there’s no way to place the adjustment window anywhere on screen where it doesn’t overlap some other part of the window which you might be interested in.

While those windows are quite pretty, I can’t stand hearing people talk about them as HUDs anymore….

And while I’m at this topic I just need to mention the Web Inspector again that comes with newer WebKit builds. By its looks it will get the HUD label as well, but it seems to be driven by HTML and JavaScript. Even better: Even in its current unfinished state it probably is the most useful thing I’ve ever seen for analysing web pages and understanding or adjusting their CSS.

WebKit adnjustment palette

July 4, 2006, 0:52

Tagged as Mac OS X.


Comment by Simone Manganelli: User icon

Regarding iPhoto’s habit of centering the photo while in editing mode, you can change this in preferences so that editing will be done in a separate window. I just checked and it’s in iPhoto 5, but I’m pretty sure you can still do this even in iPhoto 6. The edit-in-the-main-window feature is there if you don’t like extra cluttering windows, but if you want to get the photo off to one side and the editing panel off to the other side, just use the extra window.

— Simone

July 4, 2006, 1:53

Comment by Dave2: User icon

Until I read this entry, I had never even cracked open the edit mode on iPhoto… I only use it for cataloging my photographs, and have PhotoShop set for my editor.

Now that I’ve seen it, I’m actually quite impressed. There’s a lot of control there in a fairly easy-to-use interface. I may actually use it from time to time now, so thanks for bringing it to my attention!

July 4, 2006, 5:49

Comment by ssp: User icon

Simone: I don’t think the separate editing window solves my problem. In fact I find it very hard to use. For example it always seems to come up at a pre-defined width, meaning that for portrait-format photos I won’t see the button for the adjustments palette in the toolbar by default. As far as I can tell, the separate editing window doesn’t display the ‘photostream’ at the top of the window either, which I find quite useful.

Dave: If you have a fast machine, iPhoto’s editing capabilities should do the trick in many cases. I particularly like the slider for adjusting the exposure. That seems to do the trick for many photos with reasonable side effects.

July 4, 2006, 9:51

Comment by d.w.: User icon

I lobe WekKit’s inspector, too…

Runs every evening, right before I get home from work:

echo "Previous installed WebKit version is" `cat /Applications/WebKit.app/Contents/Resources/VERSION`
export datedir="$HOME/Downloads/"`date '+%F'`
[ ! -d $datedir ] && mkdir -p $datedir
cd $datedir
curl -s -O http://nightly.webkit.org/builds/Latest-WebKit-SVN.dmg
hdiutil attach Latest-WebKit-SVN.dmg -quiet
ditto /Volumes/WebKit/WebKit.app /Applications/WebKit.app
ditto /Volumes/WebKit/Drosera.app /Applications/Drosera.app
hdiutil detach /Volumes/Webkit -quiet
echo "Newly installed Webkit version is" `cat /Applications/WebKit.app/Contents/Resources/VERSION`

July 4, 2006, 15:31

Comment by d.w.: User icon

OK, well, imagine that this had worked, whistle softly to yourself, and download it from here instead…

July 4, 2006, 16:11

Comment by ssp: User icon

Yeah that’s good. Although personally I’m happy to d/l an update once a week or so and spare myself the hassle of scheduling some script to run…

I think some of your quotes became victims of Markdown. Sorry for that. It’s exactly the kind of technical crap I hate… but I inserted some <pre> tags for you to make it work.

Yikes, I hate shell scripting! All those different quotes.

But what’s amazing about the WebKit Inspector (while mildly buggy and incomplete in some places – they finally fixed that crashing bug recently, but I’d still love to be able to edit things) is how brilliant it looks in terms of usability and information / pixel when compared to the tool Firefox has for roughly the same purpose…

July 4, 2006, 16:13

Comment by d.w.: User icon

My employer sells job scheduling software — it’s in my blood. ;)

July 4, 2006, 16:38

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