New Machine - Mac User Unfriendly things

Yes, I know, blasphemy. What else can it be when the only prevailing thoughts expressed in the world are about how easy it is to use. Sorry, you are brain-washed hype-mongers (all bloggers should insult their audience before they start just to set the tone correctly :-) ).

So, here is a short list so far.

  • Dialog transitions.

    What is the deal with not allowing me to tab to an OK button and pressing space. I have already had to enable the tabbing from control to control because it wasn't the default. Now, even with that enabled, I can not tab to an OK button.

    Specific case, Twitterrific properties dialog.

  • Keyboard Inconsistent


    When entering tweets into the new Snitter client, based on the newly renamed and re-hyped, Air framework, we find that the options-arrow doesn't jump the cursor by words anymore. Is this a Mac problem or an Air problem?


    Another example would be the command-w to close a window. Firefox uses this key to close tabs and makes you add a shift to close the window. I would have reversed that.


    Firefox downloads a file, it appears in the download window, command-o opens the file in the an open file dialog box?. Not quite right since the file was already selected but ok, pressing on. Now in the open file dialog, select the file and press "open" button (or just Command-O, they are both wrong) on the file and you get a "do you want to save the file" prompt? If you agree and you get a second download file.

    None of this is anything to do with the "open" semantic we were going for. Again I am forced back to the mouse to click "open" or double click the file to open it in the Firefox download dialog.

    Tricky logic coming up, watch out. Windows uses the enter key to open. Firefox under Windows doesn't do anything when enter is pressed in the download window. So this lack of functionality is better than inconsistent functionality. Mac or Firefox fault indeterminate.

  • Spaces

    You can not drag an Air application (experimented with Snitter) to a Spaces boundary to move it to another Space. Let's all hate Apple, after all, we have been hating Microsoft for so long, why not spread the joy. In reality, they both appear to deserve some well crafted derision.

  • Command-Tab Behavior

    Coming from Windows this is certainly going to take some getting used to. I am used to being able to get to the windows I want and have it in focus EASILY.

    When a window is minimized, using Command-Tab to select it does nothing. It seems like a simple UI request. "Go to my window" I say but the Mac refuses to give me access to it. Instead, back to the mouse to navigate to the dock to find and click on the window that I want.

    When a window exists in a different Space, you can Command-Tab to it, but, when you get there it will not have focus, so you have to click on it to use it. Another simple window selection that requires multiple steps to achieve a simple goal.

    I do like the Command-` for cycling through many windows from the same program. That is really nice with Firefox.

  • Google Mail

    There is no "goto end of line in the gmail compose dialog. It doesn't seem to be related to a Firefox rendered textarea since it is working in this blog entry page. This may very well be a bug in the page code managing the compose input field but it is only effecting macs.

  • Gimp

    This is an old X application and runs with a completely different set of UI design standards. Now that Mac is based on unix it has the ability to run these old unix applications so its hard to contend that this is a Mac problem. However, the UI standards for Gimp are closer to the Windows standards.


There are obviously going to be minor differences between UI libraries, cocoa, carbon, Air, HTML/JavaScript etc. I have barley scratched the surface of whole Macports tool set with all it's X implementations.

One of the realities that Mac faces is that it is a Unix based UI. While they smartly replaced X with their own UI toolkit to improve usability they are still fighting the draw of the old Unix habits. The Command-Tab behavior is straight out of your old X environment.

Windows has the advantage of using a more standard UI toolkit. All programs on a Windows machine write to the Windows user interface libraries. This means that everything works the same way all the time and that makes Windows a better user experience.

The problem here is not that there are a few non-standard interactions on a Mac but that all we hear is how user friendly a Mac is. I am hear to say that a Mac is "usable" and when you get through the arduous process of learning all it's foibles it will feel like that old car with no mirrors, a clear view of the road through the floor and no 2nd gear, that you will never part with.


glen said...

Firefox on the Mac has a nice rendering engine but it breaks a lot of native UI conventions along the way. Camino might treat you better.

Regarding Command-Tab and Minimize, try hiding the Windows using Command-H and Command-Tab to cycle among apps. Command-Tab will restore the app with the focus if you stop on it.

Edward Sumerfield said...

Thanks Glen, that command-H looks good. Though now I am going to have to research the difference between "Hide" and "Minimize". So much to learn.

I have two more solutions for this problem now. One is the Witch tool and another is the DeMinimizer QuickSilver Plugin.