A Centered Menu Bar

wmoss

Registered
If you read Apple's interface guidelines for Mac OS X, one of the things that is repeated over and over is that they want interface design to be centered on screen instead of the strong, left-aligned nature of the Classic Mac OS.

Apple itself does a reasonably good job of sticking to this design guideline. The dock stays centered on screen. The Apple menubar adornment (no matter how nonfunctional) stays centered onscreen. The drop shadows that the windows and menu cast are made such that it looks like the light source is coming from directly overhead rather than the upper left. Control panel interfaces look very centered.

A centered interface isn't biased against a culture that doesn't have a custom of left-to-right reading (such as Japan or China). It also makes things faster to manipulate from a user interface perspective (Fitt's law I think is the codification of this). Imagine an elevator in a 20 story building. If the elevator is idle, you'd want it to go to the 10 floor so that it'd be quicker to respond to the next user no matter what floor they are on.

So why didn't Apple center the menubar? At first I thought that it would be harder to use. I'm accustomed to just slamming my mouse to the upper left corner to get to the Apple menu, but if the System wide apple menu isn't there any more, that tendency will go away anyway. With different lengths of menubars, finding the consistent menus (like file and edit) won't be in the same place for every app. But since the name of the app, pushes File and Edit around that's not the case for the left aligned menubar either.

It might be that Apple did interface testing with new users and found the left aligned menubar to work better, but if that was the case I'm suprised that they haven't removed the Apple in the center of the menubar :)

Any thoughts?
 

natepalmer

Registered
I think having a centered menu bar would prove to be a bit oddish and not user friendly. For the poweruser that uses the icon instead of the name in the left corner will grow accustomed to where the File, Edit, View menus are located at, to have these menus not static would confuse, and I believe would hinder productivity.

That said, I'm hoping apple uses the right side of the bar for more functional uses like a clock, application menu, etc.. (maybe they are planning something like that?)

Oh yeah.. I don't see what the big deal is with the little blue apple at the top.. it doesn't disrupt anything I do and adds just a little accent to the look of the whole OS.
 

AdmiralAK

Simply Daemonic
That even sound odd!
I think it would be weird and very hard to use a centered menu bar since the file & edit menus would keep moving... although... the apple logo is centered ;)
 

catfish

Registered
I think that one of the things I learned in ELEMENTARY school ard is that initially centered looks natual, but in reality, things hardly are. If you want realism, or people
to feel comfortable or at home, things need to be slightly askew. I am not indicating apple deliberately off-center items and make it look slopped together, but people need a focus, and the Top left is the first place that people look when they sit down. Apple did all their advertising that it was a Mac with the Apple in the Left. I like the Application menu too. but I don't think that everything needs to be centered. Hell most apps use the left/right side for navigation controls!
 

adamh

Registered
From everything that I've read about interfaces, centered is absolutely the last thing you want. It's hard to track a moving target, and you can see how stuff DOES move in the dock. I wish I had some useful link, but I guess looking up any of the research Apple did with GUI would do ya.

Adam
 

aarontrip

Registered
Not everything is centered, the menus in the menu bar are to the left right?? the only thing I can think of in the center is the dock... and the dock (for me) is easy to use for what it does at the moment, although I'd like to be able to move it eventually. *cough*
 

wmoss

Registered
I'm not saying that a centered menu bar would be "useful" but it would be more aesthetically conforming.

The Mac OS X user interface design guidelines specifically tell programmers to re-do all of their old "strongly top-left layouts" to be centered. In Apple's designs you'll notice that besides the dock, the light sources for drop shadows is clearly coming from a top center source rather than a top left source. Dialog tabs are centered. Drawers allow a dialog to look centered except in those cases where you simply must have something popping out of a side.

It makes sense that one wouldn't want to be dependent on a particular side of the screen especially in the large Asian markets where there is a more natural tendency to look at the right side first rather than the left. There are all sorts of Fitts law studies that support centering for speed of user access.

But even beyond any logical reason we are talking about Apple here... purveyors of the round mouse, little blue menubar decoration, and other form over function atrocities it just seems like an odd concession to keeping things ugly but functional.

Personally I like the left leaning menubar, but if we could find whatever magical justification it was that made Apple concede on this issue it might make things easier to justify to Apple when they decide to do something "aesthetic but silly" in the future.

Any speculation?
 

aarontrip

Registered
Well, true, graphically most things you see in OS X are centered... but I think for the average user, you wouldn't notice that. Even for the users who do notice, I don't understand how it becomes problematic. I did notice, but it hasn't thrown me off at any time, or made things complicated. In my opinion I think the way apple has changed their appearance has made it a lot easier on the eyes, and makes it feel more at home, in a way. Having everything in the center is definantly diffrent, but so is apple, and I think that is good, they are original. Oh, I found something else that isn't centered... the lighting on the vertical scroll buttons don't seem to be coming from the top, whats up with that?

P.S. this is off subject but does anyone know what ever happend to the 4th window button and what it was for (I forgot)
 

annette

Registered
Originally posted by aarontrip
P.S. this is off subject but does anyone know what ever happend to the 4th window button and what it was for (I forgot) [/B]
That last button was for "Single Window Mode," where only one window would be showing at any time. If you were to maxmize a second window, the first window would minimize itself.

I kind of thought this was neat but don't know if I'd have ever used it. A lot of people didn't like it, including Apple I guess... (See arstechnica.com review of DP3: http://arstechnica.com/reviews/1q00/macos-x-dp3/macos-x-dp3-5.html)
 

scruffy

Notorious Olive Counter
wmoss: There are all sorts of Fitts law studies that support centering for speed of user access.

Do you have links that you can point me to? Because from my (limited) knowledge of Fitt's law, I would think that to opposite is true.

If you put a target at an edge of the screen, then it has infinite depth in one direction, making target acquisition much faster (one the reason Mac menus are quicker to use than Windows/XWindows menus) (Also the reason the Dock is a Fitt's law nightmare - the clickable areas don't go to the bottom of the screen, what were they thinking?). So the edges are great places to put frequently used controls.

Putting a control in a corner means that it has infinite depth in two directions, making it even quicker to hit - it's essentially on two edges at once. Thus the corners are the "hotspots" for the really frequently used items. Mac OS X's interface is really really wasteful of these resources (as well as its users' time) because it currently does not use a single corner, and only one edge, and furthermore it essentially renders one edge of the screen unusable by other programs/features of the OS.
 

Piet Keizer

Registered
Every night I pray the dock will turn out to be optionally located in the menubar, so it will always be visible, while not taking valuable pixels.

For the rest: nothing should be centered. If centered, nothing stays at the same place, if anyone knows what I mean.

Piet
 

strobe

Puny Member
How about moving beyond the bar? It made sense with the Mac Plus but in 1600*1280?

If we had complete control over the menu bar items in a single place the bar could be replaced or altered in any way imaginable. This would require the window server to draw the menu bar (and handle mousing events) and thus Apple's cooperation. The productivity benefits would be huge!

Think about it, nearly every command in every application is a menu item. You only use a small fraction of them, so why not make a global menu with your most used items? Of course it doesn't have to be a menu, it could be a floating window with hotkeys and speakable items.
 

monty

Registered
strobe,

In OSX the menu bar IS a window. A programer can access it like any other window. Don't know how easy it would be to put your favorite menu items in a global menu or floating window though. Two Paste items may have the same text but each is wired to different code and is a seperate entity. You couldn't have one Paste for all Applications.


Its a great idea though! But as OSX currently is, a program can put any function it wants in the menu bar. eg. it could make Paste cut and Cut quit the application (stupid but possible). It is only the User Interface Guidelines that apple told developers to follow that makes everything seem consistent. Anyone have any idea whether or not strobes idea is possible?

peter
 

strobe

Puny Member
Originally posted by monty
strobe,

In OSX the menu bar IS a window. A programer can access it like any other window. Don't know how easy it would be to put your favorite menu items in a global menu or floating window though. Two Paste items may have the same text but each is wired to different code and is a seperate entity. You couldn't have one Paste for all Applications.
In OS X the menu bar is several windows, one per app, each having it's own menu in a private data structure thus making this hack impossible, which is my point actually.


Its a great idea though! But as OSX currently is, a program can put any function it wants in the menu bar. eg. it could make Paste cut and Cut quit the application (stupid but possible). It is only the User Interface Guidelines that apple told developers to follow that makes everything seem consistent. Anyone have any idea whether or not strobes idea is possible?

peter
I know exactly why. I explained in the Customization forum. The only solution is to have the menu drawing and event handling code in the window server instead of the application. This requires Apple's support.
 

Agnt_Mulder

Registered
Apple, Inc., and Apple Software originate in the USA. What was all this bullhockey about left-side Apple menus being eurocentric? Jeez man... When Apple puts the Apple menu in the middle of the frikken' screen, I'm changing to Linux! lol, think people... The point of an operating system is usability, and in X's case looking cute and flashy, *NOT* about being *politically correct!* Oh my god, I just can't believe I read that post.

Anyway, it's all peanuts now, Apple did, in fact, install an Apple menu in the release version of OSX. So all of you who happen to hate the left-domineering nature of the Apple menu, go find yourself a plugin and stop wasting bandwidth!

:) -Mulder
 

BenW

Registered
Apple, Inc., and Apple Software originate in the USA. What was all this bullhockey about left-side Apple menus being eurocentric? Jeez man... When Apple puts the Apple menu in the middle of the frikken' screen, I'm changing to Linux! lol, think people... The point of an operating system is usability, and in X's case looking cute and flashy, *NOT* about being *politically correct!* Oh my god, I just can't believe I read that post.
Since the USA, its language, its writing, and its majority population originated in Europe, "Eurocentric" is by no means a poor description of products made based on American assumptions about language and writing.

This said, it would be really stupid to center many things: Fitt's law trumps habit any day of the week. I despise NT, but after using it every day for a few months, I don't have any problem remembering where to look for the clock, the tray, the Start menu, etc, even though none of them is where my eye instantly leaps (top-left, since I learned to read in a European language). However, have you noticed that a lot of toolbars are all small buttons crammed into the top left area of the window? <em>That</em> is a stupid (and yes, Eurocentric) technique, and would be fixed by adopting a more centered approach (larger buttons spread out over a larger area -> faster access). I don't know that it would make much extra difference to the Kanji and Hebrew readers out there, but it still makes sense as a UI directive.

I wonder, though--if you did your Objects and abstractions right, couldn't you set things up to reverse some of the left-right biases on a computer that uses the OS localized for a right-to-left language? Of course, then you'd have half the applications doing things one way, and half the other, and you might as well be using Windows, for all the consistency you'll get.
 

smileyq

Registered
I'm not sure how many of you have every used a Window Manager called "Window Maker" for the UNIX operating system but they use something that is called an undocked menu. What happens is that basically you have no dock of anything like that but you can hit a hot key and you menu just pops up allowing you to scroll through any apps that you place in the menu without ever touching your mouse at all. This save time and worries about looks because you can keep your center view if you want. Just an idea I would like to see in Mac OS X's interface but who knows.
 

strobe

Puny Member
Originally posted by smileyq
I'm not sure how many of you have every used a Window Manager called "Window Maker" for the UNIX operating system but they use something that is called an undocked menu. What happens is that basically you have no dock of anything like that but you can hit a hot key and you menu just pops up allowing you to scroll through any apps that you place in the menu without ever touching your mouse at all. This save time and worries about looks because you can keep your center view if you want. Just an idea I would like to see in Mac OS X's interface but who knows.
This is not new.

This is how NeXTSTeP worked and you can also do the same with Kensington Mouseworks.

I don't find it useful myself. I would prefer a custom menu where I can put my commonly used menu items in it. "Custom Menu" for MacOS did this but it hasn't worked in years.
 
Top