vista ramblings.

Lt Major Burns

"Dicky" Charlteston-Burns
Right, i know that's it's just graphical bloat etc etc, but i can't help thinking that Vistas new GUI makes OS X finally look dated after all these years.

I'm not on about underlying funcionality, or usability, or security or anything like that, it's purely aesthetic.

We, as mac users, are now using the same arguments that windows users have used for years when we've harped on about Aqua's amazing graphical effects (werl, it's just graphical bloat innit), and making everything this universal dull grey in leopard just seems half arsed to me. i can't help feeling that OS X looks dated. and will do until apple pulls something impressive out again, some fundamental GUI improvment that really uses the power computers nearly a decade into this century can kick out, like Aqua did 6 years ago.

We have computers shipping now with really advanced GPU's, multiple cores of processing power at speeds like we've never seen, and gigabytes of memory. i know the fundamentals utilise this power (spotlight, for example), but the actual windowing system is still based around a look possible 10 years ago. i don't know... i think i just really like the dark shiny subtle translucency of the new windows task bar. after 12 years, MS have finally made the damn thing look nice, even if the start button is still horrendous. i want apple to pull something really ground breaking out the bag, GUI-wise, not this unified crap which seems is just, frankly, a cop-out, an MS-ish approach to their inconsistency problems...

discuss.
 

Mikuro

Crotchety UI Nitpicker
I kind of agree. Granted, I haven't actually used Vista, but from screenshots, the appearance seems shockingly non-half-assed for a Microsoft product. Like, at least 3/4-assed. ;)

This is really to be expected. Both Microsoft and Apple created their interfaces for hardware that was not common at the time. Apple did this 7 years ago. Microsoft is doing it now, so naturally it's more technologically advanced. Vista uses the equivalent of OS X's Core Image, which didn't exist until Tiger and was not supported all across the board until the Intel Macs came out.

I had previously assumed Leopard would make greater use of Core Image (for better or worse). I'm still not convinced it won't. There's still plenty of time.

I've always been a critic of Apple's design philosophy. I still think OS X has too much pointless glitz, and I'm not eager to see more. Even with Quartz Extreme and Core Image, the fact is that these things do NOT come "for free". They're simply a helluva lot faster than they'd be without the technologies, which really isn't saying much. For proof, try using ShadowKiller for a few minutes. You will notice the increase in responsiveness. (And then you'll notice that everything is unusably ugly, because OS X windows have no outlines aside from the shadows.)

The thing is, Apple likes consistency, if not across their applications, then across their user base. This is why they killed the themes feature in 8.5 after it was already complete, and have never introduced anything similar since (even though it'd be a lot easier in OS X). Microsoft is happy to let people without next year's hardware use a completely different interface. I can't imagine Apple doing that. So whatever Apple does, I expect it to be more or less backwards-compatible. A few absent effects on older hardware would be fine — they currently do this with the dashboard ripple and the mouse shadow — but I don't think they're going to build a new interface around Core Image until they're ready to really pull the plug on older hardware.
 

Qion

Uber Nothing
I said in an earlier post that I would be very upset if Apple went with the dark and unified approach. Like Major said, it's a cop-out. I would really like to see something not just aesthetically pleasing, but beautiful. The iMacs are beautiful, the MacBooks are beautiful, why can't the windows and menus be beautiful as well?

I've experimented with ShapeShifter for what seems like a year, and have never found a theme set that I could work more than a couple weeks with. This signals to me that the road ahead should be paved with a UI stance completely different than the current; a color change or a reflection isn't going to cut it.

Vista, in some respects, has a better-looking UI than OS X. Its usability is questionable, but the black transluncency is very pleasing. Apple have obviously the notion to forward their hardware market as well as their software market, and with Final Cut Studio and Aperture (...and CS3) both requiring at least a gig of RAM, it's obvious software is being updated a hell of a lot faster than our user interfaces.

I've been screaming since 2000 for a radical quantum shift in the way we interact with our computers visually, and that has yet to come. I don't want another rendition.
 
am i the only one who finds vista's UI tacky? not nearly as bad as Beryl for linux, but not as understated as the Mac.

I mean, yes, it does look cooler than the Mac UI, but is that was an operating system should do? Should it look cool with 3D effects and moving desktops and high-contrast black toolbars? In my opinion no. A good OS is unnoticed, it just lets you get your work done and does not get in the way.

If I'm working on an intricate, elegant design, I don't want fancy icons and toolbars and side bars and deskops taking away from it. I want a vanilla work surface for me to concentrate on my work.

my 2 cents anyway :)
 

Mikuro

Crotchety UI Nitpicker
Thank the Cheese: That's exactly what just about everyone (Mac and PC users alike) said about OS X. Ironically, I recall being one of the few people who thought Aqua was a good thing shortly after it was first unveiled. (I changed my mind after using it, and that awful first impression has never really worn off.)

Look at 10.0 again, and tell me it's not hideous. Use it for a while, and tell me it's not clunky. Is Vista really any worse?



There's another important trend in Apple's design: they're moving away from the standard building-block elements — the push buttons, menus, scroll bars, etc. — that are available to every program. These elements have been the defining characteristic of the Mac since its inception, but Apple has been abandoning them in their apps in favor of completely customized UIs for each particular task. A few examples:

- Front Row. Lots of fancy effects with no standard, reusable objects.

- Time Machine. Same as Front Row, although at least it uses images of standard windows. (Of course I could be wrong, since I haven't actually used Time Machine.)

- iTunes. Each version introduces more unique interfaces, such as Cover Flow. iTunes 7 even creates its own scroll bars.

- Dashboard. This is arguably the biggest. Dashboard widgets don't even have a standard toolbox of buttons and whatnot. Every Dashboard programmer is expected to "roll their own" look-and-feel.

So in a sense, Apple is already moving into the next era of the GUI — an era where consistency gives way to specialization (ideally) or senseless glitz (...probably). This scares me a little. You need only look at today's Dashboard experience to see why: most third-party Dashboard widgets look and feel like garbage. OS X makes it easy for even small developers to create professional-looking (and -acting) apps. This is not the case with Dashboard widgets, and it will not be the case with desktop apps either if Apple keeps moving in this direction.

Is that a price Apple is willing to pay for the undeniable "wow" factor of first-party apps? More importantly, is it a price users are willing to pay?
 

fryke

Moderator
Staff member
Mod
I've been trying to use Vista for a while now, and have to say that the interface might seem "modern" and "wowy" at first sight, but it simply gets in the way after a short while. It doesn't _work_ better than XP's in any way. And certainly not better than Tiger's interface. I've mentioned this in another thread: But everytime I reboot from Vista into Mac OS X, I have the feeling I'm coming back to a real operating system from some kind of visual demo that only _acts_ like an OS.

I have my gripes with Apple's current UI-mishmash as well. Brushed Metal must go (and we've seen that it *will* go with Leopard). Aqua and Unified are good. Unified won't replace Aqua. That _would_ be bad imho.
 

fryke

Moderator
Staff member
Mod
Well. That demo shows _exactly_ what I mean. The flip-through open windows thingie, for example, is _not_ the default task switcher you use with alt-tab, rather it's something you have to "start" from the QuickLaunch part of the taskbar. It's not very useful, certainly not faster than alt-tabbing. It's eye-candy that doesn't improve working with the system. The preview you see when hovering over minimized windows in the taskbar is not very helpful either. Too small to discern similar windows. This has _nothing_ on Exposé (although that itself never shows windows of hidden apps, something I find very strange, they should add that as another option within Exposé).

Improving an UI should go about _reducing_ the UI. I don't want four ways to select the correct window. I want _one_ that does the task perfectly. If that ain't possible, the ones that are already there should be improved. But to add yet another (the flip-through thing) one without removing one it could replace... bleh. :/

The transparency of the window borders does, in my opinion, not help putting the content of a window into focus. It's something they just don't seem to get. If you have window borders that _always_ look the same, they automatically move into the back of your mind. That was _good_ in Windows 95-XP! Now you have borders that change, depending on what's behind the window, constantly irritating the mind just a little, so it actually _gets_ more focus. While I'm still not totally convinced by Apple's way (removing window borders completely apart from the title bar and scroll bars), I think it's at least a good starting point.

Again... "making everything this universal dull grey in leopard just seems half arsed to me..."

1.) They're _not_ making everything Unified. Just the already Unified apps plus the brushed metal ones. In my book, that is what they should've done when introducing Unified in the first place.

2.) "dull" is good. Monotony is one of the great principles of interface design. The focus should be on the content. It fades into the back of your mind. Adobe gets it completely right. See the interface for Adobe CS 3 apps like Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop.
 

Qion

Uber Nothing
Again... "making everything this universal dull grey in leopard just seems half arsed to me..."

1.) They're _not_ making everything Unified. Just the already Unified apps plus the brushed metal ones. In my book, that is what they should've done when introducing Unified in the first place.

2.) "dull" is good. Monotony is one of the great principles of interface design. The focus should be on the content. It fades into the back of your mind. Adobe gets it completely right. See the interface for Adobe CS 3 apps like Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop.
Speaking of the CS3 apps, the icons they are illustrated with are the dullest and most monotonous that they've ever been. I love the new interfaces, however.

I believe Fryke is right, and that it's really a bit childish to keep wanting prettier UI's; they're distracting for we professionals. However, one of the things that drew me to OS X so much in the first place was the fact that it inspired me to be creative. The UI itself almost seemed a compliment to my workflow, if not just for being gorgeously different than the Toys-R-Us XP interface. Now that I've been using OS X for years, the brushed metal has become outdated and in a lot of ways the Finder has as well. That is why I want something different; it's not to be prettier than MS -that felt very strange to say-, but to be inspired yet again by the system I use to make my livelihood.
 

Rhisiart

Registered
Eye candy is pretty fickle. Functionality is more important, not just for professionals, but hobbyists too.

The current Mac OS, albeit with some Finder issues, is still superior.
 

bbloke

Registered
I've not been fortunate/unfortunate enough to play with Vista, I only know about it what I've seen or read on the internet. I was intrigued by the display of windows in 3D, but I don't know how well this works in practice. I also liked the idea of windows becoming transparent when in the background. That said, much of Vista seemed surprisingly like the rest of the Windows family to me, however, as I had been expecting a more radical shake up over the years.

I'm not really an expert on design or on user interfaces, but I thought I'd throw in a few thoughts.

With regards to OS X, I remember thinking it looked years ahead of everything else and I was really keen to be able to play with it (migrating from System 8.6), rather than just read about it. The genie effect for the Dock was one that wowed many people I knew, and the ability for QuickTime movies to keep playing when minimized in the Dock also impressed people at the time. Now, however, there are times when I think some of the style is a bit dated.

Like many people here, I really would like Apple to be more consistent when it comes to the GUI. I don't mind if there are separate styles for the system and for applications, but I don't like the assortment of appearances we now have. I must admit I was wary of the unified look when Tiger's Mail was first shown off, but I have come to quite like it. I also prefer the slightly toned down style of Aqua that we currently have. I sometimes think the very "bulging" buttons we have (eg. buttons and radio buttons on web pages) are a bit over the top now.

I quite like the full screen interface that one can access in iPhoto (with the dark appearance) and I have to admit... I actually... quite liked the iTunes 7 interface... although I know I must be in the minority! I don't know whether I prefer iTunes 6 or iTunes 7, I quite like them both. I felt the old Aqua buttons of the early versions looked a bit ugly, and I was a bit unsure of the Aqua scrollbars. When the Finder incorporated the brushed metal windows, I liked the capabilities but hated the style; they seemed a bit "bloated" and ugly to me. I would like to see brushed metal disappear, although it was interesting in the 1990s.

A lot of OS X's features are not really used enough by me. I virtually never use the "Services" sub-menu. I infrequently use Exposé, although I recognize it can be very useful! I only started using it once I bought a multi-button mouse. Even now, I still tend to use the "Hide" command for any applications I'm not currently working with. I don't tend to use Folder Actions, AppleScript, Automator, or other items that do sound useful. I'm probably used to a certain way of working that suits me just fine, and don't tend to explore too much unless I really feel the need to. Odd, really, as I'm the type who usually quite enjoys tinkering with new things!

Without wanting to deviate from the thread too much, I do think there are a few things that could be better within the Finder. "Live updates," when files are changed, are not quick enough and sometimes files must be clicked on to update. "Show item info" for the Desktop does not seem to update for my hard disks unless I log out and log back in. And there are a few other niggles. That said, I still vastly prefer the OS X experience to any other OS. It has the occasional flaws, but I find it gets in my way a lot less than others.

Overall, I think a good GUI should be one you don't notice. An intrusive UI that is constantly "in your face" is the antithesis of what I like...
 

symphonix

Scratch & Sniff Committee
I remember a good article from a few years back - if anyone else can remember the title that would be nice. It was by a computer scientist who was calling for a *real* rethink of the way we design GUIs, and in the context of the article neither Apple nor Microsoft have made one iota of progress in the last 5 years.

The article's first tenet was that interface elements, especially icons, should be designed according to what something is, and not some abstract unrelated idea. For instance, movie file icons should have symbology that relates to movies (for example, a movie camera) and the content of the file (eg: sprocket holes down the side of the keyframe picture). Instead, we have "Q" for most QuickTime files, and "W" for Microsoft Word files. Its little wonder people still find computers hard to come to grips with.

Adobe makes it worse, not just by choosing different feathers for their app icons (pretty much completely unrelated to what the applications actually do), but by changing these unrelated designs with every version.

Yes, I think the GUI looks dated. But I don't think Vista is really any better, just newer. Apple and Microsoft still have a long way to go.
 

bbloke

Registered
I remember a good article from a few years back - if anyone else can remember the title that would be nice. It was by a computer scientist who was calling for a *real* rethink of the way we design GUIs, and in the context of the article neither Apple nor Microsoft have made one iota of progress in the last 5 years.
Was it written by Jef Raskin, by any chance? It sounds like the sort of thing he was often saying.
 

powermac

iMac Dual 2.0 17'
Just some earlier morning ranting....ignore as needed ::sleepy::

Fryke I like how you said it. When using Vista even after a few hours, then you return to OSX, it feels like a real mature OS. Vista just feels second-rate. I admit, I like the green, and bluish colors, over the dull grey metal interface. In the end, OSX simply wins on functionality. Vista, at least to me, is more "wow", and really does not allow smoother or better functionality than XP.
The question comes down to, where does functionality start and end with modern computer interfaces? What balance between eye-candy features and functionality does one want or need?
In the end, OSX provides more balance between functionality and eye-candy features. Vista, appears to me they added some eye-candy over XP functionality. In some areas of the OS it has hindered functionality, while in others is remains the same as XP.

A friend of mine, who is not a Mac user, nor anti-mac, said OSX looks a bit retro, like classic computer. When he said that, a part wanted to start on a verbal exchange on how OSX is modern, certainly not considered "classic."
Then, I thought, okay perhaps some elements of OSX are retro.

In my office at work, I exchanged my Dell for a Imac CRT G3. Using OS9, makes me realize, how at that time, the speed of the interface, and yet how simple with no sidebar, or even top of finder window. Yet, how quickly old OS9 habits come back. Even though I have not used OS9 for many years. Then I come home, and get right back into OSX habits. This behavior alone must account for something when using computers. Windows, I have not develop any habits. I still feel clumsy when navigating around, trying to find and save files. For me, XP nor Vista invite drag & drop. Even though I know you can it does not seem native to do on Windows. How quick I am to automatically start dragging files around OSX.
Both platforms, as we know have flaws, and strengths. OSX for me wins in the end because it functions as I believe a OS should, non-intrusive. Second, OSX feels more intuitive, mature, and safe than any flavor of Windows.
 

Rhisiart

Registered
Mac OS X is bound to look a little dated compared with Vista, given that MS have been working on this version since the end of the Boer War.

I am sure Mac OS XI will equally dazzle, albeit in a more sober and functional way.

I have seen Vista in action. Fine if you enjoy acid flashbacks, but I want a professional looking GUI and Apple still fits the bill, Uno or no Uno.
 

salival

Registered
am i the only one who finds vista's UI tacky? not nearly as bad as Beryl for linux, but not as understated as the Mac.

I mean, yes, it does look cooler than the Mac UI, but is that was an operating system should do? Should it look cool with 3D effects and moving desktops and high-contrast black toolbars? In my opinion no. A good OS is unnoticed, it just lets you get your work done and does not get in the way.

If I'm working on an intricate, elegant design, I don't want fancy icons and toolbars and side bars and deskops taking away from it. I want a vanilla work surface for me to concentrate on my work.

my 2 cents anyway :)
Agree with you here. Vista has cute graphics, but the interface as a whole just gets in the way of your work. I am a graphic/web designer and I like monochrome themes like OS X with/without UNO or Windows Classic theme. It lets me better perceive colors and the designs I do. It is also easier on the eyes.

In Vista, you get the strong black + white canvas combo which simply kills.

So, sure, Microsoft FINALLY has decent looking graphics on it's OS, took them seven years to get it, well, copy it :) So, about time is all I say to this.

But then again, it is about to rain in their party for Leopard is around the corner and when it comes it will be "hasta la Vista baby"! :D


sal
 

contoursvt

Registered
I must mention a few things as I use OSX, XP and Vista (mind you I use OSX as my secondary OS so I may be windows biast)...

-Flip3D does not have to be run from the quicklaunch. The icon is there for anyone using a keyboard without a windows key which these days is almost nobody as 99.9% of keyboards sold today for PC's have a windows key. "windows-tab" will envoke flip-3D. Alt-tab will do the standard tabbing. Its no more difficult to use flip3D than alt-tab. The windows key is right beside the alt key.

-The preview over the taskbar actually works very well. I've usually got quite a few windows open and dont find it difficult to see whats being rendered there. I dont know how it would be on a lower resolution display but I'm running my monitor at 1600x1200.

-You say the UI should be minimized and only offer one way of doing something. Well just because you like something a certain way does not mean that the next person will as well. Some people might want to alt-tab the old way because they are used to it. Some may like the windows-tab because their machine has enough power to run aero and flip3D... how is this any different than having 2 options in OSX of apple-tab and expose?

-You compared the small thumbnail preview over the taskbar to expose...saying it has nothing on expose, but its actually not comparable to expose. Flip3D is what is being compared to expose. Not sure why you'd compare the task bar thumbnails to expose but its more similar to items minimized to the dock...

-The transparent windows do change when they are in the forground or background. They dont stay the same. The titlebar and window borders become considerably lighter when its active...the inactive window has darker titlebar and borders.

Anyway a few things I thought I'd mention from my perspective while using Vista on my home machine... (OSX and XP at work).


Well. That demo shows _exactly_ what I mean. The flip-through open windows thingie, for example, is _not_ the default task switcher you use with alt-tab, rather it's something you have to "start" from the QuickLaunch part of the taskbar. It's not very useful, certainly not faster than alt-tabbing. It's eye-candy that doesn't improve working with the system. The preview you see when hovering over minimized windows in the taskbar is not very helpful either. Too small to discern similar windows. This has _nothing_ on Exposé (although that itself never shows windows of hidden apps, something I find very strange, they should add that as another option within Exposé).

Improving an UI should go about _reducing_ the UI. I don't want four ways to select the correct window. I want _one_ that does the task perfectly. If that ain't possible, the ones that are already there should be improved. But to add yet another (the flip-through thing) one without removing one it could replace... bleh. :/

The transparency of the window borders does, in my opinion, not help putting the content of a window into focus. It's something they just don't seem to get. If you have window borders that _always_ look the same, they automatically move into the back of your mind. That was _good_ in Windows 95-XP! Now you have borders that change, depending on what's behind the window, constantly irritating the mind just a little, so it actually _gets_ more focus. While I'm still not totally convinced by Apple's way (removing window borders completely apart from the title bar and scroll bars), I think it's at least a good starting point.

Again... "making everything this universal dull grey in leopard just seems half arsed to me..."

1.) They're _not_ making everything Unified. Just the already Unified apps plus the brushed metal ones. In my book, that is what they should've done when introducing Unified in the first place.

2.) "dull" is good. Monotony is one of the great principles of interface design. The focus should be on the content. It fades into the back of your mind. Adobe gets it completely right. See the interface for Adobe CS 3 apps like Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop.
 
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