My Turn

Improving OS X

David Getzin - Oct. 3, 2000

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

Letter sent to Apple on Sept. 26, 2000:

I am currently testing OS X beta as a huge Mac fan and someone who is very interested in the art of interface science.

This message concerns issues of the dock, and how it could better replace the Apple Menu and Control Strip.

I am just getting used to using the dock and really love the basic concept and utility, but with some minor tweaks it could be greatly improved and quiet all the complaints about the lack of the Control Strip and Apple Menu.

First the short part, moving and hide/show of the Dock. The magnification option, auto show/hide and the easy resize are very intuitive and wonderful features. There are some things that could be improved. The auto hide and show should have a user adjustable amount of hysteresis included (perhaps the control of it could be implemented similarly to the former control of hyst. for spring-loaded folders). It pops up by accident too often, and when the mouse slips away off of the the top, the dock recedes too quickly. Building in adjustable hysteresis would help greatly. Also, if you really want to add configurability, allow the dock to be dragged to the left or right side of the screen. With hyst. implemented correctly, it might even work to have it at the top of the screen. A shareware utility for OS 9 called A-dock already uses this dragging and hysteresis if you would like to see an example.

It is available at the following URL: <http://jerome.foucher.free.fr/ADock.html>

Please don't have any qualms about using ideas existing in shareware. The designers are readily contactable. I'm sure Apple has done it before, and I'm also sure these guys would be thrilled to see their metaphors inline with the Mac OS.

Secondly, there is the issue that causes much fear and loathing; the missing Apple Menu and Control Strip. I believe that this issue could be solved by implementing popup hierarchical content menus when clicking and holding on icons. This could be used in and outside of the dock.

Outside of the dock it would be a wonderful way to navigate the desktop, you can very efficiently and intuitively work with this method. This metaphor applied to files is powerful; if applied to the dock, it could be magical. Now, the features of the apple menu could be reimplemented in the desktop icon in the dock and activated by clicking and holding.

Clicking and holding on the Desktop app icon would release a drop-up menu organized with the modifiable folder and hierarchical options of the old apple menu.

This pop up folder contents feature would be beautiful to implement systemwide for all folders and folders in the dock. Using this feature for folders in the dock would be amazing. That feature, along with its cousin menu from the desktop icon, would give users a truly superior replacement for the Apple Menu. Much of this code existed in the Classic OS (for hierarchical menus). With the NeXT style directory of icons as folders, it should be made that much easier and was implemented in this manner by a shareware utility called FinderPop.

If you want to go all out to please Finder Pop fans, you can implement hold click contextual menus with options like moving to favorites, moving to trash labels, and setting file type.

This exact same feature could be used for a control strip type menu housed in the dock's system settings icon. A menu would popup containing the icons and perhaps names of the various control items, and each item would have a menu pop up from it that would not open the settings app, but implement changes the exact same way the control strip did.

Once again, please seriously consider implementing these minor, but powerful, changes to the Mac OS X interface. You will make many users very happy, make many old users more comfortable with the new OS, and make the whole system more intuitive and beautiful. I love it now, but these changes would be a great help for everyone concerned.

Sincerely,
David Getzin

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