Battling Windmills

Richard Gaskin ambassador at
Sat Jun 15 10:12:40 EDT 2002

> Stephen Somogyi writes "But Revolution's multi-platform support has
> an Achilles' heel: the program's interface doesn't quite adhere to OS
> X's conventions.  Revolution's Quit and Preferences options, for
> example, aren't under its application menu; they're under the File
> menu, as in the classic Mac OS."

Why is that the case?  With a proper 'plst' resource those items should be
moved automatically to the application menu.

> Is it just me, or is this garbage just one more example of the focus
> on form instead of substance (read that lack of depth of research)
> that is typical of software reviewers?

A reviewer must find at least one Con for the write-up.  It's good when the
Con is so trivial and such an easy one to fix :)

> And whether it is or not, I'll use a big flashing stop-sign-shaped
> Quit button and no File menu if it suits the purpose of my
> application.  If Mr. Somogyi and other "interface police" want to
> focus on that instead of the substance of my application, I'll move
> my focus to that I can.

In a perfect world, you'd encounter the same passion on Windows.  Not for UI
fascism, but for something truly valuable: consistency across applications.

In a given computing session, any single app is likely to be only a small
part of a larger, integrated workflow.  The more consistency between app
UIs, the more smoothly the user traverses them.

There's an upside to having been raised by Apple's HIG Police: our
heightened sensitivity to such details gives us a significant edge over many
Win-only UI designers.  Even as late as 1998, I was reading best-selling Win
API books that described the GUI as a marketing-driven annoyance programmers
simply must learn to endure (as though CLUIs were somehow superior,
explosive post-GUI growth in the industry apparently notwithstanding <g>).
The foot-dragging with regard to adopting good UI and user-centered design
practices set thousands of developers on MS systems back several years.

This is reflected in the cold, gadgety feel of so many Win UIs.  To make a
Win app that shines simply means using much the same process as we Mac folks
have been using for years:  read the HIG, know the HIG, depart from the HIG
where necessary but never depart from the core principles.

> Why is it that so many revolutions disintegrate into dictatorships
> over time?  Apple gave its users the HyperCard hammer to destroy Big
> Brother, then took the hammer away, and now hammers us to do it their
> way.

Ironically, they gave us a broken hammer:  elements of Apple's HyperCard
design make it difficult, in some cases (like scroll bars on document
windows) impossible, to comply with their own HIG, a case of "Do as I say,
not as I do". :(

 Richard Gaskin 
 Fourth World Media Corporation
 Custom Software and Web Development for All Major Platforms
 Developer of WebMerge 2.0: Publish any Database on Any Site
 Ambassador at
 Tel: 323-225-3717                       AIM: FourthWorldInc

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