UI clarity: does the Mac do better?
June 18th, 2010 by ravi

Much [and often deserved] fun has been had at Microsoft’s expense with regard to their incomprehensible dialogs. Examples can be gathered from the Daring Fireball blog (for example, this one). But what of Mac OS X? To answer the question posed in the title of this blog, Mac OS usually does better, but take a gander at this iCal Sync warning that popped up yesterday:

How exactly is one supposed to resolve this “conflict”? In the first place, it is not clear what the conflict is! Both entries look the same (the blocked out text is the name of a family member and is the same in both cases) as far as I can tell.

Worse, what do the two columns represent? One is titled “iCal” while the other says “This Computer”. What are we to make of this distinction? iCal is an application running on This Computer! In fact the only application that has calendar entries.

I suppose the “parent event:”, present only in the left column, holds the key to this conflict mystery, but what it means is as opaque as the rest of the alert.

This is one example among the many failings and confusions of Mac OS X (here’s another: say you change an entry with invitees, often unintentionally by mistakenly dragging it, iCal insists on updating the invitees providing no option to undo the action without consequence) and they seldom excite the sort of ridicule that Microsoft suffers. Someone should report this to the authorities.

BumpTop and UI paradigms
January 22nd, 2010 by ravi

BumpTop is a 3D desktop manager for Windows and Mac with some slick features and fairly well done OS integration. I have been using it for a few days now and it is impressive if not indispensable. The reason for this post however is to comment on something that John Gruber wrote about this app:

And the 3D stuff, with a weird perspective on “walls”, just seems silly.

I can see how he may find it silly, but in my usage I found the walls quite a useful feature, psychologically speaking. Despite the large collection of useful widgets on my Mac OS Dashboard, I rarely bring up the Dashboard to access the information or operation that these widgets provide.

Why not? Apart from the fact that the Dashboard takes forever to update, somehow, bringing up the Dashboard, visually an overlay on my desktop, seems to neither fit into my workflow nor appeal to my instinctive usage patterns.

On the other hand, in the few days I have been using BumpTop (intermittently), the ability to create sticky notes on a wall (admittedly, a particular application, and not a replacement for the Dashboard) has resonated well with my impulses… to look for a note on a wall seems, well, just the right thing to do!

It helps that BumpTop causes no increase in CPU utilisation on a quiescent system or when I working primarily within one application.

I am not sure if I will stop using Qu-S and keep using BumpTop, but it would be interesting to know what those who study UI/UX design think about the ideal way to present informational widgets and tiny apps.

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