One feature I plan to write from time to time will be filed under the category of Interfaces. Here I’ll focus on points in the OS X interface that Apple got right, got wrong, or could just stand a little… well, let’s call it tweaking.
And no, it’s not just ranting. There’s a method to my madness.
First up are the little blue K-Mart Special lights that Apple added to Leopard’s new Dock to replace the old black triangles formerly used to represent a running application.
Quite a few people denounced the change, saying at worst that Apple had changed things just to be changing things, or at best had done so simply to showoff some of the tricks in their updated graphics engine. Either way, THEY DIDN’T LIKE IT.
In fact, some went so far as to write little hacks to change things back again.
Let’s take a look at the current version:
As you know, running applications now have little blue glowing status lights, as shown here beneath the Finder, Mail, iCal, and some of the other applications.
Two states: On, or off. Running, or not.
My first thought when I saw this was one of ambivalence, thinking, “Oh, so that’s how they’re doing it now.” I then stopped, looked at it, and thought, “Huh. Apple missed the boat on this one.”
And uncharacteristically, at that.
You see, Apple’s designers usually delight in adding those subtle graphic cues and animations that help you understand what’s going on, like where that window came from, or where the one you just minimized went. Here, all they added was a blue light.
Now, let’s take a look at my version:
Here most of the blue lights have been replaced by muted green ones, indicating that the application is open and running just fine.
Mail’s light is blue, indicating that it’s running but hidden, and as such there’s no use hunting around for its window. Further down, we see that Dreamweaver’s status light is red, indicating trouble and that once again it’s probably no longer responding to the system.
Another possibility would be to have a yellow light in addition to (or in place of) the bouncing icon which normally indicates that an application needs attention.
Either way, the various colors now give us more information about what’s happening on our machines and about what needs our attention, and what doesn’t.
Here’s one without the red warning light, illustrating that when things are cooking along the change really isn’t any busier or more distracting than the current setup.
If Apple had thought things through a bit more and taken the status light concept one step further to its logical conclusion, then I believe a lot more people would have been more accepting of the change, seeing it as useful as opposed to merely frivolous.
And from a performance standpoint, polling the Dock’s application list every second or so would have little to no impact at all.
So what do you think? Like it? Or not?
And if you like it, then here’s the thing: Apple listens to it’s customers.
If you think this would a a worthwhile addition to the system, then take 60 seconds to go to Apple’s Feedback site and let them know. Give ‘em a link back to this page so they can see what we’re talking about.
Together, we can make our Macs a better place.
Like I said, there’s a madness to my method, after all.