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I love tabs/UI peeves

So many companies are so clueless on UI issues.

For example, tabs are the correct solution for many of the world's ills.

So in OS X, instead of tabs they have these scrollable sets of icons horizontally arranged above your preferences panels. Which 'tab' you are on is not indicated in any way so if you are wondering where you are you have to click on each one of them, looking to see the panel that you are currently on and then memorizing the look of its icon. Normally that wouldn't be a problem but each click whir's the disk and does some fancy growing/shrinking animation and so even on the fastest Mac it can take a full second to switch between panels. Stupid piece of ball-wax!

Or how about another way to avoid tabs -- in the print dialog, instead of tabs, there is a *popup* menu to select the preferences panels - # of pages, print quality, layout. How lame is that? Popup menus are for selecting between less frequently used or large sets of options. Commonly used small sets of options can be selected with checkboxes or radio buttons. But popups to select preferences panels or open windows? That is lame. Tabs are the solution here.

Speaking of printing, why on earth are there two print dialogs anyway - page setup and print. Printer selection, scaling and paper size are here. But printer selection is also in the print dialog. Why two places? Why not one? Why not put scaling in the print dialog, since selecting layout is there?

And here's something new with OS X - pdf print preview. Press preview and your pages are saved in a pdf file which is opened in Acrobat. So how to print now? Well you can restart printing from inside Acrobat. But if you close Acrobat, the print dialog in the calling program has been closed and you will have to open it again and reset up your print options. That is annoying, as is the fact that some print options are saved between calls to the print dialog and some are not. Why do I have to reselect print quality to use less ink but two-up printing (wihch is usually a one-off thing) has to be reselected?

Mr. Tab
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Meant to say two-up printing is sticky and needs to be deselected to undo its mode, wheras print quality unselects itself automatically... sometimes.

Mr. Tab
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

This really is just a rant.

Why not write Apple? I don't think anyone here can really help you.

Companies do do some usability testing, you know. There may be a good reason for their decisions.

Or, there may not be, and maybe they'll change it when someone points out that it's stupid.

Mike Swieton
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Yes, of course it's a rant -- one of the five forms of forum communication. Or is it seven?

This is a good board for it since Joel has published exactly one book and it happens to be a very fine one on UI design.

Joel never writes about H1B issues, database table design, or favorite types of music, yet discussions about those topics show up here with astonishing regularity.

I am claiming that for a window in which there are a small to moderate number of settings panels or documents (tabbed browsing) that are 'paged' in and out of a single window frame, a row of tabs at the top is the appropriate UI. A popup menu is definitely not the right UI, nor are scrollable buttons that do not show which one is currently active. Such choices are in fact symptomatic of a lack of ignorance of usability design.

I've posted on these issues on Apple's boards and written them. OS X, though a better UI than Linux, is a huge step backward from both OS 9 and NeXT. Lot's of people are complaining but Apple doesn't give a shit since they know better than every one else. Whatever they do is right. One button mouse? That's all you'll ever need! Just press the control button at the same time as clicking your mouse if you want a second button! Floppy disks? We don't need em! Hardware compatibility with previous models? Forget that -- you'll be wanting a printer and scanner with a new stylish case to go with your new stylish computer anyway!

Mr. Tab
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

...unlack of ignorance

Mr. Tab
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

! You ! tell  ! them ! good ! Mr Tab !

James Ladd
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Heh heh. You bring up a lot of good points about OS X. I do feel the need to point out that OS X has tabs, and they are often used as a second level of selection in addition to the icons you mentioned. I'm not sure that's a good thing, as I personally dislike tabbed UIs.

But printing is terrible. That is one area that Apple really needs to work on with OS X. It's gotten better in Jaguar but it's still rudimentary. I don't mind the fact that print choices are PPD-based, but having to choose from a popup list to get to the different choices is really annoying. Even I would agree that tabs are the solution there. They also need to offer cleaner support of networked, non-PostScript printers (without me having to download a bunch of scripts from

Nate Silva
Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Hi Nate, thanks. Right, tabs do appear in certain places, true -- I'm just ranting about the places where were unwisely bypassed.

But your insight let me see what they are thinking -- "System Preferences" -- there's the control panels, with the favorite on the top shelf as icons. Choose Monitors and we have a tabbed preferences there. So Apple is thinking 'oh no - we can't have two rows of tabs so we must have the first row be icons. And if making some first row icons, then -all- first rows must be icons. Of course the control panel gizmo is probably ok since its such a weird thing with the 'show all' icon which really means 'go to index'. Where it drives me crazy is in safari because I am always having to try to find the cookie eraser hidden multiple clicks down in the dang preferences listed under 'security' options (??), even though killing cookies automatically at the end of each session is a browser standard. I'd like to not have to go to this preferences at all in the first place, but have a 'delete all cookies at the end of each session except these specially checked persistent ones that I use for reading the New York Times'. I have never found a browser that does that but it seems to me that that is what most people want. Anyway, instead of "security" options it should be in a "Protect My Privacy" panel. And the current icon should at least be highlighted in some way (maybe just a line underneath it) for the panel one is on if tabs are not possible.

Mr. Tab
Wednesday, July 02, 2003


Tabs R tabs R tabs R tabs!

I louve Mozilla, especially if it is eaten by Gozilla.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

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