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ATPM 6.03
March 2000



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The Personal Computing Paradigm

by Michael Tsai,

Reader Response to Aqua

My column last month, titled Mac OS X: Aqua Included, generated lots of reader mail, most of it quite opinionated. This month’s column prints some of the more interesting responses.

• • •

Apple Will Get Aqua Right, in Time

It’s good to remember that many of the refinements we enjoy in the Mac OS evolved over time. I am sure that Aqua will have many shortcomings that will be ironed out over time. In my opinion, the user interface refinements in 8.5 were what 8.0 should have brought to us. Aqua 1.5 will fix what Mac OS users have complained about.

Jobs isn’t stupid. Arrogant, yes, but stupid, no.

Neema Agha

• • •

Ideas for Improving Aqua

Regarding the recently announced Aqua interface to Mac OS X, I (like many people) have some thoughts on how it might be improved. Your readers may be interested to have a look at an interactive Flash movie which demonstrates some of my suggested changes. (It does take a few minutes to download.)


• • •

Worried About the Finder

Contrary to popular opinion, Apple has not replaced the Finder we know and love with the NeXT FileManager. The new Finder borrows heavily from the Mac and NeXT worlds and looks, to me, like the best of both. It supports the traditional icon and list views, as well as a new Columns view taken from the NeXT FileManager. Although by itself Columns is horribly inadequate as a replacement for the Finder, it makes a wonderful addition to the Finder.

Apple has replaced the Finder as we know it, because the an integral part of the Finder is the desktop, and the desktop is gone. No longer will FireWire drives or Zip disks appear on the desktop. Now they will appear within a window. Deleting the crucial extra layer of abstraction is a major loss at least in my book. Also, I don’t know if you got to see the developer demos at Macworld, but the part of the FileManager that works like the old Finder is only partially Finder-like. The root view, for example, contains that horrible oversized icon bar. And as you note the disclosure triangles are gone in the list views. This is not the Finder as I know it, but someone’s attempt to fix something that isn’t broken.

Browsing in place is intended to reduce window clutter and can potentially make the interface less confusing. But it remains to be seen whether this will be offset by the disadvantages of breaking the desktop metaphor that has served Apple well for more than fifteen years.

You are too generous. Browsing in place is great for newbies, but a disaster for professionals who need simultaneous access to multiple files in different parts of the hierarchy.

The new Finder has me very worried.

Raul Gutierrez

Raul has written his own article about Aqua, which I recommend. It’s available at —MT

• • •

Color Considerations

Thank you for you balanced review on Aqua. Most reviews I have seen have been strong supporting or trashing the new user interface. But there is one aspect of the interface that is a genuine problem, not just aesthetic.

Being one of the many men in the world who has trouble seeing the difference between red and green, I find the emphasis on color cues over pattern cues disturbing (and I think having pattern cues available on mouseovers stupid). I have seen the same screen shot you showed, and I cannot for the life of me see the difference between the yellow and green buttons. And most computer users don’t give 100% attention to the user interface, so I know I will accidentally hit the wrong one many times, especially since they are clustered together. Oddly enough, the way Win95 clustered together their widgets was criticized by Mac OS users. Now the knee-jerk Mac OS boosters seem to think it is a good idea. I hate it when people get it in their heads that their computer companies can do no wrong, be they for Jobs or Gates.

I have voiced my concerns on Mac message boards only to be dismissed as a whiner. It is not surprising that those who dismiss me have normal vision and think red-green color weakness is a minor problem. It is only a minor problem when something doesn’t depend so much on color. I cannot ever be an electrician (colored wires and coding will confuse me) or a commercial pilot. I have heard reviews say that the shade difference will be good enough...wrong! I can’t tell any shade difference between the yellow and green widgets.

People think that red-green weakness only affects red and green. No it doesn’t. Pink looks grey, light green looks yellow, dark red or green looks brown, and purple looks blue (red component drops out for me). And subtle shades of these colors are often hard for me to distinguish. I am lucky to see some red and green at all...some are so bad that they cannot see difference between red and green.

I can adapt to the new Mac OS, but what will really concern me is if other software developers follow Apple’s lead and design their interfaces to conform to Aqua. Can you imagine working with Photoshop (yes you can still do graphics work with my just have to ask people what color something is from time to time) with color coded buttons like in Aqua? Also, the use of translucent effects only makes it harder for me to tell the difference.

Red-green is the most common color blindness, but there are others that will make my problems with Aqua seem like a cake-walk.

Ronald Chan

apple“The Personal Computing Paradigm” is copyright © 2000 Michael Tsai,

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