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What Mac OS X Could Learn From Windows 403 403

An anonymous reader writes "It is almost unheard of to see something written about what OS X could learn from Windows but this details some good examples. And yes, it includes the right-click mouse." I find about half the suggestions compelling enough to be worth griping over, and the other half off-base, but YMMV.
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What Mac OS X Could Learn From Windows

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  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @05:29PM (#13117371) Homepage Journal
    The whole point of the one button mouse is to make it easy to use for beginners, and to prevent developers being lazy when designing programs.

    Those are two important points, but don't underestimate the RSI aspect. When RSI is a risk, the way to reduce it is to drive the action back to bigger muscles.

    The two button mouse requires you to use the muscles in an individual finger, and worse, individual tendons which exacerbate carpal tunnel syndrome. (multi-button trackballs do better). With the 1-button Apple mouse you can use your whole hand to click. With the current 0-button Apple mouse, you can use your whole arm.

    This is good ergonomics but it requires a more careful user interface design to utilize.
  • by greed (112493) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @05:47PM (#13117638)
    Make Macs look more like Windows, and I'll never upgrade again. I don't like how Windows works, regardless of all the security issues (both design and bug). Windows could be 100% flawless and I still won't like it, or anything else that works the same way.

    Or, perhaps, someone can tell me how to get XP SP 2 to do any of the following:

    • Sort directories with all other file types
    • Show all files in a directory, rather than just the ones that match some magic pattern
    • Separate file name from file type
    • Use an menu accelerator key that's close to the space bar, rather than near the edge of the keyboard

    OK, on that last one, tweaking the keymap would do it. (And that would solve the article's author's problem with Command vs. Control--swap Windows and CTRL on his Winbox keymap, or Control and Command on his Mac.)

    And I don't want stuff that only works for the current load/save dialog, like switching to list view. Yeesh.

    At least most Windows apps finally stopped defaulting to saving in the directory the program is in, that was really dumb.

    Not that Macs are perfect, either, but they're closer to how I want to use a machine than Windows is.

  • by EccentricAnomaly (451326) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @07:31PM (#13118863) Homepage
    Overall, this article is typical windows user complaining because they don't want to spend the time to learn a new platform. OS X has these features, it just takes time to learn them. Same thing if switching from Mac to Windows. Let's go down the list, shall we then...

    1) Compatible control keys.
    OS X already does this... just look in system preferences for the keyboard and mouse pref pane.

    2) Save button on toolbars
    This is an app specific criticism and has nothing to do with the OS. Office has these save buttons in the toolbar. in iTunes, iPhoto, etc. such a feature is not needed (everything is saved by default.)

    3) A multi button mouse.
    see parent: Exactly. That's a hardware issue, not an operating system (OS X) issue. It's not OS X's fault that Apple ships computers with single-button mice.

    4) Only show relevant file types in open and save dialogs
    conceded... I guess. I don't mind the OS X behavior here because I am in the habit of opening files via drag and drop from spotlight or the finder.

    5) Sort folders to top of directory listings
    Finder's list view does this if you sort by the 'kind' column.

    6) More context sensitive help
    conceded. OS X help system in general needs work. But last time I ran Winders it wasn't much better.

  • Please, no! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SJS (1851) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @08:06PM (#13119161) Homepage Journal
    Although it is amusing that someone would want Apple to borrow features from Microsoft instead of the (usual) other way 'round, I really would not most of the features suggested in the article. Please, no, the only thing worse than change for the sake of change is change to conform with a really bad standard.

    Like everyone else, I'm going to look at the suggestions:

    1) Compatible control keys.

    Oh, please, no.

    If it matters, then there should be an argument about which way is better, other than "more people are used to the Microsoft way". And if it doesn't matter, then it shouldn't be a big deal.

    It isn't the labelling, but the position? Let's not muck around too much with the position, eh? It was an unmitigated disaster when some bozo decided that the control key ought to be on the same row as the space instead of to the left of the "A" key; let's not continue the trend of rendering the standard keyboard unusable.

    If you want a different layout, remap the keys yourself, or buy a different keyboard. Line up to buy one of the Optimus keyboards if they come out next year, and map all of the keys to exactly where you want them.

    If I were paranoid, I'd say that this suggestion was designed to drive the sorts of people who haven't been appropriately indoctrinated into the Microsoft Windows Way[tm] away from computers entirely. If I had to use the Dell keyboard that came with the machine at work, I'd probably be contemplating a job that didn't involve computers, and wouldn't for the foreseeable future.

    2) Save button on toolbars.

    As has been pointed out, this is an application thing, not an OS thing.

    Personally, I'm not a big fan of toolbars. Trying to puzzle out the little icons isn't a profitable use of my time (and! yet! here! I! am! on! slashdot! yeah, yeah, I get the irony.), so I'd just as soon have the option to get rid of the toolbars and reclaim that screen real-estate for getting actual work done.

    Finally, the appropriate solution would be to give the user the choice of setting up the toolbar (like with every possible leaf in the menu-tree. Why bicker about "save", when all the leaves in the menu should be allowable targets for the user to put into the toolbar?

    3) A multi button mouse

    Hardware request. Bogus objection.

    What I want is a freaking three-button mouse with a scroll-wheel, where the scroll-wheel isn't trying to double-up as the third button. Yes, I know, I can "just click on the scroll-wheel", but I don't want to. I also don't want tiny little buttons that I can use with my thumb or pinky or whatever. I'm not looking for a funky keyboard on my mouse, after all (which is where this eternally-growing-button-list trend goes).

    But if the OS works with a single-button mouse, fine. Why should that be a problem? You want people who do best with a single-button mouse to have a terrible time with their computer? Such sadism makes for a very poor UI, and is no doubt part of the reason I bailed out of the Microsoft-centric world-view many years ago.

    4) Only show relevant file types in open and save dialogs.

    Many applications ghost out "inappropriate" files already. But making the actual hiding of information a system default is just bad form -- I get extremely annoyed when my computer hides information from me.

    Which leads into this nonsense of "hiding file extensions". THEY ARE NOT FREAKING EXTENSIONS: THE ARE SUFFIXES!

    Yes, boys and girls, it's the height of idiocy to look at the NAME of a file to determine how to handle it when you can look in a file to see what sort of thing it actually is. One of the stupidest "features" of Microsoft Windows is it's inability to understand that a JPEG file is actually a JPEG file even thought it's named "Foo", or, gosh darn it, even maliciously renamed to "Foo.GIF".

    5) Sort folders to top of directory listings


  • by Chief Typist (110285) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @08:14PM (#13119226) Homepage

    How a context menu works is NOT completely understood.

    The other night, my wife was on the phone with her mother providing tech support. I'm not exaggerating when I say that she said "NOT THE RIGHT BUTTON, MOM!" about 20 times. The context menu was coming up, and the selected action (default) was not the one needed.

    Her mom is not stupid, but she does hit the wrong button on her mouse. To her, there's no difference -- they both click.

    And keyboard combinations are not a valid comparison -- you don't accidentally click on the keyboard and the mouse at the same time.

    Having a one button mouse makes sense for people like her. Power users who can (and do) benefit from multiple buttons can go out and buy a better mouse.


  • by monkbent (856056) on Thursday July 21, 2005 @06:21AM (#13122471)
    I teach Kindergarten, and the biggest problem I have during computer time is getting the kids to click on the correct (left) mouse button. It's not just that they can't figure out, but also that their muscle development makes such actions more difficult. I sorely wish we had one button mouses instead!

    And I think that's the whole point. Anyone can use a Mac as-is, and those that need it can add functionality with another mouse. Those people, of course, are the same people that are most likely to understand their need and know what to buy. A kindergartener, on the other hand, certainly lacks the wherewithall to change the mouse on their computer! Shouldn't the burden be on those who are capable of bearing it?

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday July 21, 2005 @06:34AM (#13122514) Journal
    I'm not sure exactly when, but at some point in the '80s these keys were standardised to meta-x,c,v for cut, copy and paste (I think a few others were standardised as well). UNIX keyboards usually had a meta key, and used this. Mac kept command, and Windows, lacking a proper meta key, used control (which just confused everyone, since interrupt and copy were the same key combination). Up to this point, Microsoft was using control-insert and shift-insert for copy and paste.
  • by OglinTatas (710589) on Thursday July 21, 2005 @09:47AM (#13123580)
    "Was there a national convention that decided that the main command issuing modifier key should be hit by the pinky? I much prefer to move my thumb from the space bar and hit command than move my pinky from the a to hit control."

    I remapped my windows keyboard because excessive use of the ctrl key was causing joint pain in my pinky. Therefore, in my opinion, it is the ctrl key that is in the wrong place. I switched it with the caps loc, which feels fine for me, but I concede that the alt key location (where the cmd key on a mac keyboard is) would be a good spot also.

    I did not need to remap my mac keyboard.

    Maybe I will switch the windows keyboard again for consistancy with the mac.
  • Rebuttal (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nexum (516661) on Thursday July 21, 2005 @11:42AM (#13124794)
    1. Compatible control keys

    The gist of this writer's complaint is squarely focussed on the positioning of the 'Command' key (some call it the 'Apple' key) on the Mac keyboard. He goes as far as to say that 'Apple - and the zealotry - need to concede that this battle is lost..

    I am both a Windows and OS X user (Windows mainly for games) and I can attest that the Mac keyboard command key layout is vastly superior to that of a standard PC keyboard because of the position that you must contort your hand into in order to use the latter.

    For many PC users it is a case of simply not having experienced any better, so it's difficult to convince them to change their ways, but take an objective view of using both layouts with just one hand, and it's incredibly difficult to argue that the PC way is less strenuous. Perhaps this is responsible for much greater adoption of keyboard shortcuts among casual users on the Mac platform.

    2. Save button on toolbars

    Saving actively modifies a file on disk, perhaps overwriting or saving a 'bad' copy over what was originally a preferred version by accident. I am content not to have my toolbar filled with such items. However, this suggestion is not entirely devoid of merit (unlike the others, as we'll see).

    3. A multi-button mouse

    I don't understand why we still have this issue. You can plug practically any mouse into OS X, with any obscene number of buttons you desire and it will work. The writer continues: 'Why stop at two? Especially with things like Exposé, Dashboard and Spotlight.'. It would, frankly, be a nightmare for anyone but a poweruser to use. My mother does just fine with a one button mouse, she has enough trouble remembering what needs to be single clicked and what needs to be double clicked in the interface. This is truely a ridiculous idea. The preliferation of dozens of buttons of mice is a typical Windows thing - just look at how the Start menu itself has also grown from a simple and fairly useful applications menu (Win 95) to the default monstrosity of usability that it is today (Win XP).

    It's also worth mentioning that the usability of software on the Mac platform benefits hugely by forcing developers to come up with more elegant ways with which to allow control of the app - rather than (as is all too often the case in Windows) relying on the context menu to shuffle all the little commands into.

    4) Only show relevant file types in open and save dialogs.

    This has the effect of confusing users by making it look as though some of their stuff may be missing. It also does not allow for the identification of a folder via its contents (looking for a folder: "It's the folder with the Picture of Mom in it" for example). The OS X way gives you the best of both worlds. If anything, it should be Windows changing to the OS X way here for these important usability reasons.

    5) Sort folders to top of directory listings

    Not without merit.

    6) More context sensitive help.

    God... please no. Tooltips should, in the perfect interface NEVER be necessary. They are analogous to sticky tape holding together the interface... 'what's that? I've designed a crap interface and no-one can tell what this button is supposed to do from it's placement and icon? Well I could go and redesign the interface, or I could 'fix' it by adding a tooltip, and leaving it up to the user to figure it all out."
  • Re:Rebuttal (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Theaetetus (590071) <.theaetetus.slashdot. .at.> on Thursday July 21, 2005 @03:11PM (#13127608) Homepage Journal
    5) Sort folders to top of directory listings

    Not without merit.

    Nah, most annoying thing about Windows. I've got a folder with many sub-folders in it, and also many documents/program files/etc. (default tree that this particular program installs, and can't be changed). When I go in to the folder (usually looking for a particular document starting with "a"), even though it's in alphabetical order I have to scroll through several dozen folders just to get to what should be the first or second entry in the folder. That's just wrong. Alphabetical is alphabetical... Sort by kind is "separate folders from documents".

  • Font Smoothing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Heian-794 (834234) on Thursday July 21, 2005 @04:57PM (#13129089) Homepage
    One thing that Windowx now handles much better than Apple:

    Sub-pixel font smoothing

    Windows font smoothing is really easy ont he eyes, whereas Apple attempts to smooth the fonts in two dimensions, something that comes off looking clumsy. (Because the red, green, and blue parts of the pixel are arranged horizontally, one can simulate a white line that's 5/3 of a pixel wide by lighting up all of one pixel and then R and G of the next, but the height has to be a whole number of pixels.)

    It's supposedly a licensing issue, but I'd really like to see Apple make some kinds of deal and adopt something closer to ClearType. It really is a joy to look at.
  • by nullhero (2983) on Thursday July 21, 2005 @08:33PM (#13130874) Journal
    They already find Mac to be more useful as is. My parents don't need a two button mouse they prefer the single one. They don't need and open/save dialog to change filenames. They don't need a Windows type explorer. Apple does a great job for those people who never used a computer to sit down and start using one. I've posted this in the past that my parents, who are complete novices, first bought the Dell WindowsXP paperweight. When I pushed my Mom to purchase an Apple then she started using it and my Dad can't get off the computer anymore. He went from being scared of the damn thing to ordering everything he wants online and even sold his Dell paperweight on E-Bay. We forget about those individuals that have no experience on a computer and find that the GUI and mouse is very intuitive. Which is why the Mac OS is exactly bothersome for people who used Windows but for others it's perfect as is.

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