Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Why couldn't Windows rip off menu placement from Mac OS completely?

It's no secret that Windows "borrowed" the menu bar from the early Mac OS, but moved some stuff around so that it wasn't an identical layout to Mac OS, just like using someone else's term paper in college. There are two cases I want to mention where having an application menu, like under Mac OS X, and Windows not copying the Mac OS menu layout exactly is a usability disaster. On Windows, Tools -> Options makes no sense at all for user selectable settings for the application. Are they Options for Tools or the whole app? When Mac OS developers port their apps to Windows, some seem to refuse to relocate their former ApplicationMenu -> Preferences to Tools->Options and instead put it under Edit->Preferences. Come on people, if you want to get paid by the man and his minions, at least completely follow the crowd and don't further confuse the sheep by moving the prefrences/options window out from under Tools. Same thing with Help -> About on Windows. Why the f*#K would a user ever think to find out about the application under Help? On OS X, you retrieve information about the application under the application menu. Applications -> About Application. If you have been tracking Windows Vista, it looks like MS is giving up on consistancy entirely. Cruise Paul Thurrott's Vista December 2005 CTP (build 5270) excellent screenshot galleries: Gallery 1 Gallery 2 Gallery 3 Gallery 4 Gallery 5 Some applications, IE 7, have a menubar placed in a strange location, other applications don't have any menubar, and still others have menubars somewhat like current versions of Windows. Apple may have three different application window themes now (PinStripes, BrushedMetal, Platinum) but unless my memory fails me, all applications use the menubar at the top of the screen and the menu choice placement actually makes sense. Yes the web has taught us that users can understand many different types of application layouts. But good websites define a layout that works for the whole site and stick with it. All I want is for both MS and Apple to make their OSes internally consistant, but it seems like MS has quit and it makes me sad. I am holding out hope that Apple unifies all application display themes in OS X 10.5 so that you can pick and choose the skin you want and it affects all the display windows. Interestingly enough, it seems Windows Vista is going to offer this feature.