Originally Posted by Richard Hallas
I can see why you say that, and it's probably fair comment in a sense. But I hoped to avoid being accused of that by justifying all my points.
I just wanted to add a bit to what the original article said, and give a bit of info about one of the Dock's most important antecedents. I really don't
want to start a 'my computer's better than your computer' argument, (a) because it's pointless and (b) because I'm a Mac fan and I'm not trying to bad-mouth the platform.
I don't want you to think that I was accusing you of badmouthing the OS. I was making the point that what may be seen as good design to some, may be seen as bad design to others.
The Dock certainly isn't perfect. I'd like to see Apple perfect it in a way that doesn't change it by too much. One of the problems we've seen in recent years, is Apple fiddling with something in a way that goes back and forth between ideas that are no better than the ones before, just different. The consistency is lost. Sometimes consistency is more important that some changes, even if they may be better for a few.
It's true that I had involvement in the graphical design (though not much of the functionality) of RISC OS 5, and in fact I had a small involvement with versions of RISC OS 4, too. But RISC OS predates my involvement by a long time (it came out in 1988; I started using it myself in late 1990), and I became a RISC OS user primarily because it was far and away the best available desktop operating system at the time. I'd been a Mac user prior to 1990, and I continued to use the Mac, but RISC OS was a heck of a lot better than Mac OS back then. Of course, Mac OS X was a vast step forward and has turned me back into more of a Mac user again. (Indeed, Mac OS X is now the most RISC OS-like mainstream OS for quite a number of reasons.) But having had the experience of RISC OS, I'm probably in a better position than most people to see shortcomings in the way the Mac OS X desktop has been designed, as I saw a wide variety of things being done better on RISC OS nearly two decades ago. Of course, it would be foolish to pretend that RISC OS can hope to compete with Mac OS X for features and advanced technology these days, and I'm not saying that. I'm just saying that it was incredibly well designed for its time, and there are still some things it does better than the Mac. (The icon bar, actually, is not one of the best examples.)
Do you remember XYwrite? I know people who learned that program through arduous study. Well after it was rendered obsolete, they continued using it. At the time, it was said that the word processor you learned the first, was the one you liked best.
This isn't quite that involved of course, but it applies to a certain extent. Once one latches onto something one likes, it's difficult to imagine anything else as being quite as good.
We all do that. I do it as well, even though I'm aware of it. Old habits are hard to break. I wasn't happy that OS X didn't work the way System 9 did. It took a while to get used to it. Indeed, OS X was going to be an even larger break with the past, but too many people complained.
However, I now find myself spending a lot more time on the Mac these days, thanks to changed circumstances in my work. The forthcoming release of the Virtual Risc PC emulator software for the Mac will only reinforce the shift for me and allow me to spend more time on the Mac. (And the prospect of Time Machine as an automatic backup system that will in future work for both my Mac and RISC OS files is a very compelling reason for me to want to upgrade to Leopard.)
I hope you're not feeling the need to explain this because of what I said, as my remarks weren't intended to make you feel as though your remarks were directed towards the value of the OS. If so, I'm sorry.
Hm. On the one hand, I agree that the vast majority of users will never be concerned with the sorts of things under discussion here, and are unlikely even to use all the features of the Dock that are present already. But on the other hand, I'd argue that it would be a shame to compromise on some good new features just because they'll only appeal to 'techies' (for want of a better term).
Well, I would prefer that Apple do what it has to do under the hood, to make things work more smoothly, and to perhaps give us a bit more in the way of customization in the prefs.
But, as I mentioned earlier, changing the interface by large amounts, which is what you are suggesting, confuses people who have learned to use it the way they have. If the Dock were really broken, that would be justified, but it's not.
Yes, you can probably overthink the Dock and spend too much time adding fiddly extra features that merely burden it with unwanted bloat rather than making it more naturally useful. In fact, if Apple has really removed folder-navigation from the Dock in favour of prettier but more limited stacks, then it may already be guilty of that. As you say, you can't please everyone.
If they've done that, I would like to know why. Perhaps many of the users find it to be confusing? Apple is known for simplifying.
As long as third party software can add functionality for those who really insist upon it, it isn't too much of a problem.
But, I'll accuse Apple of making changes when they shouldn't, as well.
Personally, I'd just like to see more options to tweak if I choose to tweak them; not necessarily a fundamental redesign. For example, one thing I'd love to have is the ability to make the Dock show itself if the Finder is the active task, but auto-hide when any other application runs. (I've actually got that functionality set up through my installation of ASM
- which is the only thing I use ASM for. But unfortunately it doesn't work as well as it should, because the Dock sometimes gets 'stuck'.) I also do think it makes good sense to separate 'system things' from applications. If one wants to check the progress of one's printer job, for example, the printer icon ought to be in a standard, expected place along with other system items, not lost amongst an arbitrary jumble of applications.
Ok, that's closer to what I'm saying.
But, I don't see the problem with, for example, the printer icon. I don't really pay much attention to it, but I've never had a problem finding it on my "crowded" Dock when I need it. I simply have the icon for it at the right hand side, just before the folders for certain files, my public drop box, etc. It's always there.
You don't need to have a jumble of icons on the Dock. You put whatever you want there, and can re-order them in almost any imaginable order.
I have, starting from the right (top, in my case), Finder, Dashboard, icon for my folder of various browsers named "Browsers", iChat, Mail, Publishing icon for my folder of programs for that, TextEdit, icon for my photo programs folder, icon for my CAD/Arch/Drawing programs folder, icon for the folder with my newsreaders, etc. I have plenty more. It all works out well.
I agree that Apple's implementation of this for the Dashboard is clumsy and irritating. All I can say is that, on the RISC OS icon bar, it works better than you might expect. For one thing, it somehow rarely seems necessary to overflow the screen with RISC OS, because the icon bar isn't an application launcher so you rarely overpopulate it with icons. But if you do, then when the scrolling kicks in, it works helpfully. You don't need to click anything (as you do with Dashboard); you just move the pointer to the overflow side of the screen, and the bar starts to scroll, slowly at first and then accelerating.
Things that bother me are the scrolling, no matter how it's done. Accellerated scrolling. I can never understand who came up with that one. It's got to be one of the MOST annoying ideas ever. Why is there an assumption that if we hold the button down a bit longer, what we're looking for is going to be much further away, rather than the very next item coming into view? That's something I would like to see an easy toggle on.
My point is not that this should become new default behaviour for the Mac's Dock. I can just see that it might conceivably be able to extend the existing functionality in a way that works well. For instance, if the user were able to set a minimum size for Dock icons (to avoid having them become so small as to be unusable, as can happen now), the Dock would continue to work exactly as it does now, for the majority of the time. But if it did need to overflow, then it could scroll off the edges of the screen, such that either or both of its sides (depending on its positional configuration) flowed away off the screen. But it would travel back onto the screen as the pointer approached that edge. If done well, this could behave like an extension to the existing magnification feature. Apple could implement it as an extension of that feature, just as Spaces extends Expose with a new level of visualisation. The scrolling movement could, essentially, become just a part of the magnification process. I can visualise this working well in my mind's eye, though I may not have explained it very well.
If you could toggle scrolling off, for those of us who don't want it, that would be fine.
The problem is that I have always found scrolling, no matter how it is implemented, to be slower than just moving to where something is, even if one misses by a bit, because there are a lot of items there. You always have to wait for a scroll. Getting there directly is always faster.
I find magnify to be fine for me. Even on my monitor, the icons never get too small so that I don't know what they are, and the name that pops up does the rest. Including the several programs that I have open now, there are 63 icons on my Dock, but it doesn't seem to be a problem. Why is that? Perhaps because even if I somehow made the mistake of pointing to the wrong end of the Dock, it only takes 3 seconds to scroll up the entire Dock to the other end.
I think that only productivity fanatics are so concerned about this. That's not being pejorative, but I can't think of how to describe them otherwise.
Let's say that one finds it necessary to go to the Dock an unlikely 100 times during the day, and it takes an extra 2 seconds to "hit" something. That would be 3 minutes, 20 seconds taken from an 8 hour workday. Hardly a production stopper. It would take longer than that to find the item on a scrolling list. And when it accelerates, it's too easy to let the item go by before you stop it. Then you have to move your pointer anyway. I fail to see the advantage.
Interesting that you mention DockExtender. Although I haven't tried that myself, it does sound to be similar to the idea I suggested for stacks in my previous message.
Somewhat, though it does more.
I agree that nothing is perfect for everyone. I just think that it could be made slightly more that way, though, by giving the user the ability to determine more aspects of the behaviour.
Quite so. I'm the sort of person who likes to organise things in a sensible manner, and the Dock is just a bit too much of a disorganised jumble for my liking.
I don't know. I have the Dock organized pretty well. There are some restrictions, as you mention, but that would be true no matter what is done. I just don't find them to be too much of a problem as they are, though it could be better.
I'm glad that people have found what I had to say interesting.
We would all agree with that.