Sometimes it’s interesting to compare approaches of two major desktop operating systems: Apple OS X and Microsoft Windows XP.
Below are two screenshots, taken when a user attempts to close the text processor’s window with some text already in:
Pay a bit more attension to these differences:
- Windows dialog window is created as a modal window: you may move it so it wouldn’t cover text behind it (but can’t modify the text itself!) and OS X dialog is build-in into the parent window and can’t be moved.
- Windows dialog uses standard “warning” icon while OS X displays the application’s icon.
- Windows dialog text is nearly useless: it’s formal, uses “machine language” and not well formatted, unlike one of OS X
- in Windows buttons are labelled with standard Yes No Cancel labels no matter what context is. In OS X labels are more meaningful.
- Button location is different…
Let’s talk a bit about two last differences.
Yes/No/Cancel dialogs are common to users but in fact one have to read the whole message’s text in order to decide what one has to do. Texts may differ from “Save file changes? Y/N/C” to “Are you sure you don’t want to save changes? Y/N/C” although the latter is seen rarely, fortunately 🙂
As for button placement, the principal differences are:
- Buttons with destructive and non-destructive (Don’t save/Save) actions are separated in X:
- Don’t save and Cancel/Save groups are divided by interval
- Don’t save and Save buttons are plased in the opposite sides of the dialog, so you cannot mix them “by accident”
- Taking into account that most users visually scan each dialog from top-left to bottom-right, it’s especially interesting to notice button order:
- in X the default button is rightmost and it’s save
- in XP Yes (Save) is leftmost, very close to No (Don’t save) and Cancel is rightmost (sic!)
- in some Windows dialogs Help is rightmost…
So, implied default action for Apples’s OS is “Save document” while for XP it’s “Cancel and don’t bother me” or “Help!!!” 🙂
According to this document on MSDN things might improve in Windows Vista and post-XP applications, but not for too much. When it comes to communicating with the user through dialogs Windows is far behind Mac OS in nearlyevery aspect…
P.S.: Linux GNOME dialogs attempt to mimic the “apple style” of behavior, but due to developer-related problems in real life they’re still less useful…