Vista icons: could they be better?

July 18, 2007

No vector icons. OK, bitmaps are usually large enough. But are they worth looking?

Iconfactory, the creators of original XP icon theme has made a lot in order to give Vista a brand new look. However, what we actually see is far not as good:

computers.jpg

Just compare the same computer’s icon from Iconfactory portfolio with the one from an actual Vista.

The reason, I suppose, is simple: unwilling to pay for a complete icon suite from Iconfactory Microsoft has just taken a sample set and made the rest by its own designers (obviously far not that skilled). As a result, we see lots of elegant and nice looking icons (like Recycle bin) aside with ugly, blocky and aliased ones you’ll unlikely wish to enlarge.


Vista, the next “Millenium”?

July 15, 2007

Last week I had a chance to make a test drive of Microsoft’s latest effort in Desktop OS development, Windows Vista. Actually, after reading numerous reviews and/or previews I had a mixed feeling about a need to look at it at all, but my designer’s curiosity has won. So, in short, what do we get on upgrading?

Pros:

  • Vista Aero UI is pretty. Really pretty. Just as much as some people love Wincustomize stuff they would love Aero, especially its clean skin and small details like Window header blur or “file flare” animation on copy.
  • Explorer is redesigned for good. Breadcrumb control (previously actively used by GNOME Nautilus) makes navigation more efficient and file thumbnails are more useful than before.
  • Aero UI has finally got rid of this nasty “GUI art” (redraw problems) and thus looks a bit more pleasant.
  • Gadgets and Desktop search are nice addons to old XP Desktop.

Cons:

  • It’s damned slow! On a modern PC with an excellent video card, modern processor and 2 Gb of RAM it’s visibly slower than XP. The difference is subtle at first, but the more you work, the more you notice annoying control delays. Besides, “eating” half a gigabyte of RAMjust after start…
  • Aero is annoying. In a few hours “wow” effects stops and you understand all its ugliness. All this sexy animation, stripes and highlight is very impractical and non-functional. The difference between active and background windows merely exists, soaped backgrounds make you mad, rolodex view is merely usable and taskbar hints are sometimes lost. You may return to the simplified non-transparent version of UI, but it’s times less eye candy and just ugly. Even with hardware acceleration minor graphical quirks exist, like windows, slowly restoring its content after minimizing…
  • The new UI is very inconsistent. You’ll have to learn things anew and controls seem to be located in the most bizzare places…

Overall, it’s disappointing. After 5 years of development we come up with a merely usable product (software, unwilling to operate properly, “are you sure?” anti-user protection on each step, slow operation…) with very arguable advantages over XP. Do you really want Vista? Try Mac or Linux first… Seriously. Macs had most of this stuff in Tiger for years and they’re more functional. Linux offers a competing Desktop with a much less price. And what about Vista, I’m not even sure Microsoft would be able to fix all the quirks with its service packs, so we may probably have to wait for the upcoming Windows 2009 or whatever it delivers next.


Close me not: Camino usability glitch

July 2, 2007

Even though I do like Camino browser a lot it has a glitch sometimes making me mad.

Just like Firefox, Opera and any other modern Web browser it uses Tabbed UI for navigating page sets. That’s generally OK (I wouldn’t discuss tab-related problem here, besides many users get used to this style of working).

Camino tabs

So, what’s wrong with the picture above?

First of all, the “close” button on each tab is located on the left, just like it is on any Aqua window. Nothing special, actually, especially as it’s quite an expected behavior and Safari (OS X bundled browser) does exactly the same:

Safari tab

The problem comes when you try to do something with tabs. One of possible features includes easy bookmarking by using drag’n’drop technique, familiar to any modern OS user and widely popular on OS X:

drag and drop

The thing is that in order to bookmark the site you must drag it by the site’s icon. Ooops. What happened? You just clicked “close” instead of bookmarking?

The cause of the problem is simple: Camino developers have just placed destructive (close) and non-destructive (site favicon) controls too close to each other. Strange enough, as this principle is largely covered by Apple HIG.

So, what possible solutions might be?

The first and non-elegant one is placing “close” on the right part of the tab (Windows way). Non-consistent, not “Aqua”, but it works. At least, Opera and Firefox find no problems doing so:

Opera tabs

A kind of “who cares?” solution.

Another one might be a bit more elegant. It doesn’t solve the problem completely, but creates a good workaround: just instead of using favicons for drag’n’ drop operations Camino developers might have made the whole tab draggable, so users may avoid dragging tabs by favicons in favor of other, less “dangerous” areas.

Edit: submitted as bug 386574.