User interface thoughts

I develop on a Mac, but I run Windows and Linux (Ubuntu/Gnome) and so it’s very important to me that our L&F look good on all of them. Otherwise I’d just find a way to blend Quaqua and MacWidgets and be done with it.

There are things I prefer about the Windows/GTK+ style of doing things. I prefer a menu bar for the frame rather than a single menu bar at the top of the screen. I prefer resizing sides and corners rather than the single resize thumb on a Mac.

But to be a good citizen in the Mac world means doing things the Mac way on a Mac.

Does anyone run VMWare Fusion with either Linux or Windows in Unity mode? I do, and the “foreign” windows are extremely obvious. They stick out like a sore thumb.

Somehow, though, iTunes doesn’t really stick out as much on Windows. I hadn’t made the switch to Mac when Quicktime first switched to a Mac-like look and feel on Windows. It looked odd, but not as odd as Windows-style apps on a Mac.


  1. Ken Orr says:

    I think that iTunes doesn’t stick out because it uses the same window chrome. But even when apps do use different window chrome (think Pixelmator), they can still be acceptable to the end user. So what is it that makes it acceptable? My feeling is that as long as the application looks as good as, or better than native apps, then it doesn’t much matter how different it is than native apps. For example, Photoshop Elements on Windows doesn’t use standard controls, but it seems that users are accepting of the app because it shows at least as much polish as native Windows apps.

  2. I’m very curious how you will tackle platform differences like global menu vs. per window menu bar. IMHO the unified tool bar appearance in Mac OS X looks and feels awesome, but one important aspect is that no menu bar items pollute the appearance. Recent Windows versions use an interesting approach and sometimes simply don’t display the menu bar by default, but when using a Gnome desktop there is no (usable) counterpart. I guess some sort of dynamic adjustment is warranted here which might alienate some potential users that want a true cross-platform look.

    I would second Ken’s remarks about looking good. If the app looks awesome (and works great of course), most users won’t care much about minor differences in appearance. After all, the application still uses the same concepts.

    • On a Mac we’ll use the global menu bar. Everywhere else, we’ll do the iTunes thing and put the menu in the title bar. This code is written and works.

      Of course, on a non-Mac, the L&F can’t be uninstalled without disposing and recreating all the windows, and maybe not even then, because of the way undecorated JFrames work.

      But how many apps that aren’t designed to show off L&Fs actually uninstall their default L&F?

  3. I should add that I’ve almost never seen Vista and, in particular, Office Vista, so I’m not terribly familiar with the “stripe”. I know keyboard-y people who hate it. My ex seems to be okay with it, though, and is a keyboard-y person.

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