Missing Steve Job’s Magic Touch

As a super fan of Steve Jobs since we met back in the seventies, I and millions of other Apple lovers have dreaded the day we see his magic touch removed from the product line.  Are signs of that touch missing in the new Lion OS?

After buying a new BTO (build to order) high-end iMac and using it for a few weeks it felt like those signs were appearing. I sincerely hope I am wrong and that interface decisions made on the Lion OS are based on a deeper understanding of Apple’s’ future then I can foresee. Or that Apple wanted to get the OS out the door and into the hands of users before making any more changes.

I understand that the Macintosh product line is undergoing a iOS-fication, meaning Apple is trying to bring more features of the iPhone/iPad to the laptop line. And I think this idea has a lot of merit. The use of gestures seems like a great idea if you have a trackpad, the Mac store is something long overdue with all computer, and the sand-boxing of applications so they can’t crash the system if they crash is great. But there are some other things found in the iPhone/iPad that I (and others I bet) do not think should ever be part of the Mac OS. So either Steve thinks we are wrong or Apple made some decisions without him. Read on and let me know what you think.

The Death of the Scroll

What happened to the scroll bars? Embedded in many books about Steve is his incredible attention to detail on things that may seem irrelevant to most people. And nothing to me is more impressive than the fact he has been said to have spent over 3 months redesigning the Macintosh scroll bars when he returned to Apple. The story goes that the every day the programmer responsible for the scroll bars presented 3 to 5 graphic screen shots of the designs. Steve would look them over, then explain which things he liked and disliked and send the guy back to the drawing board. This went on an on and literally hundreds of versions where tried. He wanted the scrolling to be incredibly easy but the same time he wanted the graphics of the scroll bar to let the user know a lot of information about the contents of the window itself.  Meaning you could look at the scroll bar and tell if there was more contents below or too the right of the window (since you are only looking at a window into a much larger area of information). He also wanted to set the Mac OS apart from the staid elements used in Microsoft Windows. One major innovation was to put the up and down arrows together at the bottom on the bar, rather one at the top and one at the bottom as done in Windows. This allowed you to make micro adjustments to the window up and down without needing to move the cursor from the top to the bottom of the bar which was a real time saver.

Well in the new Lion all that wonderful effort is gone. In fact unless you go into the Mac settings and change things there are NO SCROLL BARS! Yes that is the story my friend. For some reasons I dont understand they turned the scroll bars off. You only see them when you move the cursor into the window. Then if there is more content below the right scroll appears or if there is more to the the right the bottom one shows up.

Scroll Bars are Not Easy to See or Move

Look at Figure 1 (Snow Leopard vs Lion Scroll bars) and one thing that jumps right out is how much harder it is now to see the Lion scroll bars. They are thin shadows of their former Leopard past, skinny little bars with an insignificant dull gray thumb (thats what you call the thing you grab with your mouse or finger to move the contents) and NO UP/DOWN ARROWS. I’ve circled the arrows in case  you forgot what they are; which is easy to do since we have grown so accustom to using them. Why Apple or Steve decided to remove the bars clearly is because of the desire to bring an iPhonesque nature to the Mac. But give me a break I dont want my Mac to work like a phone Apple. I want it to work like a computer. Here is my question to Apple:

Have you asked your Macbook owners if they want their Mac to work like their phone?

I’m guessing not because Apple does not believe in focus groups. Which I don’t either but there are a few things I would consult a group of users about if I thought it was going to have a huge getting used to event. Which these scroll bars are. Ok that is my first reason why I think Steve was not involved in this decision. I just know as the supreme super user he would not agree its a good idea. Maybe he would have made a setting that let you turn on iPhoney scroll bars?

Turning Windows Upside Down

This is the other surprise you’re in store for. If you use a trackpad mouse or a trackpad windows no longer scroll like they did before, they are turned upside down. Which is how the iPhone and iPad work because you use your finger to “drag the content” down or up. But that is not the way you’ve or I learned to control content on a computer screen. Its backwards. So Apple did inject some choice here, you can go to the System Settings and reverse the way the windows scroll. This only works on the track pad mouse or the larger trackpad. Mouse wheels still work like they did in the past. Roll up the mouse wheel to move the window up and roll down to move the scroll bar down. Please Apple don’t change this.

This is just a few of the things that will surprise you about Lion. To me they show a lack of attention to the tiny details the Mac has been all about. Or maybe I am missing something?

Mitch

Please let me know how you feel about the scroll bars in this poll

Update Tue 20 Septemeber 2011

I have some great news. We have the problem with the CDN and the bad images solved. Turns out that the GoGrid CDN (which is really edgecast resold) has some kind of caching system that was sending back incomplete image files. My developer tried to fix it with some tricks but in the end the solution was to simply switch to another CDN, Maxcnd (www.maxcdn.com). Not only is Maxcdn much less expensive than GoGrid it turns out to be 300% faster! Instead of taking 90 minutes to sync Pro it takes 30 minutes.

I am going to submit Lite to the Google Market today and if that goes well I will submit the other two apps (Pro and Yard Plus). I hope this solves the bulk of the Android issues but like anything in life, there are no guarantees.

7 thoughts on “Missing Steve Job’s Magic Touch

  1. I think the best analogy here is to go way back to when Apple decided to drop the floppy disc, a decision that was 100% Jobs. In this case, I think what he’s doing is leading the way in getting us to drop the mouse in favor of touch. I upgraded both my iMac and MacBook Pro to Lion at the same time. On the MacBook I never missed the scroll arrows, and the flip-flop of scroll directions actually made sense. On the iMac, that flip-flop drove me crazy and I immediately used the system preferences to switch it back. However, running two machines in opposite directions was too confusing, so soon enough I went back again to the new-school Lion default, and I don’t regret it. Soon enough I’ll add a Magic Trackpad to that machine, and I don’t think I’ll ever look back. I don’t miss the scroll bars or the arrows at all.

    • Hi Michael and thanks for the feedback. I think the analogy of dropping the floppy is interesting but I dont find it a good parallel. Hardware changes fit in a different category, they dont change the way you use the software, they change the media you use to save it. Hardly the same thing. There are probably many examples of software changes Apple made that are good examples of going in the wrong direction. I understand your point about deciding to live with the up/down reversal but the fact you have both a laptop which is very much driven by a trackpad and an iMac which has no trackpad, puts you in a narrow group. Tell you what, I will set up a poll here on wordpress and ask a bunch of our iBird users who own Mac’s to take the poll and lets see if one of us is wrong or right.

  2. Pingback: How do you feel about Lion’s scroll bars? Please take this poll. | iBird iBlog

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