I was reading through some comments on the news stories on the front page when I came across this one. I started typing out a reply along the lines of "I don't mind Vista" but 5 minutes later I was in a deep scathing rant about modern interfaces and how I hate them so. It occurred to me that it probably wasn't the right time and place, so welcome to my first rambling blog post.
Unlike a good portion of the rest of the HH team, I'm still using XP on my main every-day productivity machine. I've had Vista on other machines around the 'lab' for a while but haven't bothered to switch over my ultra-modern typewriter yet. Besides the initial issues with driver compatibility, I didn't find Vista to be too bad overall; especially once I figured out how to disable UAC (which was very soon after I noticed how much I hated it). So why not adopt it as my main word processing OS? Frankly because I don't like its interface and I don't yet need it to stay productive. Ohh, and I'm really lazy.
But then I was the guy who went with the "Classic" layout in XP for the first 3 years after it was released. Now I've finally come to terms with using XP's "new" interface a few short years ago and you want me to switch to Vista with its even fancier animations and graphics? Can't someone come out with an OS with less interface visual enhancements and features than the previous version? What about just less interface in general? Where are all the minimalists? Certainly not working at Apple since I don't think the Leapard interface is much better (some other rant, some other day).
While the words "sleek" and "fancy" come to mind, nothing about this says "minimalist" or "efficient" to me
Why do I need glowing, transparent, rounded, beveled, animated, reflected, drop-shadowed scroll bars again? Last I checked, I'm not an 8 year old girl and glitter doesn't excite like it once did (those were the days). Besides, I always thought the most interesting parts of the computing experience were the things the interface is supposed to frame and present... you know... that "content" stuff. Sometimes I wish MS would bring back a full-function command prompt. Yes, I am serious. If I want to be arcane and ridiculous with my new ultra-modern OS, then damnit, I should be allowed my insanity.
I also despise gel and glass buttons. I know Apple didn't invent the concept, but I blame them for making it popular. It isn't so much the button themselves as it is the cheap, guady reflection effect they all carry. It seems like the top of every gel/glass interface has a rediculously bright and harsh light because all these buttons have a massive bright spot at the top that fades a little, then ends abruptly half-way down the button.
The reflections make the button respond faster!
Also, what is with partially transparent interfaces? I know this is purely optional in Vista but I mean in general. It seems to me that there are a bunch of interface designers out there who think more transparency is better. Since when was it a good idea to make your interface harder to see? Why would I want to see part of my desktop background through my scroll bar? Why is an interface element that is permanently docked to the edge of the screen (practically all docks and bars) allowed to be transparent? Did no one realize that since the interface element is docked, it therefore by definition cannot move, which means you constantly see the same exact thing "through" the transparency? I would think that a 2D transparent item which is permanently displaying a static image behind the transparency is no longer really transparent. Instead it's just an oddly faded and blurry interface element.
My (almost) perfect browser setup
My browser set-up is probably the best example I have of what I personally demand from an interface since I think it is pretty close to what I currently think of as "perfect". Namely maximum function. When it comes to interfaces that generally means minimum interface and maximum viewable content area. I use FireFox and Opera as my primary browsers. "But Mike, how can you have two primary browsers?", you ask. Technically I only use one at a time but I switch between them on a near weekly basis, going back and forth whenever one of them starts to annoy me. I've yet to find the perfect browser and all the major ones have issues and quirks that piss me off, but that is yet another rant for some other time. If you look at my FireFox interface (image above), you'll notice it looks like about half of it is missing. Where are the drop-down menus? What happened to the forward and back buttons? Why is the tab bar visible when you only have 1 active tab? Where is the status bar?
The answers are simple. I don't need any of that clutter 95% of the time so they are gone. I use a mouse with dual thumb buttons that gives me forward and back navigation within WIndows, so I don't need the interface buttons. I rarely use the drop-down menus so I've relocated them within a drop-down menu button (that drops down a menu of all the drop-down menus when pressed). The status bar has been integrated within the address bar so the address bar fills with grey to indicate page load progress and rolling over links will automatically display the link address within the address bar. All of this is for the sake of minimalism and to provide me with the most vertical viewing space possible. So why the persistent tab bar? Because it's useful to see which tabs I have 99% of the time and I don't care for my tab bar snapping into and out of existence whenever I am down to 1 tab (which almost never happens anyway).
I'm not sure what the point of this rant was when I started, but I just have one last thing to say. Get off my freaking lawn!