28 Jan 2014, 6:25pm

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  • Mac flaws — hardware and software

    I started this list about four years ago when I first got in touch with OSX and the hype around it. The usual claim: it’s great usabil­ity. But it’s not that dif­fi­cult to spot seri­ous usabil­ity issues. There are not that many — so it’s worth mak­ing a list (as opposed to other sys­tems ;) ), but it should show clearly: OSX has a great user expe­ri­ence (aka UX), which is the actual and under­stand­able rea­son for the hype — but that must not be mixed up with usability.

    Miss­ing features

    In gen­eral, OSX can not be con­trolled with the key­board only, thus you are forced to switch between key­board and mouse/touchpad regularly.

    Using key­board to con­trol OS X

    • No delete key on the Apple lap­top key­board (only back­space and Fn+backspace to sim­u­late the delete key)
    • No key to show the con­text menu on a cur­rently selected item; but some func­tion­al­i­ties are part of the con­text menu only. My new com­puter (Lenovo) does not have a con­text menu key either–following the exam­ple of Apple??
    • Alert boxes that are not part of a run­ning appli­ca­tion can not be focused using Cmd+Tab or Cmd+<>, thus, it’s not pos­si­ble to send them away with the key­board once they lost the focus.
    • When using finder in tree mode and insert­ing a copied file, it will always be put in the root folder instead of the folder the user has high­lighted; only the con­text menu’s entry “paste item” does that as expected but is not acces­si­ble via keyboard.
    • When delet­ing an item from a list using Cmd+Backspace the cur­sor gets reset to the top­most posi­tion in the list instead of mov­ing to the pre­vi­ous or next item, thus mak­ing it very frus­trat­ing to clean a large, dis­trib­uted set of items from a long list

    Thus, work­ing with key­board only (which is the most effi­cient way while cod­ing) is almost impos­si­ble. :(

    Point and Click Interface

    • No con­text menu (right click menu) in menus like “Down­loads” in the launcher bar, there­fore it is not pos­si­ble to open a docx file in OpenOf­fice instead of Microsoft Office)
    • Only since OSX Lion files can be dragged and dropped from the “spot light” quick start menu. Before, e.g. to use the spot light to search a doc­u­ment to be send via Skype it was nec­es­sary to click “Show all” first -> Finder win­dow pops up -> drag item from there + close win­dow afterwards.
    • When open­ing a folder in a finder win­dow, there is no but­ton to step up the folder hier­ar­chy since OSX Lion.
    • Mul­ti­ple selec­tions aren’t sup­ported in menus such as Down­loads. Imag­ine you down­loaded sev­eral files, now you want to move them to a par­tic­u­lar folder. So you either drag and drop each sep­a­rately or you open up an addi­tional finder win­dow, nav­i­gate to “Down­load” sort the results by date and then drag and drop the lat­est files.
    • When open­ing an image in the pre­view, it is not pos­si­ble to for­ward to the next image in the same folder. Instead, the user is required to select all images in the finder win­dow and then open them in the pre­view to be able to skim trough them. But mul­ti­ple selec­tion is not sup­ported every­where (see above).


    Despite that my Mac Book is called “Pro” it’s lack­ing basic pro features.

    • There is no dock­ing sta­tion available
    • There is no way to have a back-up bat­tery as the bat­tery is sol­dered in
    • I always need to carry the dis­play adapters because it does not have any stan­dard socket any more (the old ones had at least DVI), only dis­play port.
    • Just for the list: the power adapter is designed per­fectly, plus every adapter fits every Mac, thus for­get­ting your’s at home is not such a big thing! That’s great, no doubt about it.

    Usabil­ity Mistakes

    • Cmd+W closes a win­dow (e.g. a browser tab), Cmd+Q quits the entire appli­ca­tion… The keys for Q and W are just exactly next to each other on every key­board and there­fore it’s easy to hit Cmd+Q acci­den­tally. Saidly it’s the same for Linux and sim­i­lar for Microsoft Win­dows: Ctrl+F4 vs. Alt+F4.
    • The “cut-and-paste” par­a­digm is not sup­ported (FYI, in an Apple user forum I read a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion as fol­lows: “Imag­ine you cut a file, con­tinue work­ing and finally for­get you cut it. Then when you shut­down your com­puter… the file will be lost!” :D )
    • Mak­ing a win­dow fullscreen size can be very tedious because of two rea­sons: the “+” but­ton in the upper left does not max­i­mize the win­dow hor­i­zon­tally (it gets widen to a width OSX “con­sid­ers” rea­son­able) plus there is only a sin­gle resize grip on each win­dow in the lower right. Thus, it requires pre­cise mov­ing and scal­ing of the win­dow to get it fullscreen — instead of hav­ing just a but­ton to click — or dou­ble click­ing the title bar of the win­dow to max­i­mize it as usu­ally sup­ported in other OS.

    One ques­tion remains: With respect to finan­cial suc­cess, is UX more impor­tant than usabil­ity and util­ity?
    Accord­ing to this list and the suc­cess of Apple (though it seems the peak has been passed) the answer is yes.
    Also, this list is not meant to bad­mouth Apple in gen­eral, I still con­sider Apple’s “com­put­ing prod­ucts” (includ­ing Mac Books, iPhone, and iPad) to be some of the best hardware-software com­bi­na­tions avail­able today, though, I def­i­nitely pre­fer my Crunch­Bang for being super fast and slim, effi­cient, highly con­fig­urable, com­pletely con­trol­lable via the key­board, and open source! :)

    p.s. I stopped using OSX at ver­sion “Snow Leop­ard” at the end of 2012 so I might miss the lat­est features.

    29 Jul 2009, 10:30pm

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  • good & bad usablity
    the tap example

    Every­one inter­ested in HCI and Usabil­ity saw the cover pic­ture of The Design of Every­day Things by Don­ald Nor­man. But there are exam­ples about good and bad usabil­ity all around us, every day and I want to share one of mine.

    I real­ized how much more com­fort­able the shower tap at my par­ents place is, com­pared to the one in my shared flat.

    don't move! If you are lucky, the water gets only turned of... otherwise you get frozen or boiled...

    Don’t move! If you touch it and you are lucky, the water gets only turned off… oth­er­wise you get frozen or boiled.

    an good example of a water-tap for a shower

    A good exam­ple of a water-tap for a shower.


    The exam­ple to the left  is a typ­i­cal one — most prob­a­bly fol­low­ing an assump­tion like “this tap is work­ing for the wash­bowl, so it will do for a shower as well”. As it is mounted waist-high, it is easy to reach, also by mis­take, which can be quite dan­ger­ous as it can eas­ily be turned towards hot water by a slight touch. The re-engineered exam­ple on the right shows a func­tional and easy-to-use solu­tion, in addi­tion, the water tem­per­a­ture can be set up very pre­cisely, but most impor­tant, there is no way to change the water tem­per­a­ture by acci­dent as it is selected with a knob. Addi­tion­ally, due to the knob, its almost impos­si­ble to reach the han­dle, which is used to set up the water amount, by accident.