First, congratulations are in order to all the Apple and open source people who contributed to the 10.4 release — my 800MHz iMac feels like a new computer and using it is generally more pleasant. On to the issues and suggestions
- Regarding the leveraging of Fitts’ Law by the Apple and Spotlight menus, Apple managed to turn what could have been a clear victory into a tie. Yes, the two corner menu items now activate regardless of how deep the cursor is flung into the corner, but do they visually indicate this in any way? Nope. The initial Apple/Spotlight menu item design wasn’t perfect, but at least it provided a visual cue as to the size of the menus’ activation areas.
- Automator, iChat, TextEdit, Preview, Console, Keychain Access, and Safari use Command-Option-T to open the Character Palette. Mail 2.0 uses it to repeat message moving. The HIG (revised for 10.4) still recommends this combination for showing and hiding an application’s toolbar. Now that applications are finally implementing the recommended shortcut (including the Finder), a completely different use for it has been introduced that seems to be the default for Cocoa-based applications. I’m perplexed.
- Summoning the Character Palette adds the Input menu item to your menu bar. The user then has to open the International preference pane to turn it off.
- It is still not possible to preview images and movies in the Save dialogs, forcing the user to locate the file in the Finder to double check the contents before overwriting existing files.
- I’m disappointed to see that the Font panel still doesn’t use color to communicate the actual active text and background settings. I described the problems and proposed solutions a while ago.
Result Display Suggestions
Item names do not always make it clear why they were included in the results.
- Additional Document and Folder relevance information
- Display the first sentence or metadata string containing the query term(s) with the document’s name to make it obvious why the document was included. This should also be done for PowerPoint and Keynote presentation files.
- For folders, the Spotlight comment string should be displayed if that were the reason the folder was included rather than the name of the actual folder.
- This image uses an alternative group count display method that doesn’t require that the group’s contents be displayed to see the total. I didn’t use it in all the mockup images because I’m uncertain it is superior to the current method.
- More Fitts’ Law leveraging and additional Contact and Event/To Do information
- Make the group headers a bigger, easier target for users by making the entire width (sans view mode buttons for the groups that have them) of the group header clickable, visually indicated by a dark blue rollover. In addition to giving the user a much larger target, this could decrease the amount of necessary cursor movement.
- Display the address containing the query term with the contact’s name to make it immediately obvious why the contact was included in the results.
- Event and To Do items should display the string matching the query if it is not in the title.
- Instead of the modification date, Event and To Do items should display their occurrence or completion date. I don’t think the date an event or task was modified is very useful information, but that might just be me.
- Additional image and PDF relevance information
- As with other data types, images and PDFs display the text information that made them relevant to the search terms.
- Additional Bookmark information and Music relevance info
- Bookmark favicons and URLs help users identify results more quickly.
- Like other file types, music files display the metadata that matched the query.
More informative icons for individual items
The large icons displayed in the individual item details views do not communicate much useful information.
- Mail and Contacts
- Received messages display a downward arrow, sent display an upward.
- Read messages should display an opened envelope, unread display a closed envelope.
- Additional badges for certificate signing and priority level could be added.
- The vCard icon is useless. The contact’s picture should be displayed and function as a proxy to their vCard.
- Screen names should be formatted as functioning links when the contact is available.
- Events and To Dos
- The tiny list view To Do icon should be different from the Event icon.
- Large Event and To Do icons should display useful information rather than the plain ICS icon.
- These icons should be draggable to contacts as a way to send them an event invitation or task.
- Chat logs
- Conversation participant pictures or buddy icons should be displayed somehow. Mine is a rather rough visualization of one way this could be done. Similar to Safari 2.0’s syndication article display slider icons, the lines inside the chat bubble would give an idea as to the conversation’s length — the more lines, the longer the conversation.
- For chats involving 3+ participants, each participant’s picture (excluding the user’s) could be placed around a compact chat bubble with points extending towards each one.
The green chat bubble is from Joe Kohlmann’s “Various Aqua Shapes“.
General Spotlight Comments
- The default group order doesn’t seem very logical to me. Here is my suggested ordering, which I think more logically sequences the groups.
- Users should be able to drag-and-drop objects onto one another. For example, drag a file and drop it on a contact card to create a new e-mail message to that person with the dropped file as an attachment.
- The widths of the results and the sorting control panes in the Spotlight results window should automatically resize after unmounting volumes, otherwise you can end up with a wastefully proportioned window. Because the width of the two panes is not manually adjustable, the window has to be closed and then opened again. Reopening the window resets the width of the panes, but also requires that the user re-run their search.
- The sorting controls pane should be collapsible for those who do not use the controls and/or have limited screen space.
- QuickTime movie annotations added by the user are not indexed. After downloading the “A Scanner Darkly” trailer, I added several annotations such as “Director: Richard Linklater” to the file, but this additional metadata is not being indexed. The annotations I’ve added to an AAC audio recording I made have not been indexed either.
- Most IPTC metadata in JPEG images is indexed, but none in GIF, TIFF, JPEG2000, or the default screenshot format, PNG.
- Spotlight does not seem to index ID3 tags that iTunes isn’t aware of such as song lyrics and people.
- PDF and image thumbnails do not appear to be cached, which means they have to be generated every time a query is run. This causes substantial performance degradation.
- Nicknames should be synonymous with an individual’s full name.
- Assuming iChat logs eventually have metadata attached, such logs would then be sorted into groups as being authored by the participants.
- Bookmark info should include a visit count.
- Spotlight doesn’t look at all information types for OR queries such as “Seattle|Tacoma”.
- The Finder’s preferences should include a section to configure the group listing order of search results. Alternatively, the Finder could automatically use the same sorting order used in the Spotlight results window for the groups that also appear in the Finder (Folders, Documents, etc.).
- The Spotlight results window can generate PDF thumbnails, but the Finder can’t? Eh?
- An unsaved Smart Folder the user has altered should have the dot in its close widget.
- The Smart Folder save prompt sheet’s “Don’t Save” button should respond to Command-D.
- The path listing at the bottom of Spotlight result Finder windows should be resizable.
- I still can’t toggle column display by Control/Right-clicking on the column header row in List view.
- The Document Info palette’s Details section scrollbar position resets when switching back to Preview from another application.
- Also in the Document Info palette’s Details section: an irritating IPTC caption display problem. Because they are frequently several sentences, caption text should wrap and the window should be horizontally resizable. Horizontal scrolling would also be preferable to simply being unable to read the entire caption, but automatic wrapping and the window being horizontally resizable would be best.
- It should be possible for users to begin a rectangular selection from outside the actual area of the image.
- The “A” in the PDF tools should be used for the text annotation tool icon and the text selection tool icon should be changed to a text selection cursor. The pencil does not clearly communicate the text annotation tool’s use.
- The text selection tool’s tooltip should read “Text Selection Tool”.
- For image PDFs, the text selection tool should be unavailable and the button desaturated.
- Preview should include an option in the View menu to toggle the display of annotations. This setting should be remembered on a per-document basis.
- It would be nice if screenshots taken of specific windows were automatically tagged with the parent application’s name as IPTC keywords. For full-screen captures, the names of all applications with visible windows could be added. I’d like it if my name was added as the IPTC Author for all screenshots, but many people would find this a potential breach of privacy.
- I’m glad to see that the cursor buttons in Grab’s preferences window are no longer squished.
- The green widget (zoom) maximizes the window rather than resizing it to the exact size required to display an entire image.
- I’d like to be able to specify the default screenshot format. A drop-down menu in the preference window would do the trick.
- Try this: open the Spotlight results window, switch to Grab, hide other applications. Now you can’t use Grab to capture the Spotlight window. D’oh.
- Being mutually exclusive, the mini-month and notification view buttons should be joined like the Day/Week/Month buttons.
- What happened to event status?
- iCal should adopt the Mail priority indicators: a dash for low priority, a single exclamation point for normal priority, two exclamation points for high priority.
- There are two new filesystem attributes that would be great to attach to chat logs:
- Similarly, files received through IM should be tagged with the sender’s name and screen name.
- A Yes/No worded dialog has appeared in Mail. Yuck. I guess the buttons from the iTunes “move files to Trash?” confirmation dialog just migrated
- Why can’t I rate movies in QuickTime Player?
- TextEdit now has a Properties dialog (Command-Option-P) that allows you to attach Spotlight-indexed metadata to files. The Author field could be auto-filled with the user’s name if the document is a new one. If a title is entered in the Properties dialog before the file is saved, suggest the title as the file name. The Comment field should automatically wrap. Unfortunately, the information entered in the Properties window doesn’t appear to be embedded in the document, so it disappears when copied to another volume. Metadata attached to RTF documents is embedded and therefore portable — my mistake.
- Address Book can now share your contacts via Bonjour.
- Information such as the key (kMDItemKeySignature) and time (kMDItemTimeSignature) signatures of the audio in a file would be a great information for musicians and composers to have! Look at the Smart Folder “Other” options to see what I’m talking about.