Apple Design Interaction Interface macOS Photography Prototyping

Mojave Finder Ideas

The Gallery View

As a designer and photographer, I was particularly interested in Finder’s new Gallery View. While the functionality is solid, there is room for improvement, particularly in pointing device and keyboard interactions.

  • The QuickLook view does not scale down to the proper location on screen when filenames are displayed in the thumbnail strip.
The QuickLook preview is misaligned when scaling back down to the thumbnail.
  • The mousewheel might as well be mapped to scroll left/right when the cursor is over the thumbnail strip. As it stands, it’s useless unless you know that you can switch the scroll axis by holding Shift. If you already knew this, congratulations — you too have spent a lot of time at your Mac.
  • Similar to the interaction in Preview when in Single Page mode, people should be able to two-finger swipe left/right with the cursor over the selected image to navigate the thumbnail strip.
  • When you have both a trackpad and mouse connected to your Mac, you can’t grab the scroll thumb by horizontally scrolling with Shift+mousewheel and then moving the cursor into the scroll track; the scroll thumb disappears too quickly. You can easily do so using the trackpad. Once the trackpad is disconnected, the scrollbar is displayed persistently. I guess no one on the Finder QA team uses both a trackpad and mouse simultaneously.
  • I swear Option+mousewheel over the selected item preview to zoom was working at one point. It’s not, but it should.
  • The pinch-to-zoom gesture could be used over the thumbnail strip to switch between the three thumbnail sizes offered in View Options (⌘J), though they are fixed sizes and the pinch-to-zoom gesture is usually used for smooth, continuous zooming.
  • After disconnecting a trackpad, the thumbnail strip can be scrolled vertically such that the thumbnails (or filenames, if displayed) overlap the scroll track. See below.
Disconnecting a trackpad causes layout issues.
  • Using the Home/End keys to jump to the ends of the thumbnail strip causes the vertical position of the thumbnails to shift. They reset once you scroll or use an arrow key to select another item. See below.
Using the Home and End keys causes layout issues.
  • Unlike the three other Finder views, the Page Up/Down keys do not work in Gallery view.
  • The splitter between the Preview and file display panes (or preview and metadata in Gallery View) does not provide double-click behavior. Double-clicking it could either toggle between minimum (480 points) and maximum (960 points) widths for the Preview pane or, like Finder’s Sidebar, reset it to the default width.

If you are a designer and currently use just a mouse or just a trackpad, you are missing out. Assuming sufficient desk space (and hands), you can use the trackpad with one hand to pan and zoom in design apps while simultaneously using the mouse with the other to drag or resize objects (though screen update performance ranges from a bit janky to pretty smooth, depending on the app). Once you’ve tried it, you won’t want to go back.

Making Metadata More Useful

I’ve always found metadata interesting for the possibilities it presents to retrieve and explore information based on attributes, so I’m glad Apple added the ability to display more file metadata in Mojave’s Finder. The problem is that you can’t do much with it aside from view it and select an individual label or value. Below are videos of prototypes I built in Kite for how it could evolve to be more useful.

Showing Photo Locations

Assuming an image has GPS coordinates embedded in its Exif metadata, it would be nice to be able to show the image on a map without having to add it to Photos to use the Places view within that app.

Video of a prototype showing an image location on a map. Prototype built in Kite.
  • Command-clicking the pin icon in the metadata list could launch the Maps app directly rather than having to first access the map pane, then click Show in Maps.

Creating Smart Folders from Displayed Metadata

It would be great to be able to create a Spotlight-powered Smart Folder based on metadata displayed in Finder’s Preview pane. Currently, the process of creating Smart Folders from image metadata (other than the basics like filename and type) involves opening the “Other…” menu in the Spotlight query builder, scrolling to or searching for the metadata type you want to use, then clicking OK. It’s pretty well tucked away and the list of available metadata is extensive.

For example, say I want to create a Smart Folder of all the images captured with my Olympus and exported to JPEG. As you can see below, it’s potentially a fairly easy process when you can start with metadata that’s already displayed.

Building a Smart Folder in Mojave’s Finder from displayed metadata.

At narrow pane widths, the Search Quick Action would collapse into the Other menu.

I first thought of this design for Capture One, but it can fit into most any app that displays metadata in a label-value list and lets you build collections based on metadata.

Further Metadata Notes

  • I’d love it if a future version of Finder displays IPTC metadata (particularly keywords) in the Preview pane. IPTC metadata is already indexed by Spotlight and displayed in the Info window. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be too much work to add support to the Preview pane.
  • It would be possible to do at least rough location mappings of photos based solely on IPTC location metadata such as Location, Municipality, etc.
  • Embedded keywords are more useful than Finder Tags because they travel with the file, regardless of the filesystem.
  • Referring to the pane that displays metadata as Preview doesn’t really make sense in Gallery View, where the metadata and content preview are separate. “Details” would make sense.

Folder Content Previews

Rather than simply displaying a folder’s icon at a larger size when selected in Gallery View, Mojave’s Finder could give users a peek into the folder (information scent) by previewing the folder’s contents. In the case of populous folders, the items shown at the front could be based on the date last opened or modified to increase the odds they are more recent in the user’s memory.

A prototype showing Finder previewing a folder’s contents in Gallery View.

While this example only shows images (for which I think the feature would be most useful), it would work with any file type providing QuickLook previews.

Interface macOS Movies

Better Desktop DVD Display

Mac OS X’s DVD Player allows users to set the title and a jacket picture for each disc. Some DVDs specify the jacket picture already, as in the case of Samurai Rebellion. These two pieces could be used to better present the DVD on the desktop.

  1. Disc Info
    DVD Player Disc Info
  2. Jacket Picture
    DVD Player Jacket Picture

Put them together…

DVD Jacket Picture and Title on Desktop

Interaction Interface macOS

Finder and Mail Itches


Largely to make it easier for those who don’t know about the Info window or how to control file sharing, a button in the banner at the top of shared nodes:

A Settings button to quickly access the Sharing System Preferences pane

The button would open the Sharing pane in System Preferences with the particular folder selected.


The dialog asking for confirmation before permanently deleting messages marked for deletion or as spam is really irritating. As with the Restart/Shutdown/Log Out commands in the Apple menu and the Private Browsing command in Safari, holding Option should suppress the confirmation and execute the command immediately.

Mail's contextual menu for the Junk folder

Mail's contextual menu with confirmation suppression indicated via lack of ellipses

Going by the HIG for the use of ellipses in command labels, the Erase Deleted and Junk commands in the Mailbox menu should have them.

Interaction Interface

Summing It Up

When selecting multiple items to be sent via e-mail or IM or copied to another volume, it is helpful to know the total size of the items; many e-mail servers restrict attachment sizes and CDs and DVDs only hold so much.

The Finder provides this running total through the Inspector (Command-Option-I), which is both fairly hidden and changes based on the active view. The only method I know of for getting similar information in iTunes is to use the File menu’s “New Playlist from Selection” command (Command-Shift-N), then looking at the status bar. Status bars that display the sum of the selected items’ filesize (and length for linear media) can provide this information more conveniently.


  1. Single file selected
  2. Single file selected in Finder

  3. Two files selected
  4. Two files selected in Finder

  5. Three files selected
  6. Three files selected in Finder


  1. Single song selected
  2. One song selected in iTunes

  3. Two songs selected
  4. Two songs selected in iTunes

  5. Three songs selected
  6. Three songs selected in iTunes

Accessibility Design Interaction Interface macOS

Generally SpottieOttieDopalicious

Overall, I’m very happy with 10.5. The new features are mostly useful and intelligently implemented and I’ve experienced only minor upgrade-related problems with third-party software.

General & Miscellany

  1. Spotlight results are nearly instantaneous for even very broad searches. A very impressive improvement.
  2. The menu bar opacity is not as bad as I thought it would be. I believe it was adjusted before the final release.
  3. The smaller font size in the Help menu looks a bit odd next to all the menus using the standard size, though it is consistent with the Spotlight menu.
  4. Foreground/background window contrast is much improved by the increased shadow depth and source list background and window titlebar color changes. Although I was never a zealous advocate of the Grand Window Style Unification (functional consistency is more important), I’m glad it has been done.
  5. More than ever, Lucida Grande needs a smallcaps variant — too many source lists yelling at once. Contact Bigelow and Holmes!
  6. Command-Delete replaces Option-Delete as the means of deleting full words to the left of the insertion bar.
  7. Wrap-around using the arrow keys has been removed from the Command-Tab application switcher, though it still works with Command-Shift-Tab. I suspect this was done to prevent users from overshooting the left- and right-most applications, but I believe it is a poor choice; it is more efficient (and physically easier than the Shift-Command-Tab sequence) to press the left arrow while on the left-most application to get to the far right when many applications are open (and likewise when the right-most application is selected). If four or five applications are open, it is easy enough to reverse direction. This also makes it harder to get to hidden applications, which are placed at the right end once hidden.
  8. If arrow key wrap-around is not to return, a subtle bumping animation like that when an iPhone list reaches the bottom would make it clear that it is possible to move in only one lateral direction. Additionally, allowing selection of the left- and right-most applications by pressing the up and down arrows (respectively) would be nice. This is already possible using the Home/Page Up and End/Page Down keys, but they are on a different part of the keyboard, requiring that the user move their hand from the inverted T.
  9. Being able to scroll background windows system-wide does a bit to reduce the inherent modality of applications. It’s a non-destructive action that is easily undone and reduces the need to flip between windows and/or applications.
  10. In addition to Command-click, Right- and Control-clicking on a window title bar proxy icon summons the path menu. I’m not certain this is new.
  11. Regarding the rounded screen corners, who cares? My only screen corner complaint is that the uppers still do not visually indicate that they have infinite depth for activating the Apple and Spotlight menus.
  12. The iTunes “rip complete” sound is now played when Installer completes an installation. Conceptually sound, but what if you have a CD ripping and a piece of software installing? How do you know which one is done? This is compounded by Spaces. This is part of why the Dock and Growl are useful feedback vectors; they exist independent of whatever else you are looking at (unless you hide your Dock…).
  13. The Movies widget needs an “Add to iCal” button that opens iCal and, if necessary, prompts for selection of a calendar to which the selected showing will be added.
  14. Something similar to my spring-loaded Dock idea has been implemented as a hidden setting. The application’s windows do not tile automatically, but you can trigger Exposé yourself or use Command-~ to switch. The default out-of-the-box behavior is that apps only open or spring forward after tapping the space bar.
  15. The print dialog (now with progressive disclosure, as I suggested) will make Alan Cooper happy, though I don’t think he uses OS X.
  16. The sound output list now updates immediately after plugging in headphones rather than only once you select the Built-in Output item.
  17. The revised Software Update process is nicely done. The new flow makes the installation of updates feel more like something you can do once you have time to take a break.

The Finder

  1. The Spotlight results window is no longer an orphan.
  2. Alternating row background colors in List view. Finally!
  3. Still no contextual menu on List view column headers to toggle column display.
  4. The new Dock menu commands are nice additions, in part for reasons mentioned in the Dock section.
  5. The Finder claims my iDisk has 1.36 TB of total space with 360.77 GB free. The .Mac System Preferences pane gives accurate information.

The Dock

  1. The default look is not for me and I feel it is an inferior visual design. I like the simple, high-contrast alternative.
  2. The opacity of Dock item text labels should be increased just a bit to improve readability.
  3. When given keyboard focus using Control-F3 or Control-D, Dock type-ahead selection should search the entire object name for matches rather than just the beginning. This would be less of an irritation if marketing zombies at Microsoft and Adobe didn’t insist on prepending all their applications’ names with the company name.
  4. I’m not yet sold on Stacks, but I do like the gradient selection background that appears when moving through the contents with the keyboard.
  5. Dock menu commands to create new documents are all the more useful when using Spaces. Otherwise, you first have to switch to applications that are on other spaces, create the new document, then move it to the previous space. Note that space-application bindings interfere a bit; if bound, you will be switched to the app’s space after creating a document via the Dock menu, possibly moving you away from the space displaying information needed for your document, message, etc.
  6. “New Thing” Dock menu commands in document creation applications such as the iWork suite and TextEdit would be nice for the aforementioned reason.


Spaces is very solid for an initial release. It feels like a more evolved version of a little noticed application by Mac Murrett called Workspaces that was basically Exposé for virtual desktops. Alas, it broke with 10.4.

  1. Space placement of windows should be retained across launches. If the number of spaces changes between launches, default to wherever the application is launched.
  2. I would really, really like to be able to click on a window’s titlebar, invoke the birdseye view quasi-mode with F8, and then drag the window I grabbed to another space without having to re-grab the window.
  3. Another way users should be able to move a single window from one space to another: hold a modifier key while selecting the window from the application’s Dock menu.
  4. When removing a space-application binding, I do not think the application’s windows should be moved to the first space. You are not moving the application, just specifying that you don’t always want it to appear on a specific space.
  5. To help with spatial orientation, the OS should route sounds generated by applications on inactive spaces through an appropriate audio channel. If you are viewing space 1 and iTunes is done ripping a CD on space 2, the completion sound should come from the right channel. This would only map cleanly along the horizontal axis, but audio perception experts may know how sound can be manipulated to seem as though it is coming from above or below.
  6. The drag-and-drop method of moving single windows between spaces is great, but there is no way to relocate several of an application’s windows. A Dock menu command “Move All Windows to Space” with a sub-menu listing all spaces is basically how GNOME and KDE handle relocation. This command would of course only appear if Spaces is enabled. For drag-and-drop relocation of all of an application’s windows, holding Option while dragging a window would be consistent in scope with how Option is used in conjunction with the Close/Minimize/Zoom widgets. Windows would be moved as a group, retaining their spatial relationships. I am wrong. All of an application’s windows on one space can be moved by holding Shift or Control.
  7. Edge flipping works as a means of moving windows between spaces. Excellent. You can also grab a window with the mouse and, while holding the window, use the keyboard to switch using Control-(Arrow or Number). It would be nice if diagonal switching was direct rather than moving in one direction (horizontally or vertically) first and then the other.
  8. Edge flipping should also be triggered by dragged objects held at the edge of the screen.
  9. Showing an outline of the Dock while in Spaces’ birdseye view would save users from having to reposition windows they accidentally place behind the Dock. Either that or using the same automatic repositioning as when a window is placed in the menu bar area. This behavior should be aware of Dock hiding.


Now with more Acrobat functionality!

  1. The static size of the PDF Info window (Tools > Info or Command-I) means you cannot read long text strings in the General Information section; they do not wrap and there are no tooltips.
  2. The Print button on the print preview window does not visually indicate that it is the default button mapped to Return or Enter.
  3. Contextual menu commands for printing and exporting selected pages would allow users to more directly select pages to print rather than having to input page number ranges.
  4. The Preferences window still looks like someone closed their eyes and hoped for the best while dragging widgets in Interface Builder.


  1. You had it right the first time — Data Detectors belong at the system level! Mail is a logical choice for a testbed implementation, but they should be available system-wide.
  2. The “Verify Certificate” dialog now includes a check box to add self-signed certs to your trusted list. Much easier than the “drag-and-drop then import” process required previously.
  3. The Erase Junk Mail confirmation dialog now uses proper button labels rather than No/Yes.
  4. I still don’t understand why the Erase Junk Mail confirmation is a floating dialog while Delete Messages is a sheet.


I generally like the redesign of iCal, but I will return to Contactizer once a 10.5-compatible version is available.

  1. The Mini Month pane size is not retained across launches, always reverting to the default of two months. Having only one calendar (Contactizer uses Category metadata to differentiate items within one calendar) and a large display, this is a rather irritating bug.
  2. A large “Today” text button rather than a small mysterious diamond! Raskin said something along the lines of “I’ve often seen text used to describe images, but never images used to describe text.”
  3. The use of Helvetica is odd, but not something I mind. It’s consistent with the iPhone, but Helvetica is the iPhone system face.
  4. The inline information overlays require too many clicks to view, edit, and dismiss. The Info drawer or floating window were far from perfect, but I prefer either one to the new method.

More as I explore.


Living in Projects

Folders can be a crappy way to organize files. Fortunately, there is metadata such as Spotlight’s Project label, which is accessible through Desk Lamp.

  1. Find the files related to your project in Desk Lamp.
  2. Add a Project label.
  3. Type “project:insert label here”.
  4. After buying a license, save the blotter. Or if you honestly can’t spend the $20…
  5. Switch to the Finder.
  6. Select File > New Smart Folder.
  7. Select Other… from the pop-up menu.
  8. Scroll to or filter for “Projects”.
  9. Type the project label you used in Desk Lamp.

Desk Lamp also has the benefit of being able to set actual Spotlight keywords rather than (ab)using the Comments field like several other apps out there. I use Comments for comments.

Apple Interaction Interface macOS Meta-data

Kind Thoughts

Due to differences in Kind labeling, the same (PDF) or similar (PowerPoint and Keynote) filetypes are not grouped together when sorting by Kind alphabetically.

Sorting Kind by Alpha in the Finder

I’d like the Kind column in the Finder to provide secondary sort options, similar to the Album column in iTunes 7.

Sorting Kind by Category in the Finder

Clicking on the column header label would switch between the alphabetical Kind sort and Kind by Category, which would group files by the basic type. The mockup shows PDF, other vector formats, word processing, presentations, spreadsheets, and finally bitmap images. The order of categories would need more consideration.


  • The category is not explicitly stated.
  • Most people don’t know the difference between a vector-based image and a bitmap, making the groupings seem arbitrary.
  • There are many custom filetypes that don’t fit easily into a category; what is a Curio document? Technically, it is a package, but it’s essentially a compound document.
Apple Interaction Interface Meta-data

Feedback Loop

Star ratings can be assigned to any filesystem object (kMDItemStarRating) as of Mac OS X 10.4. There is currently no way to do this in the Finder, but it is possible using third-party tools such as Desk Lamp.

What if that rating could be sent to the application’s developers along with comments and certain system information that could help them put the feedback in context? If someone is complaining about the performance of your heavy-duty application, you want to know if they are running it on a B&W G3, right?

  1. Assigning a rating from the Finder

    Assigning a rating in the Finder

  2. The Send Feedback dialog

    Send Feedback dialog

  3. The Send Feedback dialog expanded

    Send Feedback dialog expanded to show system information to be sent

Implementation Notes

  • The Send Feedback button would be disabled until the user either assigns a rating or types in the text box.
  • Feedback would only be sent at the user’s initiation and with explicit permission; no annoying dialogs when you upgrade an application or change the rating.
  • Ratings would be carried across version changes.
  • Feedback destination address(es) would be defined somewhere within the application bundle’s .lproj folders, allowing feedback to be sent to different addresses based on language.
  • If multiple applications are selected, multiple feedback windows are opened (the same behavior as the Info windows).
  • An option to submit ratings and comments to MacUpdate, VersionTracker, and Cool OS X Apps would be nice.