TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Aug 01 ADC Direct

Volume Number: 17 (2001)
Issue Number: 08
Column Tag: ADC DIrect

Making It Aqua: Adopting the Mac OS X User Experience

Aqua and User Expectations for Mac OS X

by John Geleynse

The graphical user interface of the Macintosh which charmed so many people back in 1984 has come a very long way. Indeed, with the recent introduction of Mac OS X, Apple unveiled Aqua. Aqua is the new interface that builds on the ease-of-use tradition of Mac OS 9. Aqua makes use of color, transparency, and animation to enhance usability. It also delivers new behaviors that make using a Mac even more fun and satisfying for users from computer novices to professionals.

With Aqua's revolutionary new features and attributes, users will expect your application to adopt and build upon its design. Why? Because people who use Mac OS X want all their applications—from spreadsheets and word processors to email clients and design tools—to have the consistency, appearance, intuitive design, and ease-of-use characteristic of Mac OS X. Users know when a product doesn't quite feel right (and so will product reviewers.)

This article will help you understand what it will take for your application to meet these user expectations.

Decide Where to Spend Your Resources

The level to which you adopt Aqua will depend on many things, including your development schedule, market demands, competitive pressures, and resource constraints. The chart included here (see Fig. 1a) can help you prioritize your efforts.

Look closely at Fig. 1a. The most important thing about this chart is focusing on compliance with Aqua basics before moving on to more advanced Aqua feature development. Spend your time becoming completely compliant with all the items under the "Good" Aqua Adoption Scenario (such as System Appearance, adopting the Layout Guidelines, respecting the Dock, etc.) before spending any effort on the advanced features (supporting Sheets, Dock animation, etc.).

What follows is a discussion of the individual building blocks of a "Good" Aqua adoption scenario.


Fig. 1a - Aqua Adoption Scenarios

Create Quality Icons

Your application's icon is one of the most visible attributes of your application on Mac OS X. A quality icon should clearly communicate what your application does, what type of media it works with, and whether it's meant for every day use. Just as you wouldn't want a visual designer writing your code, developers should avoid designing icons unless they have a background in visual design. The latest "Mac OS X Human Interface Guidelines" document (see next page) goes in depth on this and can provide you with a much better understanding about the incredible attention to detail icons have under Mac OS X.

Respect the Dock: Location

Your application should respect the Dock's location on the screen. When your application opens new windows, resizes windows, or zooms windows, it should avoid sizing them behind the Dock (or where the Dock is when it is visible). Sizing a window behind the Dock is extremely annoying because users are then forced to shrink the Dock or somehow move the window to get at its resize box.

Respect the Dock: A Click on the Dock Should Always Open a Window

Your application should always present a window when your Dock icon is clicked. This is to eliminate the all-too-familiar case where a user closes a document window and thinks they've quit the application. The rules are straight forward:

For document-based applications:

If no document windows are open
          Open and create an untitled document
If all open windows are minimized
        Activate the last window minimized
For non-document-based applications (e.g. System Preferences)
Show your main application window

Comply with the Mac OS X System Appearance

Aqua has a very unique, rich visual appearance which uses anti-aliased text, shadows, transparency, and color. On-screen interface elements have unique visual characteristics that go beyond what people are used to on the Mac or anywhere. All of these characteristics are unique to Mac OS X and your application needs to adhere to the look of Aqua if it's going to feel as if it belongs on Mac OS X.

Some common oversights in this area include white window backgrounds (rather than pinstriped backgrounds), mis-aligned pinstripes, incorrectly sized controls, clipped buttons and static text, and the use of non-standard fonts and font sizes (rather than system and application font specifications).

These types of oversights can dramatically affect the user's perception of the overall quality of your product. Do everything you can to ensure the visual presentation of your interface matches the appearance of Mac OS X.

Adopt the Layout Guidelines

Along similar lines, the appearance of Mac OS X also has a lot to do with the spacing and organization of interface elements. The "Mac OS X Human Interface Guidelines" document goes into great detail about layout guidelines. However, for the most part you don't need to worry about memorizing all those numbers because Apple provides a high-powered interface design tool: Interface Builder, which lets you design compliant dialogs and windows with ease.

The Mac OS X layout guidelines were developed for readability, localizability, and future functionality. Compliance with them dramatically affects the readability and usability of your Mac OS X application.

Apple Help

As part of a "Good" Aqua adoption scenario, remember to provide user assistance in your application with Apple Help (and not your own help delivery mechanism.)

"Better" and "Best" Scenarios: Sheets

Sheets are a new feature of Aqua and one of the things frequently noticed by users. A sheet is simply a modal dialog attached to a particular document or window, ensuring the user never loses track of which window the dialog applies to (and allowing the user to continue working on other documents in the same application.)

You should use sheets for dialogs specific to a document when the user must interact with the dialog and dismiss it before proceeding with work. Some examples include: a modal dialog specific to a particular document (such as saving or printing), a modal dialog specific to a single-window application that does not create documents, or window-specific dialogs typically dismissed by the user before proceeding.

Don't use sheets for dialogs that apply to several windows. Sheets are intended to be used in situations when a particular dialog is associated with only the window to which it is attached. Sheets are not appropriate for modeless operations where the dialog should be left open to allow the user to observe the effects of changes applied. Such tasks are better suited to modeless dialogs, utility windows (palettes), or drawers.

Also, please don't use a sheet on a window that doesn't have a title bar since sheets should emerge from a definite visual edge.

Native Code Is Nice, But Not Enough

Remember that finishing your port to Mac OS X doesn't mean you've finished your Mac OS X product. Delivering a good Mac OS X product obviously involves native code but, most importantly, includes paying attention to the details outlined in Fig. 1a. Native code is just the first step in bringing your application to Mac OS X.

Other Aqua Topics

More on the topics discussed here (and others) can be found in both the "Mac OS X Human Interface Guidelines" document and the main User Experience web page located at http://developer.apple.com/ue. Look online for the latest version of the "Mac OS X Human Interface Guidelines," and for links to Carbon- or Cocoa-specific documentation and sample code for all of the topics covered in this article.

Final Note: Looks Are Everything—Almost

Remember, users often judge the quality of a product by its appearance (or user interface.) So, if the visual presentation of your product is not Aqua compliant, they'll assume the overall functionality of the product is the same. Don't leave your UI work until the last minute. Build products that feel complete and have the Aqua look-and-feel. Pay attention to the details and you'll reap the rewards. Good luck.


New Mac OS X Related Releases

The following software is available from the Download Software area of the ADC Member Site at:
http://connect.apple.com/

  • WebObjects 5 Trial

    Trial version of WebObjects 5, expires 9/30/2001. NOTE: WebObjects 5 Trial is the same as what is available under Mac OS X Developer Tools link. Please See WebObjects 5 Key document for licensing information.

  • Mac OS X Java 3.1 Developer Preview 2 and Java 3.1 Documentation

    Mac OS X Java is an implementation of Java 2 Standard Edition 1.3.1, including the client version of HotSpot 1.3.1 Virtual Machine, which DP2 uses exclusively. For improved applet behavior with this release of Java, use Software Update to install Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.1.1 Preview.

  • CarbonLib 1.4a6 SDK

    The latest pre-release version of CarbonLib 1.4 SDK for Mac OS is now available to all ADC Members. This SDK provides all the files needed to begin Carbon development. CarbonLib 1.4 supports Mac OS 8.6 and greater.

  • Apple System Profiler 2.6.1a6

    Contains AppleScript fixes, launch speed improvements, OS X report sync, search option window fixes.

  • Mac OS X Developer Tools 10.0.1

    Downloadable version of the May 2001 Developer Tools CD distributed at WWDC to attendees. Contains the Mac OS X Developer Tools 10.0.1, and a trial version of WebObjects 5 which expires 9/30/2001. NOTE: The Carbon SDK is not included.

    Developer Documentation

    The following new and updated documentation is available to help with successful Mac OS X application and peripheral development at:
    http://developer.apple.com/techpubs/

    Carbon Specification
    Aqua Human Interface Guidelines


    Technical Notes
    TN1044 - Fundamentals of Open Firmware, Park III: Understanding PCI Expansion ROM Choices for Mac OS
    TN2016 - iTunes Visual Plug-ins
    TN2022 - The Death of typeFSSpec: moving along to typeFileURL


    Technical Q&As
    QA1053 - Using Pascal strings in Project Builder
    QA1043 - Using SetMovieGWorld to draw to the window back buffer
    QA1044 - Exporting TIFF files in little endian format
    QA1040 - 128Mb SDRAM Ics limitation on original "Bronze Keyboard" Powerbook G3
    JAVA28 - Creating JNI Libraries with Project Builder
    QA1039 - Fixing NSDocumentController to understand HFS file types
    QA1038 - HID Manager Event Data Underruns


    Sample Code
    SC - Graphics 3D: OpenGL Image
    SC - Cocoa: SimpleCocoaMovie
    SC - Graphics 2D: CTMDemo
    SC - Graphics 2D: CTMClip
    SC - Sound: CASoundLab2
    SC - Graphics 3D: Carbon SetupGL
    SC - Graphics 2D: BlitVBL
    SC - Graphics 2D: BlitNoVBL
    SC - Sound: AIFF writer sdev
    SC - Graphics 3D: aglString
    SC - Graphics 2D: CGGamma
    SC - Human Interface Toolbox: Tiler
    SC - Human Interface Toolbox: PackageTool
    SC - Java: JNISample
    SC - Cocoa: bMoviePalette
    SC - Devices and Hardware: HID Manager: HID Utilities Source
    SC - Devices and Hardware: HID Manager: HID Config Save
    SC - Devices and Hardware: HID Manager: HID Explorer
    SC - Devices and Hardware: HID Manager: HID Manager Basics
    SC - Graphics 3D: NSGL Teapot
    SC - Networking: NSLMiniBrowser
    SC - Java: JavaSpellingFramework
    SC - Java: JavaSpeechFramework


Did You Know?

Blueprints For Aqua Human Interfaces

A major goal for graphical human interfaces, aside from being intuitively usable and aesthetically pleasing, is consistency. Applications and system software should play by the same interface rules, whether those rules determine the placement of buttons on a dialog or the behavior of windows. If one or more applications were to do things differently, the resulting disharmony and confusion would degrade the user's experience.

To help developers design their applications' human interfaces to the same, well-considered standards, Apple Technical Publications provides Inside Mac OS X: Aqua Human Interface Guidelines. As a collection of blueprints for designing Aqua interfaces, this book is an indispensable resource. These guidelines will help you design modern, elegant applications that meet users' expectations of Macintosh software: intuitive, attractive, easy to learn, and enjoyable to use.

Inside Mac OS X: Aqua Human Interface Guidelines starts by explaining the principles that influence the design of Aqua human interfaces, including user control, direct manipulation, and forgiveness. Then, using specific examples and annotated figures, the book describes in detail how each part of the Aqua interface should look and behave. Individual chapters cover menus, windows, dialogs, controls and general layout, user input, fonts, icons, drag and drop, help, and terminology.

You can obtain a bound, print-on-demand copy of Inside Mac OS X: Aqua Human Interface Guidelines from Fatbrain.com at http://www1.fatbrain.com/documentation/apple.

You can also get PDF versions of the book from the Developer Essentials page of the installed and on-line
(http://developer.apple.com/techpubs/macosx/SystemOverview/devessentials.html) developer documentation.


Upcoming Seminars and Events

For more information on Apple developer events please visit the developer Events page at: http://developer.apple.com/events/

Training and Seminars

R/com Offers Mac OS X Developer Training Online
R/com, also known as MediaSchool http://www.mediaschool.com, has partnered with Apple Developer Connection to create online training for Mac OS X developers. The first courses to be released in July include "Application Development for Mac OS X," "Carbon Development for Mac OS X," and "Cocoa: The Object-Oriented Application Solution." All classes have been reviewed by Apple engineers for technical accuracy. Check out their site to take a free virtual seminar, to learn more about current and upcoming courses, and to find out about the significant discounts offered to Premier, Select, and Student members of the Apple Developer Connection.
http://www.mediaschool.com/adc/

Apple iServices 5-day Cocoa Training
For application developers who want to learn how to develop Mac OS X applications using Cocoa, Apple iServices offers a five-day comprehensive, hands-on Cocoa training course. This course uses real-world examples and is perfect for developers who have a general understanding of Object-oriented concepts and practical experience with the C programming language or a C-derived language (Object-C, Java, or C++). The course costs US $2,495.
http://www.apple.com/iServices/technicaltraining/cocoadev.html

Developer-Related Conferences

FileMaker Developer Conference 2001
August 12-August 15, Orlando, FL
More than 50 sessions and a product showcase. Various FileMaker training classes offered concurrently.
http://www.filemaker.com/devcon/
http://www.DevconTraining.com/

Apple Expo 2001
September 26-30
Porte de Versaille, Hall 4
Paris, France
http://www.apple-expo.com/


John Geleynse works in Apple's Worldwide Developer Relations Technology Management group and has experience in software development, product management, and product marketing. He promotes good user experience-related technologies within the Macintosh developer community. He can be reached at geleynse@apple.com.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

calibre 3.1.1 - Complete e-book library...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital librarian... Read more
Sparkle Pro 2.2 - $79.99
Sparkle Pro will change your mind if you thought building websites wasn't for you. Sparkle is the intuitive site builder that lets you create sites for your online portfolio, team or band pages, or... Read more
Spotify 1.0.57.474. - Stream music, crea...
Spotify is a streaming music service that gives you on-demand access to millions of songs. Whether you like driving rock, silky R&B, or grandiose classical music, Spotify's massive catalogue puts... Read more
beaTunes 5.0.1 - Organize your music col...
beaTunes is a full-featured music player and organizational tool for music collections. How well organized is your music library? Are your artists always spelled the same way? Any R.E.M. vs REM?... Read more
LibreOffice 5.3.4.2 - Free, open-source...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
VOX 2.8.26 - Music player that supports...
VOX just sounds better! The beauty is in its simplicity, yet behind the minimal exterior lies a powerful music player with a ton of features and support for all audio formats you should ever need.... Read more
iFFmpeg 6.4.0 - Convert multimedia files...
iFFmpeg is a comprehensive media tool to convert movie, audio and media files between formats. The FFmpeg command line instructions can be very hard to master/understand, so iFFmpeg does all the hard... Read more
Beamer 3.3 - Stream any movie file from...
Beamer streams to your Apple TV.... Plays any movie file - Just like the popular desktop movie players, Beamer accepts all common formats, codecs and resolutions. AVI, MKV, MOV, MP4, WMV, FLV. To... Read more
jAlbum Pro 14.0 - Organize your digital...
jAlbum Pro has all the features you love in jAlbum, but comes with a commercial license. You can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code! Beginner-friendly... Read more
Apple Remote Desktop Client 3.9.3 - Clie...
Apple Remote Desktop Client is the best way to manage the Mac computers on your network. Distribute software, provide real-time online help to end users, create detailed software and hardware reports... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

This War of Mine gets a new ending and m...
This War of Mine just got a big new update, featuring free DLC that adds a new ending to the game, among other exciting changes. The update is celebrating the game's two-year release anniversary. Apart from the new ending, which will be quite... | Read more »
Summon eight new heroes in Fire Emblem H...
Nintendo keeps coming at us with Fire Emblem Heroes updates, and it doesn't look like that trend is stopping anytime soon. The folks behind the game have just announced the new War of the Clerics Voting Gauntlet, expected to start next Tuesday. [... | Read more »
The best deals on the App Store this wee...
iOS publishers are pulling out all the stops this week -- there's a huge number of seriously great games at discounted prices this week. Let's not waste any time and get right down to business. [Read more] | Read more »
The House of da Vinci (Games)
The House of da Vinci 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Enter The House of Da Vinci, a new must-try 3D puzzle adventure game. Solve mechanical puzzles, discover hidden... | Read more »
Solve the disappearance of history’s gre...
Blue Brain Games invites you to indulge in an immersive hands-on 3D puzzle adventure in similar vein to The Room series, with its debut release The House of Da Vinci. Set during the historic period of the Italian Renaissance (when Leonardo himself... | Read more »
Age of Rivals (Games)
Age of Rivals 3.3 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 3.3 (iTunes) Description: Deep civilization-building strategy in a fast-paced card game! | Read more »
Panthera Frontier (Games)
Panthera Frontier 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Angry Birds Evolution beginner's gu...
Angry Birds changes things up a fair bit in its latest iteration, Angry Birds Evolution. The familiar sling-shot physics mechanics are still there, but the game now features team-based gameplay, RPG elements, and a new top-down view. With all of... | Read more »
Sega Forever is for the retro game fans
Sega is launching a new retro games service titled Sega Forever, in a move that's sure to delight games enthusiasts with a bit of nostalgia. Sega's releasing five classic games for free. The titles include Sonic the Hedgehog, Phantasy Star II,... | Read more »
The Little Acre (Games)
The Little Acre 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

ABBYY TextGrabber 6 for iOS Implements Instan...
ABBYY has announced the release of TextGrabber 6.0.0, an important feature update to the company’s productivity app developed for iOS and Android devices. TextGrabber 6.0 now offers Real-Time... Read more
vPhone, First Smartphone That Can’t Be Lost,...
Austin, Texas based Hypori has introduced the vPhone, a virtual smartphone that affords every business user the benefits of separate work and personal phones, conveniently delivered on a single... Read more
Save this weekend with 2016 refurbished MacBo...
Apple has dropped prices on Certified Refurbished 2016 15″ and 13″ MacBook Pros by as much as $590 off original MSRP. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: -... Read more
New 27-inch 3.4GHz iMac on sale for $1699, sa...
MacMall has the new 2017 27″ 3.4GHz iMac (MNE92LL/A) in stock and on sale for $1699 including free shipping. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
Clearance 2016 MacBook Pros available for up...
B&H Photo has clearance 2016 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for up to $400 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY & NJ sales tax only: - 15″ 2.7GHz... Read more
Apple Ranks 9th In comScore Top 50 U.S. Digit...
comScore, Inc. has released its monthly ranking of U.S. online activity at the top digital media properties for May 2017 based on data from comScore Media Metrix Multi-Platform. * Entity has... Read more
10.5-inch iPad Pros available for up to $20 o...
B&H Photo has the new 2017 10.5″ iPad Pros available for up to $20 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: - 64GB iPad Pro WiFi: $649 - 256GB iPad Pro WiFi: $749 - 512GB... Read more
Three Off-The-Beaten-Track iOS Apps That Dese...
One of the great things about using iPads and iPhones is the vast selection of apps available for most anything you want or need to do. The three outlined in this article have been in my core app... Read more
Apple No. 1 Spot In Gartner Top 100 Vendors i...
Gartner, Inc. has unveiled the top global 100 vendors in IT in 2016 based on their revenue across IT (excluding communication services) and component market segments. In the Gartner Global Top 100:... Read more
Clearance iMacs available for up to $300 off...
B&H Photo has clearance 21″ and 27″ Apple iMacs available starting at $949, each including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: - 27″ 3.3GHz iMac 5K: $1999 $300 off original MSRP - 27″... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* News Product Marketing Mgr., Publish...
…organizational consensus on strategy and vision for publisher tools, authoring, and Apple News Format.Carries this strategy and vision across the organization to Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Security Data Analyst - *Apple* Information...
…data sources need to be collected to allow Information Security to better protect Apple employees and customers from a wide range of threats.Act as the subject matter Read more
Lead *Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple I...
…integrity, and trust.Success Metrics/Key Performance Indicators:Quantitative* Year over Year growth in Apple Product and Beyond the Box sales in the assigned Point of Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant till v%u00E5r...
…ethics, integrity, and trust.Success Metrics/Key Performance Indicators:QuantitativeYear over Year growth in Apple Product and Beyond the Box sales in the assigned Point Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.