opinionated thoughts on macOS Big Sur design
i'm just going to drop a few thoughts here; again this is all RE: https://twoshadesofbrown.com/2020/06/28/episode-135-some-applications-are-chrome/ by @chosafine and @packetcat so go listen to that first!! (starting from around the one-hour mark if for some reason you don't care about iOS)
regarding the icons: i agree that my first thought when seeing them was—well, i’ve always been a Macintosh user, so in my case it looked like one of those icon sets that you would download off of the internet for modding of like, very early versions of OS X, back when you could just like, open up the System folder and replace some ICNS files and change your computer’s appearance that way.
but on deeper appraisal i actually think i like them. i like the shadows and the kind of gumdrop feel, and i think it's something that people will get used to over time. because: it has dimension. macOS apps have always had dimension; the style guides have always been “don't make flat app icons” and it's one of the things which distinguishes macOS from other platforms; and i agree, i think flat icons look bad on desktop. the existing iOS icons would not look good on macOS; it doesn't fit with the windowed model where you have things overlaying on top of each other and that extra Z dimension. if anything i think Big Sur looks TOO flat so i'm thankful it has that little bit of pop.
it's not super professional but that appeals to my oldschool mac sensibilities lol idk
opinionated thoughts on macOS Big Sur design
regarding the window design more generally, something @chosafine mentioned was how the design betrays the way something is intended to be used, and they said that Big Sur felt like it didn't really have a stance and was kind of a mishmash between macOS and the iPad, but i disagree. i think Apple-designed macOS apps have a Very Strong Stance and it is this: fullscreen. i fully believe that every native macOS app was developed mostly in fullscreen and NOT in a windowed desktop mode, and i think this has been the case for a few macOS releases now and it explains a LOT of their design decisions. i think apple would kill off the desktop if they could.
for the record: i fucking hate this and my ideal setup is like, a file browser and a web browser and a text editor and two terminal windows all open on the same screen. i hate IDEs and i hate integrated apps; i like having lots of things side‐by‐side that i can bounce between. which i know is different from a lot of people; @packetcat will make these posts that i’ll see sometimes complaining about wasted space on the new GitHub view or whatever, and i’m like the polar opposite of that; i’m the one complaining that too much space is taken up and you can’t make the webpage small enough without it popping into mobile view.
regarding the lack of chrome: i understand and agree with the concerns but also this is sort of an Apple thing. and i don’t think it’s as bad on macOS as it is on iOS; i think what Apple is doing is basically replacing chrome with keyboard shortcuts. they want to have simple, “clean”, intuitive views so they only put the bare minimum there, and for people who use the app a lot, they bury all the extra functionality in menubar dropdowns and keyboard shortcuts, and like? honestly this is not as bad as it seems?? because if i use an app a lot, i’m going to be learning and using the keyboard shortcuts most of the time anyway.
keyboard shortcuts have a lot of advantages over chrome on macOS because you can search for them under the Help menu, they’re faster to activate, they’re all organized in one space, and people who don’t know what they are doing are less likely to click on them. i never use the toolbar in a macOS app and i think that’s probably true of a lot of people. the question is what will happen with chrome which can’t easily be translated into a keyboard shortcut and maybe a popup window.
i pretty much exclusively use open‐source (native, not Electron) macOS apps and not the ones that made by Apple, because i think Apple is Pretty Bad At App Design Actually. [insert separate rant about how macOS has the best open‐source apps here.] so i’m more interested in seeing what that community does with it; i don’t think we’re going to see functionality get dropped in that space, but i could see more keyboard shortcuts and fewer buttons being the design paradigm going forward.
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