Saturday, April 28, 2007

Acceptability of applications to Mac users

There has been some online commentary recently on the likely acceptability of applications on the Mac platform. It basically boils down to: all applications that are successful on the Mac are well designed. They all look and behave the same way. Mac users are very fussy about the way that applications look and run. If they are not happy then they will not use the application, they will find an alternative application.
This basically means that OpenOffice.org for the Mac will have to be different from the main OpenOffice.org in a number of respects. Some of these could be integrated as an option for other platform.
Examples that could be used across all platforms include:

  • using palettes instead of dialog boxes for things like the paragraph and character dialogs
  • using native colour chooser dialogs
  • full document indexing/searching (partly implemented already)
  • system address book access
  • Mozilla plugin that doesn't require a full OpenOffice.org installation to work
  • quick view (in various incarnations)
Examples of integration specific to the Mac platform (I don't know if these are available on other platforms):
  • iLife integration
  • .Mac integration
  • Backup integration
  • (Leopard only) iChat for collaboration with documents and sharing presentations
  • (Leopard only) System-wide ToDo integration
If anyone has any other ideas or comments, please add your comments to this blog post.

Example articles:
Why VRML Failed and What That Means for OpenOffice
All I want for Christmas...

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Distribute using an Apple .pkg, .mpkg, or single drag n' drop .app rather than a custom installer. The above three formats allow Mac administrators to easily install Applications onto hundreds of Mac clients using Apple's Apple Remote Desktop or 'installer'.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, the things you mention should be seriously evaluated! Best regards, Helge

Anonymous said...

The #1 thing Mac users want is a good looking, reliable application. But I think you'll find that users on all platforms want a good looking application that matches the UI spec of the best-of-breed applications on their platform of choice. And I think you'll find that if you make an application that looks good on the Mac, it will look good virtually anywhere. It's easy to refer to Mac users as "fussy," "devout," "zealot," "UI snob," or "PITA." We just want applications that follow Apple HIG. Is that really so much to ask?

We don't want an application that draws a menu bar inside a window, with specific letters underlined as they can be on Windows or UNIX systems; that's not our UI.

We don't like it when you throw dialog boxes all over the screen when you could have used a sheet, but we also don't like it when you used a sheet when you should have used a non-modal dialog box, pallette, or other UI device. This is just a sign that you totally don't understand the Mac UI & don't care. It's easy to say, "who cares about the Mac?" The reality is, if your OS of choice doesn't have sheets today, it will probably copy the Mac UI at some point in the future, and then you will have sheets, and everybody will wonder why you didn't build in support for them earlier in a way where they're supported on OSes that have them, otherwise you use modal or non-modal dialog boxes.

The shades of color we use on the Mac are different than the shades of color on Windows. Yet many developers get lazy, make one set of icons that match Windows style, and inflict them on Mac users. Who wants that? I don't WANT to use Windows, and I don't want to see garish Windows colors in my Mac app. Sometimes it would have been as simple as recoloring the background of the icon to make it fit Apple HIG, yet the developer blows it off. MacOS-acceptable icons will look fantastic on any platform; the opposite is often not true.

I want the application to look great on the Mac, and follow Apple HIG, yet I also want it to look & work similarly enough to Windows or Linux versions that I could sit at one of those platforms and use what I've learned on the Mac version to be productive, if I understand the Windows or XWindows UI.

At that point we ALL will have the ultimate office productivity suite. We can all use our platform of choice, trade documents back & forth, and use OpenOffice on any platform we choose and have relatively portable knowledge between them.

I suggest you check out the NeoOffice project, and see what has already been done. But then, if you're really curious, take a look at a few Apple designed applications like iMovie, iTunes, Garage Band, Keynote & Pages to see what a "good" Mac app looks like, and you will quickly see where NeoOffice is a good start that falls way short of the goal.

- Adam

Randy said...

I think that what Shaun says is pretty realistic. However, I sure do like menus for an Office Suite instead of Palettes. It's a big reason why I use NeoOffice instead of Pages for word processing.

AlBlue said...

It's Virtual Reality Markup Language or VRML. It would only be Wirtual Reality Markup Language if spoken in a Ghostbusters 3 effeminate villain voice.

Shaun McDonald said...

alblue: Thanks for pointing out the error! :-) It's now fixed.

Neville said...

As a Mac user, my main dislikes of OpenOffice are:

(i) Keyboard shortcuts are inconsistent with the Mac interface. In most Mac programs (e.g. Mail), Alt-arrow goes to next word, but in OOo it's Command-arrow.

(ii) Help file has "Ctrl" hardcoded into the help text when in many cases it is the Command key that is required on the Mac. The problem is not just menu shortcuts but essential functionality, e.g. "To insert a line break in a spreadsheet cell, press the Ctrl+Enter keys" - actually, Command + Enter. Why can't the help file use a parameter that is displayed as "Control" or "Command" according to the operating system?