Wednesday, February 25, 2009

On Safari 4's Tab Design & UI

Everybody has been bashing Safari 4's Tab design like crazy and so I thought I'd try and be a sane middle of the ground response, offering my honest opinion here. Honestly I am a bit mixed on them, one would think that seeing Google Chrome with this type of UI that I would be prepared for a User Interface like this. So What's different?
Well one thing I noticed is that Google Chrome has a background which the tabs are placed on. I can't say I am a fan of this as it reminds me of the MS Windows MDI interface I have a disdain for. It makes it look like there is a larger encompassing container holding all the tabs together which it may have in the data structure design in the application logic, however the user doesn't really need to see this unless it offers something that makes the overall UI more usable. Contrast that with Safari's tabs...
Picture 5.png
...which literally are at the top of the window and in which the tabs appear to exist without any encompassing container. In principal I agree with Apple on redesigning the interface. To me it makes more sense as it looks like Safari's tabs are literally like file folders where the whole interface is contained inside the bounds of the tab vs the older style tab UI used by older versions of Safari and shared with other browsers like Firefox and Camino where just the web view is inside the tab and the UI happens to adjust/switch to reflect to whatever the web view for the tab contains (i.e. the location bar suddenly switching it's url text when switching to a new/different tab.)
Picture 7.png
However my likes of principals and general use are different. I think the reason I (and many people) don't like the new tabs may be that it appears initially that the tabs have gotten a lot smaller. However when comparing the 2 tab styles it appears they are about the same size. One thing that does annoy me about the interface is the deceptive tab resize icon...
Picture 5.png
I say deceptive because it's the same icon (just rotated 90 degrees) that shows in the bottom right of each window on Mac OS X to indicate a drag area where you can click your mouse and drag the icon to resize your window. However on Safari 4 this only allows you to reorder your tab and drag it left to right and out of the window to create a new window, whereas clicking on the tab text is the same as clicking on the window itself and allows you to drag the window around. Really I think this is annoying only in their choice of icon. My First impression of this was that it would allow me to resize the tab width in the window. Another annoying thing is that the title bar is now suddenly complicated with a bunch of tabs. Leave it to Apple to try and simplify the user interface, but there is a balance between reducing the area that UI controls take up and a simplistic user interface, It feels like by merging the tabs and title bar into 1 control that the User Interface as a whole has gotten more complex, for 1 thing is now you can never really see the whole title of a webpage when it's in a focused tab and has and significant length for its title. It almost feels like this could work, but the UI control itself isn't quite polished yet like it's missing something if this is the direction that Apple is going to proceed in.
Picture 6.png
One thing I LOVE that Apple has done that is so stupidly simple & brilliant is the extended tab list. I love that Safari introduces this simple concept of shading the rows in the menu that aren't visible so you know what is and isn't visible. I really hope other browsers copy this concept. Conclusion Overall I am still mixed, I honestly think every browser sucks at something that makes it just short of perfect, however for me Safari ( with Webkit Nightly ) sucks the least and therefore is the best browser for me at the moment. However I don't stop using Camino, Firefox & now OmniWeb, they all have their purposes, just not as my primary browser. The thing to remember is that Safari 4 is a BETA yes I know it's not polished, but last I checked that's what Public Betas are for. Safari 4 will get better and maybe we will adjust to this new style of tabs at the top of the Window and it may become an accepted standard in browsers, however only time will tell and if you really don't like the new tabs you can always just change them with a hidden preference. For now I think I need a few more days to a week to get at a real deep sense of if I like the new tabs or not. Also another interesting trend is more eye candy in the browser ( Top sites and cover flow for history ), I can't wait to see where Apple takes this. Google Chrome CC screenshot

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


If you haven't heard already Scotty is putting together a Mac Developer conference for Europe called NSConference which will be April 16-17 in Hatfield, UK. I would love to go to this, but I am at an odd stage where I am still really a student and am trying to figure out what I am going to do to transition to a full time job in Mac Development, so $1,000+ for a few days in Europe is really beyond my means at this point. However I fully support conferences like this, WWDC and C4 where developers can get together, socialize and learn from each other and exchange ideas and information. Plus I have talked to several of the speakers who will be at the conference (either in person or online) and they are all top notch mac developers, I can only hope that Scotty publishes the videos (like C4) so I can watch them later on after the conference has ended. I am totally jealous of anybody going to NSConference for 2 big reasons (1) I've never been outside the United States (not by choice, I really want to get outside the US sometime) and (2) The sessions and workshops look like fantastic things I'd want to learn about from UI Design desicions, designing custom controls, foundations of Objective-C, etc. If you haven't thought about it already I'd suggest you look into it and head to NSConference. NSConference in the US? Also Scotty appears to soliciting feedback for a possible conference like NSConference in the US. If you would want something like that please give him your honest and constructive feedback here: