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

Dropbox 193.4.5594 - Cloud backup and sy...
Dropbox is a file hosting service that provides cloud storage, file synchronization, personal cloud, and client software. It is a modern workspace that allows you to get to all of your files, manage... Read more
Google Chrome 122.0.6261.57 - Modern and...
Google Chrome is a Web browser by Google, created to be a modern platform for Web pages and applications. It utilizes very fast loading of Web pages and has a V8 engine, which is a custom built... Read more
Skype 8.113.0.210 - Voice-over-internet...
Skype is a telecommunications app that provides HD video calls, instant messaging, calling to any phone number or landline, and Skype for Business for productive cooperation on the projects. This... Read more
Tor Browser 13.0.10 - Anonymize Web brow...
Using Tor Browser you can protect yourself against tracking, surveillance, and censorship. Tor was originally designed, implemented, and deployed as a third-generation onion-routing project of the U.... Read more
Deeper 3.0.4 - Enable hidden features in...
Deeper is a personalization utility for macOS which allows you to enable and disable the hidden functions of the Finder, Dock, QuickTime, Safari, iTunes, login window, Spotlight, and many of Apple's... Read more
OnyX 4.5.5 - Maintenance and optimizatio...
OnyX is a multifunction utility that you can use to verify the startup disk and the structure of its system files, to run miscellaneous maintenance and cleaning tasks, to configure parameters in the... Read more
Hopper Disassembler 5.14.1 - Binary disa...
Hopper Disassembler is a binary disassembler, decompiler, and debugger for 32- and 64-bit executables. It will let you disassemble any binary you want, and provide you all the information about its... Read more
WhatsApp 24.3.78 - Desktop client for Wh...
WhatsApp is the desktop client for WhatsApp Messenger, a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. WhatsApp Messenger is available for... Read more
War Thunder 2.33.0.135 - Multiplayer war...
In War Thunder, aircraft, attack helicopters, ground forces and naval ships collaborate in realistic competitive battles. You can choose from over 1,500 vehicles and an extensive variety of combat... Read more
Iridient Developer 4.2 - Powerful image-...
Iridient Developer (was RAW Developer) is a powerful image-conversion application designed specifically for OS X. Iridient Developer gives advanced photographers total control over every aspect of... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Best iPhone Game Updates: ‘Shoot the Moo...
Hello everyone, and welcome to the week! It’s time once again for our look back at the noteworthy updates of the last seven days. It feels like a bit of a dry spell this week, at least in terms of really interesting updates. I mean, I found some... | Read more »
Celebrate Phobies spooky second annivers...
Get ready to have that classic song stuck in your head, as Phobies celebrates its second anniversary with the release of its latest update; Birthday Bash, Monster Mash. Starting March 5th and lasting for four weeks, it will be a month of... | Read more »
‘Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia’ Sto...
Square Enix finally shut down Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia (Free) on iOS and Android last week following the end of service announcement back in November last year. Following the game shutting down, Square Enix | Read more »
‘Monster Hunter Now’ Is Celebrating the...
Niantic and Capcom have begun celebrating the 20th anniversary of Capcom’s best franchise from today inside Monster Hunter Now (Free) on iOS and Android for a limited time. | Read more »
New ‘Warframe Mobile’ Update Adds 60fps...
Warframe Mobile (Free) launched worldwide on iOS just under two weeks ago. I’ve been playing it for review across multiple iOS devices, but have also been picking it up on Steam Deck and Switch to compare. Right from launch, I was impressed with... | Read more »
Passionate About Fidget Toys – The Touch...
In this week’s episode of The TouchArcade Show we kick things off with some passionate discussion about… fidget toys? For some reason? We quickly change gears to talk about the card-based rogulike Balatro, which we’ve both been playing and enjoying... | Read more »
TouchArcade Game of the Week: ‘Flying Ta...
For me Hexage is one of those developers that harkens back to the early days of the App Store and really the beginnings of iPhone gaming. I have spent many collective hours playing the likes of Totemo, Radiant, Radiant Defense, EVAC, Reaper… the... | Read more »
SwitchArcade Round-Up: ‘Ufouria 2: The S...
Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for March 1st, 2024. In today’s article, we’re looking at the remaining releases of the week. There are a few really good ones today, but the bin bunch certainly isn’t going home hungry... | Read more »
Steam Deck Weekly: Reviews of PowerWash...
Welcome to the first Steam Deck Weekly of March and this week’s edition is bigger than usual. I was a bit unwell last week and had to push some reviews to this week. Alongside that, there have been many notable announcements, releases, and new Steam... | Read more »
10 Under $10: Ten Cheap, Good Nintendo S...
Hello, friends. It’s time yet again for a list of good Nintendo Switch games for reasonable prices. This time around, we’re wading into the extremely crowded waters of the shoot-em-up genre. Per the usual rules, the regular price of the game has to... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple discontinues 15-inch M2 MacBook Airs, d...
With today’s introduction of new M3-powered 15″ MacBook Airs, Apple has dropped prices on clearance, Certified Refurbished, 15″ M2 MacBook Airs to a new low of $1019. These are the cheapest 15″... Read more
Price Drop! 13-inch M2 MacBook Airs at Apple...
Apple has dropped prices on Certified Refurbished 13″ M2 MacBook Airs to a new low of $849. These are the cheapest M2-powered MacBooks for sale at Apple. Apple’s one-year warranty is included,... Read more
Apple finally discontinues the 13-inch M1 Mac...
With the introduction of M3-powered 13″ MacBook Airs today, Apple has dropped prices on clearance 13″ M1 MacBook Airs, Certified Refurbished, to $759 for 8-Core CPU/7-Core GPU/256GB models and $929... Read more
Updated Apple iPad Price Trackers
Our Apple award-winning iPad Price Trackers are the best place to find the latest information on iPad sales and deals. We track prices from 20+ Apple retailers, including Apple, Amazon, Best Buy,... Read more
Updated Apple MacBook Price Trackers
Our Apple award-winning MacBook Price Trackers are continually updated with the latest information on prices, bundles, and availability for 16″, 14″, and (recently-discontinued) 13″ MacBook Pros... Read more
Mac Studios with Apple M2 Max and M2 Ultra CP...
B&H Photo has the standard-configuration Mac Studio model with Apple’s M2 Ultra CPU in stock today and on sale for $300 off MSRP, now $3699 (24-Core CPU and 64GB RAM/1TB SSD). B&H Photo has... Read more
Extended: Switch to Verizon and get the Apple...
Verizon has the iPhone 15 on sale for $0 per month when you add a new line if service. Discount is applied to your account monthly over a 36 month term and is valid for the 128GB model. For the first... Read more
Select 16-inch M3 Pro and M3 Max MacBook Pros...
B&H Photo has select 16-inch M3 Pro and M3 Max MacBook Pros on sale for $250 off MSRP. Their prices are the lowest currently available for these configurations. Free 1-2 day shipping is available... Read more
27-inch Apple Studio Displays on sale for $10...
B&H Photo has 27″ Apple Studio Displays on sale for $100 off MSRP today. Free 1-2 day shipping is available to most US addresses: – Studio Display (Standard glass, Tilt stand): $1499 $100 off... Read more
iPad Airs return to their all-time lowest pri...
Best Buy has 10.9″ M1 WiFi iPad Airs on record-low sale prices again for $150 off Apple’s MSRP, starting at $449. Sale prices for online orders only, in-store price may vary. Order online, and choose... Read more

Jobs Board

Teller Part Time *Apple* Valley MN *Apple*...
…is not eligible for Visa sponsorship **Posting Location:** + 15574 Pilot Knod Road Apple Valley, MN 55124 @RWF22 **Posting End Date:** Job posting may come down Read more
*Apple* End User Support Specialist - North...
…that they are performed. + Responsible for support of all College owned Apple computers, mobile ios devices, and peripherals, and for diagnosing and resolving Read more
Omnichannel Associate - *Apple* Blossom Mal...
Omnichannel Associate - Apple Blossom Mall Location:Winchester, VA, United States (https://jobs.jcp.com/jobs/location/191170/winchester-va-united-states) - Apple Read more
Teller Part Time *Apple* Valley MN *Apple*...
…is not eligible for Visa sponsorship **Posting Location:** + 15574 Pilot Knod Road Apple Valley, MN 55124 @RWF22 **Posting End Date:** Job posting may come down Read more
Nurse Anesthetist - *Apple* Hill Surgery Ce...
Nurse Anesthetist - Apple Hill Surgery Center WellSpan Medical Group, York, PA | Advanced Practice Providers | Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists | FTE: 1 | Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.