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Aug 04

Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard interface

2006 at 06.48 am posted by Veerle Pieters

It’s unbelievable how the rumors are flying again in the anticipation of Monday’s start of the WWDC. It’s that time again where everybody starts daydreaming about iPhones, Tablets, Home cinema appliances, some are new and most of them popup every time there is an event. I’m not focusing on making an educated guess in what’s coming hardware wise but like to think a little of possible interface changes in 10.5 Leopard. I have been wondering what direction Apple will take a few times already. I always postponed writing something about it but this post of Brent Simmons sparked my interest again.

First a little bit of history

I still remember standing in line in Paris to get the first Mac OS X public beta! So before going any further let’s see what changes Mac OS X has had over the years.

Mac OS X Public Beta

Screenshot of Mac OS X Public Beta

When this was launched it was a huge change from Mac 9 and to some it was too drastic. I never had that feeling and wanted to stay away from OS 9 as soon as possible. When you look now at it I’m amazed how overwhelming the stripes really are.

Mac OS X 10.0 - Cheetah

Screenshot of Mac OS X 10.1

The most visible change here was that Apple dropped the button look in the finder and introduced some new icons along the way. 

Mac OS X 10.1 - Puma

Screenshot of Mac OS X 10.1

Mac OS X 10.2 - Jaguar

Screenshot of Mac OS X 10.2

In 10.2 the brushed metal look appears for the first time in some applications like address-book for example. The finder still had the striped look.

Mac OS X 10.3 - Panther

Screenshot of Mac OS X 10.3

Panther saw the most changes and marked to me also the point that Mac OS X was getting at a mature age. This marks also the introduction of the brushed metal Finder. But one of the best things in Panther was that the pinstripes in the menu background and anywhere else in the OS were nearly invisible. Title bars lost the stripes completely.

Mac OS X 10.4 - Tiger

Screenshot of Mac OS X 10.4

Tiger didn’t match Panther in terms of the number of graphical changes. One of the changes was in the Apple menu icon, It became a bit brighter and consisted of a flatter shade of blue. It’s now a brighter, flatter shade of blue. The biggest graphical change then was the new unified titlebar/toolbar. Mail for example had the icons in the glassy button look which I really hate.

Windows Vista lessons

Screenshot of Windows Vista

Let’s say that I would be very disappointed if Apple took some lessons from the Windows Vista look, where glass and transparency is everywhere. I can’t shake the feeling that it is a bit like when bevel filters first appeared in Photoshop. Everybody was like “look what I created”. I have that same feeling when I look at the Vista interface, they used it too much and all subtleness is out of the window. John Gruber said that he thought Apple was setting out to make Vista look like a toy when compared to a more refined and professional OS X. My thinking exactly. To me Vista is like a theme for ShapeShifter, something fun for awhile. That’s what I have with most themes by the way, I always go back to simplicity and the original look Apple created.

Mac OS X 10.5 - Leopard

I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple introduced bigger icons then 128x128 pixels because I guess they are thinking about what to do with the growing trend of bigger screens and higher resolutions. I think it would be wonderful if the system is smart and detects your resolution and adjusts everything accordingly. Some new icons could be added because I’m bored with the blue default folders.

The Brushed Metal Look

Personally I really hope they will get rid of the brushed metal look, I didn’t like it from the start. First introduced in 10.2 and since 10.3 almost in all parts of the OS. The new iApps could be an indication of the path Apple is following. That look isn’t available anywhere else in the system. Maybe something along the lines of the UNO look.

What I would like

Another welcome change to me would be more subtle shadows. When two windows are on top of each other I find them too hard when the background is white. Most of the icons in the toolbars could also benefit from softer shadows. What I would prefer, is that the windows or any UI elements that are visible but not on top are a bit shaded so that the top ‘active’ window’ stands out more. My guess is that the new UI will have a more subtle use of 3D, shadows and other effects. I’m thinking of a more flatter look but still with a bit of shininess left, maybe a bit like this? (something that I quickly designed):

Some examples of the look I would prefer What bothers me a bit is that Apple has so many different window styles now in the system that I sometimes dream of more consistency. We could benefit from it aesthetically I think and it would end the critique that Apple is no longer eating its own dog-food. Maybe Apple will come up with 2 variations: a dark one and a light one. Black MacBook Pro’s have the dark UI as default and the white ones the lighter one, but both ‘themes’ are available. Apple likes to work with either black and white these days and they like to reflect the look of their hardware in the UI. They used these stripes and a lot of aqua in the first OS X UI which suited perfectly with the look of the Macs back then.

The Finder could learn a thing or two from Path Finder in that regard, so I am kinda hoping that “tabs” will make into 10.5.

I’m also wondering what Apple will do with the aqua effect: the scrollbars, the 3 top left bullets etc. My guess is that they will dump it, or let’s say reduce the effect to make is less bubbly. What I’m saying would mean a drastic change. It’s a very wild guess I know. I could be totally wrong :) Although my guess is that Apple is thinking ‘we had this, it was cool for that time, it’s passé now, let’s move on’.

So what’s on your Leopard list?




permalink this comment Sugar Fri Aug 4, 2006 at 07.24 am

I agree with you, in terms of consistency.

Apple seems to be playing with too many design elements at once, and sometimes the result is a bit overwhelming.

I’d love to see some simplicity and consistency all over.



permalink this comment Jan Brašna Fri Aug 4, 2006 at 08.02 am

I hope it would be all added optionally, I presonally like the brushed metal look when used properly (I think it was intended for dialogs or modal windows in the UI guidelines) and particularly dislike the Uno thingy. The same is for the Aqua bubbles and scrollbars, in my eyes it fits the whole UI nicely.



permalink this comment Step Schwarz Fri Aug 4, 2006 at 08.16 am

I’m digging the unified toolbar introduced in 10.4.  Hoping more apps will start taking advantage of it. Inactive windows still look too much like active windows, though, even with the unified toolbar. So some adjustment to that would be nice.  Finder windows could stand to be updated, too.  Though I don’t use Apple’s Mail app, I have to admit I think Mail’s main window design would work well in the Finder.



permalink this comment Ksauce Fri Aug 4, 2006 at 08.31 am

I would love some options as far as themes. Apple has done a lot with black and white lately so that would be an easy jump. Either way I won’t see it a work for a great while which is where I use a Mac. Oh well I’ll still be watching the keynote in great anticipation.



permalink this comment Dustin Wilson Fri Aug 4, 2006 at 09.00 am

As long as they don’t use Mail’s weird… oval… blobs in the finder window I’ll be alright. I really like how you’ve shown changes between the versions in terms of the interfaces. Great post.



permalink this comment edit-undo Fri Aug 4, 2006 at 10.12 am

The Finder could use some serious improvement in my book. I think it should be more customizeable, and I love the tabs in PathFinder. Plus, the folders pane in Windows Explorer is useful and would be nice to see something like that (but better) added to the Finder. I like seeing the full file system at times rather than just my favorites (like it is now). Also Mail could use an overhaul. And like you pointed out, lets get some consistency in the interface.



permalink this comment Janes Fri Aug 4, 2006 at 10.28 am

I know what I’m going to say it’s a bit weird but it’s the truth: I’m a Windows user and I prefer Windows interface design rather than Mac one. But, at the same time, the program which has the interface design I most like is iTunes for windows!



permalink this comment Rob Hoeben Fri Aug 4, 2006 at 10.44 am

I liked reading this post verry much because i’m also waiting for Monday’s WWDC. I’m curieus what they’ll do with the UI of “Leopard”. I’m a mac user since “Jaguar”, and i liked the way they changed things in te past. So i’ve got confidence in the next big “update”, i think it’s gonna be great!



permalink this comment Ronald Poi Fri Aug 4, 2006 at 12.07 pm

I think Leopard would make us all happy. This is by far the most anticipated OS. Designers are making mock-ups and fakes about how-it-should-be everywhere on the net and i don’t doubt Apple will learn from this amazing feedback of the Mac community not just in overall UI interface but new applications, utilities and cool stuff. Leopard will be more of what-we-expect instead of just-a-pretty-upgrade



permalink this comment DeaPeaJay Fri Aug 4, 2006 at 01.08 pm

Personally, I’m in favor of the brushed metal windows, not because I’m particularly fond of brushed metal, but because I think it gives the overall look some variety. I think if all the windows looked the same it would be a very dry system. Alternating between light gray and dark gray I don’t think is enough variety. Now maybe replace the brushed metal look with something similar to Aperture’s shade of gray. Now that would be nice.



permalink this comment burstgoof Fri Aug 4, 2006 at 01.29 pm

I’ve been using Vista for a few months now, and believe it or not, I actually like the Vista Aero Glass theme… it functions a lot better during use than it looks in screenshots.  I will agree that in screenshots it look hugely overdone.  But when dragging windows over each other, the transparency and blur effect actually work quite well. 
And, one thing to point out: Aero Glass is an option.  It can be turned off, and when it is, the interface is much simpler in terms of design ‘flare’.  A closer comparison would be OS X vs. Vista w/o Aero Glass.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to use OS X all that much… so I don’t know which I like better.  I’m just explaining my experience with Vista so far.



permalink this comment Michel Fortin Fri Aug 4, 2006 at 02.08 pm

I’m a user of Mac OS X since the public beta days. It’s always interesting to look back at old screenshots to remember what it looked like at the time, so thanks for these pictures. And your popup menu concept look great.

I usually don’t mind metal apps, but I never digested the Finder look changing to metal. And I prefered it when the status bar was at the top both in the Finder and in Xcode.

I’m eager to see what Apple has in the pipe for it’s next operating system. I’d certainly like to see more consistency, but I’m not holding my breath.



permalink this comment Ruben Fri Aug 4, 2006 at 02.44 pm

There is one thing I sure want Appleto improve in OS X, and that is Spotlight. As we all know it’s currently a bit too sluggish in Tiger. Fortunately this is something they are aware of and I presume Leopard is going to feature an improved revamped Spotlight.

BTW, I’m not at all unhappy with the current OS X user interface, I love the font rendering engine and all the candy and effects/transitions but somehow I agree with Veerle in that Brush Metal should go. I find it too heavy and darkish (especially in Finder windows)

Something in the line of UNO would be great though!




permalink this comment Thomas Fri Aug 4, 2006 at 03.38 pm

Another reason why they could want to get rid of the shiny bubblyness is because Microsoft totally stole that idea, and now they got to renovate.

But I’m a little scared and I think we’re being way too psyched.



permalink this comment Jared Fri Aug 4, 2006 at 04.06 pm

I wouldn’t want to start an argument here, but having UI elements shaded when they are visible but in the background sounds like a copy of Windows styling :)

(OK maybe a little bit of arguing!)



permalink this comment danieleran Fri Aug 4, 2006 at 04.35 pm

I made similar comments in my Leopard WWDC outlook
as well as my Fix the Finder articles.

A sublter, flatter unified look seems like a given. I’d also like to see Apple share their UI features unique to Safari or iLife/iTunes in other apps, including the Finder.

I described ideas for bookmarks, history, feeds, and a Finder Store in :

How to Fix the Finder 3: Prettier



permalink this comment Craig Pryor Fri Aug 4, 2006 at 09.18 pm

I would like leopard to include what I’ve wanted since the first macosx release: an option for the original nextstep-style vertical menus.



permalink this comment Andrew Fox Sat Aug 5, 2006 at 01.25 am

I agree with DeaPeeJay. I see around the web a lot of calls for consistency throughout the UI, but the different styles help the user to quickly understand what app is what. After all key window elements remain the same in whatever style.
There shouldn’t be THAT many different styles. I think 3 or 4 at max, and there should be clear guidelines as to when they should be used (which Apple should actually stick to (see Safari)). That said, I do believe that brushmetal is old and needs to be replaced.

I also agree with Thomas… as is typical with Apple events, people are getting way too psyched… disappointment surely looms.



permalink this comment Jens Ayton Sat Aug 5, 2006 at 06.55 am

Brushed metal was not intruduced in Jaguar, or even with OS X. The first brushed metal apps where Sherlock, QuickTime Player 4 and iTunes.

Oh, and Tiger supports 256x256 pixel icons.

I certainly hope there won’t be dark-background theme. Dark text on a light background (with high contrast) is far more legible, and is also one of the defining characteristics of the original Lisa and Mac UIs… not that Apple cares about that sort of thing these days.



permalink this comment DeaPeaJay Sun Aug 6, 2006 at 10.54 am

Yah, brushed metal has been here for a while. I can’t see Apple getting rid of it entirely. I think they might for Safari and iCal. But for small module type applications like Address Book, iChat, Quicktime, Font Book and many small third party apps, the brushed metal theme works great. I honestly can’t see them getting rid of it. That theme works best for those types of applications. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

If they *do* get rid of it, I think it would have to be replaced by some sort of unique, new, different theme they’ve developed



permalink this comment Luke Sun Aug 6, 2006 at 06.39 pm

“So what’s on your Leopard list?”

Kicking Windows butt (yet again), of course. :D

I too would like to see something more consistent, at least in terms of the actual apple applications.

Further improvements/refinement for widgets.

Overall theme consistancy, as mentioned, but still keeping that “classy” look and feel. After all their playing in .0 - .4, they should have a pretty good wealth of knowledge on what people are liking and disliking with the interface.

Oh, and Mail could use some help as well. All around the board.



permalink this comment Alex Goodhart Mon Aug 7, 2006 at 06.53 am

I agree alot about making OS X more UNO - like (actually today was the first time I used uno), and tabs in finder would be great rather than having to open trash or something else for a secondary finder window!

But one thing I think would be great for Apple would be to offer a number of different skins in System Preferences, to resemble Aqua, Aero, Uno, and some other customized ones. This would definately please most users and compete with Vista’s eye candy.



permalink this comment luxuryluke (Luke Dorny) Tue Aug 8, 2006 at 12.12 pm

Spot on, V.
Nice progression visually. Stuff we’ve all let drift away in our memories.



permalink this comment Sophia Tue Aug 8, 2006 at 12.35 pm

I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple is working on more 3D based user interfaces like in iChat and Time Machine, it’s no longer a pain to develop with the new Core Animations framework.
Actually I’m not a big fan of all those three dimensional desktop “concepts”, but I’m sure Apple will find the right blend of both like in Exposé and Spaces.

Anyway I’m still curious like a little child before christmas :).



permalink this comment Andrew Fox Tue Aug 8, 2006 at 01.00 pm

The 3D concepts are fine in theory… but when something like Time Machine appears you just have to shake your head and worry about what Apple’s designers are taking. Bizarrely, many people seem to be liking it. I personally find it ugly, toy-like and… absurd.



permalink this comment Veerle Tue Aug 8, 2006 at 01.12 pm

@ Andrew Fox said:

I personally find it ugly, toy-like and… absurd

Don’t judge something that is still a year away. Let’s say that I would be very surprised if that would be the definitive interface for it. Many people are over-reacting that they are disappointed about interface changes. As a designer I know how easy and quickly somebody copies something, so that’s why I think Apple keeps the real changes under wraps.



permalink this comment Andrew Fox Tue Aug 8, 2006 at 01.27 pm

Veerle, thanks for your response. You’re, I’m sure, correct.
I guess I am criticising what we saw yesterday, and how it seems odd to show-off something that is maybe a little “absurd”, on such a huge metaphorical stage as WWDC. Especially from a company with such usual exquisite taste as Apple.
Minus the arcade buttons and galaxy it would be an interesting, even beautiful, concept, but I also hope there will be a variety of options to browse the Time Machine.
There is also talk of this going on at Hicksdesign that maybe worth a look.



permalink this comment Alex Wed Aug 9, 2006 at 03.04 pm

Maybe you should try Uno,, so you can make all windows look the same. But I am kinda tired of the Mac OS X interface. Don’t like the dock, it is just irritating. Mac OS X Leopard will probably look the same. Mac OS 9’s interface actually looks much better.



permalink this comment Peter V. Sun Aug 13, 2006 at 09.22 am

My desktop always looks like a wreck, and it can actually be embarassing when I have people over and they see how crazy my desktop looks with my zillions of icons and folders on it. 

I think it’d be great for Appleto develop something for me to clean this up. Perhaps place icons that are unused over a certain period in a sub-desktop. I do have one that I use manually, but it would be helpful.



permalink this comment Andre Mon Aug 14, 2006 at 06.50 pm

With regards to Windows Vista, I believe it was in business week that they said they performed usability studies on the solid and non solid borders.  They concluded that opaque/transparent borders were better since they distracted the eye less from the contents of the window… so I don’t know what apple is doing exactly but better usability seems like a good argument over aesthetics. 

I would have to agree that less obvious borders are a good thing, I wish I could reduce the window borders on my setup to smaller than the smallest setting.



permalink this comment LobsterMan Tue Aug 22, 2006 at 06.21 am

I agree with every word. I think that in this release, Apple needs to work on UI consistency and bug squashing. Theyr’e already too many features, perfecting them is what’s neccesary now.

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