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Re: Changes I've been thinking of...

From: Robert J. Slover
Subject: Re: Changes I've been thinking of...
Date: Sat, 10 Oct 2009 06:22:52 -0400

On Oct 10, 2009, at 5:03 AM, Michael Thaler wrote:

The NeXTSTEP GUI was designed fifteen years ago when it was basically not possible to have round buttons, gradients, transparency, shadows etc. because the hardware was not powerful enough for that. But the world moved on and today almost nobody wants to have square buttons, no gradients etc. (There are certainly people today which would prefer to have a masterpiece carriage instead of an ordinary car, but most people that just need something to go to
work would certainly take the car).

In all fairness, the very first places I ever saw a user interfaces using round controls, transparency, or gradients inside windows and buttons was on NeXTStep. PCs were still running DOS, for the most part, and all but the very expensive Macs were still grayscale at best. The round control was inside Fractal Painter (if I remember correctly), transparency was something that was demoed for the "wow" factor to show of the NeXTDimension (dragging a picture of a sports car onto a beach scene, and pasting it there, and the beach showed right through the windows of the car, with varying degrees of transparency relative to the curvature of the windows -- damned cool at the time ('90?)). And I think Radical News was the first app I ever saw making use of gradients in controls, but there were probably others.

As well, given that the NeXT debuted October 12, 1988, the NeXTStep GUI was designed over 21 years ago. It did indeed make concessions to the limitations of video hardware -- the GUI looked great in 2-bit grayscale. It also looked great in 32-bit color with the NeXTDimension video board, which cost more than the machine itself.

At any rate, what does and does not look good is totally a matter of taste. I do not find the NeXT look boring at all. Keith Ohlfs ( http://www.ohlfs.com/keith/self/next/next.html ) was and is an extremely talented designer, and having a single person responsible for so much of the interface really made it consistent. I love the contrast, and the lack of overly bright objects. If I could tone down Mac OS X I would. It is too bright for my tastes, worse even than the original MacOS. As well, buttons are too small, and having a single top-of-screen menu bar is a pain in the rear when I have 3 very large monitors and I happen to have the mouse on the "wrong" one. Even after years of use, having right-hand scrollbars in browser mode never feels natural. And I miss the shelf. My opinion, of course, is no more or less valid than yours -- which is why people are so interested in theming. I would agree with GNUStep having a more modern default theme, but only to distinguish it as a project that stands on its own, rather than relying on NeXTStep nostalgia (but of course, I'd immediately switch back to the "old" look :-) ).

As for the definition of a professional interface -- I would say it is an interface that gets the job done without being in the way. In that way, XP out of the box is a major failure in my book, and I immediately turn off all of the gooey colors, animations, collapsing menus and other crud, adjust the colors to something more subtle with better contrast, then install VNC and remote into my Sun desktop running WindowMaker, which does a better job of not getting in my way.


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