Non-resizable preference panes in Mac OS X: Who decides?

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
September 30th, 2003 • 7:06 pm

There are still a number of small details in Mac OS X that simply aren’t right. My latest example is the “Login Items” preference pane in System Preferences. Why is the list limited to showing only 8 items at a time? I have over 20 items in there. I constantly have to scroll up or down in ORDER to locate the one I am looking for. Yet I have acres of screen real estate that could be used to display more than 8 items at a time.

Why the limitation? I suspect it is simply because, by design, the System Preferences window cannot be resized by the user. It gets automatically resized constantly by Mac OS X, because each preference pane is a different size — but the user has no control over it.

This is an example of design clearly working against the user. But Apple makes it even worse by limiting the list to 8 items, when there is clearly room for more.

There are other preference panes with lists of items that can be scrolled up and down. The Input Menu tab in the “International” preference pane, for example, has a similar list, but it’s much bigger and displays 12 items at a time. It still is not enough and is no substitute for a user-resizable window, but it’s better.

Will Panther fix all this? Based on the System Preferences snapshot that’s shown as part of the Panther preview on Apple’s web site, the answer is unfortunately no. The System Preferences window in Panther looks no different from the one in Jaguar, except for the “cleaned up” Aqua theme.

This probably means that we are going to have to live with non-user-resizable preference panes for the foreseeable future. Frustrating.

2 Responses to “Non-resizable preference panes in Mac OS X: Who decides?”

  1. Eric Blair says:

    I haven’t played with Panther yet, but the Systems Preference image shows the green resize button active. It’s not active in the Jaguar Systems Preferences.

    If you’ve played with Panther, can you say what this widget does?

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    Ha! Well spotted. No, I haven’t had the chance to play with Panther myself, which is why I am forced to speculate based on the screen shots on Apple’s web site. I still don’t see a resize box, so I wonder what the green button does!

    Then again, Aqua drawers such as the one in Mail don’t have a resize box either, and yet they ARE resizable if you drag their corners. Maybe the new System Prefs is invisibly resizable… :)

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