March 25th, 2008 • 10:53 am
Here’s a screen shot taken in Adobe Photoshop CS3:
In the foreground, we have the “Image Size” dialog box, which is a modal dialog box. In the background, we have the document window for the picture for which I invoked the “Image Size” command.
As expected, the title bar of the foreground window does not have close/minimize/maximize controls on the left-hand side, which is normal, since it is a modal dialog box.
What is not normal, however, is what happens when I hover over the controls in the title bar of the background document window with my mouse pointer.
As the picture shows, these controls appear to be “live” and to respond to my mouse movements. This is completely wrong. The appearance of a modal dialog box on top of the document window should disable these controls completely, and they should not respond to a mouse pointer hovering over them at all, because the user should not be able to close the document window without dismissing the modal dialog box first!
In actual fact, the controls look like they are responding to mouse movements, but they really are not. Clicking on the close button, for example, even though it turns red and the cross appears, does not do anything. But even that is wrong. Not only should the controls not respond to mouse movements, but the application should play a system alert sound to indicate that this is an illegal mouse action in a modal dialog box.
Here again, Adobe fails to do what is right. It ignores the mouse clicks, but it doesn’t play the alert sound either.
If the dialog box were non modal, then yes, the controls should respond, and they should actually work. But the dialog box is modal, so the controls should not work, they should not change their appearance when the mouse hovers over them, and I should get a system alert sound when I try to click on them.
Adobe has got it completely wrong. Sadly, this particular problem is reflective of a wider ignorance of fundamental Mac OS X window management rules on Adobe’s part. For example, another thing that Photoshop CS3 does not do properly is respond to document opening events when a modal dialog is currently open.
If you are in the situation depicted in the image above, with a Photoshop document window in the background and the “Image Size” modal dialog box in the foreground, and you attempt to open another Photoshop document (from the Finder) without having dismissed the dialog box first, Photoshop completely ignores your attempt to open the other document.
Normally, in this situation, a well-behaved Mac OS X application should ignore the attempt to open the other document as long as the modal dialog box stays open. But at soon as the user dismisses the modal dialog box, the application should process the request to open the other document and open it in a separate window.
Photoshop CS3 fails to do this. It completely ignores the request to open the other document. It expects you to first dismiss the modal dialog box and then switch back to the Finder and attempt to open the document again.
This is yet another example of how Adobe fails to comply with Mac OS X standards in its applications. None of these problems are deal-breakers, of course. Photoshop remains a very usable application. But there are a number of such “quirks” in Adobe’s applications that make them slightly disappointing as Mac OS X applications, because they fail to fully comply with the rules of the OS and require the user to constantly readjust to their quirks that do not exist in other Mac OS X applications.