Mac OS X’s Font Panel: Where is the focus?

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
July 10th, 2003 • 9:26 pm

I know that Apple will provide a brand new utility for font management in Panther, but it’s not clear yet how this will integrate with Mac OS X’s existing Font Panel feature. And boy does this Font Panel need some work.

The issue is very simple. Just look at the following picture:

A picture named FontPalette.jpg

What’s wrong with it? There is no visual indication of focus! There are items selected in the columns, but all of them are highlighted in gray, which is the “background” selection color, i.e. the selection color in lists that are not in the foreground in Mac OS X. Does this mean that I took this snap shot while the Font Panel was in the background? That’s impossible, because the Font Panel is either in the foreground (when the user is in the application that uses it) or invisible (when the user switches to another application).

So where am I exactly? In the “Collections” column? In the “Family” column? In the “Typeface” column? I have no idea. I guess I am in all of them at the same time. But then why aren’t the selected items in my foreground selection color?

To make matters worse, keyboard selection doesn’t work in this palette. You might have a list of font families that contains hundreds of items — there is no way to jump to the families starting with a particular letter. All you can do is scroll up and down using the mouse. Using any keyboard key will actually trigger actions in Safari itself.

I guess I just don’t get the whole “Font Panel” concept to begin with. Yes, I understand that it is a “palette” of sorts (so why is it called a “panel”?) that stays always open, and not a dialog box. But even a palette such as the “Inspector” in iCal uses the foreground selection color to indicate where the focus is in the palette. And I can use the keyboard in it…

Consistency, consistency, consistency… Where have you gone?

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