John Gruber on ejecting volumes in Panther’s Finder

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
November 26th, 2003 • 12:11 am

John Gruber at Daring Fireball is, as usual, right on in his description of the weird behaviour of the Eject buttons in the sidebar in Finder windows.

While his focus is on click-through, he does echo some of the things I said earlier about the inappropriate behaviour of the Eject buttons.

It is sometimes really depressing to see such flaws in the implementation of what could be useful features — especially on Apple’s part.

6 Responses to “John Gruber on ejecting volumes in Panther’s Finder”

  1. vaag says:

    Basically, Gruber likes the eject buttons in the side bar and you, on the contrary, don’t. You even would like to have an option to get rid of them. So were’s the echo?

    It’s finally good to see some hard evidence of this click-through problem, which I too guess is a bug. I myself use column view for my Finder-in-browser-mode, so I would never have noticed this problem.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    I quote: “The least suitable controls for click-through are the ones which are the most dangerous. Although you can?t lose data by accidentally triggering an eject button, you can lose a fair bit of time by having to remount the volume. (And you can?t use undo to remount a volume.)”

    This does echo what I said :).

  3. vaag says:

    Oh, not at all. The fact, that if you trigger an eject button, things get ejected/unmounted, and if you do it unintentionally things somehow have to be repaired, really is such a common wisdom. That’s no echo, that’s in the air all the time. But I quote your quote of Gruber’s partly again: ?The least suitable controls for CLICK-THROUGH are the ones [etc]”. It’s the context that counts! Gruber is complaining about being able to trigger the side bar eject button of a background window without getting a visual clue, your only complaint was about the POSITION of the eject button in the side bar of an active Finder window, something Gruber really doesn’t dispute. On the contrary, he writes: “In addition to making it obvious how to eject/unmount a volume, it also makes it obvious which volumes can be unmounted.” And that really is a very strong argument against your position: ” it’s not like the “Eject” functionality is not available through other means in a Finder window (not counting the keyboard shortcut)”.
    As so often, you are blaming Apple for flaws in the implementation, but in this case I think you have to blame yourself and yourself only. You are defending yourself with some home-made theory about ‘being able to click anywhere on a line as a general rule’, where it is obvious that clicking on an ‘action button’ on that same ‘line’ will overrule your so-called general rule. That’s common wisdom too. So please, blame it on your mousing capacity, or on a temporary visual black-out (not uncommon, see your post of Nov 17, 03 | 4:04pm), or on something else, but this time not on Apple.
    Anyway, my main problem with your post above, is the way you present your reference to Gruber’s blog: “John Gruber… is, as usual, right on in his description … he does echo some of the things I said earlier….” In other words, I [Pierre Igot] was right all the time.
    You are only sticking a feather in your own cap.

  4. Pierre Igot says:

    Woah, no need to get all worked up about this :).

    In his text, John says that these Eject buttons are among “the most dangerous” controls and therefore are not suitable for click-through. The fact that he says that they are among the most dangerous echoes what I said. He doesn’t mention the issue of the position of these Eject buttons, but that doesn’t mean that he agrees with it.

    Look, all I am saying that, several times now since I’ve installed Panther, I have clicked on one of these Eject buttons accidentally and ejected a FireWire volume that I didn’t mean to eject. This, to me, indicates that the position of these buttons is inappropriate — not that I, as a user, am “wrong” to have clicked on them by accident.

    Yes, it’s good to have the buttons as an indication of which volumes can be ejected and which cannot (but that’s a side-effect of having the buttons there, their main purpose to be clicked on, not looked at), and yes it’s an improvement over the old dragging to the trash behavior, but that doesn’t mean that it’s perfect.

    I am afraid your argument against my so-called “home made rule” about clicking anywhere on a line is not really convincing. There are just too many contexts in the Mac OS in which clicking ANYWHERE on a line selects the line: menu items, lists in Columns view, lists in iTunes, lists in Address Book, “Collections” list in Safari, etc. And yes, sometimes there is something on the line that creates an exception to this rule, such as the collapse/expand triangle in List view and in various other hierarchical lists (such as in the mailboxes drawer in Mail), but in such exceptions the area that does not select the line is always on the left-hand side. So, like many users I suspect, I am used to clicking on the right-hand side of a line and expecting it to become selected.

    The Eject buttons break this convention/habit. And I find it unfortunate.

  5. vaag says:

    >several times now […] I have clicked on one of these Eject buttons accidentally

    The side bar eject button has the same icon as the other eject buttons around, on your keyboard, your tool bar, in iTunes etc; it’s really well-known, as is its effect when you trigger it. When you hover over it it even lights up, as a kind of visual warning: “Attention please, I’m an action button! Do you really want to eject?”. Still you’re trying to tell me that you ‘accidentally clicked one SEVERAL times’. Even a donkey doesn’t stub his toe against the same stone twice. So, I’m not sure anymore what kind of species I’m talking to.
    You are defending yourself with your own ‘private general’ rule that “clicking ANYWHERE on a line selects the line” (By the way: “selects the LINE”? This really is not carefully enough formulated****. Your aim is not to select a line, but to select an item). Please tell me, if an Apple novice comes to you, “How can I select an item?”, you surely will not tell this novice, “Oh, just click anywhere on a line. That will do the job.” Otherwise: poor little Apple novice.
    Now, you are already backing out a bit by narrowing the clickable line section down to the right-hand side of the line. But what about the snap back button in safari? On the right side. Or the tool bar Search field in the Finder? Close button on the right side. Aren’t there two types of attached ‘action buttons/check boxes etc.’ possible: permanent ones and temporary ones? The permanent ones do consume a fixed amount of space, so logically you’d place them on the left side. On the other hand, for the temporary ones you need variable space, and you’ll find that best on the right side. The Search field shows this quite clearly: left from the text input area is a popup triangle to specify your search action, it’s always there; at the end of the line appears a round close button the moment you start a search action. If you click it it’s gone. Notice: these side bar eject, snap back and close buttons are round buttons, in line with the OS X HIG.
    These days, still not one day passes by without me thinking how wonderful these side bar eject buttons are. I’m positive this day will come to you.

    **** as are “weird behaviour of the Eject buttons” and “inappropriate behaviour of the Eject buttons” in your entry above. The eject button does exactly what it is supposed to do: ejecting/unmounting. There is nothing weird or inappropriate about that.

  6. Pierre Igot says:

    Er, no need to be rude here. I’m sorry if I disappointed you as a Mac user for being so clumsy that I did click on the Eject button by accident — but I did, and maybe it’s because I’ve made the sidebar very narrow in order to save screen real estate (I just need to see the icon and the first few letters of each volume name). With such a configuration (narrow sidebar), the risk is quite high, and it’s the very nature of a spatial pointing device such as a mouse that it’s suppose to have a margin of error.

    As for selecting “a line” rather than the item the line contains, it’s just a metonymy — which is possible precisely because clicking anywhere on a line selects it. (The whole line is selected, as indicated by the highlight color, which covers the whole line.)

    And the “weird behaviour” of the Eject button is in reference to Gruber’s own article, where he writes: “Where things get weird with the eject buttons…”

    Buttons on the right-hand side:

    – Snapback button in Safari: I never use the feature, and maybe that’s part of the reason why. But the Address Bar in Safari is hardly an example of consistent UI. It’s an editable field that doubles as a progress bar. In any case, the bar is not a line that can be selected. You cannot click anywhere on the line except on the right-hand side or left-hand side in order to select it. This has nothing to do with our discussion, which is about selecting items in a list.

    – Stop button in search fields. Again, one of Apple’s more recent (and dubious) UI “inventions”. But anyway: again, it’s not a line that can be selected. Has nothing to do with our discussion.

    – I don’t see what’s “temporary” about the Eject buttons in the sidebar. They are there all the time for ejectable volumes — and it’s probably part of the problem. It would be less dangerous, in fact, to make them appear ONLY when the volume is selected. Now THAT I could live with, because it would greatly reduce the risk of accidental unmounting.

    Sorry, I’m still not convinced. And please tone down the rhetoric.

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