Another illustration of the problem with brushed-metal windows

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
February 5th, 2004 • 1:24 am

I’ve already written extensively about issues with brushed-metal windows in Mac OS X.

Another issue is with the use of the keyboard shortcut for the “Cycle Through Windows” command that is available in most Mac OS X applications. On my Canadian CSA keyboard, the shortcut is cmd-ù. I think it’s cmd-~ on US keyboards.

I use this command quite frequently to cycle through currently open windows in applications such as Safari, MS Word, etc. And it works fine. But the problem with this command is that it (obviously) doesn’t involve any mouse clicking, so you don’t get that visual support that helps your eyes determine which window is in the foreground. And since there is so little visual difference between a brushed-metal window in the foreground and a brushed-metal window in the bakckground, without the visual support of the mouse movement, it is very easy for your eyes lose track of which window is currently in the foreground. If, like me, you have a fair amount of screen real estate and often have several windows open at the same time and fully visible, this can be a real problem.

For example, I can easily have two regular-sized Safari windows open side by side and fully visible on my 23″ display and another one on my 17″ display. When I use cmd-ù in Safari to cycle through these windows, I really need to pay close attention to the small visual clues indicating which window is in the foreground. Otherwise, I easily lose track, and end up hitting cmd-ù too many times and having to cycle back (using cmd-shift-ù).

All is obviously due to the fact that the only differences between background brushed-metal windows and foreground brushed-metal windows are 1) the colour of the three buttons in the top-left corner; 2) the depth of the drop-shadow effect around the edges of the window; and 3) the highlighting colour of selected text if there is any in the browser window (in a form field). That’s far too little.

3 Responses to “Another illustration of the problem with brushed-metal windows”

  1. Patrick Wynne says:

    I’d like to see something like the shading that Exposé puts on top of windows when you move the mouse over them.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    Just because I am fortunate enough to have lots of screen real estate, doesn’t mean I am not qualified to express my views :). I do realize that I am quite lucky (although I work hard to get what I have), but my own situation doesn’t change anything to the fact that there is not enough difference visually speaking between foreground windows and background windows with the brushed-metal look.

    I would make the windows lighter rather than darker myself. That would be in keeping with what happens with regular Aqua windows.

  3. MacDesigner says:

    I find your complaints sometimes funny. Oh the stress of having 3 Safari brushed metal windows open on your 30 inches of combined screen space. I however do not experience this problem since I only have my lowly 17 inch monitor and the open window is usually the one on top because I can’t have 2 full sized Safari windows open next to each other.

    I do agree though there does need to be better visual feedback, I do experience the same problem as you when it comes to determining an open QuickTime window. Also I would stress the feedback needs to be free of QuartzExtreme requirements so that older video cards such as mine can display it. I loath not having the cube effect available when switching users. Perhaps a simple darkening of the brushed metal would suffice, I’ve tried to think of something even better. That would seem to be the easiest solution, since as of now the windows have no value change associated with foreground of background.

    I’ve noticed that most of the windows in other programs also lack any significant changes.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.