Keyboard access in Apple applications: not following Apple’s own guidelines

Posted by Pierre Igot in: iTunes, Macintosh
May 29th, 2004 • 7:39 am

It’s bad enough when third-party applications fail to embrace some core Mac OS X technologies, such as full keyboard access. It gets worse when Apple’s own subsidiary FileMaker Inc. fails to do so as well. But it’s really bad when Apple itself demonstrate a serious lack of professionalism about it.

I’ve already reported on problems with keyboard access in some of Mail’s dialog boxes. Now I have found a similar problem in another application that Apple has had more than enough to polish and bring up to date.

If you open a document with Preview (PDF file or other) that is too big to fit on the current paper size when you try to print it, you get the following “Document Too Large” dialog box:

Document Too Large

As you can see from the blue halo around the “Scale” button, full keyboard access does work in this dialog. However, something even more essential than full keyboard access, i.e. the ability to use some keyboard shortcuts even when full keyboard access is off, is not working! In this dialog, even though there is a “Cancel” button, it’s impossible to use the Escape key as the equivalent to clicking on that “Cancel” button! Since the Escape shortcut works just fine with other “Cancel” buttons in other dialogs in Preview, it’s obviously a mistake. Someone forgot to implement the shortcut for this particular dialog box. But it seems to me that such stuff should be active by default in all dialog boxes with “Cancel” buttons, shouldn’t it?

And then there is the not-so-small matter of iTunes. We are currently at version 4.5. Believe it or not, even though it’s been through many updates over the years, the application still does not support full keyboard access in its dialog boxes! It has some specific keyboard shortcuts in addition to the default, universal ones. For example, cmd-Left and cmd-Right are the equivalent of clicking on the “Previous” and “Next” buttons in the Song Information dialog box. But this doesn’t make up for the fact that full keyboard access in itself is not supported!

Such sloppiness in software design might be forgivable if Mac OS X and these applications were brand new. But they have been around for years! Grrr…

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