GarageBand 2: Requires user attention when launching in background

Posted by Pierre Igot in: GarageBand
October 31st, 2005 • 12:04 pm

I’ve already discussed the annoying limitations and flaws in Apple’s single-window interface in GarageBand 2.0 (and other applications). Since that post in February 2005, Apple has fixed exactly one thing, and that is the “Open Recent” submenu in GarageBand 2’s “File” menu, which is no longer disabled when no project window is open. This was fixed in GarageBand 2.0.2.

But they haven’t fixed any of the other problems. Other application menu commands are still disabled when no project window is open, even though they are applicable. This is the kind of stuff you expect to see in a Microsoft application, not in an Apple application. It’s shameful.

One flaw that I find particularly irritating is what happens when you launch GarageBand 2 in the background. GarageBand is an application that takes a while to launch, especially if, like me, you have several additional Jam Packs installed. So it’s not abnormal for the impatient user to switch to something else while GarageBand 2 is launching. After all, that’s what’s good about Mac OS X: It’s an operating system with proper multitasking. You can launch several applications at the same time, you can switch applications while an application is launching, etc.

The problem is that, if you switch to another application while GarageBand 2 is launching, Apple punishes you. GarageBand 2 has this new “startup window” that wasn’t there is Garageband 1.x, with the two oversized “Create” and “Open” buttons. It’s the window that GarageBand 2 displays when no project window is open. (GarageBand 1.x would automatically bring up the “Open File” dialog instead.)

If you launch GarageBand 2 and then switch to another application while GarageBand 2 is launching, when it gets to this startup window, GarageBand 2… starts bouncing in the Dock and requires your attention! Why does it require your attention? For nothing. It’s just so happy that it has finally finished launching that it just has to tell you. And in order to get it to shut up, of course, you have to switch back to GarageBand 2, even if you are now in the middle of doing something else in another application.

This is extremely annoying. By switching to another application while GarageBand 2, I clearly indicated to Mac OS X that I was not patient enough to wait for it to finish launching GarageBand 2, and wanted to use my valuable time to do something else in another application, which Mac OS X allows me to do. Mac OS X has no business telling me when I will switch back to GarageBand 2. Now that I am doing something else in another application, I might be busy for a few minutes and will only want to go back to the finally ready GarageBand 2 once I’m finished with this other thing.

I am the user. I am the one who decides when I want to switch from one application to the other. If a background application interrupts me while I am busy working on something, I expect that it is for valid, important reasons—not just to tell me that it’s finally ready for me!

This is all the more ridiculous since the problem only occurs when GarageBand 2 gets to its startup window at the end of the launching process. If, the last time you were using GarageBand 2, you quit the application with a project window still open, then next time you launch GarageBand 2, it will automatically open this project again at the end of the launching process, instead of opening this startup window. And get this: it does so without requiring the user’s attention at any stage! That’s right: If you launch GarageBand 2 and switch to something else while it’s launching and if the GarageBand launching process ends with it opening the last project you were working on, it does not require your attention and finishes opening the project and quietly waits for you to switch back to it when you are ready, without interrupting you.

This obviously proves—if proof was needed—that the behaviour with the startup window requiring your attention is an unjustifiable bug.

Besides, it’s not the only bug. That same startup window also cancels the log out or restart process if it’s open when you select “Log Out…” or “Restart…” in the Apple menu!

It’s ridiculous. And these bugs were reported to Apple many months ago. My guess is that they only fixed the bug with the “Open Recent” submenu because it was the most glaring and most ridiculous one (since opening a recent project is one of the things that the user is most likely to be aiming for when he is faced with that useless startup window with the two oversized buttons). But their awareness of this particular bug obviously didn’t lead them to address the other bugs associated with the startup window. They probably have “other priorities.” Meanwhile, the user continues to suffer.

On a side note, FileMaker Pro has the exact same problem when you launch it in the background. It too requires the user’s attention for absolutely no purpose whatsoever. And the bug is still there in FileMaker Pro 8 too. I guess you can give Apple and FileMaker Inc. (a fully owned Apple subsidiary) credit for being consistent in the way they insult their users.

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