Pages 2: Lousy live window resizing performance

Posted by Pierre Igot in: GarageBand, iPhoto, Pages
March 2nd, 2006 • 2:57 pm

Now that Mac OS X has been available for half a decade and now that I own a G5 Quad, it’s interesting to take a closer look at the live window resizing performance in various Mac OS X applications.

Live window resizing is what happens when you resize a window (by dragging its bottom-right corner) and the contents of the window get redrawn on-the-fly while you are dragging the control.

In the classic Mac OS, instead of redrawing the window’s contents on-the-fly, the system would leave the existing window with its existing window size untouched and draw a simple rectangular outline illustrating the new window size. The existing window would only get resized (and its contents redrawn) once the user actually released the mouse button.

When Mac OS X was first introduced, Apple started using live window resizing for all its applications, even though Mac hardware was still far from having enough processing power to handle such a process gracefully.

The end result was a rather frustrating user experience, with choppy, delayed window redraws and a lot of overshooting.

Today, with my G5 Quad, I tested a variety of Mac OS X applications (both Apple applications and third-party applications), just to see how much better things are.

The good news is that, in most applications, with a G5 Quad, live window resizing works reasonably well. The Finder has no trouble resizing windows and redrawing their contents on-the-fly, regardless of the chosen view mode and the number of files listed.

For applications with more complex window contents, things are almost as smooth as in the Finder. For example, in iPhoto 6, resizing the main window while it shows something like 150 thumbnails out of a collection of nearly 10,000 digital pictures works pretty well. If your mouse movement is very fast and you look carefully, you might notice a slight delay of a fraction of a second while Mac OS X is attempting to redraw the window, i.e. a single hiccup along the way. And you’ll get the same result when resizing the main GarageBand window.

But in all honesty this is barely noticeable in most real-life situations.

The bad news, however, is Pages 2. The live window resizing experience in this particular application on my G5 Quad is positively horrendous compared to other Mac OS X applications. It’s very choppy, with very noticeable hiccups while Mac OS X is attempting to redraw the window’s contents, even when the document only consists of formatted text (no pictures, no tables, etc.).

The choppiness is particularly noticeable when the zoom setting is set to “Fit Page” or “Fit Width,” because obviously with those settings the actual size of the text itself will change when you resize the window. But even with a fixed zoom value, the choppiness is still more noticeable than in other Mac OS X applications.

This seems to indicate that Pages 2 is still far from having been properly optimized. It’s hard to believe, after all, that redrawing lines of text is much more demanding than redrawing rows and columns of digital picture thumbnails or a complex GarageBand project on-the-fly.

Interestingly, both Microsoft and Adobe have yet to embrace live window resizing in their Mac OS X applications. Applications such as Microsoft Word 2004 and Adobe Photoshop CS2 still use the old outline-only scheme from the pre-Mac OS X days!

So I cannot really compare Pages to the competition (although TextEdit has very little trouble doing live resizing with RTF documents). All I can say is that the performance of Pages 2 on a G5 Quad is somewhat disappointing in this particular respect.

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