Mail 3.1: Top pixel row of toolbar button icons not active

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Mail
November 27th, 2007 • 9:24 am

A while ago, I wrote about a dead space between the toolbar button icons in Mail 2.0 and the text labels underneath the buttons.

Well, I am glad to report that this particular problem has been fixed in Mail 3.x in Leopard.

I am not so glad to report, however, that there is another problem with Mail’s toolbar buttons that is just as obvious and reveals a continuing lack of attention to detail at Apple.

In Mail 3.x, when you hover over a toolbar button with your mouse, the background shading of the button icon changes to a darker shade of grey.

Here’s the light shade of grey when the mouse pointer is not over the button:

Mail toolbar button not active

And here’s the darker shade of grey when the mouse pointer is over the button:

Mail toolbar button active

You can argue about the aesthetics of the Mail toolbar buttons, but they do have this “mouse over” effect that is presumably meant to make it easier for users to target and hit the buttons.

However, if you take the exact situation described by the second picture above, i.e. with the mouse pointer’s hot spot (which is slightly below the pointy tip of the arrow) hovering over the very top pixel row in the toolbar button icon, then the background shading changes to the darker shade of grey, which is supposed to indicate that the button is “active” and will respond to a mouse click.

But if you click with your mouse button, nothing happens.

So it effectively looks like there is yet another “dead” area in the Mail toolbar button icons, and one that is actually made all the more obvious by the disconnect between the “mouse-over” effect and the actual responsiveness of the buttons to a mouse click.

Again, my question here is: How can Apple’s engineers be so careless?

8 Responses to “Mail 3.1: Top pixel row of toolbar button icons not active”

  1. ssp says:

    I’m not seeing the problem which seems to be because I don’t use the labels for my toolbar. So if you’re looking for a workaround, try turning off the labels which also saves some space.

  2. akatsuki says:

    If this is only true in Mail, is this because the buttons are different somehow from standard buttons? Sadly I am not at my Mac right now to check…

    @ssp- that is so besides the point. I am pretty sure he is not looking for a workaround for a 1-pixel dead spot…. and reducing the target size even further to just labels would be the antithesis of a workaround in this case.

  3. Pierre Igot says:

    Yes, you’re right, turning off the labels does seem to eliminate the problem. I suppose I can try to live without the labels, although I cannot say the button icons are all that clear by themselves—and I don’t really need to save space :).

  4. Pierre Igot says:

    akatsuki: It’s most definitely a problem that only affects Mail. I am not sure if the problem was already there in Mail 2.x. (Can’t check right now.)

    As for ssp’s workaround, it’s obviously not an ideal solution, but it’s good to know.

  5. Steve Nygard says:

    Hmm, that’s interesting. I wanted to see if it was also off by one at the bottom, but of course clicking on the “New Message” text opens the new message window.

    Actually, I’ve found several things that I don’t like about the toolbar.

    Clicking on the text directly under the bubble highlights the toolbar item, and keeps it highlighted while your cursor is over the text or the bubble. However, clicking on the parts of the text that aren’t directly under the bubble (“Ne”, for example), doesn’t start tracking and doesn’t open the new message window.

    The space around the toolbars is generally treated like part of the title bar, so you can drag the window from these parts, and double click to minimize the window. Except that double-clicking flexible space does nothing, while double-clicking non-flexible space minimizes the window. I prefer not minimizing the window from double-clicks anywhere in the toolbar.

    The toolbar in Mail is inconsistent with toolbars in other applications. (I tested MarsEdit, NetNewsWire, and Xcode.) In other applications when you have a long title under an icon, clicking in the blank area above the text (beside the icon) activates that toolbar item. But in Mail it doesn’t. Perhaps it’s the bubbles (I’m not sure if they’re standard). I prefer Mail’s behavior in this case — I removed the “Send to Weblog” toolbar item from MarsEdit after twice accidentally activating it when I meant to minimize the window, just because that blank space triggered the action.

    You can have both “Note” and “To Do” highlighted at the same time by hovering in the middle of those two items. And then the tooltip is for “To Do”, but if you click it creates a note. This works for any connected bubble toolbar items.

    I wonder how Coda’s toolbar behaves in these circumstances, since they wrote their own. (Well, it looks like they have their own problems, including an off-by-seven bug when clicking on the right side of a toolbar item. :-) )

  6. ssp says:

    Actuallly, the problem you describe appears in Preview as well. So it may very well be a bug related to the stupid lozenge toolbar icons. Wouldn’t surprise me, to say the least.

  7. Pierre Igot says:

    ssp: Interesting. I can reproduce it with some Preview buttons, but not all of them. For example, I can reproduce it with the Rotate button, but not with the “+” (zoom in) button. Strange.

    Steve: Yes, there are several other quirks that are definitely questionable. The whole thing suffers from a significant lack of polish, and yet these “lozenge” buttons have been with us for a while now. Apple doesn’t really have any excuses here…

  8. Steve Nygard says:

    Oh, I agree. For something as simple as this, with such an easy test case, it should have been fixed by now.

    It looks like they use a standard segmented control for the connected toolbar items. “Capsule” is the style used by Mail.

    Regarding being able to highlight two adjacent items that I mentioned above, I can get the same effect when I create a segmented control where the width of the first segment is, for example, 30.5. When I add half a pixel to the Y position of the view, I see the same behavior exhibited in the Mail toolbar items when clicking on the top edge.

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