Friday, August 03, 2012

Mac v. Windows

The Lisa one-button mouse
How do you change the name of a file on the Mac? You select the file, then click on the name, then wait a second or two and the name becomes editable. I fooled around for a while, and somehow managed to change a file name, but could not figure out how I'd done it. (I did not "intuit" the part about the short pause). Finally, I turned to Google to find out how to do it. (Google also turned up a second way -- click followed by enter).

With Windows, you right click on the file and select rename then enter the new file name. Which is better or more intuitive?

Depending on a pause of indeterminant duration is bad design.

But, if you have never seen a Windows machine, right clicking on an object then selecting rename is not obvious either. It may not be obvious, but it is an exemplar of a general convention -- right clicking on an object brings up a context-sensitive menu with applicable options, and that convention dates back to the research computers at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), which inspired the Lisa and Macintosh.

The PARC mice had three buttons, and Apple concluded that that was too confusing -- users would not be able to remember what each did. So, they went for one button, but we ended up with things like click-pause-rename.

I'll give this one to Windows.