Mac OS-style menubar as default

Merton Campbell Crockett mcc at CATO.GD-AIS.COM
Mon Jul 4 17:05:56 BST 2005

On Mon, 4 Jul 2005, Janne Ojaniemi wrote:

> On Monday 04 July 2005 05:58, Merton Campbell Crockett wrote:
> > The Mac-style menubar was a good idea for Apple's original computer due to
> > its small monitor.  Today, it's a royal pain to use.
> Just because we now have higher resolutions available, it's OK to waste 
> screen-space? My monitor runs at 1280x1024, and sometimes that's not enough. 
> Why should I waste space on multiple menubars? I should get a better monitor 
> to go around the shortcomings in the UI?

The display on my SuSE Linux 9.3 system runs at 1600x1200.  The display on 
my Mac OS X 10.4 system runs at 1440x900.  The latter provides, roughly, 
the same desktop area as your 1280x1024 display.  The former provides 50 
percent more area.

The applications that I use the most on the Mac OS X system tend to open 
on the right-hand side of the screen.  From an ergonomic perspective, the 
application menu is in the wrong place.  The menu items on the opposite 
side of the screen from the window.  To compensate for this, you need to 
learn the keyboard "shortcuts".

In terms of area taken up by window decorations, the differences between 
the Mac OS X and KDE display environments is minor.  Mac OS X eliminates 
the window borders and the window footer/status bar.  All windows have a 
"double-high" title bar which has the same height as the combined title 
and menu bar in a KDE display window.

The Mac OS title bar no longer disappears when the window is maximized as 
I vaguely recall it doing when Apple computers had small displayes.  So 
there is no real space savings.

The KDE default window settings seem to be wrong, at least in the SuSE 
environment.  When I do a fresh install of the OS and KDE, I find that I 
need to adjust the default font sizes and borders widths.  I reduce the 
size of all the fonts by 2 points and switch to a cleaner sans-serif font.  
This significantly reduces the amount of vertical space consumed by the 
window's headers and footers.

> > If you are working 
> > in a window in the lower right-hand corner of the desktop, you will need
> > to move the cursor 12 inches just to select a menu action.  Once you make
> > your selection, you need to move the cursor another 12 inches to restore
> > focus to the window.
> In real-life that action would be faster with Mac-style menubars than with 
> per-window menubars. Why? Because the menubar would take advantage of 
> screen-borders and the menus would always be in the exact same location. With 
> per-window menubars, you have to first look where the menu actually is. Then 
> you have to carefully place the cursor on the menu. Move the cursor too much, 
> and you can't access the menu.

You're assuming that people look at the desktop when they are working.  If 
this is, indeed, the case; there is merit to your argument as the menu 
would always be in the same place.

However, if you assume that people concentrate on the window in which they 
are working, your argument falls apart.  The menu is changing position as 
the user moves from window to window.

> > Another problem with the Mac-style menu bar is that it requires you to use
> > the "click-to-focus" paradigm.  For those of us raised on X11 and are used
> > to having focus follow mouse, this is a royal pain.
> True, with focus-follows-mouse, the Mac-style menubar would not work.

There is a "marketing" issue involved in this discussion.  If one wants to 
promote Linux as an alternative desktop/laptop system to Windows, it would 
be desirable to limit the paradigm shifts.  By default, KDE provides an 
environment that is reasonably similar to Windows.  This makes it easier 
for a Windows-user to switch to Linux.

Merton Campbell Crockett

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