The evolution of mascara in Windows UI


The "look" of the Windows user interface has gone through fashion cycles.

In the beginning, there was Windows 1.0, which looked very flat because screen resolutions were rather low in those days and color depth was practically nonexistent. If you had 16 colors, you were doing pretty good. You couldn't afford to spend very many pixels on fluff like borders, and shadows were out of the question due to lack of color depth.

The "flat look" continued in Windows 2.0, but Windows 3.0 added a hint of 3D (notice the beveling in the minimize/maximize buttons and in the toolbar buttons on the help window).

Other people decided that the 3D look was the hot new thing, and libraries sprung up to add 3D shadow and outlining effects to nearly everything. The library CTL3D.DLL started out as just an Excel thing, but it grew in popularity until it became the "standard" way to make your dialog boxes "even more 3D".

Come Windows 95, even more of the system had a 3D look. Notice the beveling along the inside edge of the panes in the Explorer window. Furthermore, 3D-ness was turned on by default for all programs that marked themselves as "4.0"; i.e., programs that were designed for Windows 95. For programs that wanted to run on older versions of Windows as well, a new dialog style DS_3DLOOK was added, so that they could indicate that they wanted 3D-ization if available.

And if the 3D provided by Windows 95 by default wasn't enough, you could use CTL3D32.DLL to make your controls even more 3D. By this point, things started getting really ugly. Buttons on dialog boxes had so many heavy black outlines that it started to look like a really bad mascara job.

Fortunately, like many fashions that get out of hand, people realized that too much 3D is not a good thing. User interfaces got flatter. Instead of using 3D effects and bold outlines to separate items, subtler dividers were used. Divider lines became more subdued and sometimes disappeared entirely.

Microsoft Office and Microsoft Money were two programs that embraced the "less is more" approach. In this screenshot from Microsoft Money, observe that the beveling is gone. There are no 3D effects. Buttons are flat and unobtrusive. The task pane separates itself from the content pane by a simple gray line and a change in background shade. Even the toolbar has gone flat. Office 2000 also went largely flat, though some 3D effects linger, in the grooves and in the scrollbars (not visible in picture).

Windows XP jumped on the "flat is good" bandwagon and even got rid of the separator line between the tasks pane and the contents pane. The division is merely implied by the change in color. "Separation through juxtaposition."

Office XP and Outlook 2003 continue the trend and flatten nearly everything aside from the scrollbar elements. Blocks of color are used to separate elements onscreen, sometimes with the help of simple outlines.

So now the pendulum of fashion has swung away from 3D back towards flatness. Who knows how long this school of visual expression will hold the upper hand. Will 3D return with a vengeance when people tire of the starkness of the flat look?

Comments (86)
  1. I just wish that it was consistent! Aside from the varying levels of 3D-ness and flatness, the thing that kills me is that almost every app has different menu behavior and look-and-feel. Some menus fly-out, other don’t. Some menu titles highlight on hover, some don’t. Some menu items have icons, some don’t. Some overall consistency would be wonderful.

  2. Jack Mathews says:

    Yes, the Office team has gradient-itis, and it really needs to stop. It started with the gradient title bars in Office 95, and pervades the toolbars. It makes my Olive themed XP look even more like baby poop. :-)

  3. DrPizza says:

    mang, I remember back in the day when Chicago looked like the dog’s bollocks.

    Nowadays it looks like ass.

  4. It may be worth noting that limited ability to add 3D to websites assisted the taming of the 3D craze in applications. My first impression of MS Money was, "They’re making it look more like a website!"

    It’s a good change though. I like the "separation through juxtaposition" concept, and I happen to like the GUI of Office 2003 better than the older ones. And I like the look of VS2005 even more.

  5. Mat Hall says:

    Office really bugs me with its almost-but-not-quite-normal look, and draggable menus are just braindamaged; click-and-drag is a common way of selecting a menu item, but in Office that can result in your menus ending up floating about somewhere.

    But really I just want to know who decided Office was going to use an SDI so I can kick them squarely in the area they don’t want to be kicked squarely in…

  6. asdf says:

    It’s too bad the VS 2005 people decided to outdo the steaming pile of crap that is Office 2003.

  7. quanta says:

    In many ways, programs now mirrored the styling cues of website design. Embossed grey widgets gave way to clean, artistic interfaces with earthy tones like brown and green. Why, your own blog is as flat as a pancake!

  8. What works for the web, doesn’t necessarily work for a program. In general a web is a medium where you get information from, and maybe navigate – and just like an encyclopedia – its flat. Compare this with something you interact with, say a car dashboard/steering wheel, which uses depth to indicate how to interact.

    I always wondered why MS promoted their Windows Logo requirements, and then wrote Office which looked like it was trying to break every single requirement in order. There may have been some compelling reason to redesign combo boxes from scratch, with 90% identical behaviour, but I could never think of it.

  9. mschaef says:

    "with, say a car dashboard/steering wheel, which uses depth to indicate how to interact"

    Depth cues are more important in a car: they provide a way to feel for controls without taking your eyes off the road. That’s a big part of the reason GM’s early experiments with using touch screen based controls (mid 80’s Buick and Oldsmobile, primarily) for HVAC/Radio didn’t do too well. These days, even BMW’s iDrive retains physical controls for basic functionality.

  10. IMHO, I do not like the new flat look of XP. I prefer the more 3D-look of it’s predecessors. I also don’t like how the new "web" look has removed the borders around many of the controls. I liked the solid line borders delimitating the controls. But then I’m also the guy who thinks Windows reached it’s pinnacle with NT4. :)

    I think Microsoft is guilty of redesigning the UI not because the new design is better, but because it’s different. Windows is a product just like anything else, people want to think they are getting something new and "cool" when they buy it. I think a good parallel to Windows UI design is automobile design. In the 50s/60s cars were rounded and aerodynamic. Then in the 70s/80s cars became more squared in style. The 90s saw the return rounded. And if you look at many of the new designs coming out, squared is coming back around. Rounded, square, rounded, square… I wonder what’s next in the sequence. :) Car companies know they need to redesign it to keep sales up, and apparently if you wait long enough you can introduce an old idea and the public will accept it as "fresh." Is Microsoft doing the same thing with Windows UI design? It went from flat to 3D controls and now we’re going back to flat. How long is it before things go 3D again?

  11. Michael says:

    First off, I would like to say up front that I have never owned an Apple Macintosh. Having said that, have any of you seen the latest Mac GUI or followed the evolution of the GUI? It is truly amazing! The balance between aesthetics and functionality is always years ahead of MS. I have never been able to figure out why with all the resources at its disposal, MS has always been behind the design / aesthetic curve. Maybe the wealth of resources is the problem. You know, to may cooks the kitchen.

  12. ATZ Man says:

    Your big money comes from corporate/site upgrades and OEM bundles ("You" being MSFT). I agree with the comment above that you seem to be trying to drive upgrades by making the old look old, but there’s no sense in making Office look and act different from other Windows apps. The people who decide to renew the multi-year site contract or OEM bundle contract will be just as impressed if the whole thing moves at once. If the whole thing changed looks at the same time, well, okay, not as good for the world as cheap AIDS drugs, but still valuable.

    Also, if Office didn’t have so darn many designers working on differentiating it from the OS (?), the excess designers would find work doing something else, I would think.

    Dr. Pizza, ever since that Sex Pistols album from the ’70’s I’ve been trying to get the meaning of "b*llocks" and apart from the anatomical I just don’t get it.

    Mike Dunn, my favorite UI designer buzzword is "discoverable."

  13. I disagree. I think the changes have been more about design and color than flatness VS 3D-ness or even Mascara VS Plain-ness.

    Although I’m very impressed by this compilation of images and stages Microsoft has gone through.

    "Other people decided that the 3D look was the hot new thing, and libraries sprung up to add 3D shadow and outlining effects to nearly everything." – Raymond

    I think the main motivation was that Windows 3.0 was visually outdated. I remembered taking an Information Systems class where they taught us how to use Windows 95 and Windows 3.whatever – It was obvious to me then that 1995 was a bit late in our society’s artistic life cycle to re-haul Windows. Thus, without Windows being completely redone, many designers were desperately trying to update something to make the design of the incredibly flawed Windows 3.0 look at least slightly more current. Unfortunately, as you mentioned, the result was black smudges outlining the images.

    You went on to talk about how design has gotten less 3D. I think it’s actually gotten more 3D. What I mean is that it’s gotten more actual 3D, more realistic to the true 3D world. I look at my screen now, and I see the Windows Bar on top beveled with a shallow shadow running horizontally across the middle. The minimize, maximize, and close buttons are all beveled and highlighted. The toolbar, which is "only separated by lines," still has beveled highlights on the lines, creating a faint 3D effect. The Toolbar buttons are all beveled, highlighted, and a few are even shadowed (the back circle arrow button has distinct shadow in its lower right side). The Internet Explorer Windows symbol in the top right is also highlighted perfectly. The scrollbars on the right are also 3D. The checkbox next to remember me is also shadowed. The Submit button below it is very solid-looking (as well as the "Powered by ASP.net" icon on the bottom of this page). Let’s not get started about the very 3D Windows XP interface. Finally, let’s look at this page. Notice how the sides of the text box have thicker lines than the tops and bottoms? Notice how the box around all the text boxes is very thick on the bottom?

    Bottom Line: While I agree with all your details, I don’t think this is about a transformation from 3D to 2D (as you imply). I think Microsoft (and our virtual design world in general) has made a transformation from 2D to poor attempts at 3D to getting 3D right. I see more and more icons and interfaces becoming 3D. Even the ".Text" logo has 3D in it (plus the right outer border of it contains a faint shadow).

    "Observe those 3D tube-style gradient toolbars in Office 2003." – Centaur

    I thought of that while reading this too. It’s very tube-like and metallic. I agree that it was a bit more of a distracting change, and not all that necessary. However, I do love the more 3D re-hauls of all the Office logos. That alone is worth the price of "annoying tube toolbar."

    "Almost every app has different menu behavior and look-and-feel." – Christopher

    Agreed. However, how can we create standards for millions of designers and engineers? I think in general all app designers need to conform or else people will be turned off of their products. Bottom line: Don’t use the apps that are too confusing. If they get poor sales, then maybe they might change. Otherwise, if they don’t think it’s broken…

    "It makes my Olive themed XP look even more like baby poop. :-)" – Jack

    Maybe there should be an XP theme called "Baby Poop." It would basically be Olive with all the animations added in that you’re currently trying hard to not think about.

    That’s the next annoying fad in interface design: Annoying animated interfaces. It all started with that stupid paperclip…

    "I have yet to see anybody who does things like docks their Office menus on the left or right side of the screen…" – mschaef

    Yes, it’s all about creating useless features so that you can say you’ve added something. =^)

    "Today, Raymond Chen has an interesting look at the evolution of depth (you know, the third dimension) in the interface of Windows and Windows applications, from the original 2D look of Windows 1.0 to the waaaaaaaay too 3D look of…" – Q

    Hmm… Thought provoking…

    "Click-and-drag is a common way of selecting a menu item, but in Office that can result in your menus ending up floating about somewhere." – Mat

    No it’s not. Not anymore at least. That’s an old habit you should break yourself of immediately. Nowadays, a single click or rollover will open up a menu the exact same way as a drag.

    "Embossed grey widgets gave way to clean, artistic interfaces with earthy tones like brown and green. Why, your own blog is as flat as a pancake!" – quanta

    That’s the other major improvement: color. I think all websites aren’t "earthy tones" by any means, nor is it a fad ("the new pink"). However, the true change has been in color design. The design and mix of colors has merely improved (usually resulting in less neon and dark solids, as it should be). Also, this blog actually isn’t 100% flat…

    "There may have been some compelling reason to redesign combo boxes from scratch, with 90% identical behaviour, but I could never think of it." – Neil

    (1) There is a reason.

    (2) It is a good one…

    SALES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    If it looks different and there is a new list of features, then, dag nabbit, it must be a new version. Let’s go buy it!!!

    I think the actual solution is for us to provide input to the designers in how they can constantly change the interface every few years and still make it look great every time. That’s hard. Once you make it look great, it’s hard to make it look great again. You almost have to "un-great" it in order for it to be different.

    "I think Microsoft is guilty of redesigning the UI not because the new design is better, but because it’s different. Windows is a product just like anything else, people want to think they are getting something new and "cool" when they buy it. I think a good parallel to Windows UI design is automobile design. In the 50s/60s cars were rounded and aerodynamic. Then in the 70s/80s cars became more squared in style. The 90s saw the return rounded. And if you look at many of the new designs coming out, squared is coming back around. Rounded, square, rounded, square… I wonder what’s next in the sequence. :) Car companies know they need to redesign it to keep sales up, and apparently if you wait long enough you can introduce an old idea and the public will accept it as "fresh." Is Microsoft doing the same thing with Windows UI design? It went from flat to 3D controls and now we’re going back to flat. How long is it before things go 3D again?" – Brian

    Poop in a bucket!!! You stole my response from me before I gave it (and managed to turn it into a discussion about cars – you must be a guy). Seriously, though, you are absolutely right. However, I don’t see things "becoming less 3D." I just see them as "becoming more realistically 3D" and I see a lot of lazy engineers not bothering with adding much 3D into their designs (as is the case now, this page in point). I wonder if boxy cars will ever come "back into style." I hope not. They’re way lame. Like I said, though, as Flash and other vector craziness unleashes itself, I think the future (and quickly becoming present) design fad/annoyance is animation and not the whole 2D/3D debate.

    "Making controls or splitter bars flat takes away the affordance of the objects looking clickable." – Mike

    Great point. It’s all about making something desirable to click. I’ve done that in a huge number of ways. I’ve made things look a lot like buttons when doing stuff for kids:

    http://www.agentsofthespirit.com

    As well as trying to make text look (or feel) clickable when doing stuff for older people:

    http://www.wwwdotcomedy.com

    I’ve basically just researched, going around on a ton of sites and figuring out what makes links and such look like links (without making them all ugly blue underlined text and/or annoyingly 3D buttons).

    So ends this book.

    Ed <><

  14. "First off, I would like to say up front that I have never owned an Apple Macintosh. Having said that, have any of you seen the latest Mac GUI or followed the evolution of the GUI? It is truly amazing! The balance between aesthetics and functionality is always years ahead of MS. I have never been able to figure out why with all the resources at its disposal, MS has always been behind the design / aesthetic curve. Maybe the wealth of resources is the problem." – Michael

    Me neither. However, I have used them randomly and must agree that Apple has great designers (even thought they are less in number than Microsoft). The Windows 95 interface basically just decided to outright rip off Apple’s design (except they logically put the toolbar on the bottom and spiced it up a bit, making the layout more logical and the design a bit more 3D). The solution? One should keep copying Apple until he starts getting his own original ideas. Plus, Macromedia has the best demos for their apps (like Flash). Microsoft should copy them too.

    "You know, to may cooks the kitchen." – Michael

    Yes, to may does definitely cook the kitchen. Big time.

    Ed <><

  15. Cooney says:

    Michael:

    > I have never been able to figure out why with all the resources at its disposal, MS has always been behind the design / aesthetic curve.

    Microsoft has no taste. It’s really that simple.

  16. mschaef says:

    "The Windows 95 interface basically just decided to outright rip off Apple’s design "

    To me, at least the window management of Windows 95 has always looked closer to NeXTStep than MacOS.

  17. "To me, at least the window management of Windows 95 has always looked closer to NeXTStep than MacOS." – mschaef

    Good point. The windows management wasn’t taken from MacOS (I was thinking of the desktop layout). They actually did a pretty good job of stealing from several different sources. That’s how you create something "original." You steal from as many different sources as possible. Then, it can’t be traced back to stealing from a single source. =^)

    Ed <><

  18. Microsoft has a load of fresh 3D in Longhorn for us. I’m afraid even to think of it.

  19. KiwiBlue says:

    Encarta even got its place in Windows API: flat scrollbars can be set to FSB_ENCARTA_MODE :)

  20. Q Daily News says:

    Today, Raymond Chen has an interesting look at the evolution of depth (you know, the third dimension) in the interface of Windows and Windows applications, from the original 2D look of Windows 1.0 to the waaaaaaaay too 3D look of…

  21. Aarrgghh says:

    Flat scrollbars! Hurrah! The subject of my all-time favorite sentence in MSDN:

    "…a new visual technology called flat scroll bars…"

    http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/shellcc/platform/commctls/flatsb/flatsb.asp

    First runner-up: "…true Single Document Interface (SDI) technology…"

    http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=http://support.microsoft.com:80/support/kb/articles/Q230/6/84.ASP&NoWebContent=1

    Yeah, I hate that cheap imitation single-document interface technology!

    Either way, I get an image of an old 1960s NASA engineer, with the short-sleeved white shirt, skinny black tie, and horn-rimmed glasses, testing the experimental Flat Scrollbar Technology in a wind-tunnel. "The technology’s still not ready, Mr. President. It’s breaking up into multiple documents on re-entry. Until the metallurgists can give us a stronger alloy, we just can’t make the scrollbar as thin as we need but still able to withstand the shear stresses in the subduction zone."

  22. Check out the napkin look and feel for java apps, from the url above.

    It makes apps look like they were scrawled on the back of a napkin. Its aim in life is to keep management expectations nice a low -if the GUI looks hand drawn, they dont expect it to be shippable for a while.

    But it is actually the most interesting skin I’ve seen for a long time. Its a return to the old "windows as pieces of paper" metaphor that Xerox started with, with a nice little twist. Expect to see it in shipping products before long :)

  23. Jeremy Morton says:

    "I have yet to see anybody who does things like docks their Office menus on the left or right side of the screen…" – mschaef

    I ALWAYS dock the menu to the left side in Office, and I’d dock all the toolbars that way if I wouldn’t lose the dropdown controls doing that. For documents, vertical screen space is MUCH more valuable than horizontal on a 4:3 screen, and even moreso on a 16:9 display. I wish every app let me move the menus vertical.

  24. John Elliott says:

    Can I put in a harsh word for whoever it was wasted everyone’s time with those silly two-tone menus in Visual Studio .NET? Apart from anything else, they interact very badly with my preferred colour scheme. Everything else works fine:

    http://www.seasip.info/Misc/correct.png

    and then VS.NET ends up using nearly the same colour for selected and unselected items:

    http://www.seasip.info/Misc/wrong.png

    Furthermore, there doesn’t seem to be an option to turn off the silly menus and use standard ones. In earlier versions of Visual Studio, you could (select "use screen reader compatible menus").

  25. The Old New Thing, one of my favorite weblogs on the net (written by a Microsoft employee with all sorts of great old operating-system-trivia) has a great article posted on how the Windows interface went from 2D to 3D and…

  26. "Poop in a bucket!!! You stole my response from me before I gave it (and managed to turn it into a discussion about cars – you must be a guy). Seriously, though, you are absolutely right. However, I don’t see things "becoming less 3D." I just see them as "becoming more realistically 3D" and I see a lot of lazy engineers not bothering with adding much 3D into their designs (as is the case now, this page in point). I wonder if boxy cars will ever come "back into style." I hope not. They’re way lame. Like I said, though, as Flash and other vector craziness unleashes itself, I think the future (and quickly becoming present) design fad/annoyance is animation and not the whole 2D/3D debate." -Ed

    You took MY response. I think what is happening is that there is a move towards more realistic 3d instead of the 3d-esque approach UI’s have been dabbling in over the years. This isn’t only true about Windows, but X11 (KDE, Gnome, any Windows manager) and MacOS as well. The hard part is because your screen is ALWAYS 2d, it’s hard to make a 3d object actually look 3d. You have to do a lot of mind manipulation here to get people to think it’s really 3d when in actuality none of it us (until we get 3d displays).

    So yeah, we’re moving towards a more realistic looking 3d while still being confined to a 2d display. Until our displays change we’ll constantly be playing catch up in practically every OS. They are starting to get it right though.

    I have a beef with Office only that I don’t get the same controls they use. I have to make my own, or pay out the butt for them from some other developer who spent their countless hours making their own versions. Why not simply release those versions right along with Office? Making our apps have an "Office feel" is what the majority of developers are looking for. It’s not really just to conform in that it’s more that Office is "familiar" to most Windows users. People gravitate to what they know, or perceive to know more than something new. Even if your UI is top notch you still may have less of a following if it was more along the Office style.

    Honestly though I think the only reason people look for Office style apps is because they’re used to it. They know the gradient toolbars, they understand the menus yet they wonder why Joe Schmoe’s extremely important app looks like a 3rd grader developed it simply because Joe Schmoe couldn’t spend the money on the toolset that made it look more like Office. Who’s at fault here? MS for not releasing their UI or Joe Schmoe for not spending a ton of money he doesn’t have on a 3rd party technology that may or may not work as good as Office in the first place. You lose competition this way, but you also lose developers and even though MS can afford this now it may not be the case in the future.

  27. robdelacruz says:

    The reason 2D is back in vogue is due to apps trying to look like browser apps. So buttons become more "link"-like, and the distinction between edit boxes and window real estate blurrs. Me I’d prefer a good ol’ console or keyboard shortcut-friendly interface any day (think Lynx or Mutt).

  28. Raymond Chen says:

    The Office team works hard on their "look" (whether you like it or not you have to admit that they do have their own "look"). Why should they give it away? Should Adobe give away the classes that implement the Adobe "look"? If you write a program and give it a special "look" should you be required to give away your classes?

  29. Jonathan says:

    Like all Windows programs should, Office should use the Windows themes as much as it can. The worst abuse of this has got to be Office 2003 using the XP theme’s main color for menu and toolbar backgrounds. I use the default XP blue theme, and I like how the theme defines the blue title bar, gray/tan menus and toolbars, etc.. But then there’s Office, which thinks that just because I have blue title bars that I want my entire user interface to be blue. It’s terrible.

  30. Centaur says:

    *But*, it’s already there, just in other form. Observe those 3D tube-style gradient toolbars in Office 2003. I kind of liked the flatness of 2000…

  31. mschaef says:

    "Some overall consistency would be wonderful. "

    The pattern seems to go like this:

    * Microsoft releases new OS with new control style

    * Office is released with a new, "fancier", implementation of the common controls and menus

    * Most everybody else _tries_ to emulate Office with their own custom control library. (ctl3d at least had a public API so it could be reused by third parties)

    I’d just like to see Office use the controls and menus the OS provides. I have yet to see anybody who does things like docks their Office menus on the left or right side of the screen…

  32. Howard says:

    I <i>do</i> use a Mac daily, and I don’t really see the justification for some of these pro-Mac comments…

    Ed: "the Windows 95 interface basically just decided to outright rip off Apple’s design (except they logically put the toolbar on the bottom and spiced it up a bit,"

    Well, the toolbar in Win95 is a task switcher and launcher. The task switcher part of ‘classic’ MacOS (Windows 95’s contemporary) is a fiddly drop-down menu, and the launcher is a seperate floating app. What bit did they steal?

    OS X actually does have some nice task switching stuff – the alt-tab taskman style one and expose – but the older OS is pretty horrible. I guess compared to Ctrl-Esc in Win 3.1 (which was the only way to get the task manager from memory) it’s a step forward, but it’s hardly an outright rip-off.

    As for the dock – it’s really a jumped up version of the Quick Launch area of the 98/2000/XP start bar (although I believe it’s ancestor is in NextSTEP). A place to park useful things. If you want to use expose, you don’t really want to minimize windows anyway, so that part is pretty pointless. To make things less useable, it jumps around as you try and click on things. This impresses passers-by but it’s not a " balance between aesthetics and functionality" as Michael described the UI. It’s a compromise of usefulness for flash.

    That all said, Quartz and the imaging generally on the desktop really is very nice! My powerbook’s desktop feels a whole lot faster and slicker than my (much more powerful) desktop PC running XP. In terms of usability, I find myself missing features of Windows on the Mac rather than vice versa. It was only in OS 10.3 that you were able to properly navigate a dialog box with keyboard shortcuts, for example.

  33. Mike Dunn says:

    What no one seems to realize is that while too much 3D is bad, *just enough* 3D is perfect. I think Win 95 got it perfect and the Windows UI as a whole has gone downhill since then. Take Win 95 with some nice hi-color icons and that would be the perfect UI for me.

    Making controls or splitter bars flat takes away the affordance of the objects looking clickable. I’ll never understand the rationale behind purposely _taking away_ an affordance.

    Having little pictures floating around near the top of the window does nothing but give the user more cruft to ignore. (They already ignore the caption bar, what’s one more row?) This opinion has been backed up by usability research that I’ve participated in.

    When I see a UI that’s all flat and I have to scan with the mouse to find stuff I can actually interact with, I know that UI was made by an artist. In my experience, artists make lousy UI designers. And when I hear something described as "subtle" I want to scream. An app’s main UI should never be subtle, since doing so means a) a lot of people won’t see the subtle stuff (that’s why it’s subtle) and b) users who need that feature will have to scan the UI looking for the subtle UI elements. Subtelty should be relegated to stuff like tray icons.

    And would someone please stop the Office design team. And once you do, send me whatever they were smoking when they thought up the blue gradient toolbars. Nasty.

  34. Robi Khan says:

    Yeah they work hard on it. But What about UI standards and guidelines? MS is not just another company, it’s the standard setter. Everytime a new Office comes out everyone has to rev their apps to look up to date. But no one can do this fast enough so we end up with a mishmash of visual styles and UI behaviour in the desktop (like Office not implementing underline-on-ALT years after it was put into Windows). Or lockable toolbars, which are great in XP, but still missing from Office2k3. If consistency didn’t matter we could all run X where every freaking program has it’s own toolkit.

    This look and feel treadill is a real pain in the ass for developers. Which is why your WinForms colleagues are in fact, ‘giving it away’ (the Office 2003 look) in WinForms 2.0. About time.

    Or maybe the Windows user interface guidelines should just come with a ‘we were just kidding’ disclaimer…

  35. Matt says:

    Yes, Raymond. If the office team insist on creating a new look and feel for their applications they should be required to give it away. Not for the sake of giving away toolkits (something that MS is only sometimes interested in) but for the sake of platform consistency and usability.

    In a corporate setting Office is the most used application and therefore becomes the "look and feel" that users get comfortable with. Third party applications should be able to leverage that familiarity, especially given Office has no substantial competitors.

    In short, Office should stick with the standard UI or let others use it’s new controls. There’s even a precedent for that in your entry – CTL3D.DLL from Excel.

  36. Matt says:

    On another point, with a theming engine now in Windows, why do the Office team need to create their own controls now? Surely they could ship an "Office" theme to create that "prettier than other apps" marketing advantage without creating inconsistencies in other applications.

  37. Raymond Chen says:

    Um, the Office team can’t create themes. Only the OS team can create themes.

  38. Joe says:

    Encarta has always* had the Supah-Flat look. And I’ve always like it.

    http://goinside.com/98/10/ers99-15.gif

    * At least as long as I can remember.

  39. Matt says:

    The office team can create themes. They need them signed by the OS team. Surely that requires less work than creating a whole new set of widgets. And promotes a discussion of whether Office should really have a different look at a whole company level.

  40. Although I am all for the flat look (within reason – as long as we can still tell what is clickable), I am dissapointed by Office 2003 because the 3D shading on the menus makes them cluttered and hard to read at a glance.

    It may be fine for people who like 800×600 displays and a lot of sideways scrolling, but for users in 1280×1024 on a 17" TFT monitor, being able to identify the icons in a menubar at a glanch without squinting is desirable.

    The previous version of Office was instantly clickable at a glance, but with this one I find myself having to look hard and think about where the item is likely to be found.

    I think one of the significant advantages of the new flat look, when done well, is that being less cluttered helps you find things more quickly with less effort, especially when you’re tired at the end of a day staring at a screen. Applications that have too much 3D (or flat ones that have too many colours and highlights) tend to be less readable at a glance.

  41. Derek Park says:

    "The [Mac] balance between aesthetics and functionality is always years ahead of MS." – Michael

    Apple has always been more about aesthetics than functionality. Surely you remember the completely circular mouse they put out with the iMac a few years ago. Stroke of genius. As if it weren’t bad enough only having one button, they made it harder to use by making it virtually impossible to just place a hand on the mouse and click.

    —–

    I wouldn’t say Windows is really more or less 3D. It’s just different 3D. The 9x line was a very flat 3D. XP adds texture and shading. That’s really all the newer Office widgets do, too.

    And while there is more of the flat look showing up in certain areas, it’s definitely not the same as the old flat look. The older flat look was due to lack of colors. The new flat look takes advantage of the vast colors. Instead of ugly color breaks used to separate areas, it’s possible to just have different shades to separate areas. For certain applications, a flat (but clearly separated) interface is better.

    I think it’s typically simpler to get information from a flat page. It emulates paper, and provides smoother transitions between sections. i.e. The edges on 3D windows "trap" the eye. This is probably a good thing when true separation is needed. e.g. When entering discrete pieces of data, such as a telephone number, and then an address, etc. But when reading lots of information, a smoother transition, such as flat shading provides, is no doubt better. e.g. When checking a sheet full of already-entered addresses, it’s no doubt simpler to skim a block-shaded page than jump from textbox to textbox. For this, stark breaks (thick bold lines or contrasting blocks, as opposed to differently shaded blocks) are probably as bad as 3D elements. It’s here that the modern flat styles excel.

  42. Anon says:

    One thing I don’t understand, Raymond, is how can the office team get the logo, if they don’t even conform to the user’s theme choice? If I don’t want to run the strange menus in Office XP, why do they get to not let me make the choice (i.e., conform to my Windows settings), and still meet the logo req’s? Pretty much no matter what I want to do, Office XP ignores me and does whatever it thinks is "coolest".

    It really pisses me off that they make logo requirements, but don’t have to make their programs listen to my settings.

  43. Anon says:

    Sorry, after re-reading my post, it seems a little harsh towards you Raymond.

    If you have a good explanation of why they meet the logo requirements for UI, I’d really appreciate it.

  44. I agree with others that think that WinXP has gotten *more* (not less) 3D. There is subtle shadowing in *everything* I see on my screen that adds depth without distraction or ugliness. 3D isn’t about *more* shadowing, it’s about *better* shadowing.

  45. Chris Becke says:

    Actually I DO think the office team should give away or share their widgets. Or if thats not possible they should just use the OS widgets and send the office developers responsible for widget development over to the OS team.

    The fact is, the office look and feel is important enough that it defines how the end user sees the entire OS. Which means non MS developrers must chase the office look – not just use the default OS look for menu’s toolbars etc.

    Which has two horrible consequences:

    1. An awful profusion of MSDN magazine articles describing how to write XYZ menu look for MFC/API/C# apps that looks a lot like the menu in Office, but nonetheless works subtly differently to the office menu, and the countless other clone implementations out there.

    2. When people upgrade to the next version of the OS and or Office – all the applications get a wierd half-there look where the default controls they used use the new OS look, and all their custom stuff now looks distinctly old OS.

    I mean sure – from inside Microsoft the OS guys and the Office guys are completely seperate competing teams. From the outside however, all we see is "Microsoft" and it looks damned silly when Office doesn’t use the OS widgets. At least it looks silly to me. It looks like wasted effort.

  46. Not only do we get umpty-ump versions of the office shaded widgets in DLLs, but now we are getting the same in dotNet too. All loveingly namespaced and separate from all the other widget implementations, all subtly different too.

    Good thing the hardware guys are saving our asses again (Moore’s Law still working? oh good – still working. Right – throw some more drop shadows on those popups, and animate those buttons!)

  47. Raymond Chen says:

    "The office team can create themes. They need them signed by the OS team."

    And then the OS team would have to let *any* company create themes. That’s a slippery slope. Then you get accused of favoritism if you approve one company’s theme and not another company’s. Best not to get involved, avoid the lawsuits.

  48. David Heffernan says:

    Office should use standard controls, common dialogs etc. They should make the apps look as standard as possible. The we won’t have to keep on learning and relearning whether a toolbar button is depressed or not.

    MS puts out good guidlines for app design. The MS apps departments should follow these guidelines like the rest of us do.

  49. Mario Goebbels says:

    I actually like the Office 2003 style, but then again, I use the classic skin including its original colors. Probably the only color set that style looks nice.

  50. Eric TF Bat says:

    It worries me to hear the Office team described as a separate "company". I realise everything looks blurry up close, but I can tell you with absolute certainty it’s not: the Office team is part of the moderately successful Seattle-based floppy-disk distributor formerly known as Traf-O-Data, and is not a separate company at all.

    All of which means I share what seems to be the majority view here: the Office team needs to rethink its basic attitude, stop playing prima-donna, and use the same UI as the rest of the world. Otherwise, why have standards at all? It’s irresponsible and more than a little childish to behave as they do, and I’m disappointed to hear the attitude stated so boldly. I may be an old Forth programmer, and therefore I may be a believer that "Standards are wonderful; everyone should have one" and "If you’ve seen one Forth system, you’ve seen… one Forth system" — but it doesn’t mean I think it should apply everywhere!

  51. Eric TF Bat says:

    (BTW… I heard once that Bill’s original idea for a name for his new windowing "operating system" was "Interface Manager". Combine this with the name of his (original?) company, mentioned in my previous post, and we have my preferred name for Windows XP: Traf-O-Data Interface Manager version 6.0. Rolls off the tongue SO much better than "Microsoft Windows 95", don’t you think? Why’d they have to change it?)

  52. AndyB says:

    I’ve read all of the above, and it seems that Raymond is defending app designers who want to create their own look and feel, whilst everyone else is complaining about this lack of consistency.

    (I too, would like apps to look the same on Windows, if I wanted to be confused as to how to use an app, I’d use linux ;) )

    One of the original strengths of Windows was the ease-of-use that you got from making every app look and operate the same – everything had file|open in the same place, they all worked the same way, and if you used a non-standard app, it really stuck out like a sore thumb. Nowadays though, even using Mozilla seems quite normal on windows despite it having no relation to Windows’ look at all.

    So, I’d like to push for consistency too, in APIs, looks, everytbing. I hope MS gets the message with Longhorn as otherwise we’re going to be in a right mess with transparent this and semi-rotated that. God knows what the Office team will do when they get their hands on that! (a single pop-up semi-transparent menu that you rotate around a centre axis to get the different main menu items? Why not..)

  53. Minh Nguyen says:

    Joe, I still have a copy of Encarta ’96, and it does use a Win95-esque 3D effect for the toolbar, but that’s about it.

    That version of Encarta, at least, looked a lot like the full-screen Mac applications I used at school back then. They weren’t supposed to look anything like the OS. (Encarta ’96 even had its own, custom flat titlebar.) Computer games are still like that.

  54. Michael says:

    "Apple has always been more about aesthetics than functionality. Surely you remember the completely circular mouse they put out with the iMac a few years ago. Stroke of genius. As if it weren’t bad enough only having one button, they made it harder to use by making it virtually impossible to just place a hand on the mouse and click." – Derek Park

    When it comes to MAC HW, I could not agree more. They usually choose aesthetics over functionality. Remember the small screen on the original MAC. However I was commenting on the discussion of OS’s where they do seem to take into account functionality as well.

  55. Derek Park says:

    And that’s why it took them years to publish a preemptive multitasking OS? No. I think they kept the cooperative multitasking because someone thought it was cool for some reason. Why does the OSX dock do its wierd resizing thing? Because someone at Apple thinks it’s neat-o keen. Apple has always been about pushing pretension on the masses in the form of overpriced computers. They’ve always sold "cool". They’ve never sold function.

  56. Centaur says:

    As if this was not enough, people develop UIs that look *massively* different from the OS. Most subject to this are: media players and instant messengers. I mean, I’m not using a set-top DVD player (whatever that might be), I’m using a computer program, why can’t it *look* like a computer program? Why’d I want my instant messenger have a key chain that sticks out of its othewise mostly rectangular window, messing with the desktop size when the IM is docked to a side? Why do I need to guess what is clickable and what is just an indicator?…

    Office at least tries to look similar.

  57. Eric Newton says:

    I figured I was the only one that hates the "SandBar" look of Office 2003 and such.

    I liked the flat Office XP look. Doesnt whidbey do the sandbar look? UG!

  58. Eric Newton says:

    I just realized RSS Bandit [what i’m currently using to view this post] uses SandBar.

    YUCK! Will it ever stop!

  59. Mat Hall says:

    "context switching, which, when all the apps are playing nice – leads to far more efficient CPU utilization"

    And when they’re not playing nice, you’re in trouble…

  60. Jon Potter says:

    "And when they’re not playing nice, you’re in trouble… "

    Well that happens often enough even with pre-emptive multitasking :(

  61. Chris Becke says:

    >I think they kept the cooperative multitasking

    >because someone thought it was cool for some

    >reason.

    Actually a co-operative multitasking OS *IS* cool. You can do everything you need to do without any sort of timesliced and/or preemptive thread context switching, which, when all the apps are playing nice – leads to far more efficient CPU utilization (Assuming of course theres only a single CPU in the system).

  62. mschaef says:

    "Apple has always been about pushing pretension on the masses in the form of overpriced computers. They’ve always sold "cool". They’ve never sold function. "

    Yeah… right. Apple has placed a lot of emphasis on form, even dating back to the Apple ][, but they’ve also done an excellent job of pushing innovation into the marketplace. (Turnkey personal computers, PostScript Laser Printers, SCSI, cheap networking, GUI interface, UNIX, Drag and drop file management, PostScript-style display engine, real time window composition, PDA…)

    To say that they’ve "never sold function" does a serious disservice to one of the most historically innovative and risk taking organizations in the personal computer industry. (Not to say they haven’t made their share of stupid mistakes.)

  63. Michael says:

    Anyone who says that the MAC OS lacks functionality, is someone, who for whatever reason, chooses not to see things objectively. Maybe this answers may original question, "why is MS is still behind the aesthetic / functionality curve." And again, I am not a MAC owner or serious user.

  64. Derek Park says:

    "Actually a co-operative multitasking OS *IS* cool." — Chris Becke

    Cool, but not practical, which was exactly my point.

    "Yeah… right. Apple has placed a lot of emphasis on form, even dating back to the Apple ][, but they’ve also done an excellent job of pushing innovation into the marketplace. (Turnkey personal computers, PostScript Laser Printers, SCSI, cheap networking, GUI interface, UNIX, Drag and drop file management, PostScript-style display engine, real time window composition, PDA…)" — mschaef

    Turnkey personal computers were the direction of the industry. Apple could have disappeared, and there would still be a computer in ever house by now.

    SCSI? I’m not certain what Apple has to do with SCSI.

    UNIX? May I assume you are referring to OSX? If so, you’re referring to something which places Apple way behind the curve. It took Apple far longer to produce a UNIX-based OS than it took any number of other companies. Even NT is POSIX compliant. Apple was years behind on this one.

    Drag and drop? I’m not certain about the history of drag and drop, either, but I’d bet it came from Xerox PARC, as did the GUI, the Mouse, and (from what I hear) modern networking. Apple fans like to pretend Apple came up with a lot of the things we use today, but being the first to steal something is not the same as being the creator, nor does it make one more innovative.

    PostScript is actually from Xerox PARC as well. Two Xerox employees developed it (or parts of it) and then left to found Adobe. Though to be honest, Apple did abopt PostScript before most of the industry.

    More than anything, I think Apple is good at getting credit for things that they were never really responsible for.

  65. There are a bunch of factors here that we need to keep separate:

    1. Office ships out of band with the operating system and the support and user education costs associated with Office having a different UI on different operating systems is excessive. It’s the whole economy-of-scale thing.

    2. Windows is a platform, not an application. If there was a standard "Windows" style and applications had to adhere to it, while it may or may not create a better more level playing field, it would also mean that the other platforms where applications were afforded greater opportunities for differentiation and creativity would create a problem.

    3. While Windows is a platform, it’s also the first thing that people see so while the revenue from upgrades is dwarfed that from OEM new machine sales, having the new windows look cool is another factor that helps people decide that they do want that new machine.

  66. AndyB says:

    <i1. Office ships out of band with the operating system and the support and user education costs associated with Office having a different UI on different operating systems is excessive. It’s the whole economy-of-scale thing. </i>

    Wel, I’d expect that that is true – having Office provide a different UI on the Windows platform, compared to other windows apps is huge, as you say. So why do you do it!

    I’d expect Office UI to be different on the Mac, but it would be a Mac UI, and so to all Max users it would be the same old familiar UI.

    2. I thought there was a standard Windows style – Olive Green etc, buttons that look all the same (eg curved corners, slightly shiny colours), controls that work the same way (eg the fileopen dialog).

    I don’t care about a level playing field, I care about UI consistency.

  67. mschaef says:

    Derek: "but being the first to steal something is not the same as being the creator, nor does it make one more innovative. "

    If you recall, my exact words were: "they’ve also done an excellent job of pushing innovation into the marketplace"; I never said much about the source of the innovation.

    My point is that Apple has historically done a good job of taking the leading edge of the "R" in "R&D" and moving it into "D", and ultimately into profitable production. In basically every technology I mentioned above, the WinTel platform lagged and followed Apple, even though it was more profitable.

    Does this really sound like the track record of a company that fits this description: "Apple has always been about pushing pretension on the masses in the form of overpriced computers. They’ve always sold "cool". They’ve never sold function."

  68. mschaef says:

    "even though it was more profitable. "

    it == Microsoft

  69. Derek Park says:

    I think you’re giving Apple way too much credit. Microsoft has always seemed to jump on good (and sometimes bad) ideas as soon as they could.

    Microsoft announced (and previewed, I believe) Windows 1 before the Macintosh ever hit the market. Several other GUIs hit the market roughly when the Mac did. VisiOn hit the market before Macintosh.

    When exactly was Apple providing cheap networking while the PC world wasn’t? And seriously, did Apple actually push SCSI to mainstream consumers at some point? If they did, I’d hardly call that a good point. SCSI is too expensive to be worth it to most people. Even the G5s are using SATA.

    Where’s Apple’s answer to DirectX? Why haven’t I seen Apple selling tablet PCs? Why is Apple still pushing one-button mice?

    A lot of people tend to view Apple as though they are somehow always on the cusp of technology, and Microsoft is always lagging behind, but it’s just not true. Sometimes Apple manages to get a new technology first. Sometimes Microsoft does. More often than not, someone else beats both of them to it, and it’s just a matter of who catches up first.

  70. Raymond Chen says:

    I remember when Windows 95 came out, one magazine had a Mac vs. Win95 side-by-side and for many of the points (like "File search" or "Document templates" or "Virtual memory" or "Multithreaded Finder") the checkboxes went

    Windows 95: has it

    Mac: Will be in Mac OS 8 (which wasn’t released until 1997)

    Yet nobody gave the Mac any guff for copying Windows.

  71. mschaef says:

    "Yet nobody gave the Mac any guff for copying Windows. "

    You’re memory is different than mine (and google’s). It’s pretty easy to find articles dating from the 90’s both in the trade press and in groups.google slamming Apple for its antiquated OS, compared with Windows NT and 95. If Microsoft gets it worse than is "fair", then maybe that’s just karmic kickback from the way it has collectively dealt with the rest of the industry for the last 25 years. Remember that Microsoft was founded under the aegis of a open letter to "stop copying BASIC" [1], went on to write encrypted code explicitly to discredit DR-DOS [2], and is legally a monopolist convicted of abusing market power to harm competitors [3], among other public relations disasters.

    1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Letter_to_Hobbyists

    2] http://www.ddj.com/documents/s=1030/ddj9309d/

    3] http://news.com.com/2100-1001-232584.html?legacy=cnet

  72. Derek Park says:

    By the way, I actually do support open standards bodies. Some of them just don’t seem to be very effective.

  73. mschaef says:

    "But they are not fundamentally better than PCs, nor is Apple more advanced, more intelligent, or more benevolent than Microsoft. "

    If you really think I’m saying that, then you’re reading way too much into what I’m saying. I’m mainly trying to dispute your assertation that "They’ve [Apple] never sold function." That, at face value, is obviously false, even though it’s more false if you replace Apple with Microsoft.

    "Nuh-uh. Quicktime is trash. Any video application in which "full screen" still shows me my desktop on the sides is trash."

    That seems like a pretty nit-picky way to condemn an entire API. Do you have any more specifics (I’m not all that up on streaming media API’s)? In any event, I don’t remember seeing DirectShow run on MacOS…

    "Because OpenGL development moves at a snail’s pace. Where’s OpenGL 2? And how long has it been in development now? Again, DirectX is pushing the graphics industry. OpenGL is just following along. "

    How many of those rhetorical questions could have been answered differently if Microsoft had bothered to push the open standard as hard as it pushed Direct3D? It’s actually worse than that, as Microsoft has actively taken steps against the open standards community ( http://news.zdnet.co.uk/software/developer/0,39020387,2118968,00.htm ).

    Your argument is analagous to throwing dirt in a cup you’ve let sit outside for a couple weeks and then blaming the cup for foul tasting water.

    "But that’s not to say that everyone who uses a Mac is pretentious. I know some who are not. But that’s the way Apple markets. It never seems that they are marketing better technology or a better interface. They seem to be marketing elitism. It’s as if the commercials say "only plebeians use PCs".

    Apple has to do something to create value for its platform, and it basically has to be emotional in nature. Right now, in 2004, it’s hard to make a compelling, purely fact based, argument in favor of the Mac.

    "Have you ever used a tablet? They’re quite nice."

    I understand Go’s PenPoint was pretty nice too, before Microsoft killed their momentum with PenWindows. ( http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0324-02.htm http://www.mactech.com/articles/frameworks/6_2/PenPoint_Brugge.html )

    In any event, I sure hope Microsoft is more committed to Windows XP for Tablets than it was to PenWindows.

    "So yes, Apple’s selling more laptops than Microsoft is selling tablet PCs, but not by that much, considering that the tablet is still a fledgling product. "

    You’re talking about a Windows laptop with a funky hinge, a digitizer and a different version of Windows. Surely that’s an easier sell to an IT department than an iBook or PowerBook. (BTW, I’d be seriously looking at a Tablet myself, if I could convince myself the hinge would last…)

  74. Mat Hall says:

    "Where’s Apple’s answer to DirectX?"

    It’s this little thing called OpenGL. :) (Ok, this isn’t strictly true as it’s neither Apple’s doing, nor is it exactly equivalent, but OpenGL has a much wider uptake than DirectX.)

    "Why haven’t I seen Apple selling tablet PCs?"

    Probably because at the moment they’re a solution looking for a problem. Hardly anyone is actually *selling* them, even though they have them for sale. (Or to put it more succintly, "because they suck".)

    "Why is Apple still pushing one-button mice?"

    I’ve never quite understood that myself, but will play Devil’s advocate and ask the return question "why does everyone else feel that more buttons=better mouse?" The mouse I have has 6 buttons, but I only ever really use two, and even the second one is mostly employed while playing games and barely gets a look-in during actual work. That’s what the keyboard is for!

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Mac zealot, but they have a certain je ne sais quoi…

  75. mschaef says:

    "I think you’re giving Apple way too much credit."

    Maybe, but you seemed to be giving them virtually no credit at all.

    FWIW, in a different conversation, I could be just as hard on Apple as I seem to be supporting them now. As I’m sure you know, they have a history of doing immensely frustrating stuff.

    "Microsoft announced (and previewed, I believe) Windows 1 before the Macintosh ever hit the market. "

    A couple things:

    *) They were also developing software for the Mac before it hit the market.

    *) The 1983 previews of Windows looked a lot more like Multiplan and Word for DOS than Windows 1.0x. ( http://toastytech.com/guis/win19831.gif )

    "When exactly was Apple providing cheap networking while the PC world wasn’t?"

    AppleTalk/LocalTalk was part of the Macintosh Plus and System 4, although I don’t know much about the software support at the time. I do distinctly remember using early labs full of Mac Plus’s that used LocalTalk to share ImageWriters.

    "And seriously, did Apple actually push SCSI to mainstream consumers at some point? If they did, I’d hardly call that a good point. SCSI is too expensive to be worth it to most people. Even the G5s are using SATA. "

    SATA/IDE has changed a lot since it was just an ST506 knockoff with the controller on the disk drive (Integrated Drive Electronics).

    "Where’s Apple’s answer to DirectX?"

    OpenGL, QuickTime, etc…

    Why did Microsoft see the need to develop an entirely different 3D API from established industry practice?

    "Why haven’t I seen Apple selling tablet PCs?"

    They haven’t seen a need to develop them? Life’s different for companies that have to develop and sell hardware too? It gives Jobs nightmares about the Newton? I don’t know…

    "Why is Apple still pushing one-button mice? "

    Who knows…

    "More often than not, someone else beats both of them to it, and it’s just a matter of who catches up first. "

    Yup.

  76. Derek Park says:

    "If you really think I’m saying that, then you’re reading way too much into what I’m saying. I’m mainly trying to dispute your assertation that "They’ve [Apple] never sold function.""

    Apple sells an image. Just watch their commercials. That’s what they sell. It isn’t function. It’s form. It’s style. It’s a feeling of elitism. They sell working computers, but more than anything, they sell the image. Just look at the iMac. It’s not particularly functional. It’s not very upgradable. It’s not really fast. It’s not really any better than anything else on the market. But it’s grape colored, and that’s what Apple sells.

    "That seems like a pretty nit-picky way to condemn an entire API. Do you have any more specifics (I’m not all that up on streaming media API’s)? In any event, I don’t remember seeing DirectShow run on MacOS…"

    I judge Quicktime based on what they present to me. And what they present is ill conceived at best, and obnoxious at worst. I’m judging the program, not the API.

    "How many of those rhetorical questions could have been answered differently if Microsoft had bothered to push the open standard as hard as it pushed Direct3D? It’s actually worse than that, as Microsoft has actively taken steps against the open standards community (…). "

    It’s simply not practical for Microsoft to drag a standards body into the real world. It’s just so much easier to let them debate for years about what should be in the next version, and to develop something new and pass them by while they’re bickering. And I didn’t see anything in that thread which showed any actual move from Microsoft’s side, which relegates it to the "possible problems" category, which I see no point in delving into.

    "I understand Go’s PenPoint was pretty nice too, before Microsoft killed their momentum with PenWindows."

    Microsoft’s monopolistic practices have nothing to do with what Apple is selling.

    "You’re talking about a Windows laptop with a funky hinge, a digitizer and a different version of Windows. Surely that’s an easier sell to an IT department than an iBook or PowerBook. (BTW, I’d be seriously looking at a Tablet myself, if I could convince myself the hinge would last…)"

    For one thing, you’re talking about only one type of tablet: the convertable. I actually prefer the slate. For another, my only point was that they do sell fairly well, which was just a minor point of contention.

  77. Derek Park says:

    "It’s this little thing called OpenGL." — Mat Hall

    You had the smiley, so I’ll assume yu weren’t being too serious. But the fact is, OpenGL doesn’t compare to DirectX. OpenGL has a little core of standard APIs, and everything else is vendor/manufacturer specific. Core OpenGL is way behind DirectX. That’s what open standards bodies are good for. DirectX on the other hand, is responsible for pushing graphics hardware to advance. No one comes up with really gool OpenGL extensions first. They produce a graphics card which complies with the latest DirectX spec and then they build extensions so that the new features are available in OpenGL.

    "Probably because at the moment they’re a solution looking for a problem. Hardly anyone is actually *selling* them, even though they have them for sale. (Or to put it more succintly, "because they suck".)"

    Have you ever used a tablet? They’re quite nice. As for looking for a problem, they fill the gap between PDAs and Laptops, and do so quite well. As for not selling, yes they do. Over half a million tablets sold within the first year after they were introduced, so roughly 250,000 every two quarters. (This number has likely gone up.) In comparison, Apple only sold about 400,000 iBooks during the first two quarters of this fiscal year. So yes, Apple’s selling more laptops than Microsoft is selling tablet PCs, but not by that much, considering that the tablet is still a fledgling product.

    "why does everyone else feel that more buttons=better mouse?"

    Context menus are a must. It only makes sense to provide a button for them. Mac has them too, but it requires pressing the Mac key and clicking. It’s just less convenient.

    Forward and back are addictive. It’s hard to go back once you get used to them. Mouse wheels are even more so. It’s not possible to go from having a mouse wheel to not. Haven’t you ever read "Flowers for Algernon?". :p

    "you seemed to be giving them virtually no credit at all." – mschaef

    I give them credit for catering to a certain crowd. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Pretentious people need computers, too. :p But that’s not to say that everyone who uses a Mac is pretentious. I know some who are not. But that’s the way Apple markets. It never seems that they are marketing better technology or a better interface. They seem to be marketing elitism. It’s as if the commercials say "only plebeians use PCs".

    http://www.penny-arcade.com/view.php3?date=2002-07-12&res=l

    "They were also developing software for the Mac before it hit the market."

    No doubt. My point was that Microsoft was doing work on Windows before the Mac was successful.

    "The 1983 previews of Windows looked a lot more like Multiplan and Word for DOS than Windows 1.0x."

    Eh, maybe so. I don’t really have much to say about that.

    "AppleTalk/LocalTalk"

    Perhaps Apple did push networking earlier than everyone else. (I wasn’t disputing that point. I honestly wanted to know.)

    "QuickTime"

    Nuh-uh. Quicktime is trash. Any video application in which "full screen" still shows me my desktop on the sides is trash.

    "Why did Microsoft see the need to develop an entirely different 3D API from established industry practice?"

    Because OpenGL development moves at a snail’s pace. Where’s OpenGL 2? And how long has it been in development now? Again, DirectX is pushing the graphics industry. OpenGL is just following along.

    I certainly don’t want to tell people not to use Macs. But they are not fundamentally better than PCs, nor is Apple more advanced, more intelligent, or more benevolent than Microsoft.

  78. Mat Hall says:

    This takes me back to the heady days of comp.sys.*.advocacy, and apart from a few specific details the arguments are still as fatuous as they were 10 years ago. :)

    If you like Macs, buy Macs. If you don’t, then don’t. No-one is forcing you either way, and it’s all a matter of personal preference…

    </voice-of-reason>

  79. mschaef says:

    "I judge Quicktime based on what they present to me. And what they present is ill conceived at best, and obnoxious at worst. I’m judging the program, not the API."

    Then you’re taking my mention of QuickTime out of context (which was in comparison to the DirectX/DirectShow API, per your question "Where’s Apple’s answer to DirectX?").

    I guess that in advocacy discussions like this it’s pretty easy to have the ground shift underfoot.

    "Just look at the iMac. It’s not particularly functional."

    It runs Office and a web browser among other things…

    "It’s not very upgradable."

    …Most folks replace rather than upgrade these days…

    "It’s not really fast."

    …it’s fast enough…

    "But it’s grape colored, and that’s what Apple sells. "

    …and actually white. :)

    Anyway, I’ll just leave it at what I said last week: "Apple has placed a lot of emphasis on form, even dating back to the Apple ][, but they’ve also done an excellent job of pushing innovation into the marketplace. "

  80. Derek Park says:

    "If you like Macs, buy Macs. If you don’t, then don’t." – Mat Hall

    "I certainly don’t want to tell people not to use Macs." – Derek Park

    "</voice-of-reason>"

    The voice of reason is quite unnecessary in this case.

    "Then you’re taking my mention of QuickTime out of context (which was in comparison to the DirectX/DirectShow API, per your question "Where’s Apple’s answer to DirectX?")." – mschaef

    I should have been more narrow and said Direct3D, which Quicktime most definitely does not answer. (By the way, it’s no more correct to equate DirectShow with DirectX than to equate Direct3D with DirectX.)

    "It runs Office and a web browser among other things…"

    A 386 can run Linux, Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, etc. It’s still not functional in the sense that a recent, reasonable computer is functional.

    "…Most folks replace rather than upgrade these days…"

    And hey, if you buy an iMac/eMac, that’s pretty much your only choice, so it works out great. Oh, wait.

    "…it’s fast enough…"

    Fast enough is a very relative term. I would say it’s relative to the fastest available, and in that light, the iMac and eMac are quite slow.

    "…and actually white. :)"

    The current incarnation. Previous versions were available in a number of colors, including grape. But that wasn’t my point.

    "Anyway, I’ll just leave it at what I said last week: "Apple has placed a lot of emphasis on form, even dating back to the Apple ][, but they’ve also done an excellent job of pushing innovation into the marketplace. ""

    In some respects. In others, Apple has lagged behind. That was MY point.

  81. mschaef says:

    "I should have been more narrow and said Direct3D, which Quicktime most definitely does not answer. (By the

    way, it’s no more correct to equate DirectShow with DirectX than to equate Direct3D with DirectX.)" – Derek

    Park

    When you asked about DirectX, I just assumed that you meant all of DirectX.

    "The low-level functions are grouped into components that make up DirectX: Microsoft Direct3D®, Microsoft

    DirectDraw®, Microsoft DirectInput®, Microsoft DirectMusic®, Microsoft DirectPlay®, Microsoft DirectSound®,

    and Microsoft DirectShow®." – http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/dndxgen/html/directxovrvw.asp?frame=true

    "In others, Apple has lagged behind. That was MY point."

    I won’t argue with that.

  82. Derek Park says:

    "When you asked about DirectX, I just assumed that you meant all of DirectX."

    My point there was that Quicktime also does not address all of DirectX. But yes, it does address parts of it (albeit poorly, in my user-level experience). I see the point you were making, though.

  83. Derek Peschel says:

    "I’d bet [drag and drop] came from Xerox PARC, as did the GUI, the Mouse…" — Derek Park

    The mouse was invented by Doug Engelbart at Stanford Research Institute before 1968. In 1968 he demonstrated his software over a remote video link. A small description can’t do justice to the scope of his work or the demo.

    About the other items, I unfortunately don’t know the history. But from what I’ve seen I wouldn’t call Engelbart’s system a GUI. It has mouse-driven commands to manipulate objects, and some graphics, but no abstract repersentations of objects. And that’s all I’ll say. I’m just dropping in (from reading the book Joel on Software) and I don’t want to get bogged down in definitions.

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