Panther: All Metal All The Time

by Hadley Stern Jul 22, 2003

imageThe primary ingredients of the Apple interface have not changed since Lisa. Take a look at the screen shot to the left. We’ve got, for lack of a better word, windows. We’ve got icons. Nothing substantial has really changed since Lisa to the metaphor of the interface we use day in and day out. Yes we now have windows that swoosh and swirl and, thanks to the coming Expose, windows that are better organized but essentially the beast hasn’t changed.

We’ve gone from plain windows to platinum to striped windows and windows with drop shadows. From a simple button to a button with outlines to now a window with throat lozenge like throbbing. But still the metaphor is all the same—its all window dressing.

Which brings us now to metal. Somehow, and in the most inconsistent way, metal has come to take over the Macintosh windowing environment. Like some bad Kaleidoscope theme gone awry Panther uses metal windows in the desktop. Metal, apparently, is the new plastic at Apple. Having purged the powerbook line-up of plastic and recently making the G5 all metal, its all metal all the time. That the material on the outside of the machine is now informing the look and feel on the interface is, in some ways, a nice case of design synergy. Why shouldn’t the interface reflect the materials on the outside?

Well for one thing because it just doesn’t make any sense. Metal on the outside is good for strength and durability. Last time I checked metal doesn’t help pixels last any longer so why should it be on the interface? My guess is because Steve Jobs thinks its cool. Well, Steve, it may be to you but it’s not to me. And I’m fine that you think metal windows are swank but don’t force them on Apple users.

I’m not asking for Kaleidoscope or any other themed programs. They are inherently tacky, take up system resources, and crash. I’m asking for Apple sanctioned and created desktop themes. Let’s actually called them variants—themes sounds too close to Kaleidoscope.

The variants should be subtle. Want metal windows, fine? Want just plain white windows? Fine too. Perhaps a little hint of gray or, if you want, some stripes. Apple should provide these subtle user options in the final release of Panther. Having metal only windows is like giving user only one sound (the clang of a foundry would be appropriate, I suppose) and not giving us any other options.


  • You know what? Bite me!  All this negative “press” over such a tiny interface component is nauseating.  Some of us actually <gasp> prefer the brushed metal look and have used it since 10.1 (Duality, anyone?) 

    I don’t care if you detest the new interface, but to suggest that something is inherently wrong at Apple because of it is pure ignorance.  While I agree options should be included for more user customization, if it doesn’t happen GET OVER IT!!!

    Douglas had this to say on Jul 22, 2003 Posts: 1
  • Douglas, if Apple crapped on a shingle would you call it toast - enhanced?

    What a knee-jerk reaction to a reasonable request. Mac users should be able to customize their machines to fit their tastes without placing the operating system in jeopardy.

    I for two find the brushed metal look boring. It’s gray, after all. Let’s see some color as a choice.


    skribbler had this to say on Jul 22, 2003 Posts: 1
  • I don’t see this as such a little thing. People who do extensive work with computers stare at their monitors for hours every day. It’s hardly too much to ask to give the user some degree of customizability (within reasonable limits).

    I can appreciate that the look and feel of Panther should not be a free-for-all and that the GUI aesthetics of OS X is one thing which gives the Mac its cachet; but it hardly follows that the user should have virtually NO option to customize the aesthetics of his working environment.

    Computers are tools. The best tools do not impose a one-size-fits-all vision onto the user but rather adapt to the end in view. This is why the best screuw drivers are those with interchangeable bits. (I had to misspell this perfectly reasonable word because this blog software stupidly disallows it from the vocabulary.) And it’s why the best computers are those with some user customizability.

    So unlike others here, I don’t see this article as negative or naysaying. It seems rather like a perfectly reasonable request.

    Jeff Mincey had this to say on Jul 22, 2003 Posts: 74
  • I think it is a big deal. The metal takes up a lot of room which is fine if you have a 22” cinema display but if you have a 15” imac its too much window fluff. In safari it looks fine but in the finder its too much. All the writer is asking for is for some other, limited options. Sounds reasonable to me, I hope Apple is listening.

    bobby had this to say on Jul 22, 2003 Posts: 15
  • I agree completely - but will add a layer of depth, I believe that a user should be able to choose between Simple and Full modes. Simple mode being: Metal, and Advanced being: Aqua.

    iTunes, iMovie, etc. all try to expose and disclose functionality from first glance, optimized for new users, while somewhat cluttering the screen and making too obvious certain functions for expert users.

    Mail is a great example of Aqua and what a full-featured application is. Probably why it hasn’t been Metal-ized yet. One can easily begin to figure out Simple and Advanced versions of each application. iCal - I would love to have a more robust Note and To Do functions, more options for Reminders, more views, etc.

    Nathan had this to say on Jul 22, 2003 Posts: 219
  • I like playing pong on my powerbook 150.  Now thats and exciting GUI!

    skygrp had this to say on Jul 23, 2003 Posts: 7
  • OK, super simple…

    A “variant” to help OS9ers to latch on to OS X. Just make it look and act like OS9 with a single user setting (with the nice shadows.)

    Then, let me have likable Aqua and Panther metal to choose from and we’ll all be happy. Right?

    Dare I suggest a Windoze varient to attract the switchers?  Naw.. that’s going TOO far!

    tonymosa had this to say on Jul 23, 2003 Posts: 3
  • When I became a Mac user and started looking at forums, I noticed one thing about most you native mac users: too hotheaded, and too defensive. I agree with skribbler on this one. I don’t know why you freaked on this one, Douglas. What’s wrong with customization?

    Ricky had this to say on Jul 30, 2004 Posts: 1
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