do not step out
bugging me
10/Mar/2007 | 01:55

Bugs Are Not Design Choices

"How can you have two blinking cursors at the same time?" asks Pierre Igot.

I'll summarize:

"Carbon text controls still blink a cursor when you show the Spotlight field, while Cocoa controls appear to be unaffected. Now that we've established this short fact, insert massive lecture about two-cursor usability here, as though this were a design choice, and not a clearly identifiable bug."

Uh oh. Here I go again.


The problem I have with Pierre's post is that it has very little to do with the actual problem that inspired it. There's an actual bug manifesting itself here, and it's definitely something that Apple should address in future revisions of Mac OS X. (I won't say that this is specifically a Carbon bug, but it affects Carbon applications, so it's related to Carbon somehow.) But that's not what the dissertation revolves around.

Here's the bit to which I alluded in the summary:

If Cocoa text controls relenquish cursor focus when the Spotlight field gains cursor focus, while Carbon text controls do not, then this is a concern that has been solved in one place but not in another. Therefore, either an oversight or a mistake has resulted in the inconsistent behaviour, not an explicit design decision. Yet, the post speaks forcefully and authoritatively, as though someone inside the Spotlight team sat down and decided two separate things:

Ockham's skeleton is spinning in the ground right now.

DANGER: Falling Sky Ahead

"This can be misleading for the user, who, based on the window's visual aspect, might assume that the window is still in the fore and that he can still interact with it."

Yes, bugs can sometimes result in misleading situations.

"In the case of the Spotlight text input, however, the visual focus does stay on whatever is in the foreground when Spotlight is invoked. And that's just plain wrong."

Correct, bugs are typically "wrong". If they were "right", they wouldn't be bugs.

"It's the kind of ugly UI you might expect in Windows, but, you know, the Mac is supposed to be better, more elegant, more consistent, more intuitive."


"I am sorry, but there is just no way that having the visual focus on two different UI controls at the same time is intuitive."

I am sorry, but this is a bug.

"I submitted all kinds of feedback about this during the testing phase for Mac OS X 10.4, and nothing ever came of it. [. . .] So whoever makes such decisions bears the full responsibility for them."

If the feedback you send to Apple is as heavy-handed and accusatory as this article, one might find it difficult to wonder why those on the receiving end have been less than responsive to your complaints specifically. If you want people to take you seriously, take them seriously. It's a bug. It's clearly a bug. You don't need to lecture anybody on it.

(Also: Bug.)

"And I'd argue that Apple's Spotlight UI designers are simply irresponsible. it's a bug."

Fixed that for you.