…Through Obscurity

This is the second time (at least) I’ve learned a useful UI tip from a Helpful Tiger reader.

Thanks, everyone!

First was the the ability to disable the Preview column. Now, I should have seen that one, since it’s in the regular Finder UI. In my defense, it’s not entirely straightforward how to get to it. You have to be looking at a column view in order to change options about any column view. This is like being required to be looking at a Web page with JavaScript in order to change your browser’s JavaScript settings.

Second was the ability to open a folder from one window in a different new window. Now, Henry Maddocks suggested I use the “always new window” Finder mode, but while that works OK in OS 9, the Finder windows in OS X are just too heavyweight to make that the norm. Now, my case below is better supported by this feature, since as far as I can see it’s something that can only be found in the Help by an explicit search.

Finally, today, a coworker told me about Cmd-tilde. What does this do? It brings to the front the next window in the foremost application. But it’s not in the Window menu of any application.

What do all these features, especially the second and third, have in common? Obscurity. This isn’t something new to X; 9 had its share of techniques you needed to find out from friends or mailing lists.

But X is the new guy, the one getting the ongoing improvements. It has lots of really cool features. So it shouldn’t hide them!

I want every keystroke shortcut and mouseclick/keystroke combination to have a contextual menu item. I want to be able to find out how to do things by exploring the interface, not by reading the help, however thorough it is and well it’s written.

One comment

  1. Michael Rawdon

    Cmd-Tilde is very useful. I use it all the time. As you’d expect, Cmd-Shift-Tilde will cycle windows in the other direction.

    It’s obviously an extension of Cmd-Tab/Cmd-Shift-Tab, to cycle through applications. (I’m very happy that Panther adopted the most-recently-used order for app cycling rather than the dock-order cycling.)

    Features like these which are really only useful as keyboard strokes (I mean, not many people would actually use the context menu versions of these items) has a problem: You can add them to menus or context menus just for discoverability, or… you can decide not to do so and have shorter menus. The third option would be to have an alternative source of discoverability. But what? Something in the system preferences?

    All of these approaches have pluses and minuses, and will elate and annoy different users differently.