Apple, Please Clean Up the Clutter

by Chris Howard May 14, 2009

Ok, so we love OS X for it's clean look, ease of use, etc etc. But it's not problem free. Some of it's design leaves a lot to be desired. Not how it looks design, but more like how it works. And mostly, how it organizes information. Apple has made some improvements over the years, but there's still a few more to make. And nor is it just OS X at fault, Apple applications and the iPhone also need some work.

Snow Leopard is not meant to include new features, but we know it will. And I hope it does include more organization options, because at the moment, despite improvements, it still falls short.

Screen captures cluttering the desktop
Why do I have to go to a third-party utility like Onyx to set the location for screen captures? It's already a system parameter, Apple, how hard would it be to include it as a system preference?!

Apple did the right thing with downloads and created a special folder for them. So it could also make a special folder on the desktop or in the user's Documents folder called "Screen captures" .

Window clutter
There's nothing more confusing than looking at a desktop cluttered with open windows. Fortunately this is an area Apple has tried to address. It has done a bit to reduce this, giving us the Option-Command-H keystroke to hide all other applications (which has always been there), and in Leopard, we got Spaces.

These do reduce the clutter; however, I find the biggest cause of confusion is the difference in the appearance of the window that has the focus and those that don't is too subtle.

The elements of visual design are about avoiding confusion and making it easy for the viewers eye to navigate the page or screen. One of the elements of good design is contrast. And good design teachers will tell you if you are going to use contrast, make it obvious. In Leopard though, the contrast between the front and back windows is obvious without looking, and made worse because the front one is darker and then casts a shadow on the rear one, making it darker too.

File downloads in one big dump
Safari provides no option to prompt for a save location. You have to right-click for that. And when the file is a scripted download, you don't even get that option.

As a result, your downloads folder can end up as a big jumble of files. I love it in Firefox that I get the option to prompt for a file save-to location. That allows me to use some hierarchy in my downloads folder. And not just my downloads folder. Many things I download I want to save to other folders, such as images and plugins for projects I'm working on.

iPhoto via the shoebox
It drives me balmy how you can't do photo management before importing to iPhoto. Instead, iPhoto makes you throw everything in its big messy shoebox for later categorization.

Before I go on, I might add it'd be great if Apple allowed multiple libraries within iPhoto instead of having to restart iPhoto. Some folks do want to keep their personal and work/study/whatever photos in separate libraries, rather than using albums.

Some things I'd like to do to photos before importing are:
1) Mark a photo for deletion without importing
2) Option to choose which library you want to save the selected photos to
3) Assign keywords to photos
4) Assign photos to albums and folders

This makes for single handling of your photos. The current way is double handling, as you import and then tag and sort into albums So what happens? You're a little busy so you figure you'll do that later and you end up with a giant shoebox of photos.

Apple slightly improved things by dropping the most recent import into a "Last Import" folder. And Events is also a good step in the right direction.

Apps in iTunes have no categorization
Songs in your iTunes library can be displayed by artist, genre etc (in the grid view). Why not the same for apps? As we accumulate hundreds of apps, it'd be nice if we could display them by category - then it'd be much easier to know what crappy games my kids have downloaded and that I can delete. smile

Also in the view where you select what apps you want to install to your iPhone, it'd be great if it categorized the apps because some apps have names that give little away about their reason for being, and again, it'd be nice to be able to easily sort out those crappy games so they don't get dumped onto my iPhone when I sync after the kids.
As mentioned, iPhone isn't spared either from these clutter problems

No app icon management
To a lot of people's surprise, iPhone 3.0 will not include any type of app icon management. Instead, you still have to manually drag apps between screens. For those that don't, their iPhones become a jumble of apps. And for those who do manually sort their apps, we all fear having to restore our iPhone as that just chucks all the apps back in alpha order.

What we all hopped for in iPhone 3.0 was an easy to assign different apps to different pages (eg a games page, a productivity page, favorites, homes screen etc).Maybe there's some new API's that will let developers setup something.

App preferences pollute the system preferences
Ever noticed in Mac OS X a utility called "System Preferences"? It lets you manage system wide preferences. It doesn't let you manage application preferences. You do that in the actual application. I know, very revolutionary, but a great idea. Maybe someone should tell the iPhone OS development team about it.

Not only does it clutter up the Settings panels, it is also a pain in the proverbial to have to quit an application to check or change its preferences. My Settings panel is polluted with 26 applications. However, some apps do have in-built preferences, so it is possible. It just needs to be compulsory.

So, Apple, you still have a fair bit of work to do to help people remove the clutter from their Appley lives. Maybe employ a specialist de-clutterer designer.


  • You spelled its wrong. Here’s an easy way to remember whether to write < its > or < it’s >.

    He’s in his place
    It’s in its place

    The usage is exactly parallel. Just determine whether you’d replace it with he’s or his, and that is how to spell it. You would never say, “I met he’s girlfriend,” so you will always get it right.

    On topic: I think that iTunes does too much and ought to be broken up. It does everything but cook dinner. Its directory structure is a little messed up, too. Why are my movies in:

    /users/name/music/itunes/itunes music/movies ?

    Why aren’t they in

    /users/name/movies/itunes movies ?

    Hugmup had this to say on May 18, 2009 Posts: 40
  • iTunes needs a complete overhaul.  Movies, TV shows, and apps are clearly tacked on as an afterthought.  But they’ve been there for a couple of iterations now, so there’s no excuse for the dumb label conventions with video files.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on May 18, 2009 Posts: 2220
  • Man I hate it when people correct the spelling or grammar of others.
    But, while we are on the subject:

    “What we all hopped for in iPhone 3.0 was ...”

    I hope you weren’t literally hopping. But, you never know.

    As for iTunes, no matter how bloated, it’s still beats Windows Media Player by a mile.

    LorD1776 had this to say on May 18, 2009 Posts: 19
  • Using the iTunes categorization of applications is a great idea.

    But iTunes can use improvements, it’s Search is dumber than OS-X’s search.  Allow standard pattern matching searches.

    Howard Brazee had this to say on May 21, 2009 Posts: 54
  • As far as focus goes, I get real fustrated when I don’t get my focus fast enough.  I hit my new window, and then start hitting keys, only to discover I am still on my old app.  I’m not patient enough.  This seems especially bad when I switch monitors.

    At least let me have a setting to adjust this delay.  (Maybe it’s because I have to use Windows at work, and it doesn’t have that delay - probably because it was designed as multi-tasking and has a menu bar for each application, while Apple kept its historical single menu bar, even as it got better multi-tasking than Windows).

    Howard Brazee had this to say on May 21, 2009 Posts: 54
  • lol, you guys! I love it when people assume that a misspelling is ignorance.

    Sorry, I certainly know how to spell its/it’s and hopped/hoped. However, I do concede I missed those in proof reading.

    “its”, of course, is an interesting one. It contradicts the rule of possession (i.e. “‘s”) so I’m not surprised people struggle to learn it. (btw Pronouns don’t use the apostrophe when denoting ownership, so not just it, but your, her, their, etc.)

    Don’t you just love English and its quirks and contradictions.

    BTW It bugs me BIG time too how the iPhone doesn’t recognize “its” as correct spelling, instead always wanting to change it to “it’s”.

    Chris Howard had this to say on May 21, 2009 Posts: 1209
  • Sorry Chris, I couldn’t resist that one. I don’t know how many times I’ve composed and then proof read two or three times and the minute I see my post I catch a stupid error. What’s up with that anyway?

    I do agree that Apple could do a better job. Hope they are reading this.

    LorD1776 had this to say on May 21, 2009 Posts: 19
  • lol, yeah, so true. Besides the typos, the one I always have to be careful of is missing words. My brain tells my hand what to write, but occasionally some words don’t get to the keyboard. I reckon one day I’ll cut my hand or arm and all these missing words will come pouring out. smile

    Chris Howard had this to say on May 21, 2009 Posts: 1209
  • Page 1 of 1 pages
You need log in, or register, in order to comment