We just brought a Macintosh into our family for the first time,
because my daughter matriculated at a music conservatory that
recommended the Macintosh over a Windows system. So I got a chance to
experience the vertigo and disorientation of learning a new system
that other people consider extremely easy to use. (My last sustained
use of a Macintosh was around 1985.)
Here’s an example of the frustration we had. We called up a Web page
with some administrative advice, and it told us to pull up the Finder
and look for a file. We called up the Finder and saw the Go menu
appear on the menu bar at the top of the screen. But what were we
supposed to look for? Back to the web page, to get the name. OK, now
back to the Go menu–but wait! The Go menu is gone!
The idea of putting the functions from each program in the menu bar
made sense in 1985, when the Mac ran only one program at a time. Even
one program could be a strain, when the system lacked a hard disk.
But now the Mac is a multitasking system. And I am a multitasker. I
expect to run Safari and the Finder at the same time. But I must treat
the menu bar as if I were still on a single-tasking system.
I think it is time for the most advanced operating system to advance a
bit in the multi-tasking world. The interface should obey the basic
interface rule of consistency, also called predictability. Items
should not disappear just because a different window is visible.