Human Interface Subtleties

Welcome to version 2.1 of Quinn's Human Interface Subtleties page. This update is just a minor tidy up to bring the page in line with my general web site update. I've also added a few new discussions.

Table of Contents

This page documents the following human interface subtleties:


The Mac OS system software, and many Mac OS applications, contain many subtle human interface tweaks that combine to make the Macintosh user experience richer and easier. The subtlety of some of these tweaks is staggering. This page documents some of my personal favourites.

One of the interesting things to note about human interface subtleties is that they decay over time. Things that were subtle when the Macintosh was first introduced are now considered standard and necessary. So many of the subtleties in the Mac OS human interface are not described here simply because they're obvious to the modern eye. They include:

This page is made up of subtleties, both old and new. The old ones are included because they are even more subtle than an initial glance reveals. The new ones are there because they are damned clever!

History of the HI Subtleties Page

This page was started in mid-1994 just before I left for the US. The goals was to document some of the cool HI that I'd seen on the Mac and which I kept explaining to people verbally. Basically I got sick of describing this cool stuff so I thought I'd put it down on electrons for all Mac lovers to share.

Another driving force behind this page was the interface subtleties that Peter and I woven into Anarchie. I really wanted to publicise these things, to raise there awareness amongst Mac developers, and hopefully make the Mac a better place to live.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the initial incarnation of this web page is the lengths to which I went to capture some of the screen shots. Capturing zoom rects is incredibly difficult and I actually had to write code (an piece of great evil called Grabbug) to do it.

Of course, when I said "for all Mac lovers" I expected just myself and a small group of friends that I told about the page. And then one day I got into work and found about a zillion mail messages about the page in my In box. Hmmm, it appears that Guy Kawasaki had found the page and posted it to the MacWay mailing list. Most of the mail was simple fan mail, but many people also pointed out errors in the text or suggested worthy additions to the page. Obviously I couldn't let the page stand in its flawed state, so I decided to undertake a revision. My thanks go out to those whose input helped to make this page what it is today.

Bits Missing

The following is a list of things that didn't make it into the page, even though I think they're good human interface:

To Do

Here's my list of things to add that I haven't got around to yet:

Version History

Version 1.0 (mid 1994) was structured as one HTML file. This was the version current when the page was posted to Evangelist and suddenly became more famous than I expected.

Version 2.0 (late 1995) added an extensible structure and generally tidied up the document for sustained development. It also added a few new discussions, some of them based on user feedback.

Version 2.1 (Feb 1998) was instigated by a general tidy up of my web site, but it also adds a few new discussions, specifically Eudora's Send Again and Single Scroll Bar.

Wrap Up

If you have any favourite human interface subtleties that you'd like to see documented, please drop me a line and I'll evaluate them for this page. Please note that everyone has their own opinion as to what constitutes subtle, good human interface, and this page represents my opinion. So, while I value your input, I do not guarantee that your suggestions will make it on to this page.

I hope you have as much fun perusing this page as I had creating it.

Share and Enjoy.


Quinn "The Eskimo!"
15 Feb 1998