Daring Fireball’s Apple Report Card 2021
I was checking out John Gruber’s “Apple Report Card” piece, and one excerpt in particular caught my eye (emphasis mine):
APPLE SOFTWARE QUALITY: D
If we’re talking bugs and glitches, I think Apple is doing well — although I know many will disagree with me there. But Apple’s software design is starting to scare the hell out of me. Look no further than this summer’s Safari tabs saga, across all three platforms. Perhaps it’s still true that all’s well that ends well, but I find it deeply troubling that these Safari UI redesigns ever made it past the whiteboard stage. Functionally it’s pretty good but design-wise it looks like it was made by people who have never used a Mac.
He, like others in the general Apple media at large, don’t seem impressed with Shortcuts on macOS. And, honestly, that makes someone like me nervous.
Because I think of myself as someone who might be in a similar cohort, for lack of a better term, as the developers at Apple who I assume created Shortcuts on the mac1. Functionality and design wise, I really think Shortcuts on macOS is…nice. I like it, and I use it a lot.
The editing view certainly feels macOS worthy, using several of the controls that the human interface guidelines recommend that you should in such a user experience:
The main view does have a sidebar, a macOS staple for flattening navigation. Though, I will concede that the bubble-like view of each shortcut doesn’t feel quite at home as it does in a collection view that houses them on iOS:
Though, where I do agree that things feel off is in the gallery view, but at the same time — you’d be hard pressed to find a similar flow in any of Apple’s macOS apps (i.e. a content feed of information more akin to a social media feed than a collection of data that you edit yourself):
To wit, what’s more mac-like than including a CLI with your app? Shortcuts does exactly that, and I rely on it for local cron jobs daily. Not that this is part of the design but to me that’s certainly part of the experience.
The exact particulars over the quibbles folks have had for Shortcuts on macOS escape the mind, though I know they exist. It’s been a few moons since Monterey shipped, and the takes were coming hot and fast then. I seem to remember that the criticisms were more about stability, editing actual data input and the overall user experience than it was about the pure design of the chrome itself.
However, it does makes me think, what are these people seeing that I’m not?
I don’t think Shortcuts on macOS is objectively bad by any measure, or not worthy of the platform. And I mean that in the most respectful way. The people who’ve been using macOS for decades (or, more historically accurate, Mac OS X) are the type of people I hope to win over with any macOS software I create in the future. So, their opinion holds weight to me.
But here we are, and the floodgate has opened to developers such as myself who can now develop software for macOS who started on iOS (something I’ve recently brought up). What I don’t want is for us to simply bring our iOS design tendencies over to macOS. That doesn’t work, it doesn’t translate and, well — it shouldn’t. It’s two entirely different platforms.
And yet, the technology stack we have almost begs you to do it sometimes. I’m not implying that’s Apple’s fault, but if you create a fine iOS app and bridge it over with Catalyst, then you’ll get exactly what Apple says you’ll get: An app that runs on macOS.
Not a great app for macOS. Just one that compiles and mostly works. There’s still a mountain of work to do, and to Cupertino & Friend’s credit, they’ve got several guides and WWDC sessions dedicated to this very topic as to shepherd along developers like myself who need that know-how to make a great macOS app.
Anyways, all that to say this: I enjoy Shortcuts on macOS and I think it’s a great macOS app. What makes me skiddish is that the people who’ve used macOS for far longer than I don’t seem to agree.
I want to see the mac thrive. And, I want to see it thrive in part because a new generation of developers who started on iOS started making quality software for macOS.
Until next time ✌️.
That is, the talented developers who were acquired along with Workflow. ↩