The Lack of Mnemonics in Mac OS X

One of the major differences between Mac OS X and Windows is the lack of mnenomics in the Mac OS X menuing system. There is an explanation at Java 1.4.1 Development for Mac OS X: Making User Interface Decisions, about the lack of mnemonics:

This does not fit in with the Aqua guidelines for multiple reasons. Among them:

  • It is extraneous information. The shortcut is already defined to the right of the menu item.
  • It is imprecise. Note in this example that Save and Save As both have the letter S underlined.
  • It clutters the interface.

However, one point that is missed is that mnemonics are in fact an alternate way of accessing menu items quickly. They are not intended as a replacement for shortcut keys. They are there to help people use an application quickly more quickly.

As I start using an application, there is no way that I can remember the shortcut key of every item. I have a good idea which menu the item is on. So if I can take a quick look at a menu, I can see whether an item is on the menu. if it is there, I invoke it.

Mnemonics help reinforce this pattern. Using mnemonics, I can cause the menu to appear quickly. If the item appears on the menu, pressing its mnemnonic invokes the item.

Eventually, I get to remember the sequence of mnemonics required to invoke an item and I don't have to search the items on the menu. If I find I am using the same item frequently, and it has a shortcut key assigned, I will start using the shortcut key.

Link Blogs

What a neat idea Richard has!

Using Mac OS X and a .Mac account, it is possible to organise your bookmarks and synchronise them between different Macs running Safari. However, as far as I know, you need to do this with Safari and you need a .Mac account.

Creating a link blog like Richard has done, suits those who browse at different places with different operating systems and browsers. From any box with a browser that is connected to the net, you can now persist your links so they are accessible elsewhere.

Lastly, separating the content and link blogs, gives better focus to each. I can now subscribe to the content blog to get the juice without having to trawl through zillions of short one liner links.

Outside In

I couldn’t agree more with /ndy’s Weblog about people finding workarounds to cumbersome, bureaucratic systems. As he concludes

The solution, of course, is to align the “official” system more closely with the needs of the people.

I like to Think Outside In. What is customer’s real problem and how can you help solve it? How can we do it without forcing our systems, processes or inefficiencies on them?