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Apple’s Developer App for Mac

Martin Pilkington on the new Developer app for Mac, ported from iPad using Catalyst:

There are other minor things I could have filed bugs about, but unfortunately I ran out of time. However, this shows just how much Apple has missed. And it is all entirely avoidable if Apple as an organisation took the time to put the care and love into their apps. They’re still capable of doing so. Just look at their iWork apps or their Pro apps. They are still amongst the best apps on any platform.

Catalyst is almost a poster child for this problem. I’m under no illusion of the technical challenges involved, but it has effectively been released in an unfinished state, leaving apps feeling like they don’t fully fit on the platform. Developers can put a lot of time and care into working around a lot of these, but some things can’t be fixed, and every minute they spend fixing flaws in Catalyst is a minute not spent making their apps even better. However, Apple doesn’t even do that with their Catalyst apps.

As things stand right now, Catalyst seems like a framework written by people at Apple who don’t know what makes for a good Mac app, for iOS developers who don’t know what makes for a good Mac app.

No one would be happier than me to see big news on this front next week at WWDC. But man, what a sad statement about Catalyst the Mac Developer app is. It’s not like Catalyst heralds a new style of Mac app — it’s not about an old style vs. new style. It’s just about paying attention to details or not.

Compare and contrast with the new version of the Mac App Store app, the one introduced in 10.14 Mojave and carried through to 10.15 Catalina. There are a lot of things in the current Mac App Store app I don’t particularly like — UI designs that I would broadly describe as iOS-isms. (Because the Mac App Store app exhibits so many iOS-isms, I’ve seen many people assume that it’s a Catalyst app — it is not.) One conspicuous example: in the Updates section, when you click the “More” button to see an app’s complete release notes, they show up in a white pseudo dialog box with no controls at all — no close button, no “Done” button. Just a white box that you dismiss by clicking anywhere in the content area of the main App Store window. That’s not a traditional thing in the Mac UI language. I personally don’t think it’s a good design, in the abstract, for a mouse-driven UI. But: it is clearly and obviously by design. In fact, because this sort of pseudo dialog box/panel is not a standard window, it took extra work on the part of the engineers who made the Mac App Store app to implement it.

Whereas all or nearly all of the issues Pilkington cites in the Mac Developer app aren’t things he dislikes, per se, or things that are designed “the new way” or “the iOS way” — they’re just things that weren’t designed at all. Just accidental behaviors inherited by default from Catalyst. Everything is too small, the layout looks like a complete afterthought if you resize the window to larger than a laptop display, and the accessibility hierarchy is — indisputably — an embarrassment.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020