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Daniel Eran

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The Apple Wishlist: Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard
1. Window appearance and behavior
Every release of Mac OS X has introduced improvements and refinements in window behaviors. Aqua initially introduced features that included the unsaved indicator in the close box; the standardized, customizable toolbar; the toolbar hide button; the brilliant sheets and the less successful idea of drawers.

All of these features brought useful, intuitive, and standardized behaviors to all applications' windows. Here's three additional ideas I'd like to see in Leopard.

Idea 1: Split panes everywhere
The idea of split panes was commonplace long before Aqua came out. An obvious example (and possibly the original) is in Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet. In order to compare information appearing in two places in the same document, Excel allows you to drag a pane from the top or side margin into the document. The pane partitions the window vertically or horizontally, providing two independently scrollable views of the same file.

Microsoft's implementation of split panes in Aqua is fat and ugly, but the idea is still good. In fact, the idea is not foreign to Apple; it was built into the System 7 Human Interface Guidelines. Split bars also appear in the Aqua guidelines, but the idea here is that split panes should be available everywhere, in every window, rather than just where developers thought they should make a special effort include one.

The Finder is begging for split panes. Currently, in order to copy files from one location to another, you usually have to open two windows and navigate to your two locations, while sizing and positing each window independently. Why not simply drag down a pane from the title bar, splitting the Finder window in half horizontally, so you can work with two views without dealing with multiple window sizes and positions?

And why not present split panes everywhere? Compare two sections of the same long document in TextEdit with a horizontal split pane. Compare two file hierarchies in the Finder side by side as vertical panes, or compare the files in one folder with the contents of a smart folder's search results. Compare two web pages side by side in Safari. Present two (or more) terminal sessions horizontally in the same window. Compare two calendars side by side in iCal.

Yes, my mock-ups are not beautiful, but Apple has professionals to work out the details. Apple needs to work on UI consistency and the brushed metal look anyway, particularly with the Finder.

But wait, isn't there a potential for confusion between comparing two views of the same document (Excel style) with two different bits of information (such as with two web pages in one Safari window)? To solve this, split panes are connected to the next feature, which relates to tabbed windows.

If you are working in TextEdit and drag down a pane from the split pane icon above the scroll bar, you would by default get two views of the same document. However, if you right click on a document tab, and select the option to "Present tab as split pane", you would end up with two different documents shown in the same window. Clicking on the content of one pane or the other makes it the primary window, just as clicking between tabs in Safari.

Safari brought the idea of tabbed windows into the mainstream. Split panes, used in this way, simply extend the idea of tabbed browsing, so not only can you use multiple tabs, but now you can actually view the contents of multiple tabs in the same window.

Apple's Final Cut Pro presented draggable tabs to organize bins, which are even more brilliant. The idea of 'split panes everywhere' begs for...

Idea 2: Draggable tabs everywhere.

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