What I Want From the Next OS X

So I wanted to make a mockup of my desires for the next OS X that we will see on Tuesday. Unfortunately I didn't find the time so I will at least describe it here. This is not really a prediction, just what I would do if I were Apple, keeping in mind some obvious constraints.

The first thing I will say is that I see no reason Apple should ever migrate OS X to touchscreen based input. I fully believe over the years iOS will be able to handle more tasks while still keeping the simple approach to UI they already have. Just like the switch from command line to the Mac OS. Also noting that the command line still is used to this day for very specific tasks.

Over the years the Mac has evolved and added features that make it very different from it's simple beginnings. Things like dashboard, expose, spaces, hot corners, spotlight, stacks, notification center, launchpad, app store, and mission control have all been additions on top of previously existing UI methods. As such you have a ton of choice regarding how you use your system. Nearly every thing you do on the OS has at least 3 options for doing it. This is good, but it is also a problem. This is what I want a newly rethought interface on the Mac to do. If they are going to completely change the look, I think it's a good time to simplify the OS as well. Here is how I would do it.

Menubar:

Stays mostly the same. I think that dashboard widgets should go away and be replaced by menubar widgets like Fantastical. Perhaps hiding a long list of icons by expanding on hover.

Hot Corners:

I use and love hot corners but they were a necessity from a pre gesture time. I believe we will see more advancements with the touchpad and gestures which should take care of the use cases hot corners do now. For older systems or mice based systems, they should be an option. Perhaps tied directly to the mouse options.

Window Management:

Currently window management is a mess and I understand why iOS designers just want to leave them alone entirely. But there is plenty that can be done to make it simpler on OS X. Right now the red button closes the window. This can also close the app in some cases. I think closing the last window should close the app, especially now that apps can automatically save their state on close, so the distinction between a closed or running app is less important. The yellow button is more problematic. What is the difference between minimize and hiding a window? Does the preview of the window in the dock really add anything? If you want to know what's open using expose works much better. I think the button should hide the app without showing it on the dock. Right now you can kind of do this by choosing minimize to icon. Make this the default and tie the Cmd+H hide command to the button. Finally the green button. The bane of previous windows users. Right now it simply sizes the window to fit the maximum content size available. With the addition of full screen apps this is no longer needed. The functions should be merged. Get rid of the separate full screen button and create smarter snapping of windows when dragging the corners. When close to maximum windowed size it would snap all the way. Some really like the windows split screen snapping but I would simply make it move apps side by side when you drag one to the edge of another. No need to go full half screen. One more thing. Full screen should not hide the menubar. It increases complexity and confuses new users by hiding window control. It should hide the dock though.

Mission Control:

This is a useful feature that is unique to the Mac. That being said it can be simplified. Perhaps they can adopt a more list like style from iOS instead of the scattered arrangement they have now. Right now you can choose app expose or window expose which again can be confusing even to a long time OS X user. This needs rethought and combined even if it offers less control in the end. I would get rid of spaces. I know some power users love it but with better window management and full screen apps keeping the menubar they are not needed. It would also alleviate multi-monitor problems. Hard choice, but to me it's existence shows a problem exists with navigating windows. Perhaps enable it by option or abstract it enough so regular users aren't impacted.

The Dock:

This one requires the biggest rethink. At it's core the dock is a great feature of OS X, one that drew me to it when I switched. The problem is it feels disconnected from the rest of the OS. At the same time for many users it's all they know. So what I'm going to say will probably offend many power users out there. Make the dock the center of the OS, just like springboard is for iOS. Instead of having launch pad be a separate optional way to launch apps, merge it with the dock and make it the default way of managing apps. Keep the dock at the bottom and use a swipe up to raise the dock and show all the rest of your apps. Apps installed from anywhere (not just the App Store) will be installed here. Have a smart installer that reads .dmg and .zip files and finds apps stored elsewhere and relocates them. The app folder should be hidden and enabled through a optional app management control panel dialog.

Finder:

While I believe this should stay mostly the same, for regular users there should be a simpler option. Instead a choosing a save location you would choose tags while the finder defaults to a tag browser and smartly puts items in folders behind the curtain. Right now the tags are an additional option but it should be the default while easily letting power users have more control when needed. I would use this for most non work files and be quite content. It would let you browse files that fit multiple criteria not just by one location. With Spotlight integration this would be awesome. Also, add a simple browser in the launchpad to further abstract the power user features when not needed. Similar to how a folder stack works on the dock now.

That's it! While they seem like major changes, they really aren't. What I'm really wanting Apple to do is make some real choices about how they want people to use their OS. By leaving all the choices at the front like they have the complexity is increased for users coming from other OSs. This is how I want them to take cues from iOS, not by removing true functionality but by simplifying how we interact with it. Notice I didn't touch on the looks, which could use some polish, but that is not what I'm looking forward to for Tuesday.