MacOSX Lion: King of OS’s GUIs

Mac OS X Lion is now the 7th incarnation of Apple’s new operating system. Each of the version upgrades had minor additions to the graphical user interface (GUI). None of the increments did really have a big impact on how we used the OS – at least for me, things like Exposé, Spaces or the Dashboard were functions I once in a while used, but they didn’t really add to my productivity.

With Mission Control, we now have all things in one place, and it is only the next swipe away to reach the desired functionality. I think this is a good example, that often we only lack the last missing link to get to the point where the UI functions fall into place – all of the single functions where released in previous OS releases before, but only now it is completely natural to use them all – and not just once in a while.

There is certainly the “one more thing” regarding UI changes in Lion: Natural Scrolling. Just search for the comments you find on the web – they reach from “Apple’s ‘natural scrolling’ feels horribly unnatural. Here’s why.” to “Wow, Everyone’s Complaining About “Natural Scrolling” In OS X Lion“. Well to be honest, it took me a few days to adopt as well, but once you are “over it”, it just works fine (even switching back and forth between the scroll wheel on my Win PC at work and my Mac at home). It is amazing how conservative people are regarding the way they use their computer – even if it is wrong. If we did it wrong for ten years, it has to stay that way … And there is no doubt about the fact, that there is really no physical metaphor behind the direction we used the scroll wheel so far – someone just programmed it this way and we used it.

Removing the scroll bars seems to be a comparatively small interference to the user’s expectation – still having enough potential to stir users up.

To sum up, with Lion we see how little progress we made with UI improvements in the last decades – but if we really leap forward, we feel the resistive force in the user base …


  1. mike says:

    “there is really no physical metaphor behind the direction we used the scroll wheel”

    If you placed a wheel on the page and pushed up on it, the paper would move down. Seems like a pretty obvious physical metaphor.

    (Reference: See every video of every industrial process ever which is used to move a sheet of something.)

  2. martin says:


    you are right, that is the physical metaphor. My “no” was (as usual) too strict. It should have been “no obvious metaphor with respect to the mouse controlled desktop” – or did you ever move a (physical) piece of paper in the way you described?

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