Design Element
Comment on "Excellence in Preference Windows"
by Jesper — Jun 07
I am completely at a loss for exactly how CoverSutra's brand of "fussy and overdesigned" in any way approaches Kai's Photo Soap's brand of "fussy and overdesigned". CoverSutra, unlike Kai's Photo Soap, doesn't look arbitrarily custom in order to completely define its own user interface. (Then again I suppose we're not looking at the app's main interface, where perhaps the comparison would be better taken.)

As the original creator of Shortcut Recorder (the shortcut field CoverSutra's using), I think the simple button gradient is inspired; the field's plain white otherwise and this simple move adds a bit of character. The extent to which Shortcut Recorder fields don't look clickable out of the box is of course my responsibility. I will defend myself by pointing to the awkwardness of using ordinary-looking text fields to enter shortcuts, which makes it ambiguous if typing delete is going to clear the field or set the shortcut "delete", or if typing tab is going to move the focus or set the shortcut "tab". As such, the field looks similar but not equal to a text field (for input) and is rounded, which evokes the sense of something more specialized (think search fields, and those blue tokens in token fields). And as such, the field is state-driven, where you click the shortcut display to enter a new shortcut and may cancel out of that state.

At the end of the day, an app should have a well laid-out Preferences panel which already includes factors like wording, setting grouping, whitespace and tab labeling even if you cut out decisions like what should be a preference and whether custom controls should be used. Sometimes you're going to want to go the extra mile to apply some finish to it, and some might consider CoverSutra an example of going over the top, but I don't. I think it's an appropriate and comfortable level of 'glitz' compared to how the rest of the app feels. If you hate this level of visual detail (or even the idea of this level of attention spent on the appearance of the Preferences panel), you probably aren't going to like the rest of the app to begin with.
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