inessential by Brent Simmons

Mail and click-through

Apple Mail. There’s more.

The new toolbar does the icons-inside-buttons thing, which makes sense, and may be a usability gain.

However, here’s a weird thing I noticed:

When Mail is not the frontmost app, the buttons change their look: they look dimmed, disabled.

Mail New button in background

However, if you click, it’s actually enabled, it supports click-through. (This is true for non-destructive buttons, not all of the buttons.) Right before you click you see the mouse-over highlighting.

Mail New button in background

It turns out that the icon inside the button is used to indicate whether it’s enabled or not. Standard toolbars dim and un-dim the icon too—it’s just that they don’t also have a button being used to indicate status (sorta).

So the dimmed button look means “I’m in the background” rather than “I’m disabled.”

Safari’s icons are similar in that the icon rather than the button indicates status—but they don’t have a special dimmed in-the-background look, which I think confuses things in Mail.