inessential by Brent Simmons

July 2006

54 v. 35

screenshot of unified toolbar

This is a screenshot of two screenshots blown up to 500%. They’re taken from Mail, but they could be of any unified title and toolbar app.

The difference is probably obvious: the one behind has a light (54%) line under the toolbar, where the one in front has a darker (35%) line.

You can reproduce it fairly easily—just hide then show the toolbar in any unified app that uses NSToolbar. You’ll get the darker line.

Then click on the desktop then click back on the window with the toolbar in question—the line will go back to being light.

Does anyone know how to work around this?

Language and UI

Language Log: If you can answer this, you are not paying attention: “Below are two buttons. One says Don’t Change. The other says Change All. But wait a minute: which of those is ‘Yes’, and which is ‘No’?”

Update: more from Language Log: Dialog Box Button Labels: “The problem of difficult to interpret dialog box buttons that Geoff refers to is, ironically, a consequence of user interface guidelines.”

Opal and OPML

Since I’m a long-time outliner user, I downloaded Opal, a new outliner from the folks who brought us Acta. It’s obvious that it’s in an early stage of development, but it’s also fun to use, with a nice focus on the core features, which is exactly what you want to see at this stage.

I checked the About box, as I always do when I check out a new app—since the About box is kind of like a social networking thing. (Who’s in there? Who do I know?)

And I was surprised to see my name in there as someone being thanked, and I didn’t know why—then it hit me what it had to be: my bet was that Opal imports OPML files and the OPML code is probably based on some OPML code I released a few years ago.

Sure enough! A quick class-dump confirmed it.

You have no idea how gratifying that is. (Or, maybe, if you’re a developer, you do have some idea.) I love it when other developers find my code useful and incorporate it into something cool. That totally made my day.

(I also find it cool that, even in this early stage of development, Opal already supports OPML. I was able to export my subscriptions from NetNewsWire and open the file in Opal. Nice.)


Sheila and I watched the shuttle launch on TV today. I’ll never stop loving it. One day I’d sure love to see a launch in person.

Happy Fourth!

Happy fourth of July!

My favorite fourth of July post on this weblog is from July 4, 2001.

Early art training

I still remember my earliest art training.

In pre-school—though I think we called it nursery school—we had three rooms: a common room, a room for boys, and a room for girls.

(You thought I was going to talk about finger-painting. I’m not.)

The girls room—which I only saw from the doorway—was all dolls and pretend kitchens and small houses. Very representational. Everything looked like a real thing.

The boys room may have had a truck or two, which the bullies kept to themselves, but mostly it was primary-colored blocks. Wooden rectangles. Very abstract, as if they wanted to raise a generation of Piet Mondrians.

(I have no idea if nursery schools are still organized this way, but this was not just pre-school but pre-history. We didn’t play with dinosaur toys—we just looked out the window at the odd stegosaurus snarling up traffic, at the pterosaur carrying off a family Chihuahua. Our family “car” was a paisley dragon, this being the early ’70s, before the first energy crisis, before we cared about miles-per-yap-dog.)

To this day I love Mondrians. And I have an affinity for the Cubists, naturally. (Though I’ve never found the Dada-ists and Surrealists to be my cup of fur, for whatever reason.)