inessential by Brent Simmons

Bad Gravity

iPhone apps, and now iPad apps, have always reminded me of what I want Mac apps to be: focused, carefully-designed, with every feature carefully considered and usually thrown out instead of included.

Even more than the iPhone, the iPad will function as a laptop replacement. (Or, you may still have a laptop, but you’ll do more and more work on an iPad.)

I like what I’ve seen so far about iPad app design. It has the virtues of iPhone app design with just enough more space and new features to make doing real work possible. I think this is fantastic.

My concern, though, is that people may think that Mac apps should include every possible feature and preference. The reasoning would be like this: “It’s not an iPad or iPhone. It’s a computer. Therefore it’s for power users. Therefore it should be totally customizable and have every feature anybody might want.”

That would be a big mistake.

My hope, instead, is that Mac users and developers (all developers are users too, by the way) learn even better the virtues of focused, opinionated software that pays attention to experience more than to long feature lists and heavy preference windows. I hope we see even better Mac software.

You might think this is ironic — didn’t I just propose a Mac email app for power users and developers?

I did. But I actually picture an app that is simpler, in many ways, than Mail. No POP or Exchange support, no stationery, no to-dos, no notes. I’d like to see a programmable app, yes, with a design friendly to people who type for a living — but I also want a leaner app.

Here’s the thing about the power users and developers I know: they use a lot of apps. They manage a lot of complexity already. They often have a few powerful apps (Xcode, Photoshop, Final Cut, Excel, whatever) that they use to get their work done.

They’re not sitting around wishing for more complexity. Quite the opposite! But they do wish that some apps fit them better. And in many cases they wish for less complexity.

Too much complexity is for people who want to waste their own time. Who has time for that? Every day means a new world we have to create. Futzing and configuring and confusion — these things don’t help.