Are there any wxWidgets applications on Mac OS X with good UIs?
June 16, 2006 9:05 AM   Subscribe

Mac OS X software is sometimes known for excellent UIs. Is this something that only comes with Cocoa. Or are there applications written using another framework (specifically wxWidgets) that have great UIs?

I'm porting a Win32 application to Mac OS X using wxWidgets. I've been looking at the screenshots of wxWidgets showcase applications all the Mac OS X screenshots all seem to be from some incredibly ugly applications.

Good Mac OS X applications tend to look awesome; take for example Delicious Library, Sandvox, almost anything from Apple (except the "pro" apps), Voice Candy, Comic Life and almost anything by the Omni Group and Panic.

I haven't yet found a Mac OS X application written in wxWidgets that doesn't have a crap UI or that reeks of a quick port from Windows or Linux. While I understand that not all applications need to have fantastic UIs and sometimes just getting it working is enough. But I am curious to find that sleeper wxWidgets Mac OS X application with a wonderful UI. Bonus points if the application is cross-platform too.
posted by schwa to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
It's worth looking at the Apple Human Interface Guidelines, especially the layout examples. "Good" OS X applications tend to follow them.
posted by smackfu at 9:47 AM on June 16, 2006

You might want to start here, when it comes to insight on writing apps and their UI's for a Mac.
The great UIs you see in Mac applications aren't accidents. Apple has some very tight guidelines about the OSX UI. (which..*ahem*woodgrain in GarageBand*ahem*...Apple itself sometimes willfully violates, of course)
posted by Thorzdad at 9:49 AM on June 16, 2006

damn...beaten by your superior smackfu...
posted by Thorzdad at 9:49 AM on June 16, 2006

I think the UI design is more a matter of things like the interface guidelines linked to above than the particular flavour of framework you use to create it.

I produce consistently bad UIs in every framework :/
posted by ciaron at 10:01 AM on June 16, 2006

Pointing me at the HIG isn't what I was asking. See the end of my question:

"But I am curious to find that sleeper wxWidgets Mac OS X application with a wonderful UI. Bonus points if the application is cross-platform too."
posted by schwa at 10:33 AM on June 16, 2006

Pointing me at the HIG isn't what I was asking.
Perhaps not directly. However, the other parts of your question certainly seemed to imply an assumption that the great UI you have seen in OSX apps is somehow more of a function of the framework you select, rather than any overriding guidelines established by Apple.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:48 AM on June 16, 2006

Which is what strikes me as odd. I know that the framework shouldn't matter. Yet all wxWidgets applications look like junk. As do all QT applications (although for reasons stated i care more about wxWidgets).

So prove me wrong. Point me at that gorgeous wxWidgets Mac OS X application.
posted by schwa at 10:53 AM on June 16, 2006

I know nothing about wxWidgets, but here's a quick way to test if it sucks: With the cursor in a single line text field, press the up or down arrow keys. If it doesn't move the cursor to the start or end of the text, it sucks, and Mac users won't like it.

I'm not sure I understand the point of your question though. Your app could easily be the first good one.
posted by cillit bang at 11:19 AM on June 16, 2006

Applications with cross-platform toolkits will almost always suck.

The reason is, as cillit bang indirectly suggests, that cross-platform toolkits will not to all the little things that a Mac application is expected to do:
  • Move to the end of a text field when you press down
  • Cancel a dialog box when you press escape
  • In a file dialog, Go to the Desktop on ⌘-D
  • etc.
(Obviously, keyboard shortcuts are my personal pet peeve, but it applies in other ways.)

Instead, most of them use ugly Carbon widgets, or draw text using their own routines, rather than the Aqua ones. The sum total, then, is sub-standard.
posted by Rifkin at 12:29 PM on June 16, 2006

Cancel a dialog box when you press escape

Aren't Windows apps supposed to do that too?

Do Wx apps look "Aqua"? As in, do the buttons, scrollbar thumbs etc. have the regular Mac bulging-jellybean appearance? Do they use the normal Mac system font (Charcoal, right?) or another font? And they have normal menubars? Sensible Mac ones at the top, not crazy Windows ones attached to the window?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 2:16 PM on June 16, 2006

I think the lack of answers is your answer.

But TBH, many applications that are written using the cross-platform toolkits either don't use the OS-specific handles to UI elements (the whole Aqua/Carbon look that MacOS applications are supposed to have), or didn't have streamlined usability and beauty as their primary UI goals. The primary goals of these applications typically tend to be functionality (not to be confused with usability) and cross-platform functionality.

Mac OS applications are often eminently usable because their programmers, typically mac users, understand the importance of usability and spend time thinking about it, and they're built for an operating system that enables and supports usability.
posted by SpecialK at 3:11 PM on June 16, 2006

A great UI is much more than 'looks good'. It also means that it integrates well with the rest of the operating system's paradigms (as others have pointed out), and most importantly, behaves in a way the user can easily figure out. It's easier to achieve the first two using a standard toolkit, but by no means impossible to do all three with another. Firefox was so successful in part because of its great UI.
posted by breath at 3:37 PM on June 16, 2006

Firefox was so successful in part because of its great UI.
Hahah, what? It worked mostly like a browser, and everything else they attempt is clunky and horrid. The Mac implementation was so irritating to Mac users that a whole new browser project began (Camino).

The only, only time I've ever seen cross-platform and great-UI work together was in Lightroom, which is a special-case app.
posted by bonaldi at 3:15 PM on May 20, 2007

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