As you may have noticed, Mac OS 10.4, “Tiger”, introduced the ability to create search-based data structures in various applications. The names of such structures are prepended with the word “Smart”, apparently to indicate their intellectual superiority. The contents1 of said Smart structure are, variously, files, songs, photos, etc., as appropriate to the application in which they exist—see, e.g., Smart Playlists in iTunes, Smart Albums in iPhoto, and Smart Groups in Address Book.
Smart structures are nice in concept, and work fairly well in practice—but what I don't understand is why the UI for creating a new Smart whatever differs from application to application. Consider first: iTunes. The command for creating a new Smart Playlist is File → New Smart Playlist. The keyboard shortcut for creating a new Playlist is ⌘N, and that for creating a new Smart Playlist is then, appropriately, ⌥⌘N. The “New Smart Playlist” dialogue in iTunes is a window2 that pops up when the command is called.
Note that there is no field for the name—a prompt to name your new Smart Playlist appears upon clicking OK.
The New Smart Album dialogue in iPhoto looks similar.
…but wait, where did all of my checkboxes go? Those options would be useful here. And there's a Smart Album name field right at the top. And this is a sheet, not a window. wtf? At least the menu command and keyboard shortcut are the same—thank goodness for that.3
Another? The New Smart Group dialogue in Address Book looks more like the dialogue in iPhoto than the one in iTunes: checkboxes MIA, name field at the top, sheet.
But wait, there is actually one checkbox—a new one. I guess Apple thought this option would be useful here, but not in the other two? Dunno.
I took a screenshot of the New Smart Folder window in Finder, but I'm not even going to show it here—it's frighteningly different from all of the above, which is perhaps somewhat justified… Apple wanted it to feel like a folder. But then again, the New Folder, New Playlist, New Album, and New Group processes are all pretty similar, so why not the Smart ones? Sigh.
You don't need me to tell you that UI consistency is important, especially when the visual metaphor is, as in these cases (again, with the possible exception of folders in Finder… but I think they could have tried a little harder with that one), essentially identical.
- Smart thingies don't actually have contents, per say. Each is just a list of search results that pretends to be a playlist/album/group/folder. Whatever. ^
- The New Smart Playlist dialogue in iTunes may be a window, but it acts like a sheet: you can't do anything else in iTunes until it is dismissed. Oh, but you can move it around if you want. Yay. ^
- I do not mean to belittle this fact. There might have actually been some bad words in this post if the menu commands and keyboard shortcuts were different. ^