Attaboy.ca

Over There (in the UK)

December 1, 2005 at 12 PM

Is That An Icon In Your Pocket, Or…

OS X has this whole “pretty interface” thing going pretty strong. Well, actually I’m not crazy about those “brushed metal” windows — and really, who is? — but apparently Apple has changed its mind about them since iTunes 6 shed now sports, er, “smooth metal”. So there’s hope.

In general though, OS X is nice to look at. It’s subtler and more professional looking than Windows XP, with its default garish blue bubbly look. Still, there’s one other thing I’ve never liked about OS X: the system icons. They just don’t stack up against the general aesthetic of everything else. Am I a big nerd for caring what my icons look like? Perhaps. Am I lucky that there are plenty of other nerds just like me out there to set things right? Absolutely.

If there’s one single thing I like most about using Macs compared to Windows is the attitude of the people making software for it. There are a lot of applications for the Mac that do one thing, and do it well. Simplicity and ease are hallmarks of the OS X experience, and even if Apple sometimes drops the ball (cough, Finder, cough), other developers tend to pick up the slack.

Take CandyBar from IconFactory for instance. This shareware program lets you change all of the system icons in a single stroke. And IconFactory publishes “iContainers” — packs of icons that you simply drop in — and third-party icon makers have started releasing them as well. Sure you could cut and paste the icons yourself, and hack your way through the system, but CandyBar does it all so fast and so easily, and it doesn’t mess anything up along the way. (You can always undo and go back to the original system icons at any time.)

Folder icons There are lots of iContainers that are pretty or stylish, or both, but ultimately most tend to be distracting in the long term. For my money, I’ve only found two packs of replacement icons that fit OS X so well that you forget they’re replacement icons. One is the IconFactory 200th Set, which I’ve used for some time. The other is a new set just released called Agua that I just installed and gosh darn if it ain’t the perttiest li’l thang y’ever did see. Apple needs to hire these guys. Look how the Agua folder (and the IF 200 one) look next to the clunky OS X default. They’re so much smoother and more elegant. And elegance is what it’s all about, right? People buy iPods and Macs because they’re elegant. They make you feel classy. (Sure, they work pretty well too.)

So, the question is, which icon would you rather have on your desktop?

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Previously: There’s No Cliff

Subsequently: Election 2006

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