Re: Dumbing down of computing...

Daniel M. Zimmerman (
Wed, 18 Jun 1997 01:32:36 -0700

Greetings, all... I've been a lurker 'round here for about a week and a
half now, but since I spotted a Mac OS-related post, I had to jump in...

At 13.04 -0700 97-06-17, CobraBoy! wrote:
>All this talk about what is good software makes me want to share this.
>I installed MAC OS System 8 on my new PB 1400. Well I must say that weither
>it's the NeXT people or Apple finally getting it's act together it works
>surprisingly well.

Agreed... Since the NeXT people have had nothing whatsoever to do with Mac
OS 8 development, it must be that Apple is getting it's act together...

>However one of THE MOST annoying features is the normal Apple menu bar now
>says, "Help" right after "Special." Why do I have to see this? And to take
>that even further does Apple really believe they are going to sell a
>computer/OS to someone that already isn't familiar with the Mac? The little
>[?] button was bad enough, but now I have to see this stupid Help menu
>everytime I look at the Finder. Certaintly in 1984 when this OS came out
>and no one had a computer that makes sense, but is it really necessary?

Well, since nobody asked, here're my thoughts on this... First, in 1984,
there was no help in Mac OS, of any type (balloon help, and the
corresponding balloon menu was introduced in System 7, and Apple Guide was
introduced in System 7.1). The "Help" menu (actually the "Global Guide"
menu, since Apple changed the name of Apple Guide to Global Guide in the
wake of all the Mac OS clones - just like Macintosh Easy Open became Mac OS
Easy Open... but I digress...) is actually on the menu bar in every single
application, to the right of that application's last menu - and I think
it's a good thing, for the following two reasons:

1. Many applications (such as Eudora and Netscape) actually use the Global
Guide menu to provide application-specific help, both context-sensitive and
non-context-sensitive, which is useful even to users who know perfectly
well how the Mac OS works. Having it be a "Help" menu on the application
menus' side of the bar makes that connection more obvious and more
aesthetically pleasing. In other words, I think it conforms better to
Apple's Human Interface Guidelines than the old balloon icon way over on
the other side of the screen did.

2. Even users who know perfectly well how the Mac OS works need help once
in awhile. For instance, two of my favorite features in the System 7.6
Finder were being able to control-drag a file to create an alias and being
able to delete highlighted files with command-delete (both with the help of
the "Hidden Finder Features" control panel). I was ecstatic to see that
command-delete became a standard Finder command in Mac OS 8, but control
became the contextual menu key, so control-drag wouldn't work. If not for
the "Help" menu, I would never have learned that there _is_ a shortcut for
creating aliases under Mac OS 8 (option-command-drag).

That's all I've got to say on this subject, I suppose. Almost definitely
more than anybody wanted to hear, especially with yesterday's plethora of
messages... :)

Daniel Zimmerman Caltech Infospheres Research Group
M/S 256-80 - Caltech
Pasadena, California 91125 USA