- Rhymin' and Schemin' #2
- Okay kids, what have I got for you today? Let me rifle through my pockets...let's see. Wallet? No, I'll need that. Movie ticket stubs? Wouldn't do you any good. How about this...um...no, I'm gonna need that too. All right, enough of this forced wittiness. Down to interface business!
- Before we get down to brass tacks, though, I thought maybe I should tell you a bit about my tastes in schemes, icons, desktop pictures, et cetera. I like Kaleidoscope schemes that are polished. No little jaggy edges, no weird problems with icon masks, no inactive windows that don't quite fade into the background enough. I generally like darker, more muted colors, but not across the board. If it doesn't have at least a bit of color, it's in the Trash. But not too overpowering, since I do a lot of work in Photoshop and I find a more subtle interface helps one concentrate on graphics work.
- As far as icons go, I'm a sucker for cartoon characters. The thought of having Johnny Bravo, or Brak, or Bubbles, Blossom and Buttercup on my desktop is just too good to pass up. A lot of people frown on icons that look like they were lifted directly from photos, but I eat 'em up. And ever since I upgraded to OS 8.5, I can't go back to 8-bit icons. 32-bit icons are just so much prettier (when they're done right; an ugly icon is an ugly icon at any color depth), and they've gotten a lot easier to create.
- As far as desktop pictures go...well, I only started heavily using them recently. My old machine simply didn't have the horsepower to display full-screen desktop pictures without slowing down more than the snail in that Apple commercial. Now that I'm in iMac DV country, though, I use desktop pictures all the time. I tend toward abstract shapes, since I've already got lots of icons with recognizable characters. And I'm not big on giant Apple logos. I know who made my computer, I don't need to be reminded every time I look at the screen.
- Okay. Now that we've gotten that out of the way with, you can take my opinions with a little bit of perspective. Damn, there sure are a whole lot of Aqua themes and schemes out there, huh? And they're really being heavily publicized. What with the whole skinz.org fiasco a few weeks back, I sure would have thought Apple would have cracked down by now. And yet 'artist' after 'artist' continues to crank out virtually identical themes and schemes based on OS X's new, iMac-ified look. And yes, they're all nice. There wasn't a scrap of artistic vision that went into their creation, but I don't think any of their authors would refute that. These are stopgaps, just like Aaron was in the pre-OS 8 days. I think anyone who uses on of these themes/schemes for a few days and likes it will soon be clamoring for OS X, since they barely scratch the surface of Aqua's feature set.
- On the other hand, I think these 'previews' of Aqua also have the potential to do some damage. People may try one out for a day or two and decide outright that they just can't stand those stripes, those candy-colored buttons, the overall cuteness. I doubt that any rational person would jump to such a conclusion after using one of these themes/schemes, but it is possible.
- "But what do you think of Aqua, Todd?" Dammit, who the hell said that? Did you hear it too? Well...I like it. It really matches the look of the iMac well. Just as Platinum complemented the greys and beiges of old Macs, Aqua complements the ice-and-candy colors of the iMac. It's as bold a design leap as the hardware line made 3 years ago, and I think it's gonna pay off big for Apple. Aqua doesn't look like anything else. It's instantly recognizable; different, yet familiar. The widget placement is odd, but the mouseover effects will help old Mac users adjust quickly.
- While the question of theme or Kaleidoscope scheme support for OS X is still unanswered, my main interface-related questions deal with icons and desktop pictures. Will it still be easy to customize icons with the new, scalable up to 128*128 pixel icons? What will this new format mean for all of the talented Macintosh icon artists out there, long revered for being able to squeeze works of art into a box with only 1,024 pixels in it? Will it no longer be considered a skill to create good-looking icons? Or will the new format result in even more breathtaking works of art from folks like The Icon Factory and Albie Wong? Well? Oh...you don't know either? Jeez, what did you let me run off at the mouth like that for? Wow...must be medication time!
- Hate to leave you in the lurch, though, so I'll pass along some parting thoughts. If you're like me, and I know I am, you love surfing around and downloading all of the newest and coolest icons. But wouldn't it be great if there was a site that went and found all of the new ones as they were released, reviewed 'em, and put it all on one handy-dandy page? Look no further! Seek the Cow! The IconCow, that is. IconCow is a great website that brings you all of the latest icon sets for the Mac from around the Web. Icon sets are honestly reviewed and posted with small previews. If you visit IconCow every day or two, you're sure to find damn near every Mac icon released. IconCow also has a mailing list and a unique 'wish list' page where you can post ideas for icons you'd love to see, in the hopes that icon artists will be inspired by your ideas. See you next time, when I might just have a surprise or two...or not. E-mail me and tell me how cool this column is, and maybe I'll treat you... Todd