I did not mean to write an essay detailing all the ways in which slider controls in Photoshop CS4 reveal problems in the design, development, quality control, and management of the product; I really didn’t. I just pulled up the Smart Sharpen dialog one evening and, sighing at its hideousness for the nth time, decided to put together a little joke post. That was all.
Is there an Internet rule yet stating that even the most obviously indefensible mistake will eventually be defended by someone somewhere? Awful marketing efforts get explained as genius viral campaigns, broken features become solutions.
- Photoshop’s sliders are different for a reason, and
- Hey, Apple does custom controls too, so it’s alright.
To which I say:
- No they’re not; not as a rule, anyway. There’s no reason for Memory Usage, Brightness, Pencil Width, Radius, and Scale to be different from each other. They all do the same exact thing: pick a single value from a range. (Needless clarification: yes, Scale has to be a bit smaller to fit comfortably in its window. Making well-fitting smaller versions of controls shouldn’t be rocket science.) These make up more than 50% of my examples. What’s the explanation for those?
As for the remaining custom controls, they do more than pick a single value, so they should be different. But… this different? Why are the Threshold and Color Balance sliders aliased when Layer Blending isn’t? Does anyone find these well-rendered?
- When Apple deviates, they usually innovate. When they introduce a new slider (like the one in iTunes 9) it’s an improvement. It feels at home in its window.
However, Apple is sometimes wrong. Final Cut Pro - originally designed by Macromedia - is not Apple’s finest UI hour. Children learn at a young age that bad behavior isn’t excused by saying “Cathy did it too!”
(I have now written way too much about all this. Aren’t these flaws simply obvious?)
I’m not saying anyone at Adobe is evil or crazy. I thought it was, in fact, pretty clear why Photoshop’s sliders are an unappealing mess: they were designed by someone who shouldn’t have been designing, implemented by someone who should’ve been implementing better, skipped over by someone who should have been finding bugs, and approved by someone who should have had higher standards.
It’s not the end of the world that a thumb control is misplaced by one pixel. All software ships with bugs, or it doesn’t ship. But here we are, version 11 of the app, and one of the most-used standard controls in the app is broken.
And this is only sliders we’re talking about. If this dead horse needed any more beating, I’d put together a gallery of misaligned text labels, inconsistent popup buttons (often in the same window!), badly scaled controls, and nearly impenetrable UI bugs. (I mean, there’s a whole blog for these.) What’s the explanation there - is that innovation? Or is it simply the case that this doesn’t matter enough to Adobe?
I love Photoshop. It’s where I spend eight hours five times a week. I just wish that one of these days, instead of piling on more furniture, they’d clean up the place.