About translucency in UI

Discussion in 'OS X Yosemite (10.10)' started by sanke1, Aug 7, 2014.

  1. sanke1 macrumors 65816


    Nov 9, 2010
    Windows 7 had a similar effect for windows borders. It was actually cool. But Microsoft dropped it in favour of flatter opaque UI for Windows 8.

    I myself loved the translucency and Apple re-introducing this effect in Yosemite brings joy. Case being Microsoft dropped the ball... and Apple picked it up and polished it.

    Much has been said about Yosemite's UI. But I quite like it. Just wondering whether this glass effect is restricted only to Apple's native apps or can third party apps like Google's Chrome can make use of API's and have the same effect?
  2. hamiltonDSi macrumors 68000


    Jul 29, 2012
    Some third party apps have the effect to.
    For now, only third party apps on my Mac that have the effect are VLC and Skype.
  3. ps3zocker macrumors regular

    May 3, 2012
    All apps can take advantage of this. Most of them have to be updated by the developer to support it, thought.

    Sidebars and toolbars have translucency even if the app hasn't been updated, it's systemwide.
  4. LukeHarrison macrumors regular


    May 11, 2007
    Selby, UK
    Must say I'm looking forward to Google adding Safari-style transparency to Chrome. Not sure if they're actually gonna do it, but I imagine it looking lush.

    I only use Chrome as I sync across multiple platforms, otherwise I'd be using Safari anyway.
  5. VirtualRain macrumors 603


    Aug 1, 2008
    Vancouver, BC
    I must admit, some aspects of Yosemite's translucency remind me of Windows. I never felt that Windows went far enough with it. Apple has taken it a step further, but I would like to see it go much further.

    For example, I've always loved the Terminal's "Pro" theme - a dark window with transparency effect. I've often wondered why more windows (especially finder) and apps can't do that kind of thing... where even the main application space is translucent.

    I would also love to see background windows (that don't have focus) become highly transparent... a nearly invisible outline of their otherwise normal self. It would reduce clutter significantly.
  6. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    Yosemite take on transparency is very different from Windows, actually. In Yosemite, its all about making the UI non-obtrusive, and letting the user easily focus on the content. In Windows, they've had extremely fat, cluttered UI, and Windows 8 does not really make it better (ribbon interface everywhere). Translucency in Windows was a gimmick. Translucency in Yosemite actually plays a function.

    But that would make content in them difficult to see. One of the biggest advantages of OS X has always been that you can still work with the content in the background (e.g. scrolling does not need focus). I use it all the time to look up notes while typing in my main window.
  7. .X. macrumors member

    Mar 15, 2014
    What function would that be?

    It doesn't aid the user to focus on content, like you claim. Objects behind the translucency are diffused to the point where all you see is a distracting color blob that draws attention away from content. Not useful for anything but looks.

    So, unless you can provide an example, I'd say that translucency in OS X is a gimmick too.
  8. leman, Aug 8, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2014

    leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    I haven't yet seen an OS X application where content background is translucent. What is translucent is the background of the UI (such as toolbars, sidebars, menus etc.), which makes the content more focused IMO. The see-through scrolling views illustrate this concept nicely, I think. Of course, its only my interpretation, but it makes a lot of sense to me looking at overall design language of Yosemite. The content has to take as much space as possible and be as clear as possible, with the UI around it being blended with the background.

    Exit: I just watched an WWDC video, where Mike Stern (an UI designer at Apple) is explaining Yosemite design. He basically says the same thing. Translucency there is a) to move the UI slightly into the background and make the content more pronounced, and b) to give the depth (as in distance to observer) feel to the whole system. As I reached essentially the same conclusion without knowing for sure the intents of the designers, I'd say that the design was a success ;)
  9. FSMBP macrumors 68020


    Jan 22, 2009
    I agree with .X. Translucency is actually quite distracting (I turned it off on my iPhone because it was distracting). I feel like it's eye-candy just so the flat UI doesn't come off too boring (I personally don't think a flat UI is boring).

    However, .X., Apple's reason for how the translucency is functional is this: it gives the user a sense of placement on iOS and OS X. So, when you pull down Notification Center on iOS, you know that your homescreen is just underneath...So it may help inexperienced users but to be honest, it makes the screen too busy for my taste.
  10. orioncrystalice macrumors 6502


    Jan 21, 2014
    Pros and cons. Sometimes it could make it too busy, but those menus also shouldn't be steel and chrome and blah forever.

    I'd like to see some translucency in Dark Mode. :cool:
  11. shanson27 macrumors 6502a


    Nov 27, 2011
    OS X Translucency and Windows 7 transparency are two different things, its like dog and cat ;)

    see the difference

  12. KALLT macrumors 601

    Sep 23, 2008
    I don’t understand why people are so determined to distinguish the two. They are both translucent, but with varying degrees of gaussian blur. The underlying idea, namely a frosted-glass effect is still the same.
  13. shanson27 macrumors 6502a


    Nov 27, 2011

    OK, watch this

  14. KALLT macrumors 601

    Sep 23, 2008
    I didn’t say there are no differences, I said that the effect is similar. Microsoft implemented Aero with exactly the same reason as Apple, namely to allow underlying elements to seep through the window frames (transparency), while using a combination of gaussian blur and added tints/colours to make them more pronounced (translucency). That is also true for Yosemite. Obviously, Yosemite has a lot more elements where this effect is used, but it’s still in essence the same. That’s why it’s unsurprising that this reference to Aero comes up all the time, because the effect is so familiar.

    There is nothing wrong in making the parallels or even admitting that Apple is adopting an idea that Microsoft used for quite some time now. As the editor of that video said, the effect has been used even before Apple or Microsoft came up with it. Apple just implemented it in its own way, just as Microsoft did at the time.
  15. shanson27, Aug 9, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2014

    shanson27 macrumors 6502a


    Nov 27, 2011
    similar, but not the same !
  16. KALLT macrumors 601

    Sep 23, 2008
    But similar enough as to have the same function. That’s why I don’t agree with statements like these: ‘Translucency in Windows was a gimmick. Translucency in Yosemite actually plays a function.’ That’s just rubbish. Translucency in Yosemite isn’t more functional or less of a gimmick than it is in Windows. You can argue about the aesthetics of course.
  17. shanson27 macrumors 6502a


    Nov 27, 2011

    Apple used transparent windows 2001 in aqua, long before Windows ! think about that !

    see the image below

  18. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    KALLT is right here, the visual technique for translucency used in Vista/7 and Yosemite is essentially the same one, just with different parametrisation. The Yosemite further refines it by using color burn instead just transparency like Windows, but thats just details. Its both blend+blur.

    There are multiple reasons why I said that translucency in Yosemite is more functional than in Windows. First of all, its more consistent. Second, it is accessible to the programmer via a rich set of APIs, which come with design guidelines (the Windows APIs for this are extremely rudimentary). Third, its not only translucent backgrounds — Yosemite includes a wide range of different blur effects that can make the UI more pronounced (they call it vibrancy). All together, its clear that Yosemite designers have envisioned these visual effects as a functional part of the overall design language which is also intended to be used in a certain way.

    TL;DR: In Windows, you just had translucent window frames. In Yosemite, translucency is an aesthetic tool used by the application designer to provide certain visual feedback (and of course, aesthetic feeling). So sure, they are both gimmicky, but the Yosemite approach appears much more functional to me.
  19. KALLT macrumors 601

    Sep 23, 2008
    This explanation makes a lot of sense to me. You should have said so from the start, pal. ;-)

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