25
Jul 11

Lion’s little lapse

I’ve settled into Lion very well now, thank you. Happy as a clam.

I picked up a Magic Trackpad, which made a huge difference. I was so smitten by the log-in background, I made that my desktop image. (Download that here, if you’re interested.) Now everything looks gorgeous.

Except for iCal — which remains hideous.

Honestly, I feel bad complaining about such a detail when I’m so happy with Lion overall. It’s like telling the hostess who invited me to an elaborate dinner party that her shoes are ugly.

But I’m sorry: iCal is ugly. And Address Book is only slightly less ugly.

It’s not that these apps are literally unsightly or poorly crafted — they just don’t fit in with the rest of the dinner party. With most of  Lion being so elegant, the metaphor of the old leather desk blotter feels embarrassingly out of place.

If, for some reason — and it’s a very big “if” — one felt compelled to dress up iCal like a physical calendar, one could easily find a more modern design. The idea of Mac OS X going “retro” is just unsettling on many levels.

I get that in the full-screen world of iPad, these types of rich graphics make sense. They add to the fun of it. A 27-inch iMac is a bit different. You don’t want to use every app full-screen. I like to keep iCal open on the side, and now it’s become an iSore.

It would have been different if Apple shipped a choice of iCal themes with Lion and opened a market for new themes. But they didn’t. They forced me into a design that has a specific and limited appeal.

(By the way, it is possible to go in and change the iCal theme if you’re the tinkering type. Instructions here.)

So what gives?

We know for a fact that Steve Jobs approves every last interface element. Yet it’s really hard to imagine Steve, champion of elegant design, approving this. It’s enough to make one think this might be a responsibility Steve has now passed off to others.

All in all, I do think the Lion team did an amazing job. I just have one request for the next version of OS X: please run it by Jony before you do anything rash.

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  • qka

    You already seem to be familiar with osxdaily.com. They have posted instructions for reverting iCal back to the metal-look of Snow Leopard.

  • Matthew

    Go to eggfreckles.net and there is a way to switch iCal to a regular, silver look. I did it and have had no problems.

  • Totally agree. Try BusyCal instead. You’ll never look back at pathetic, misguided iCal again. (BusyCal actually bested iCal even back in the Leopard and Snow Leopard days, by providing dozens of features that iCal STILL doesn’t have to this day.)

  • Taxi

    Apple hates calendaring. It’s so obvious. You can’t croll dates on iOS, despite it being a completely obvious gesture; the default calendar constantly changes (this drives my nuts); sharing is guesswork; iCal dies when there are too many repeating events; you can scroll by day (try booking a long weekend); and every version of iCal is somehow worse than the one before. Leopard was certainly a step backwards from tiger.

    I just wish apple would stop pretending, get out of the game and free up the market for busycal and others. Busycal is an awesome app; it’s a much more apple-like application than iCal has ever been.

  • ken segall

    @Scott & Taxi:
    Thanks for the BusyCal recommendation. To be honest, I’d never even thought of replacing iCal. I’ll give it a try…

  • From what I’ve been hearing around the internet (see especially the last episode of the Talk Show http://5by5.tv/talkshow/70), the new iCal and Address Book looks might have had a huge input from Steve Jobs. He did like textures a lot, and this is one case where he could have went too far. After all, he wasn’t perfect.

  • ken segall

    @Abhimat:
    You are quite right. My instincts were wrong about this one, as I have since verified with my sources that Steve was a very big fan of the leather look. He pushed hard for it, right down to the nature of the stitching. But as you say, Steve wasn’t perfect. I think most of the things he did had the full support of the design community, but this one … not so much.