Like a Native

I picked up a new slide scanner the other day. I was looking at some of the old family pictures a couple of weeks ago, which rekindled a desire to get at least my Dad’s slides scanned, so I can share them with the rest of the family. I’ve been dissatisfied with the scans I’ve had done by one of the local camera shops, so I’ve been wanting more control over the process. This scanner came highly reviewed, with the caveat that there was a steep learning curve, and so far, I’ve been struggling with it. I’ll have more to say about it once I’ve figured it out, but I’ve already encountered one big pet peeve: the SilverFast software is very obviously a cross-platform product which feels very much out of place on my Mac.

I understand the lure of writing a cross platform piece of software. The idea is you write it once, and publish it on both platforms. And this probably would have worked if they had simply shared the processing code, but the UI feels… foreign.The fonts are wrong, the font metrics are wrong, the menu placement is wrong, the buttons look wrong, and nothing is where I would be accustomed to finding it. I suppose I should be grateful that they published the software for the Mac at all, but I can’t help but wish that they’d made it a real Mac app.

Cross platform user interfaces generally feel out of place on the Mac, usually because the they adhere more closely to Windows user conventions than they do Mac user interface conventions. The original Mozilla Application Suite was another example. All of the application controls were created with a cross platform UI language, and as a result, most of the app’s controls looked like they were designed for Windows 95 (even on Windows XP). It’s taken Mozilla a long time to substitute native controls—on both platforms—and Firefox still doesn’t feel 100% at home on the Mac.

Part of the SilverFast documentation is a set of QuickTime movies, narrated by someone speaking with a very pronounced German accent, and that’s a good metaphor for how this product feels. I can understand what the narrator is saying, but the accent is strong enough to be distracting, and occasionally the choice of words isn’t quite right. The publisher is a German company, and my guess is that the voice is one of their employees. I have to give him credit for speaking as well as he does (I couldn’t even attempt a German tutorial), but all the same, the tutorial would have been better if they’d hired a native English speaking writer and voice-over artist, and the app would be a better app if it had used a native Mac UI.