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April 09, 2007

Hey Apple, after you fix the green button how about the red button next?

Categories Apple 

TheAppleBlog has a great article on why the green button in OS X is broken and needs fixing.  To me the bigger annoyance is the red button.  Sometimes the red button quits the application other times it just closes the window and leaves the application running.  The logic behind the behavior is that if the application only ever has one window, such as System Preferences or Calculator, the red button quits. But if the application can have multiple windows like Microsoft Word or Safari the red button closes the window, but leaves the application running.  It sort of makes sense, but unfortunately the logic is so obtuse that the button ends up seeming totally inconsistent.  The big problem is the behavior is based on what the program is capable of, not it's current state.  Most user don't have a clue which programs can have multiple windows and which cannot, nor should they really care.  If I had to guess between iPhoto and iTunes which could have multiple windows, I'd guess iPhoto... and I'd be wrong.  It would make much more sense if the behavior of the button were based on the current state of the application, i.e. how many windows the program currently had open.

So what should it do?

If it were up to me, when the red button is clicked for an application's last remaining window, the user would be prompted to quit the application or just close the window.   Simple as that.  To me this is much more logical and user friendly as the behavior of the button is based not how many windows the program is capable of having open, but how many windows the program current has open. Here's a little mock-up of what the prompt could look like.

So if the application has only one window, it is (by definition) also the application's last remaining window and the behavior would be pretty much the same as it is today. But if a user systematically closes all the windows of an application, he would be prompted to quit the application when he get's to last one which is probably what he was trying to do in the first place. A couple nice side effect of this, is that it would give users the option to close the window for things like System Preferences without quitting it. Also, the prompt clues people in to the fact that on the Mac OS an application can be running even if it doesn't have any windows, a detail that is very easy to miss.   Cmd+Q should still quit without a prompt, unless there are unsaved documents, just as it does now.  This way longtime Mac users can still use Cmd+Q as they're used to, and longtime Windows users can quit applications by using the little X in the corner as they're used to. And of course Mac newbies won't bog down their system because have a bunch of programs running that they didn't properly quit.

Just One Exception

The only exception to my proposed red button behavior would be for the Finder.  Closing the last Finder window shouldn't prompt you to shut down your Mac.


I agree with your basic observations. But Steve Jobs has been quoted as quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds...", and I think he thinks this might be one example of that. He said he deliberately loosened control over implementation of the Mac's human interface standards to see if something new and good would come of it. Maybe something good has somewhere, but not in this case.

Another thing that should be added to the red button's abilities, is to prompt the user if they really want to close ANY window whose red button they click on, whether or not it's the last window in that app, if the app is a web browser into which you've typed something you haven't sent yet--the black dot that appears in the red button, indicating that you've entered data that hasn't been saved or sent yet, appears in windows, including web browser windows when you enter text into fields like these blog posts, but unlike a word processor, when you close a browser window that contains text you haven't sent yet, the browser doesn't give you any warning, so you can lose the text you entered.

I think the red button should never shut down an application only close individual windows as for applications with only one window it should serve as a hide button.
If you use the app Cha-Ching its like iPhoto it dose not work on a multi window system but when you hit the red button it's as if you hit command H shortcut and hid the application (apart from the name is still in the menu bar at the top) if it was my job id make it function exactly as command H right down to the name changing to the next open app in the menu bar and make that a consistent feature throughout the operating system and all applications that way people will know what is happening when they hit that dam button!

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