I guess it was just a lack of looking. There’s even a term for this approach, Suckerfish Dropdowns, although I’m not doing exactly what they recommend as far as IE support is concerned. However, I haven’t actually noticed it being necessary.
Now that may well be because I’m not even trying to support versions before IE 7, what with all of the transparent PNGs I’ve got everywhere. But still, the solution I’m using works great across all of the browsers I’ve tested: Firefox 2.x, Safari 2.x/3.x, and IE 7. The only complaint I have with it is that the positioning differs slightly between the browsers: the menus appear a few pixels higher in IE than in Firefox or Safari, such that they’re jammed up against the text of the menu header. But if I move them lower, the necessary contact (or really, probably overlap) between the menu header and the menu itself doesn’t happen… and if there’s a gap of even 1 pixel between the bottom of the header and the top of the menu, the menu will disappear if you don’t mouse over it fast enough.
Geez. I read a paragraph like that last one and I just have to ask myself, what am I doing with my life???
I had forgotten I’d even found and tried this until I looked up at my menu bar today after changing my desktop image and noticed it was opaque. I can’t find the site where I originally got the code, but I’ve found another blog that mentions it. The code to execute at the command line is:
(The code all needs to be entered on one line, of course; I need to work on my CSS for displaying code, probably employing Google’s Syntax Highlighter. So add that to my gigantic and ever-growing — at an increasing rate — to-do list. At my present trajectory, I will get this done approximately 10 million years after never.)
As the poster notes, the number 0.63 at the end can be any decimal value from 0 to 1. It represents the lightness of the opaque menu bar: 0 is black, 1 is white, and anything in between is shades of gray (surprise!); all non-white values have a subtle gradient as well.
This works great, which is not surprising, since this is the way Apple designed it to be managed. (In other words, they didn’t intend for the end user to be able to adjust it at all… but they built a way into the code to allow their programmers to adjust it.)
Of course, in the meantime since I first complained about it, I have actually come to tolerate (if not like) the translucent menu bar. But for now I’ll leave it as it is. If I do decide to change it back, I’ll run this:
And of course, because these are system-level changes, you need to reboot for them to take effect (which is probably why I had forgotten I’d done it in the first place; I didn’t restart immediately and surely got distracted by whatever it is in my life that’s constantly distracting me… two kids, perhaps).
A few weeks ago I took a training course for work. The course was not actually on Office 2007, but the computers in the training room were equipped with it, and it did come into play a few times. This was my first exposure to this version of Office, and needless to say I was stunned (and not necessarily in a good way) by the radically altered user interface.
I wouldn’t say I have any kind of unhealthy attachment to the lowly menu bar, but it is, after all, one of the cornerstones of a graphical user interface. I suppose being a Mac user has an effect on my sense of its importance, since it is ever-present at the top of the screen. I do think the Windows approach, where the menus are integrated into the application window, makes more sense and is — perhaps (gasp!) — more intuitive for novice users. But regardless of where it is, in most applications it just needs to be there, and without it I’m as lost as I’d be if I were looking not at a computer screen but at the inscrutable LCD display of a photocopier or a fax machine. (Have I ever mentioned how much I hate photocopiers and fax machines?)
If you’ve not yet seen Office 2007, you may not understand where I’m going with this, but, yes… it’s true… the menu bar is gone — GONE!!! — in all Office 2007 applications. Instead, you have… this:
Credit where credit is due (so Microsoft will not sue, since this image is surely copyrighted), I swiped this screenshot from here.
Maybe it’s just the effect of Steve Ballmer‘s voice ringing incessantly in the ears of their developers, but Microsoft actually has the audacity to suggest that this “ribbon” reduces clutter. Never mind the fact that you likely will have no idea where your formerly familiar menu options have gotten off to in this sea of buttons. And do not for a moment ask yourself why, if the tabbed ribbons have replaced the menus, they couldn’t have at least given them familiar names and organization (“File, Edit, View,” etc.).
Maybe I’m too “old school.” Maybe I’m a “dinosaur” or a “curmudgeon.” Some have made the valid argument that this interface may in fact be more intuitive to a new user who’s not familiar with the older versions of Word, Excel and the rest (yes, PowerPoint and Outlook are the Professor and Mary Ann of Office). But I have to ask this: how many people who are going to be using this really have never used Word (or for that matter, a computer with a GUI) before? And even if they haven’t, is an interface that assaults the new user with no less than sixty-one (according to my count in the above screenshot) buttons, tabs, or other clickable thingamabobbers, really going to instill in them a sense of ease, comfort and self-confidence at the keyboard?
But the ironic beauty (for us Apple fanboys) of this new interface is more than skin deep. For me, the most, erm, (I’ll use the word again) stunning thing about the interface is the magical, shiny, multi-colored and oh-so-enticing (yet strangely off-putting) Office button in the upper left corner, which not only beckons to you like a mercury-flavored Spree in this screenshot, but in fact pulses (yeah, that effect was cool in 2001) to the point of literally begging you to click it.
Go ahead. Click it.
But only click it once. For if you click it once, it spreads before you the most wondrous, the most essential (and for that matter, just about the only) menu in the entire application, containing options for opening, saving, printing and whatnot.
Click it twice, though, and guess what. No really, come on. Take a wild guess. That’s right, it closes the program. Brilliant! That’s really taking the novice into consideration. If there’s one thing I know about novice computer users, it’s that they don’t understand the difference between a single click and a double click. In fact, it seems the human brain must be hardwired to intuitively grasp that any quick poking motion with a finger should be done twice in rapid succession, and it’s only through years of experience with a computer that the tech savvy among us have trained ourselves out of this habit. Why else would so many websites (the first realm in computing that so boldly ventured into the netherworld of the single mouse click) have to plaster their pages with warnings not to click “Submit” buttons twice, lest Amazon.com should send you a duplicate copy of The Birds in My Life. (For the record, I found that particular item by going to Amazon and typing “stuff old clueless people like” into the search box.)
Now where was I? Oh yeah… my desktop. Because that’s what I’m looking at now that I accidentally double-clicked the mercury Spree. I assume that button is intended to be the Office counterpart to the new Start menu icon in Windows Vista. I have yet to use Windows Vista, or even to encounter a computer that has it installed. Nor have I yet talked to anyone who’s actually purchased it or a computer that came with it, but I’d guess that’s mainly because I don’t know anyone like this guy:
Yes, that guy was in a picture on this page. I went to Microsoft’s website, looking for information about Windows Vista, and the first human face I encountered was that of Andy Samberg‘s stoner (or would it be “stoner-er”?) little brother.
OK, well… I don’t really know how to wrap this up. It’s almost 2 AM and I’m spent. I might go weeks minutes before I can find anything more to criticize about Microsoft. But don’t worry, when I do, you’ll be the first to know.
Yes, I drank Steve Jobs’ Kool-Aid a long time ago. I lined up at 4:30 on Friday outside an Apple Store to wait for 90 minutes for my copy of Mac OS X Leopard. I had read lots about it before it was released, so I knew what was coming. And yet, as much as I like most of the new features (especially the new Finder), and can put up with the things I like less (such as the cluttered-looking new Dock), I simply cannot stand the translucent menu bar.
Since I installed it yesterday, 90% of my computer time has been spent online trying to find out what I can do — whatever it takes — to just get back to a normal-looking, opaque menu bar. Why, oh why, Steve Jobs, can you not cede one tiny millimeter of interface control to the user? (OK, maybe I’m just bitter because I’ve spent the last week in the nirvana of user customization that is Ubuntu Linux.)
Judging by a Google search, it looks like I’m not alone in my frustration. But so far the only fixes I’ve seen are a hack app that only worked with the beta, and the somewhat obvious but equally lame option of incorporating a proper menu background as a band at the top of all of your desktop pictures.
Unfortunately, it looks like I won’t even be able to take the “somewhat obvious but equally lame” route, as it appears that Photoshop 7 (yes, it’s pitifully out-of-date, but it’s the version I own) doesn’t work in Leopard. D’oh!
Some more searching revealed a plausible, inexpensive alternative called Pixelmator. Of course, I am always dubious when someone posting on a forum or a blog comment says “this $59 shareware program can do everything Photoshop can do.” Um, yeah. Right. For less than 1/10 the price it was worth at least investigating though, so I downloaded the demo. It’s definitely a nice program, but it looks like the one thing I need most in Photoshop for the work I do, its layer effects, are completely missing from Pixelmator.
Update: Finally an elegant (if still fundamentally hackish) solution has presented itself, in the form of a little app called Opaque Menu Bar!
It’s come to my attention that printing from the new Gallery tool on the Offspring page is not as easy as it could be. Paying for Shutterfly prints is an option, of course, but you can also print the images right from the site or save them to your hard drive. Here are some instructions…
1. Click on the picture you want to print, so it appears by itself on the page in the larger size.
2. In the gray area above the picture, on the right side, you’ll see the date, owner, and size information. There’s a menu that allows you to pick other sizes to view, and the “full size” appears below that as an orange link (see picture). Click the orange link next to “full size.”
3. The page will reload displaying the full-size picture, which will most likely be too big to fit in your browser window.
4. To print the picture, you’ll want to open it up in a window by itself. Do this by right-clicking (on a Mac, hold the Ctrl key down and then click) on the picture, and in the menu that appears, choose “View image” or “Open image in new window” something similar. (The exact wording varies depending on your web browser.)
5. Now you can print the photo by choosing “Print” from the browser’s “File” menu (or by clicking the print button, if your browser has one).
6. If you want to save the picture, do everything up through step 4, but instead of choosing “View image” from the menu, choose “Save target as…” or “Save image to disk” or something to that effect.