Click-Through in Snow Leopard's Finder

Pierre Igot has an extensive examination of changes Apple has made to click-through behavior in Snow Leopard's Finder. In Mac OS X, some elements of background windows remain clickable, while others become inactive. There is no obvious way of telling which is which. Pierre Igot writes:

How is the user supposed to “know” and remember intuitively that click-through now only works in icon view mode and not in list view mode and column view mode? And how is the user supposed to “know” and remember intuitively that, even though click-through no longer works, “double-click-through” (to coin a phrase) still does?

With such inconsistencies, it is pretty much impossible for the user to develop instinctive habits in his or her interactions with the Finder, and he or she ends up constantly having to correct the inappropriate/unexpected behaviour triggered by his or her mouse clicks.

I've written about click-through last year. I believe click-through in Mac OS X is fundamentally broken. It should be turned off for all interface elements, except for a few standard elements which always receive click-through and have hover states to clearly indicate that they are clickable.1 This would prevent users from accidentally clicking on buttons, and it would remove doubt about whether a click will only activate a window, or also execute a command.

Update: Chris Clark raises an interesting point about click-through.

  1. I'm making this exception because when I'm closing windows that are in the background, click-through is quite useful. ↩︎

If you require a short url to link to this article, please use

designed for use cover

But wait, there's more!

Want to read more like this? Buy my book's second edition! Designed for Use: Create Usable Interfaces for Applications and the Web is now available DRM-free directly from The Pragmatic Programmers. Or you can get it on Amazon, where it's also available in Chinese and Japanese.