The Design of Software (CLOSED)

A public forum for discussing the design of software, from the user interface to the code architecture. Now closed.

The "Design of Software" discussion group has been merged with the main Joel on Software discussion group.

The archives will remain online indefinitely.

Different icon "skins" for different platforms?

I'm working on an application that will be deployed on Windows, Mac and Linux. I'm aware that one of the common user complaints about cross-platform apps is that they don't feel "native." One way I've envisioned to address this is to use icon sets that are platform-specific--to use photorealistic, "lickable" icons on the Mac, Fisher-Price-style icons on Windows, and, um, ugly icons on Linux. Has anyone tried this in their programs? Or is it a bad idea?
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Don't use the ugly icons on Linux versions.  :)

This is actually a valid tactic because each of the different systems have different window managing concepts, conventions, and preferred tool bar options. OS X for example used to encourage developers to have only one way of invoking commands; you would use a "open file" menu command, tool bar button exclusive-or a big button in the window itself, the idea being that the customer is not confused by multiple choices. (And makes it easier to provide tech support.) Windows on the other hand recommends both an "obvious newbie" option and an "experienced, speed-user" option.

Regardless of whether it's a valid argument or not, designing a framework that allows you to specify different skins for different platforms also allows you to easily customize the interface for different platforms.

The question is whether its worth the time and effort for your application. For example, a calculator shouldn't do this, but a word processor definitely should.

If all you want to do is change the appearance of the buttons itself, I wouldn't bother. The choice of buttons and their placement, will still feel alien.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
If you use the wxWidgets framework for development, your application will be using the native controls on each OS.
outback Send private email
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Icons is probably one of the lesser issues with cross-platform apps.

Vista and OSX icons look pretty similar to me. I think only the Mac zealots will make an issue of it. And probably nothing you can do will make them happy with a cross-platform app. They want it written in Cocoa.

I've used the same set of icons for both Windows and Mac so far:

I also use the Windows version for all the screenshots - which is probably sacrilege for OSX users.

The only complaints I have had about icons is from business users that the icons don't look professional enough - especially the love heart ;0). I have thought about having a separate set of icons for the "standard" and "professional" versions of the software. Could make the documentation and screenshots a pain though.
Andy Brice Send private email
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Are you using a 3rd party library for the cross platform GUI? Or is it Java? Spill the beans.

Use nice icons on the Linux version.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Andy uses Qt3.
Matthias Winkelmann Send private email
Thursday, May 04, 2006
>Andy uses Qt3.

I do, but I think they were asking the original poster (hard to be sure).
Andy Brice Send private email
Thursday, May 04, 2006
I was asking the original poster but thanks for the details.
Saturday, May 06, 2006

This topic is archived. No further replies will be accepted.

Other recent topics Other recent topics
Powered by FogBugz