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Aqua is dead, long live Aqua!

Dan Lurie

Apple seems to use iTunes as a test-bed for new user interface design styles, and iTunes 7 brings with it an almost complete overhaul the Aqua look we have all grown to love/hate/tolerate. While on the surface, the iTunes 7 interface may seem very similar to that of previous versions, there are a few very distinct differences that I think forebode greater system wide changes to come in 10.5 Leopard.

Since the initial version 10.0, OS X has gone through a variety of system-wide interface changes while still keeping some very important aspects of the original Aqua UI. First we lost the pinstripes, then we got brushed metal, and most recently, we see the move with most applications to a "unified" interface. With iTunes 7, Aqua is gone for good. Glossy radio buttons, scroll bars, control buttons and track information windows are all gone; replaced by sleek utilitarian sand-blasted metal. I think this is the first significant peek we've had into the rumored complete redesign of the OS X UI for Leopard.

I, for one, welcome this change. While the glossy days of old were an exciting way to draw new users–indeed, it was part of way I switched– it quickly became an eyesore for many; designers in particular. The introduction of the Graphite visual style fixed a lot of issues graphics professionals had with the bright colors of the interface clashing with their work, but everything was still not dandy. For pro and power users their Mac is not only a computer, it is the tool of their trade, and something they use day in and day out to get things done, and while no one wants to work in a badly designed, ugly UI, minimalist utilitarianism is sometimes the key to reducing distraction.

Of course, much of this is personal opinion, but it is an opinion I know is shared by at least a small core group of Mac die hards.

What's your take on the new interface? Is it just a fluke, or a hint at things to come?

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