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The case of the missing resolution independence


What the heck happened to resolution independence?

In Gruber's review of the Powerbook a few years ago, he trumpeted the coming of a feature long evading the Mac faithful, a resolution independent interface. Others at the time expected the same thing to appear in Leopard: UI elements that were completely independent of the screen's resolution, and, finally, a fully scalable interface, and freedom from whatever screen you were working on. Higher resolutions without squeezing down the UI elements. And as we got closer to Leopard, more and more word went around that OS 10.5 would have it. At WWDC 2006, some developers even confirmed it. And Apple even filed a patent to get it done.

Except now it's November, Leopard is out, and resolution independence is nowhere to be found, at least at the user-accessible level. What gives?

To be fair to Apple, they've been quiet on it since around January of this year (ie. Macworld, when another little device took some attention away from Leopard). And resolution independence didn't appear on the Sparta list, either, so it's not like Apple lied straight out told us it would be in Leopard. It's not really a surprise to anyone that it's not in there, and that's why we haven't heard much about it since last week.

But if not Leopard, where? A resolution independent display wouldn't help so much on the iPhone or iPod (since those have fixed displays), but it might help on the rumored ultraportable-- maybe all of that work won't appear until Apple releases OS X on a screen that's unusual. Or if not there-- why? Why would Apple have been working on it, and then ditch the idea for this release entirely?

It's a strange case, and if the reason it's not in Leopard is because something went wrong, odds are we'll never know what happened (it's not very like Apple to admit when their plans go awry). The good news is that, as a few have pointed out, resolutions and UI elements are still a big deal for Apple, and they're still pushing hard to get the UI as clean and clear as possible. There are more vector graphics than ever in Leopard, and even if the coding still isn't there, the graphical groundwork is. Resolution independence is still on the radar, but it's unclear just where and how Apple plans to implement it.

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