Annoying OSX Mountain Lion Animations

As a new OSX user, I'm quite surprised by the number of wizz bang eye-candy animations and transitions scattered all over the system. Sure, they may look "cool" the first time you see them. Maybe even the second and third time. After a while though, you just want to get some work done! (or at least I do, not sure what others use their macs for).

The animations only take between half a second to one or two seconds in most cases. Like minimizing and restoring windows, closing and opening applications, going in and out of full-screen mode, etc. The time taken is no big deal I suppose, maybe it only adds up to a few minutes a day.

My main issue with the animations is that they become an unnecessary distraction and interrupt your train of thought without providing any actual value (besides the eye-candy effect, which gets old very quick). For example, when I click the minimize button, I know what's going to happen: the application will disappear and I can go back to it via the dock. I don't need an animation to show me how it gets smaller and where it goes. Likewise for maximize and close and full-screen mode.

My particular pet-hate is the full-screen zoom-in and zoom-out animation. This takes longer than the rest (2 or 3 seconds) and is very disorienting. It actually makes me slightly dizzy as everything on the screen moves around, and the background also happens to slide from left-to-right. There's just way too much going on, and for no real reason (I KNOW it's being expanded to the whole screen -- it's why I clicked the button! You don't need to show me!) This is particularly bad with my virtual machines as the zoom-in and zoom-out effects are glitchy and cause the screen to stutter a few times, plus the fonts in the VM look very jagged when being scaled.

The other problem with all these animations is that the human brain is optimized to detect and process movement. This is an evolutionary trait that has become hard-wired into us. Think stone-ages, where something moving in the corner of your eye could be a tiger or some other predator. Ignoring such subtle movements could mean death, so we've become very good at NOT ignoring such things. This makes animations very hard to ignore, even though you know they're coming, which puts more unnecessary processing on your brain (which is forced to pay attention in case it's a tiger) and slightly interrupts your flow. Now if all you're doing is opening a web-browser once a day, then no big deal. But if you use your computer to juggle 5 or so different applications concurrently and frequently switching between them, then these animations become very significant!

Consider for example the role of a developer who switches between multiple code windows, browsers, compilers, API docs, command line terminals, finder windows, VMs and other tools. Usually you get very fast at switching between these things, in fractions of a second. The brain doesn't even need to actively think which application to go to or how to do it, it's almost mechanical finger memory as you switch through keyboard shortcuts. The brain instead focuses only on the complex task that it's trying to achieve (like the multiple steps needed to recompile a program, reload services, clear caches and test the changes). In these scenarios, having to wait for 1 to 3 second animations are extremely annoying!

The worst part of it is that there's no easy way to disable these in OSX. There are some command line hacks you can try (http://knoopx.net/2011/10/28/os-x-lion-tweaks), but this will only get rid off some of them. Apple generally seems to like forcing it's users to stick with the stock UI, because they know best, and anyone that doesn't like it is just not hip enough. This seems to be the common opinion adopted by users too --  a large number of forums I read were full of replies to the effect of "get used to it" or "go back to a previous version" or "go back to windows" or some other juvenile non-sense.

It's fine to have eye-candy. I know it appeals to some people. But it's also important to be able to turn these things off. Apple should provide an easy means to do this. Even if it's just a web-page that documents all the terminal commands you could run and their effects. I shouldn't have to download third-party hacks and tools to try and achieve the same thing (that's how viruses are spread, oh wait, I forgot, OSX is immune!).

 

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