Coding Horror

programming and human factors

Comparing GUIs: OS X vs. Windows XP

This OS X versus Windows XP site contains an exhaustive, extensively illustrated 100-topic comparison of these two operating systems. The author tries to be objective, which is admirable, but the extremely detailed comparison is worth reading mostly because it highlights a lot of subtle design differences. For example, this little feature of the OS X login dialog:

Furthermore, if you type your password wrong, the login window wiggles! This simple, elegant and unintimidating feedback lets users know that they need to try again. The down side to a wiggling login screen is that it may be insufficient to notify a novice user that they entered the wrong password. A written confirmation that the password was not accepted would help novices.

If you like comparing GUIs, you'll probably enjoy the GUIdebook website, too. It's a great source of current and historic GUI screenshots. I first stumbled across this site while searching for old Excel screenshots. I didn't find any, but I did find this incredibly neat visual comparison of every Excel splashscreen since Version 1.01 on the GUIdbook site. Who knew splashscreens could be so.. cool?

Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Overflow and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: