Interested in a flatter OS X interface? Look to iCloud for clues

It's time for Apple to update OS X with a flatter interface like iOS 7. iCloud gives us an idea of how that may look

Based on what I posted last week, it's clear that many of you — like me — want Apple to adopt a more uniform user experience between iOS 7 and OS X — a flatter interface for OS X 10.10. Rumors have abounded since January that Apple is working on just that by creating a "flatter" interface for OS X 10.10 (code-named Syrah) that makes icons and other interface elements more consistent with their iOS 7 counterparts. We don't have to work too hard to imagine what it'll look like: Just open iCloud in a web browser.

Admittedly, uses an extraordinarily simplified interface compared to OS X. But from the Home screen icons to the apps themselves, iCloud certainly has more in common with iOS 7 than it does with OS X. Even the dynamic background on the home screen echoes iOS 7's. As does the concept of a home screen.

But the design principles as they could be applied to OS X shine through. Clear typography. An emphasis on clean, open space and crisply-edged icons. Two dimensional illustrations with bright colors.

Mavericks has already begun the transition to a flatter interface. While more rounded three-dimensional icons still abound, apps like Calendar have gotten a rework to more closely resemble their iOS counterparts. I expect to see that process continue with OS X 10.10, of course.

But if you look at in full screen on a Mac, as simplified as it is, it does look striking. Imagining that same design sensibility employed across the entire OS X user interface isn't too much of a stretch.

This isn't to imply that Apple plans to simplify the actual Mac user experience with any sort of user interface rework. The Mac remains fundamentally different terrain than iOS, with an emphasis on file management that is almost completely absence from iOS. The way applications work on the Mac, with multiple windows, is completely different.

iOS 7's visual rework was a jarring change. Not all users liked it. But most of us who didn't love it at first blush have grown accustomed to it and many of us are willing to admit that it did move the goalposts forward for future innovations in iOS.

What's more, those changes didn't fundamentally change our usage of iOS. Things worked the same way they did before, they just looked different.

If this truly is the year OS X gets a makeover, I expect the same to apply. Things may look different — and it'll take developers time to adjust — but it'll still work the same.

In the interim, check out and see for yourself. Is that the future of OS X? Tell me what you think.

Peter Cohen
  • wow. OS X going all flat like ios would seriously make me reconsider buying a mac. Right now the look of OSX is the ONLY thing that appeals to me about switching to a Mac which i am considering. It's not price, or hardware, or expandability. I can get better deals buying a windows laptop and get quite a bit more. That flat look is already hard on the eyes with a phone. On a large screen it'd kill my eyes. And i have bad eyesight as it is. OSX looks great as it is. If it ain't broke don't fix it I say.
  • As much as I may understand your design preference, Windows is a much flatter design. I can assume that if you leave the Apple ecosystem for Windows, you'll be back.
  • I'm not in the Apple ecosystem. I use Windows and have for the last 20 years. I use Windows 7 currently and it is not flatter than ios. I'll keep using Windows 7 like most people anyways. I've seen Windows 8 and it is not nearly as flat as ios. look at it But the flatness is only one aspect. Maybe i should have been clearer but it's the all white menus i was referring to when i said it would kill my eyes. When i demoed ios 7 for about a month the eye strain was a problem. Currently ios is greyish and i don't have that problem. (my parent's both have macs and that's how i experience OSX). You can see here from windows 8 that the menus are not ios 7 white but a deeper blue that's easier on the eyes. "You'll be back?" I stopped using Apple computers exclusively 20 years ago. Coming back is far from certain.
  • In iOS 7.1, you can use "Reduce White Point" to reduce the whiteness. It was also mentioned by iMore here: Again, this has nothing to do with the flat design, it's just the white theme that Apple messed up here and I agree with you. It's blinding and Apple need to change this completely. The Reduce White Point did help slightly. The fact that Apple added "Reduce White Point" in the iOS 7.1 suggests that Apple know they screwed up because this would mean a huge part of the iOS community complained enough for them to add this. They're not going to repeat this in OS X. The display monitors are typically more brighter than iPhones. A white theme will piss everybody off.
  • I've used it, it does next to nothing to reduce the whiteness. I even went to the apple store and had the guy walk me through ever combination of "reduce white point" "darken colors" "reduce transparency" i've tried it all. Personally i did not find it an adequate solution as it wasn't very noticeable. But i'm glad they are realizing that people have concerns with such things. I think that and the the parrallax thing that was making people sick, the ability to thicken fonts are additions that were needed. As for "flatness" yes you're correct the whiteness is not the same as flatness, but i will say i'm not particularly fond of the complete flatness. As i said above, really dislike it in windows tiles so it's not an Apple issue. It's just not my style. My personal tastes I think something that would have been a bit nicer if they were gonna go that way would be similar to that bluish gray background with white text you see above. Maybe at least on the top menus. And then not harsh white back grounds but a bit closer to what you see left of all these imore comments: sort of a faint grey. Now my personal preference was simply to offer multiple ios skins, ios classic, flat light, flat, darker. Then it's still apple but the user has choice. I think tweetbot used to have a light and dark skin. I'm think ios 7 along those lines. But that's just me.
  • That's not an issue caused by going flat. Windows 8 is way ahead of Apple when it comes to flat designs. Just look at their Metro design, that's a flat design. Look at the titlebar and the color scheme they use in the desktop mode, it's a flat design. Apple have a semi-flat design but problem isn't with that, it's just that Apple went overboard with the light theme. The damn near blinding white color is the problem, not the flatness. Just look at the sites, many of the apps have the proper flat with light color tone design that Apple should've applied to iOS 7 throughout.
  • Amen. iOS 7 would look great if the white were softened out to a smooth, incredibly subtle gray.
  • Agreed. I always thought it was strange that they had a feature in ibooks where you could turn the page yellowish to prevent eyestrain from staring at that white screen yet they didn't consider the harshness of making a lot of the OS very white. Seemed peculiar to me since they clearly thought about it before with ibooks. go figure. Subtle grey would be nice.
  • Metro can be altered so that it's not visable But it should be noted. The ONLY reason i even considered making my next laptop purchase an Apple computer is because Windows went with the hideous metro look. Luckily it can be hidden and the windows 7 start menu can be used in 8.1 apparently. Metro is ugly but you can turn it off. By the way I use Windows 7 not Windows 8 so it's not an issue and for now i'd continue to use Windows 7. But either way you can easily install whatever you want. But bottom line the metro interface can be worked around. Essentially this idea is apple doing the same thing that Windows did to turn me off as a customer. Well the good news is if it happened i'd probably save $500 on my next laptop getting a windows one. And you're 100% correct. As i wrote above the white was is the big problem on my eyes and i incorrectly included that when i was thinking "flat" but i really meant the entire look and feel of ios, the flat icons, the white and flat look of menus. I still don't like the flat look but yeah the white strains my eyes.
  • I'd LOVE having the 'new' style throughout the entire OS.
    I believe with it, Mac will be perceived as more valuable. I said it about iOS about 3 years ago and I'll say it again about current OS X: to me it looks and feels outdated, a bit old-fashioned.