When Apple released Mac OS X 10.7 Lion last year, it riled a few people due to the new scrollbars that were introduced. Up until Lion, Mac OS X had an always visible scrollbar, which gave users visual clues as to where on a page/document the user was at, as well as how much of a document was visible in its window by means of the size of the scrollbar.
In Lion this all changed; Apple made the scrollbars invisible until the user started scrolling, or moved the mouse to the scrollbar gutter, and then the bar would appear. There was a quick ‘fix’ for this via the System Preferences, where you could choose whether or not to show the scrollbars all the time, or just when scrolling. Not bad, but another issue some had was the size of the scrollbar. In previous versions of OS X, the scrollbar was like a coloured lozenge and was decently wide enough not to miss it. Lion brought us some cool concepts from iOS (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch operating system), such as the thin, grey scrollbar with the sweet rubber-band effect from iOS.
For some the scrollbar width was too thin, and with the arrows that we were accustomed to at the ends of the scrollbar area, trying to get some precision whilst scrolling was becoming annoyed.
Now we have some relief. In OS X Mountain Lion (latest preview version), Apple has come some way to make the scrollbar target area that bit easier to get to. The bars still appear as they do in Lion, but when you move the mouse cursor over it, the bar widens up in a nice little animation.
In use it makes a big difference for grabbing the bar, and gives you a far greater visual hint than what was in Lion.
OS X Mountain Lion is due to be released this summer. Monday is Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference where we’ll probably hear much more about it, perhaps a release date, too.