Opinions: Drawers or No drawers?


Okay everyone, I want to know what all of the Mac users out there think – drawers or no drawers? Drawers are those panels that slide out of a larger window in some Mac OS 10 apps. For instance, Mail has one in Panther that shows you all of your mailboxes. The trouble was, many loyal Mac users hated it with a passion. Do they hate all drawers, or just the ones that aren’t in an appropriate place?

I’m working on a big app, and I want to know: am I angering my potential market if I use a drawer? Sound off in the comments section below.



Well, personally I hate drawers, they always change the look of the application. The thing I think you need to ask yourselft is if you are going to have mutlitple info views. For instance maybe you have a general info drawer, a date drawer, and a filter drawer then they are usefull if you will only EVER need to have ONLY ONE open at a time, but if the user wants to view general info AND filter what they are viewing then drawers are out of the question. So for a quick sum up they should be used as little as possible.

And someone above mention distorting the main window- what about multiple screens, it sticks the drawr into the other screen and that just gets annoying.


I too hate the new iCal info drawer. It squeezes my calendar so that it can fit on my screen, but there’s NO WAY to automatically close the drawer and then un-squeeze the iCal! I have to manually slide the drawer closed, then manually stretch iCal back to full screen. The old floating info pane was much better! PS: this new iCal drawer reminds me of Office’s annoying help panel, that automatically slides open on the right and hogs half the screen.


drawers are fine. you know it was a big step for a lot of people to learn how to use that mouse thing but hey it works.


Actaully the drawers work well for me. I’m not a interface snob and if it works then by gosh use it. If you don’t like it then close the drawer. I do like a lot but do not see it as a solution to what I have experienced in regards to drawers in the past.


i love drawers esp in Mail (under panther , don’t have tiger).


Yes tabs. No drawers. You know, except the cute kinds I like to see on my boyfriend. =]


Mikey took the comments right out of my mouth..

I can live with drawers (when I upgraded my mother-in-law to the imac.. she ranted that it would popup on different sides without reason)

BUT I absolutely love tabs… especially being a website designer. Freaking awesome!


I agree with some of the earlier comments that I have nothing against drawers when they are used logically, such as for extra options which are seldom used.

I never felt it worked for Mail because I kept the mailbox drawer open pretty much all the time.

I’m not sure whether I like styles being in a drawer in Pages either as it does tend to clutter the monitor on my G3 iMac.

I think the times when drawers work are when they give access to preferences or extra info


Drawers: Not so good.

Tabs: Lovely.

Pretty much anything that could be achieved with a drawer could be achieved more intuitively and elegantly with Safari-style tabs.

In my book.

Well, my iBook.

Joe Weaks

Yeah, I mostly don’t like them either, unless it is somthing like a preferences pane that doesn’t recieve regular use. I hate the drawer on mail.app, which I always have to have open.

Jason Terhorst

Actually, I saw an app once that would jerk the main window to the side if it needed room for its drawer. Then, if you closed the drawer, it would move back to that position. The problem was, if you moved the window before closing the drawer, it wouldn’t remember where you moved it to, which could be very annoying and unpredictable.
What’s really funny is that app was a runner up in the Apple Design Awards’ student category a couple years ago. I think it was called MacJournal. Last time I checked, it still exhibits that behavior.


They have their places. If a main window is such that it can not be resized so large that the drawer would not show up, then it’s OK. But if main windows *can* be made nearly full screen size, then the least the app should do when exposing a drawer is to temporarily shrink the main window, then expand it back out when the drawer is closed.

Drawers should also not be used for things like prefs or other quick access windows *unless* there is a very easy to remember key equiv to show and hide the drawer. Otherwise, if I can’t close something with the keyboard (return, enter, escape, command-w, etc), I get grouchy.


If the drawer is going to be visible 60% of the time or more then it shouldn’t be a drawer is what I would say. I have always thought they drawers would be a decent replace for separate preference windows in single window applications. I remember using a word processor that used drawers instead of separate palette windows and it was a mess.


Why do drawers have to open outward? Could they behave like the pop-up windows from OS 8 and OS 9 in the finder?



They are a clumbsy UI element. They are unpredicatable. Sometimes they open on the left, sometimes on the right, sometimes even off the screen depending on where the window is placed.

I’ve always disliked Mail’s drawer because it always seem to be not open enough to see items. I’m always having to adjust it.

If an interface seems to be missing important functions, I now have to hunt around… maybe there’s a drawer somewhere…

If you really want to use a drawer, don’t make it critical to the function of your application. Make it optional, so those who don’t like them don’t have to use them.

Mike Cohen

I prefer the new Mail UI. I have lots of mailboxes, so I always want the mailbox list to be visible. In the old version, the drawer would occasionally close, which I found very annoying since I couldn’t navigate between mailboxes easily without it.

For something that you need to use most of the time, it should be integrated into the main window. Drawers should only be used for something you need to pop up occasionally and then dismiss.

Jeff Harrell

I’m not wild about them. In particular, I’m not crazy about the fact that they slide out either on the left or right depending on where the window is on my screen. I mean, yes, I appreciate the consideration. But there’s also force of habit. If I keep my options drawer on the right and one day it appears on the left, I’m annoyed.

In general, I prefer that something which could be done with a drawer be done with a split view instead.

Lee’s example of the iCal drawer is a good one; it could be easily replaced by a split view, just as the list of to-do items appears in a split view and the source list appears in a split view.

I’m also a huge fan of the new mail.


I’d say use them for limited purposes only like in an “options” pane. That’s really about the only time I can tolerate them, though Mail’s drawer never bothered me.

Josh Pigford

I’m with Florian on this. If you’re gonna have the need for an extra column…just integrate it into the design.


The only thing i’ve got against them is that, say, i’ve got the app’s window sized to take up most of the screen; when the drawer opens it resizes my app’s window so that the drawer is visible, and then when the drawer closes, it leaves the app’s window at the reduced size…

Worst offender in my opinion: iCal’s event info drawer – forces me to leave the info window open pretty much all the time, which annoys me.


I prefer not to have them – especially not for functions needed regularly. The fact that an application expands “out of its box” disturbs me, but that might be because of my Windows history. If you need a column nearly all the time, why not integrate it into the windows?

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