Blog Post

I Hate Transperency

I hate transparency. Only recently, though. I used to love it.

And Mac OS X is littered with it. It’s everywhere – in the Dock, in Terminal, in Dashboard, etc.

At one point, you could see about 5 layers of transparency at once on my screen, like this:
An example of multiple layers of transparency on my desktop.

Yup, pretty ridiculous.

But recently, I’ve decided that I hate transparency.

Sure it’s pretty, but I realized that transperency is the difference between easy-to-read and hard-to-read; the difference between strain on my eyes and beautiful text. So I turned off transparency in every place I could, and I encourage you to do it to.

Here’s some places to start:

  • In Terminal, go to Terminal –> Window Settings –> Color, and drag the Transparency slider all the way to the left.
  • In Adium, go to Adium –> Preferences –> Appearance, and drag the Opacity slider all the way to the right (to 100%).
  • In NewsFire, go to NewsFire –> Preferences –> Interaction, and uncheck Window behavior: Fade main window when inactive.

Since I’ve done that, I’m much happier using my Mac, and my eyes are happier too.

In addition to encouraging you to remove transparency from your Mac in every place you can, I also encourage Apple to remove it from many places. Not all, for example, I don’t think that Dashboard should have a transparent background, but in places like menus for example, which are slightly transparent, and it’s difficult for users to remove this transparency.

So, what’s your view on transparency?

19 Responses to “I Hate Transperency”

  1. I think transparency can be useful and there are no need to make a fuss.

    by default apple do not use too much transparency

    adium is not “transparency” by default

    terminal is not invisible by default

    and so on.

    (of couse it’s crazy to put adium with transparency besides TEXTS ! )

    in fact : there are nothing to say

  2. I have it turned on in Terminal, mainly because I have a 12″ PowerBook and it is nice to be able to see a web page or document that you can reference when you are working in the terminal.

    As for Adium, I saw it turned on on a friend’s system the other day, then turned it on as soon as I got home. It serves no practical purpose, though.

  3. Chris Vick

    Well, it’s your own damn fault for turning on transparency on those apps anyway. Like people have been saying, Terminal and Adium aren’t transparent out of the box. You have to configure it that way in the first place.

  4. There’s nothing wrong with transparency if you don’t go over board with it. From the screenshot – well, that seems terribly overboard. Most things on my desktop are not transparent at all, but transparent terminal windows are my favorite. So useful for letting you see all the things you were fiddling with, and even easy to read if you set it to white text on a black background.

  5. sometimes i can’t disagree more with the articles on this site. i have come very close to deleting it from my feeds but we’ll see.
    of course we all have our opinions… i just notice that i find myself on the other side of the tracks more than not.
    to each his own.
    peace. bv.

  6. Like so many other useful and attractive elements, transparency is getting old because of it’s heavy-handed use. BE SUBTLE! More is not always better. The purpose of your screen is to communicate. If you can’t read the type in a window because it’s set to 25% transparency, then you’ve missed the point.

    I’m with Gruff!

  7. Yes, using more than 10-20% transparency in a Terminal window is just making it hard on your eyes. And yeah, it defaults to 100% opaque anyway, so that was your own fault for going crazy with the slider when you discovered it. :)

  8. People often get enamored with transparency and use it too often and with settings too high. Here are some rules for transparency:

       1. Use it only if it makes something easier
       2. Limit your settings to 10%–25% transparent (90%–75% opaque)
       3. The more important the information, the less transparency you should use
       4. If you can change background color, use a very light or very dark color

    Mac OS X follows these rules in most places transparency is used—the dock is 75% opaque, menus are 90% opaque, the photo adjustment HUD is 75% opaque, pro app HUDs are 90% opaque; Exposé breaks the rules with a 10% opaque background.

  9. I like it as long as it’s used in a way that makes sense.

    In the Dashboard for example, it’s harmless. It reminds you that your desktop is in a temporary state and you will have to “go back” at some time (such as opening a drawer with gadgets, use them and close the drawer again).

    Title bars, pop-up menus and open/save dialogs use a little transparency too, but only to maintain a pseudo-3D effect in your desktop.

    Compare OSX with Windows Vista, and you will realize that OSX is pretty much opaque.

  10. I’m not a fan of transparency– there’s a need for something that signals when a window is hidden, but transparency generates too much noise along with the signal. It’s been pointed out before that paper manufacturers go to great lengths to prevent transparency– I think they’re on to something.

  11. I think that transparency is quite appropriate in the dock and the dashboard, where no text is directly on the transparent layer. I don’t use it in Terminal or Adium, because of the reasons given in the article, but sometimes it looks nice in Terminal, depending on what kind of desktop background you have.

  12. I thought I was the only one!
    Many new apps, like Disco and Voice Candy use it very unnecessarily.
    It has a purpose, to let you multitask, but it’s pretty ugly if it’s not needed.

    Unless there’s a real reason that I absolutely need to see everything on the screen behind the window in question, then make it normal and let me move it if I have to.