Matt Gemmell

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interface 1 min read

Erik posted a great response and expansion to my previous article on Apple’s questionable UI implementations recently. One of his points was Apple’s inconsistent use of keyboard-shortcuts for the Preferences menu-item. I decided to look into that a bit further.

All of the apps below have a few things in common: they’re all Apple applications, they all run on OS X, and they all have a “Preferences” menu-command. That’s where the similarities end, however.

Take a look at the various different keyboard-shortcuts used to trigger the “Preferences” command.

Web browser and email client  
Safari command-comma
Mail command-option-semicolon
iTunes command-Y
iMovie (2.1.2) none
iPhoto command-comma
iDVD (? - I don't have it)
iCal command-Y
iChat none
iSync none
Standard apps and utilities  
TextEdit none
Terminal none
Address Book none
DVD Player none
Preview none
Sherlock none
Stickies none
Productivity apps  
AppleWorks none
Keynote none
Pro media apps  
DVD Studio Pro none
Final Cut Pro option-Q
Developer tools and built Cocoa apps  
Project Builder none
PB - New Project - Cocoa Application command-comma
Interface Builder command-comma
IB - New Cocoa Application command-comma

All things considered, it seems that command-comma is the nearest thing we have to a current, officially-sanctioned keyboard shortcut for the Preferences command (other than no shortcut at all). Project Builder and Interface Builder by default create new applications which use that shortcut for the “Preferences” menu-item, and it’s also used by Safari and iPhoto.

That said, I’m fairly sure that in the Developer Tools on Mac OS X 10.1.x, the default Preferences shortcut used by new Cocoa apps was command-semicolon, and indeed if you had to ask me what the “usual” Preferences shortcut was, I’d probably say command-semicolon, since I’m now used to Safari. Then again, I’d maybe say command-Y

instead, also being used to iTunes. I probably wouldn’t say command-comma. Anyway, my own uncertainty only serves to further illustrate the main point: Apple doesn’t seem to be taking UI consistency very seriously any more.