Around the release of Internet Explorer 4, Microsoft released a new TrueType symbol font called Webdings. The font is collection of symbols, icons, and pictograms and I’ve been using the fonts, even in Mac OS X land, for various tasks for years.
Let me get this out of the way right now, I love glyphs. I love simple, two color illustrations which convey complex meaning with understated elegance. I realize the creation of these glyphs is tricky, so when I see one I like, I grab it, tuck it away like some glyph-hoarding pack rat.
I like road signs.
I like corporate logos.
I like glyphs.
Glyphs and your desktop have been interacting ever since the Mac showed up, but, in recent years, glyphs have started to seriously infect your desktop… in a good way. In Windows, the task bar displays small full color icon icons for system related tasks. In Mac OS X, Apple uses menu extras for the same function.
Having played for both teams, I have an opinion regarding this desktop glyph infection. It takes about twelve days of regular usage of Windows XP before I turn off the task bar menu-lings via a very handy “only show when necessary” feature present in Windows XP. It’s not that I don’t want the information the menu-lings present, it’s just there’s no consistency among the icons and I’m NADD-ish about my desktop. Visual clutter sucks.
On the Mac OS X side, the menu extras have tried to take a different design tact. Sitting in the subtly-white menu bar, Apple menu extras are generally devoid of color which means your eye really isn’t drawn to them. They also shed detail for glyphness and I dig that.
For no particular reason, here’s my small collection of menu extras — I haven’t capture all states for each of these, but you get the idea — Got a menu extra you love? Send it — 20×20, plz.
- Apple Remote Desktop
- Input Method
- OS 9
- Fast User Switch (Pillarist.net)
- Norton (Symantec)
- Timbuktu (Timbuktu)