About the Guidelines for Creating Great Mac Apps

Mac OS X Human Interface Guidelines describes the characteristics of the OS X platform and the guidelines and principles that help you design an outstanding user interface and user experience for your Mac app.

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Mac OS X Human Interface Guidelines does not describe how to implement your designs in code. When you’re ready to code, start by reading Mac App Programming Guide.

At a Glance

Aqua is the overall appearance and behavior of OS X. Adopting the Aqua look and feel helps you provide the best possible user experience for your customers.

Interface Builder (a graphical UI editor in Xcode) is the best way to begin building an Aqua-compliant user interface. All the standard UI elements and system-provided icons are available in Interface Builder. To learn more about Interface Builder, see “Designing User Interfaces in Xcode 4”.

Great Apps Begin with an Understanding of the Fundamentals

Before you begin designing your app, you need to get a feel for the OS X environment. Understanding how things work in OS X helps you produce an app that integrates seamlessly with the environment and delights users.

Most people are not acquainted with the principles of human interface design, but they can tell when apps follow the guidelines and when they don’t. Become familiar with these fundamental principles so that you can use them to inform your app design.

People Expect a Great User Experience that Integrates OS X Technologies

OS X users have high standards for the apps they run. Meet these high expectations by designing a user experience that is enjoyable, streamlined, easy, and adaptable.

You want people to feel that your app was designed expressly for the OS X platform. Make sure that you understand the technologies that OS X makes available to you, so that you can incorporate them in your app and give users the features they want.

Attention to Detail Pays Off in a Superlative UI

There are myriad details you need to handle as you design the UI of your app, including choosing the right menu items, naming new windows correctly, and using the appropriate controls in a toolbar. Don’t be tempted to ignore the guidelines that govern the use of these UI elements, because users tend to notice even subtle differences in appearance and behavior.

Gorgeous Graphics and the Right Words Make a Positive Impression

Every app, regardless of how much custom artwork it uses, needs a beautiful, eye-catching icon for the App Store. Some apps also need custom icons for toolbar buttons or to represent the documents that users can create. Ensure that you know how to design these icons so that they look great on the user’s desktop.

Every app, even the most graphical, needs to display at least some text. Make sure that your app feels at home in OS X by writing text that is clear and concise and that follows Apple’s style guidelines.

How to Use This Document

In addition to the chapters listed above, Mac OS X Human Interface Guidelines contains two appendixes:

See Also

To get an overview of the technologies available in OS X, read Mac Technology Overview.

The Apple Style Guide provides information helpful for choosing the correct language and terminology to use throughout your app in text displays and dialogs as well as your documentation.