Picasa’s Awesome X Button

I am continuing to evaluate Picasa 2, and noticed something interesting about zooming into “full screen” photo mode that is both simple and clever.

Ordinarily you are in “browse mode” to see all the pictures spread out, and when you double-click on one you see that picture in an enlarged view. To make that picture go away, you can click on the “Go back to Library” button in the upper left. But habit has lead me, perhaps through use of pop-up windows in Web Browser galleries, to automatically click on the red CLOSE box in the upper right. In the case of an application, this usually closes the whole thing down, which isn’t what you want. This happens to me occassionally in Photoshop in full screen mode. It’s annoying, but I know it’s my mistake.

Picasa, on the other hand, programmatically changes the meaning of that close box to mean “go back to library view” instead of “close application”. It’s just smart enough to know that it’s what you want to do given the context of what you’re doing. It’s brilliant. The conventional solution would have been to have a smaller subwindow with its own X close button, so you have to click on the right one. This “two close boxes in the same place” model has been part of Windows software since Windows 3.0, as the problem didn’t seem that big a deal. But I’m telling you now…it is a big deal. I no longer have that fear of accidentally closing the application window with Picasa; my confidence is subtly yet definitively boosted.

Who was it that pushed back and decreed that the application close box could be contextually multi-functional? It makes so much sense that you don’t even notice it working. I’d guess most designers wouldn’t even think of messing with it, let alone programmers; it’s a sublime tweak birthed by the prudent application of insight. I must find out more about Picasa’s UI design team…there is so much goodness in the product.