Note that the apps above are not implemented with Qt or Electron either, they use the official Apple frameworks.
i.e. Transmission uses GTK3 and looks like this on OSX.
> A native Mac OS X GUI application
> GTK+ and Qt GUI applications for Linux, BSD, etc.
GTK3 in general looks a hell of a lot nicer than GTK2 but now I can't think of any GTK3 applications that actually run on OSX...
One is developer culture. Going all the way back to the earliest Macintosh days, Apple has always had detailed guidelines about how the one true way a GUI app should look and feel. And the importance of following those guidelines gets drilled into you from your very first Hello World program. This leads to all apps on macs to look both good and consistent, giving developers a lot of inspiration to draw from when they write their own apps. Windows and Linux simply doesn't have this culture ingrained into its developers. It also helps that Apple really only has one GUI framework at a time that it pours all their effort and focus into while Windows and Linux always have at least 2 or 3 competing frameworks that never get quite the attention they need.
Another might simply be financial incentives. Anecdotally Mac user care more about what their apps look like than Windows and Linux users, thus the financial incentives to put in the effort to add the final polish to your apps is higher, since it probably affects sales much more than it does on Linux and Windows. Also (and equally anecdotally) Apple users seem far more willing to pay for small useful applications from indie developers so more indie developers put more effort into producing small useful and beautiful apps for Mac.
This rings true to me as well, but why is this the case? If we roughly assume that Mac users are 1 order of magnitude fewer than Windows users, they must be >1 OOM more likely to pay for these kinds of apps to generate this impression.
I struggled with this puzzle for quite a while when I switched from Mac to Windows. Utilities are simply not comparable, either in design, functionality, or simple quantity, for a market which is (on paper) both much larger and much older (if you restrict your view to the OS X era).
As an aside, it totally makes sense to me why Linux utilities are numerous and awesome, but have (usually) poor graphic design, because that Bauhaus-esque function over form describes how I prefer to work, too.
Because the Apple macOS ecosystem already has an coherent design at the point where I (as a macOS user) would hate to bring another app that breaks the coherence.
Also Apple's official apps are generally much better than the MS ones or Gnome ones (see IE vs Safari) which makes the expectation of users higher.
IMO Apple really made a great, healthy ecosystem around the macOS.
Secondly, there is a lot more money in the business and specialist app market for Windows. I worked for 3 years at a company developing a Windows application. We charged $5k a year for a license plus a good 50-500 consulting hours to adapt the application to our customers business. That was a solid business targeting a niche market, and there are countless companies like that around in the Windows space. Those opportunities don't really exist for Mac developers. Most people specializing in Windows desktop development end up working on stuff like that if they don't end up at Microsoft/Adobe/Autodesk etc.
If I was to start a company trying to develop desktop applications for Windows there is no doubt I would target business customers willing to pay $1k-10k rather than trying to sell $10-100 to consumers. If I was targeting Mac users I would probably target the $10-100 consumer space.
While that was the case ten years ago, honestly the macOS app ecosystem is mostly running on fumes at this point. There's few people coming into AppKit development, and iOS developers seem to have an irrational fear of putting any effort into learning the desktop paradigm even though the API is largely the same.
Apple is making half-hearted efforts to fix this problem by introducing two new GUI APIs on the Mac. "Catalyst" is a porting layer that lets you put iPad apps on the Mac desktop. The look'n'feel of these apps is pretty much as clunky as you'd expect. Then there's "SwiftUI" which is a new React-like runtime that spans all Apple platforms. SwiftUI is in its early stages and will take years to catch up with AppKit's functionality.
At this point Mac desktop development is effectively in a limbo: no one wants to start new AppKit projects because Apple is strongly implying that it's deprecated (although they don't seem to know exactly what it's being replaced with). So it's pretty much Electron or Qt on the Mac now, unfortunately. As an AppKit developer since 2002, it breaks my heart a bit.
I don't have data, but there's no way that the Mac developer ecosystem is worse off than it was in the 00s. There's significantly more Mac users now, and there's orders of magnitude more developers with experience developing for Apple platforms.
Maybe most devs won't venture outside of iOS to try Mac development, but 10 years ago the few long-time Mac devs were (by necessity) putting their Mac projects on hold to work on iPhone apps.
> because Apple is strongly implying that it's deprecated
Lots of iOS developers are writing blog posts claiming things like this, but every single Apple app on the Mac is written using AppKit. You can't deprecate the technology behind your entire platform.
Maybe 15 years from now SwiftUI will have replaced AppKit as the dominant way to write UI code on the Mac, but generations of apps will be born and die between now and then.
I don't have hard data either. But ask any old Mac developer on Twitter whether they're doing better now than ten years ago, and I bet a majority would disagree.
For one thing, the rise of mobile app stores has destroyed the perceived value of software. A $50 app now seems very expensive to most, whereas it was mid-priced back in 2008. Yet the Mac App Store has failed to bring in the mass audience that would compensate for the lower unit prices.
This is entirely subjective. Several of my colleagues use MacOS and I find their interfaces overcrowded and clunky compared to my minimal linux setup. What is "plenty" to some, is "clutter" to others.
I can't criticize. I paid for every square inch of the screen of my 27" iMac at home, and darn it, I'm going to put something on every last one of them.
Not sure it has much to do with the developers at all.
Harsh but fair. I keep thinking that if we just make good app development easier, we could bring some of those well designed apps back to the native desktop instead of losing them all to the web. The reality, as you pointed out, is that the underlying technology is irrelevant. This is a marketing issue.
I've found the former to be quite true, though QT comes close. I actually quite like ObjectiveC, but Swift is clearly superior and has had great uptake in the iOS/macOS community.
Also, In the analysis I tested Qt with QML, not widgets.
But there are more attractive apps that use GTK. They just have spent time doing custom themes.
It’s not quite objective but I agree you’d probably find 90 or 99% of respondents prefer the web look for desktop apps.
The time when desktop apps looked like a consistent toolkit is gone. Now it’s more important for a desktop app to look like its own web version than to look like the next desktop app.
But every web app is a snowflake, so there's no shared expertise to be developed. I don't expect anything beyond point and click. We've given up on empowering users.
That's because the mass market doesn't want to be empowered. They want to consume.
That said, phones and tablets are custom built for those people. The only people still using laptops and desktops are people who need to get things done. It's beyond time for desktop OS's and apps to start focusing on the power user again.