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I wonder what useful stuff one can put in an About box in a Mac OS X program.

Most basic the About box displays

  • Program icon
  • Program name
  • Version number
  • Copyright

More sophisticated ones displays

  • Link to homepage
  • Credits
  • Version control identifier

The most comprehensive About box I have ever seen, is found in the program Album Shaper and it displays 4 tabs with:

  • Credits
  • Release history
  • Software update status
  • Upcoming features

I have seen programs that displays the licence owner info in the About Box.

Some About boxes shows a scrolling credit list. Others display fancy graphics.

With so much variety, what makes up a good about box?

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Winamp also has a ridiculous About box :) Four tabs: "Winamp", "Credits", "Keyboard shortcuts", and "Version history". –  jensgram Aug 28 '10 at 19:05
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6 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Apple is probably a good example to emulate in this case. The default about box (with the app icon, version number, and copyright) doesn't offer many extra 'goodies', but things like release history and upcoming features are probably not necessary. The "About Finder" window and the "About This Mac" window are probably a good middle ground.

It's worth pointing out the amount of thought that went into the version identifier in the "About This Mac" window. First of all, it's grey text so it's not competing with the more important information like hardware specs or the software update button. Secondly, it handles the version control problem well by changing to display the build number and then serial number when clicked. There is also a "More Info..." button which launches System profiler, but could easily be a link to a product web page.

I'd recommend keeping things like credits, release notes, upcoming feature lists, and blog posts on the product's web site. Don't make things scroll. Keep it simple but helpful.

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See Apple's Human Interface Guidelines. It suggests keeping the About box sparse. It should definitely include:

  • application branding, such as a logo

  • the full application name and version number (the version number should be the same as the version number displayed by the Finder)

It also suggests a brief description of what the application does; copyright; and basic contact information, including a link to your web site.

Longer text, such as change logs and credits, would probably best fit in the Help menu.

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The short answer is to put in there what you think your users will expect to find, and that's where Apple's guidelines come from. Your users are going to want to know the development company and/or developer's name, the version number (exact).

Convention seems to be that the "About box" is one of the places you can play around with your interface (eg, photoshop's irregularly shaped about box, easter eggs, etc). I don't have any issue with creative about boxes, but don't let any of that get in the way of providing the user with the information they need. I think release notes could be linked to, but shouldn't be displayed inline. However, to me, an About Box is not the right place to talk about upcoming features–that's for your company's website or blog (and by all means provide a link to that)

Remember, its about meeting your users' needs and expectations. When in doubt (and developing for OS X) follow Apple's HIG.

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The Finder seem to have gotten a much bigger icon with Snow Leopard. In the past the default icon size was 64x64. The Finder window cannot be dismissed by hitting ESC. The minimize window button is for some reason clickable. Very elegant.

About box in the Finder

Chrome has merged the software update into the About box, so that you can see wether your running the latest version or not. Very nice IMO.

About box in Chrome

Colloquy has the traditional About box, as it comes out of box with cocoa + Credits.rtf. No window title. The window is not resizable. Lot of credits.

Colloquy

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Here are some more screenshots of about boxes. flickr.com/groups/aboutbox –  neoneye Aug 17 '10 at 20:05
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Liking this Chrome example too :) –  cbosco Aug 17 '10 at 21:37
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Why even have an about box? You may not need it -- it depends on the specific legal requirements. Try pushing the version number into some subtle part of the UI -- e.g maybe in your application in a resting state, for example.

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Well behaved Mac applications uses the same shortcuts, gestures, controls, have an About box, includes help, have the same menuitems. Not having an About box makes it non-mac'ish. –  neoneye Aug 29 '10 at 8:00
    
Just because everyone does it, doesn't mean it's 'right'. –  Dominic Hopton Aug 29 '10 at 16:49
    
No, but sticking to the guidelines does mean every app is 'wrong' in the same way, which is probably still better than each app doing its own thing. –  scottishwildcat Nov 14 '11 at 15:08
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I for one, don't know why so much emphasis is put on logo and name. In the absolute majority of cases where I've opened the About-box, I wanted to know what version number I had.

I suggest emphasizing this.

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