As you may know, there is no way for a newbie user to find out how they can do a very simple task in Mac OS X, I mean, rename a file/folder. There is no sign for it, there is no option when you right click a folder, there is no item in the menus, simply nothing. A newbie user should try random keyboard combinations to finds out that ,

OMG! 'Return' key is actually 'Rename' key.

After that, they should realize for "Entering" a folder, they can't use "Enter", but a complex combination of "Command+O" which is , I don't know, odd!

In perspective of UX design and user friendliness, is it a negative point ? If so, why they don't change it and simply add a rename option somewhere and change enter functionality to open a folder ? Same for delete, copy/cut/move and etc.

I know that a professional user can change the behaviour of the OS and change the default keyboard combinations, but for a first-time user, who never worked with any computer, its really confusing. What do you think ? Are these kind of issues counts as bad practices in UX design ?

  • I wonder if there's research on what percentage of users actually rename their files that might have driven this decision... Nov 23, 2014 at 7:38
  • On most apps, you can change a filename by opening it and changing the title. This seems more intuitive than using the context menu.
    – Brendon
    Nov 23, 2014 at 19:38
  • @Brendon You mean one have to open a file/folder to just rename it and can't just see a "rename" icon and do it with just 1 click ? Nov 24, 2014 at 7:51

3 Answers 3


Without looking through the internet for help it is a steep learning curve for some new users. A massive part of Apple's product is having the support to complement it, in this case the Genius Bar, and also telephone support.

I first got a macbook around 6 years ago, and I also struggled to work out how to rename a folder. I achieved this learning by playing around and eventually found out that I could do this by 'Get info' and rename there (did not realise enter achieved this until today!).

The main issue with making more options obvious to the user could actually backfire. I am using Yosemite, and we have 8 items (other than back/search) on the top bar. We have a hover over which tells us what each of these things do which is of help. Adding anything more to this bar and you have a very complex interface - see Miller(1956) Short term memory can only hold 7 items +/- 2 items.

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Comparing this to Windows we have a similar approach which I think is better. Windows use a right-click -> rename which is far more intuitive. If you need information about the file you right-click -> properties.

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It is a hard to design a system which is 100% obvious to use, it is much like photoshop to some extent, looking at the interface from a strict UX perspective, you could say it was overcrowded and confusing and a first time user would be flummoxed. From experience I look at photoshop and think "Where do I even start?". But this is okay in this case, people who use photoshop are using it mainly as power users - they understand there is a learning curve, but once they have learned it their workflow would be easier.

This does apply in this case, to make every feature of an operating system obvious would be a mess - you cannot get rid of the feature so you hide it instead. If you are a new user and going to use your mac regularly, then you would invest the time to learn.

To conclude, Mac's are a learning curve for any level of user but Apple provide appropriate support to get anyone started. They have an actively maintained support forum and there are many resources on the Internet. But OS X just like any operating system is not 100% obvious as they are too complex.

Some useful resources:

Millers Magical Number 7

UX Stackexchange Question - Top answer has some useful points

Minimising Complexity in User Interfaces

  • I agree, but why not just add those signs ? What's wrong with them ? A simple rename or delete behaviour just make everything simpler, right ? Nov 22, 2014 at 19:22
  • I 100% agree, they need an option just for 'rename' and there is an option called "Move to trash". It's a difficult one but anyone new to computers will inherently struggle at first, there are just too many things going on with an operating system.
    – 80gm2
    Nov 22, 2014 at 21:04
  • I don't understand the reference to memory can only hold 7 items. See the Windows screenshot, the contextual menu has 12 items and it's still usable.
    – A.L
    Nov 24, 2014 at 0:27
  • 2
    The 'memory can only hold 7 items' has absolutely nothing to do with menus. It's a UX myth: uxmyths.com/post/931925744/…
    – DA01
    Nov 24, 2014 at 5:38
  • @DA01, interesting article, thank you for sharing. The topic is heavily debated and so there is no right or wrong, from my experience I follow loosely, also see 'chunking'.
    – 80gm2
    Nov 24, 2014 at 13:21

for a first-time user, who never worked with any computer, its really confusing

I don't think that's Apple's target demographic. For that matter, I don't think that, in 2014, that's any OS manufacturers target demographic.

So, if accommodating that demographic results in a cluttered UI for others, it's understandable why they may omit it.

As for Apple, they also have a long track record of preferring less-cluttered menus and controls. You can still use the UI (double-click always opens a folder, clicking the name always allows you to rename it) but for those that learn the other tricks, they can. Consider it progressive enhancement.

FYI, command+O = the 'O' is for open.

Are these kind of issues counts as bad practices in UX design ?

Only if it's not addressing the needs of the demographic being targeted. A primary function of UX design is to design a UX particular to the needs of particular users.

  • 1
    But why not just put a simple rename in somewhere ? I know people struggled this for over 2, 3 days. I know professional users struggled for simply "cut/paste" a folder for over a month ! And finally they find out "Ohhhh, cmd+alt+v, really ?" Its not nicely documented anywhere and there is no tip for it (other than Googling and finding it out in a nowhere forums!)... In my opinion, Its apparently due to a bad UX design and I think Apple should consider this for the next releases. What do you think ? Nov 24, 2014 at 7:46
  • 1
    @MichelKogan because someone decided to draw the line somewhere. There's no end to 'why not add a simple...'. And while it may seem simple in and of itself, if you have a 100 'simples' now things are pretty cluttered. I don't think Apple needs to consider this for the next release unless they have sufficient data to show that it's necessary for their demographic.
    – DA01
    Nov 24, 2014 at 15:48
  • 1
    Don't you think Windows Explorer's context menu is more user friendly and easier than Apple version ? I mean its pretty straight forward: Right clicking and hitting rename, delete, cut or paste or anything else.(Just like windows or linux version). I don't know about their demographic but its really confusing for new users. Nov 28, 2014 at 15:02
  • 1
    @MichelKogan that's a valid opinion, but merely one opinion. FWIW, 'right clicking' isn't necessarily an easy concept for new computer users to grasp, either.
    – DA01
    Nov 28, 2014 at 16:42

Companies such as Apple and Facebook can somewhat get away with being trendsetters and dictating behaviour to their users. This is because they have such market penetration and users will spend more time using them than others.

ie, if you propose a different 'Like' button behaviour on your low-traffic website than Facebook or Google+ do, then you are likely to cause a poor UX due to unfamiliarity (even if it is better!).

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