Message listing: Unison 2.2 vs Unison 1.8.1


I have been a long-time user of Panic’s Unison application for reading Usenet newsgroups. As of two days ago, Panic has discontinued Unison, but in the greatest way possible given the circumstances: by releasing a new version, 2.2, and making the application free.

I’ve remained on version 1.8.1 for quite a while, not because I didn’t like version 2, but simply because I must have changed Unison’s settings a while back — or perhaps the preferences file got corrupted, I can’t remember — and I went on using the application blissfully unaware of further updates.

So, when the news of Unison’s discontinuation hit the tech sphere, I visited Panic’s blog and realised Unison has got to version 2.2, and that it’s now free, so why not download it and take advantage of the new and improved software? That I did. And I like the UI improvements overall, but there’s one annoying detail that has driven me to go back to version 1.8.1 — the message list font and size aren’t customisable anymore.

Here’s Unison 1.8.1 with my current settings (Message list font is Bell Centennial at 18pt):

Unison 181 ui


And here’s Unison 2.2:

Unison 22 ui


In version 2.x the message list font and size are fixed to what appears to be Lucida Grande at 11pt. Which makes reading quite uncomfortable for me. When taking a look at message lists in Usenet newsgroups, I think it’s important to be able to skim through the various subjects and threads without effort. Newsgroups messages aren’t personal email — you don’t have to read everything, so you tend to skim often. Unison 2.x default (and fixed) message list font settings err too much on the small side, at least for my eyes. You may not like my font choice in Unison 1.8.1, but you can’t deny it makes the message list much easier to read.

It’s of course too late for a feature request to correct this issue, but I wanted to bring this up because it’s something I’ve noticed in other applications, too — I’m referring to the removal of a certain degree of customisation as applications get updated. Sometimes the freedom given to the user to customise an application’s interface is enormous, to the point that you may spend an incredible amount of time just setting up different fonts for different parts of the interface (think NetNewsWire, for example). Sometimes you get the feeling that many of the customisation options aren’t all that necessary. But in Unison’s case, I feel that taking away the ability to set the font and the font size of the message list was not a wise decision with regard to usability.

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