Time Machine: Perhaps the Worst Interface Apple Has Ever Made

I use Time Machine to perform hourly backups of my home folder on my Mac, and I like the way it is transparent. I don’t back up the entire system, because I prefer making manual clones, which are easier to restore. I don’t often need to access my Time Machine backups, but occasionally I have to go into them to get an old copy of a file that I have deleted, or replace a corrupted file. Each time I do this I am amazed at how terrible this interface is.

First of all, there’s the stars in the background. Not only can these make me dizzy as they move slowly through space, but the CPU time used to display these animations is astounding. If I leave the Time Machine interface visible for a long time on my Mac mini, the fan goes on.

Next is the astoundingly illogical interface. Look at the screenshot below. The Cancel button is way off to the left, and the Restore button all the way over to the right. The two arrows to go forward and back “in time” are hard to make out against the background, and the right-hand column, with days and times of backups, is almost the same color as the background itself.

There is nothing even remotely Apple-like in this interface, other than the background which is similar to the default desktop background. The buttons are nothing like any other Mac applications, the arrows look like they were made by an intern, and the navigation column to the right is incredibly difficult to navigate. Add to that the fact that Time Machine is somewhat slow – whether this has to do with the actual Time Machine software or the fact that it accesses volumes with lots of files isn’t clear – and it’s hard to find anything good about Time Machine.

I like the idea; however, there needs to be a better interface. This gadgety interface which is very hard to navigate makes for nice eye candy, but it is the least user-friendly interface of any feature in OS X.

Please, Apple, take a look at Time Machine and make it more usable.