Expose 2: improving tab switching logic

September 8, 2007

While working in Mac OS X I got used to Expose feature for rapid window switching. I love it a lot, except for one thing: it simply cannot help if you use tabbed applications. OK, you may switch to the app window and then click a tab you need, but why not saving clicks while being able to review all tabs’ content during switching? Shiira tries to solve the problem by implementing a kind of Expose for its own windows which partly solves the problem.

My suggestion is wider: why not change the Expose itself?
(I know, Apple would doubtly ever do this, but we have Expose-like features in Linux Fusion)

proposed Expose 2

As you may see on the picture, in Expose mode each tabbed app is represented by a tab grid, so you may switch to a certain tab (not just the app!) in a single click. When the numberof tabs is not too large, this feature should work without any problems.

This way we eliminate confusion when user cannot see a page he knows has just been opened in Expose mode just because it hides by the main application’s window.

Related document (PDF, 50 Kb)

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Who made who: Apple vs Microsoft vs all others

June 20, 2007

The “who stole from whom” on Microsoft vs. Apple UI discussion seem to renew again with the release of Windows Vista and the upcoming release of OS X 10.5 “Leopard”. With implementation of hardware destkop acceleration in Linux (thanks to Beryl/Compiz project) overall mess has only increased, so some freaks even state that Apple “stole” cube effect from Linux (sic!).

Fortunately, we have internet, books and other media to help us find the truth out.

Short story

As you may already know, today’s GUI is a far offspring of Star UI developped by Xerox PARC. That’s it: during the 70th, PARC used to be a blacksmith of what we now call “graphical user interfaces”. Nevertheless, with Xerox losing interest to its own computers and concentrating on copier machines people started leaving.

If you try to trace biographies of some of PARC’s leading UI researches you’ll also ind out that many of them used to work in Apple as well. This looks familiar, right? Apple not only managed to get some of the best designers in the industry, but also got rights to use some graphical interfaces already created by Xerox.

So, what does Microsoft have to do with all this? The thing is that Apple has licensed Microsoft some of its UI in return for some investments and the promise to continue development of the Office suite for Mac.

So, Apple made it first. But even before Apple there was PARC. Microsoft “lent” some ideas from Apple and often had a “catching” role. But if you think Microsoft is researchers are only working with photocopiers and steal Apple GUI (I’m not talking on Linux as in general it has brought nothing new into the UI world) try to look at this page 😉

Long story

Some references you may find useful:

Further reading

To anyone having interest in the history of graphical interfaces let me recommend some interesting reading sources:

http://www.designinginteractions.com/ Site, dedicated to a book with the same name, “Designing Interactions”. Even though somechapters are available for free I do strongly recommend buying the book itself. Some of its most interesting parts cover the history of the very first computers’ creation, the appearance of the Desktop metaphor and interviews with people benind these wonderful inventions.

http://www.guidebookgallery.org/ – a visual guide to the history of modern operating systems. Ever wanted to compare interfaces of Apple II and Windows 1.0? Go and try it yourself. Must be bookmarked by any GUI


Smart grid control idea

June 20, 2007

Enough talking of fruit operating systems: there’re some other interesting things to discuss.

A couple of years ago, when working on some applications’ UI I’ve found out that existing grid controls utilize space very ineffectively. In fact, they waste it: even if there’s enough space to display all needful data, user must manually adjust columns’ width each time:

iTunes grid

Annoying? For me, it is.

So, in order to solve the above problem, I tried to describe a rough draft of  the new control’s logic.

As a result I’ve got the following document: Smart Grid Control mock-up (PDF, 200kb).

To my shame, this document has never been finished and so far I know no implementation of similar logic in real life. So, if you have any interest in this work, pick it up and feel free to share your ideas.


Future is now: innovative products and prototypes

January 20, 2007

Fortunately, along with all the badly designed stuff I cover in my hall of shame series there’re some good samples of really interesting, innovative and simply great designs.

This series of articles reviews some of these products. Certain items are only prototypes while the rest might already be available. So, let’s go…

Yanko Design company’s site has lots of interesting stuff which is at least interesting.

For example, this Bonfire tripod burner originates from the idea that modern kitchen is just an evolution of a bonfire place:

Bonfire

Thus, by design it looks like a firewood. It’s compact (the construction is transformable) and power intensity is adjusted by several sensors as well.

Elio watch is another interesting prototype by the same company:

Elio watch

Minutes and seconds are displayed by progress bars as well as text. Even though usability of this solution is arguable (one would have to become familiar with scales which are quite visual, but not common), the design is excellent.

Ambient devices company also features a lot of interesting stuff from so-called ambient interfaces: they deliever data to you without disturbing.

Let’s take a look…

Ambient Orb is a lamp, which changes its color, depending on incoming data, like weather forecasts or stock market information:
Ambient orb

Forecasting umbrella utilizes a similar approach for informing you about a need of its use: it starrts pulsing light when the rain is most likely to come. The data is received by the radio channel…

Forecasting Umbrella

Zooming mirror is probably a modern womens’ dream come true:

Zooming mirror

The mirror lets one see her face at 1x to 5x scales making it a great for makover. I’m not sure about actual products’ comfort usage and possible disadvantages, but the fact that such an idea has become real is just great!

To be continued…