UI&us is about User Interface Design, User Experience design and the cognitive psychology behind design in general. It's written by Keith Lang, co-founder of Skitch; now a part of Evernote.  His views and opinions are his own and do not represent in any way the views or opinions of any company. 

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Entries in Desktop (5)


Adding Context to the Desktop

Here's a prototype I've created to show how the Mac desktop might be augmented with contextual information/images. I've been thinking about this for a while, but was inspired by the release of the Windows application, Fences. I'm using the desktop as a simple demo space, but in reality this information could be added to any spatial file/folder view. I look forward to your comments and ideas.

UPDATE: Rémy has pointed out the Mac app-in-development, Grape (thanks!). The developer has stated it's development is currently 'on hold', but it's stated plans are quite ambitious and would be something like a 2D combo of Fences and Bumptop.

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Hot Bumptop

Bumptop, an augmentative 3D desktop for Windows, looks to be getting [edit: some] things right. Via Lifehacker

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The Apple Lisa

The Graphical User Interface Gallery contains a tasty article on the development of the Apple Lisa OS. One amazing aspect to me is the iterations they went through before finalising on a simple iconic desktop. The image above is of a non-heirarchial faceted search, presented in what looks like a modern multi-coloumn view. Note though, that the modern multi-coloumn vie we have in Mac OS X for example is simply showing hierarchy, not a faceted search like the above image.

Via the Lukas Mathis' excellent Ignore the Code.

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A Real Computer Desktop - with Markup

Phd Comics has made a desktop background with sectioned off areas for various documents in your life. It's tongue-in-cheek, but an underlying desire to add more human meta information to a spatial layout.

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Xerox Alto Computer and 'Form Pads'

I've just completed reading Bootstrapping, a book by Thierry Bardini which looks at this history, and repercussions of Doug Engelbart's 'invention' of personal computing. It's a great read.

Interestingly, the book contains a diagram of the desktop screen of the Alto, by Xerox. The Alto had a concept of 'form pads' — templates for the creation of types of documents.

(reproduced without permission)

  • Why hasn't this concept carried on?
  • Where on the Mac do I look for a stack of blank folders if I need one?
  • Where do I grab a blank email to start writing?
  • …or another common document I'm often creating?

Document-centric computing never really caught on and so we've ended up with Application centric computing. Newer applications present templates on launch instead. Is this an engineering choice or UI choice?

What do you think — are you 'Application-centric' or 'Document-centric'?

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