Portals: window management for those who hate window management (mockups in Javascript)

17 Jul


Jeff Atwood discusses the way Mac OS X windows don’t really have ‘maximize’ buttons, and he comes to the right conclusion: better to have overly large windows than to make users futz with the dimensions of their windows. He says:

Apple’s method of forcing users to deal with more windows by preventing maximization is not good user interface design. It is fundamentally and deeply flawed. Users don’t want to deal with the mental overhead of juggling multiple windows, and I can’t blame them: neither do I. Designers should be coming up with alternative user interfaces that minimize windowing, instead of forcing enforcing arbitrary window size limits on the user for their own good.

As it happens, minimizing the hassle of windows—both main application menus and pop-up dialogues—is the major design goal of my desktop UI design, which I’m calling ‘Portals’. Back in this post in March, I promised to present the Portals design, but I never quite finished the mockup demos in Javascript. Still, there’s enough there to convey the biggest ideas. Eventually I’ll fill in the notes and the rest of these demos and perhaps also finish the screencast about Portals which I started.

The mockups come with lots of (rambling) notes, but one thing they oddly fail to make clear is that Portals has no desktop, i.e. no flat empty surface on which to dump icons and files.

No Responses to “Portals: window management for those who hate window management (mockups in Javascript)”

  1. Kevin Elliott November 14, 2007 at 1:16 pm #

    I just came across this article of yours while searching for Window Management tools for OS X. Your research into this area seems to have beared some fruit. I really like your demos, and I think if a third-party developer, or OS manufacturer (Apple, Microsoft) could embrace these types of designs, we’d have usable interfaces.

    I hope we see something in the near future.

    Thanks for the article and work on the demos!


  2. Kevin Elliott September 11, 2008 at 8:49 am #

    Interestingly enough, I found myself back here reading this post. Why? Because I’m still frustrated that none of the OS developers have solved this problem. Worse yet, no third-party developers have taken your cue, Brian, to implement a control panel or task tray application to do this.

    More than 10 months have passed since I first saw your article and commented on it, and almost 14 months have passed since you wrote it.

    What really strikes me is that in an age where technology is growing, changing, and doubling so quickly (exponentially), it still takes forever to solve these kinds of problems.

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