Flutterby™! : Full screen interfaces

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Full screen interfaces

2003-01-02 17:52:19+00 by Dan Lyke 8 comments

As an aside, I've got to find a good way to refer to the various "Tom"s I reference on Flutterby. But without that better way, we'll leave it at this: tdl praises the Phoenix web browser for its simplicity and full-screenability. It seems that lots of folks are deciding that windowed interfaces aren't the future, I know I get along fairly well with the Palm interface, and tabbed browsing in Mozilla and Opera seems like a great way to manage lots of asynchronous tasks, but with lots of virtual desktops under I've become pretty enamoured of interfaces which put up lots of windows and let my desktop manager figure out how to arrange them.

[ related topics: User Interface Microsoft Open Source ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2003-01-02 19:07:19+00 by: meuon

Full screen is nice sometimes, but I often have multiple browsers up.. in multiple window sets for multiple tasks. Running Dual Screens on Linux easily gives me 4 pairs of screens..and I use them as 'task' sets. ie: One pair has network ops.. one pair personal stuff (music, personal e-mail, flutterby..) and another pair the project of the moment.

And yes, for a lot of tasks, Windowed interfaces are a pain. StarOffice takes some getting used to.. (all in one window)

#Comment made: 2003-01-02 21:06:44+00 by: Tom Lokovic [edit history]

I have no problem, in principle, with apps that bring up several windows and rely on the user to organize them. That only works well, though, if those windows keep the same dimensions over time, and if new windows don't pop up later.

Unfortunately, many app writers are so comfortable with relying on the user to organize windows, they don't put much thought into what kinds of windows are really needed. As a result, they are often cavalier about bringing up new windows at inopportune times. This forces the user to stop what they were doing and reorganize the layout to accomodate the new window. Very lame.

Even if an app uses a small number of consistent windows, user-organized rectangular windows are still very inflexible. I believe interfaces should be task-oriented when possible, showing only those controls that are relevant to the current task. It's hard for an app to adapt if all the controls are scattered in user-placed windows.

'Course, I'm a zealot when it comes to oncreen controls anyway. I believe most interface elements are discrete rather than continuous, and so should not rely on the mouse. Drawing, dragging, and spatial selection clearly benefit from the mouse; but why should I have to move the mouse away from the content I'm working on just to hit a button that's on the edge of the screen? It breaks the flow. I prefer keyboard shortcuts, or, where appropriate, gestural controls. (Thus my adoration for Phoenix's radial menus.)

Anyway, this zealotry leads me to prefer offscreen controls, which means more screen real estate can be used for content. If there are very few controls onscreen, there's less need for organizing interface elements into various windows. Thus my disdain for many-windowed apps.

#Comment made: 2003-01-02 22:28:17+00 by: Pete

I started using Phoenix (0.5) heavily about a week ago (not from where I'm posting this, though) and have been favorably impressed. Where it is installed I'm happily giving it about 98% of my browser time.

That said, it does have some things I'd like addressed, such as the fallback ordering of tabs. If you spawn two links in new tabs (ctrl and left mouse) from the same page, select the newest tab and then close it, you will find yourself on the first tab, instead of the original document, which was what you were last looking at. That's dumb, but I'm not sure it's the kind of thing that ought to be reported as a bug.

I've only noticed two pages with gross rendering differences, one being a friend's personal blog, the other being the editing screen at Blogger, where the text entry area only occupies about a quarter of it's panel. Of course I can't really say if that's an error on behalf of Phoenix or IE. Also, there's apparently a bug that prevents the implementation of the editting keyboard shortcuts used at Blogger and MetaFilter.

Another thing--the redrawing after resizing a window (from one non-full-screen size to another non-full-screen size) takes just enough time to force you notice. It's not a deal breaker, it's just one of those little things that nags at the quality of the experience.

Final annoyance: if you spawn a new tab with a ctrl-click and the page doesn't load, it pops up an alert window and erases the address you were trying to reach from the new tab's address line. DUMB! That makes it 10 times harder to try again, when a reload is all it takes most of the time. This is another thing that's really wrong, but I'm not sure if it ought to be reported as a bug.

All that having been said, the pop-up blocking, tabbed browsing, fine-grained graphics loading control (block inline ads without a proxy), and the individual control the annoying parts of JavaScript (disabling focus changes, movement of windows, writing to the status bar...) dramatically outweigh the rough edges I've described here. I do recommend the browser enthusiastically. And I expect I'll find more to like about it as I delve into it's other features (like the gestural interface, which I've yet to play with).

#Comment made: 2003-01-03 06:04:31+00 by: meuon

Pheonix's radial pop-up menu is growing on me.. gestures are confusing.. so far. It's a lot faster than my last Mozilla install. Thanks!

#Comment made: 2003-01-04 06:29:59+00 by: Shawn [edit history]

I'm not convinced about Gestures being the Holy Grail of interface interaction. I hear a lot of buzz about them, but I can't help but think "isn't the whole problem with repetitive stress injury the repetion of small, precise movements?"

Pete; I've seen some of the behavior you describe from my Mozilla (1.0.1) install - although I was unable to duplicate any of it just now.

Generally, I'm not a fan of full screen. I like the whole windows concept and being able to put and size things where I want them. My browser window is typically tall and narrow. A web page that requires me to maximize this window is guaranteed to irritate me.

I almost tried Pheonix for my laptop (which has limited space (800mb) and RAM (40mb)) but I passed over it, for now, when I saw it wasn't being packaged with an installer yet. Yes, I'm capable of installing and setting it up manually. I've just got plenty of other things that need my attention - I don't want to spend the time.

#Comment made: 2003-01-04 14:43:03+00 by: Pete

Shawn, you unzip phoenix and run the browser from that directory. It's not taxing. Here's the Win32 download link: http://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/pho...leases/0.5/phoenix-0.5-win32.zip

Also, I'd appreciate it if you explicitly tell me which scenarios I described produced different results in Mozilla. Thanks.

#Comment made: 2003-01-04 18:23:03+00 by: Pete

Hmm, I just noticed another quirk. Hopping down the page by hitting the space bar scrolls a different amount than by clicking below the window's scroll bar. Livably small, but dumb.

#Comment made: 2003-01-05 03:50:55+00 by: Shawn

It's not taxing

Ah... See how little time I have? I can't even read directions. Glancing at the zip contents, it looked like there might be more to it. Thanks for setting me straight ;-)

I'd appreciate it if you explicitly tell me which scenarios

Specifically, I'd swear I've seen the fallback tab order behavior you describe as well as about:blank in the address box when a page isn't found. Although I wasn't able to reproduce the first and I didn't take the time to veryify the exact conditions of the second (create a page with a bogus link, etc.)

I may very well have the screen redrawing behavior as well. Things like that don't tend to annoy me. I'm always a bit behind in terms of horsepower (my primary box is currently an AMD K6-2/500) and so waiting a few seconds for screen redraws is normal for me.