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The Waning of the Overlapping Window Paradigm?

Cliff posted more than 12 years ago | from the why-waste-that-premium-desktop-real-estate dept.

News 535

Bingo Foo asks: "The paradigm of movable, overlapping windows on the desktop has been around, and indeed dominant, for a long time. The original motivation for this was to mimic sheets of paper on a desktop. This is a useful metaphor, but may be a bit limiting given the capacity a computer has for automation of the layout and display of "desktop" objects. Lately, I have been pleased to see an increase in 'framing,' 'docking,' 'stacking,' and 'tabbing' being used, starting most conspicuously with frames in the web. More significantly, it has shown up as an application workspace paradigm that improved previously crappy MDI implementations in programs like Visual Studio and KDevelop. In my opinion, the most promising experimental application, even if still immature, is one of the neatest window managers around, ion. Does anyone else see a time when movable, tear-off docking and automated full-time tiling completely take over from the free-floating manually arranged desktops of today?"

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535 comments

Yes (-1, Flamebait)

Recolada (512303) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516765)

Yes

No - but maybe a mix of the two (3, Insightful)

Shade, The (252176) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516805)

The problem is with dumping moveable windows altogether is that you lose immediate manual control. For instance if you want a specific window in a certain place, under the current system you can just drag it over. With a framed/fixed approach this wouldn't be as easy. However a mix of the two would certainly be nice, and to a certain extent, this is what is happening: the taskbar in Windows and KDE for instance, dock-apps in Windowmaker & co., apps embedded into the KDE kicker and so forth. But moveable windows still have their advantages, and will probably be around for a while yet (at least until we get cool 3D desktops like we see in the movies!)

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516873)

Absolutely. This is nothing new, it has been there all the time in EMACS!

space (3, Insightful)

modemboy (233342) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516771)

Seems to me overlapping is needed in this day of 17" monitors. As soon as we have excess monitor space these paradigms will take over, but for now I need to be able to hide stuff on my monitor easily.

Re:space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516835)

I concur, when we start getting monitors that can run in excess of 3320x2400 resolution with two or more displays then this paradigm would be great. But when you're lucky to get past 1024x768 on todays low to mid-range systems so this isn't going to be usable.

Re:space (2)

uchian (454825) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516838)

A feature I would like to see is sort of a compromise - the ability to join two windows together and make the line at which they touch act like a splitter, and the two windows together act as a single window.

Unfortunately I never seem to have the time to wade through the code of my favourate window managers to find out if this would be easy to do :-(

Re:space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516866)

XMMS does it already.,

Re:space (1)

shokk (187512) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516856)

Ah, for the day that the bottom will drop out of monitor pricing like it has with memory. A 15" monitor for $30, a 17" monitor for $50, 19" for $80 and $100 for a 21" monitor. I drool for the future.


For now, there's still window managers, toolbars, and minimizing whatever you're not using.

Re:space (3, Interesting)

modemboy (233342) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516863)

So, most current windowed gui's are based on the idea of a desktop, with file folders, documents you shuffle bach and forth, etc. Seems like what people are asking for here are some of the normal office desktop tools, tape, stapler, scissors, pen, etc. So, should there be a gui that has this kanda stuff, a stapler to link/stack documents, tape to bind stuff, scissors to split, pen to annotate. Any other tools that would work like this?

Sorry... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516773)

No, I don't. Thanks for playing "ask slashdot".

Finally..... (4, Funny)

moniker_21 (414164) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516774)

"...you should hardly ever have to touch the mouse again to move between windows.
My friends always laugh at me when I say that I hate using the mouse because when I'm really tooling along on my computer reaching for the mouse slows me down....I'm glad someone else finally understands this!

For a clean brain... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516854)

Forget the rodent and compute efficiently.
For a clean brain use Ratpoison [sourceforge.net]

Re:Finally..... (4, Insightful)

Doktor Memory (237313) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516880)

My friends always laugh at me when I say that I hate using the mouse because when I'm really tooling along on my computer reaching for the mouse slows me down....I'm glad someone else finally understands this!

Your friends are laughing at you because, although using the keyboard "feels" faster, nonetheless you [asktog.com] are [asktog.com] wrong. [asktog.com]

Re:Finally..... (1)

moniker_21 (414164) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516905)

"It takes two seconds to decide upon which special-function key to press."


Two seconds?!? I don't know who these test subjects where, but I doubt they were power users. I can absolutely FLY through the keyboard commands in emacs when I'm really in the zone when i'm coding. For example, C-x b to switch buffers, OR take my hands off the keyboard, grab the mouse, move it to the Buffers menu, select which buffer I want. That can't POSSIBLY be as fast as the keyboard shortcut, and it sure as heck doesn't take me two seconds to think of the command.

Re:Finally..... (0)

Killio (102774) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516917)

After clicking the link and seeing the absolute BS that site he gave was, it only took me 0.2 seconds to reach for the Ctrl-W keys.

Re:Finally..... (1)

Doktor Memory (237313) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516924)

That can't POSSIBLY be as fast as the keyboard shortcut, and it sure as heck doesn't take me two seconds to think of the command.

Re-read the articles. The whole point is: we don't notice the time taken to remember a keyboard shortcut. Our subjective impressions say one thing, the stopwatch says quite another.

As far as who the test subjects were, you'd have to dig up the original studies. I believe that they're buried somewhere on apple.com or asktog.com.

Maybe I'm just stubborn (5, Insightful)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516775)

but this falls into the "I want the computer doing what I say, not what it thinks I want." category.

I mean, it is a personal preference, but I don't want a system that refuses to arrange windows the way I want because "it knows what's best" for me.

So, my answer to your question is "no."

-Peter

Re:Maybe I'm just stubborn (1)

Fellgus (16870) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516855)

No. This fall into the category, "This feature [overlapping windows] is most of the time more annoying and confusing than helpful, so we are going to take it away".

I can't see any possible situation where it is helpfull to have windows overlap. I have been using the Ion window manager for a year now, and have never had a more tidy and clean desktop.

Re:Maybe I'm just stubborn (5, Interesting)

elmegil (12001) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516893)

How about when I want two windows to be of such a size that they take up more than 50% of my window space? I *don't* want magically expanding and contracting windows, and I *do* want the window I'm currently doing something in to be of sufficient size to be useful, so there are times when overlapping is all there is for it.

A good example: I do computer support, and sometimes I'm looking at the logs for two computers to compare and contrast events between them. I need a certain amount of the log to be present, I need enough width that line wraps don't hose the legibility of the log, and I need to switch between the two windows easily to compare them. If they overlap, a front button (handy on my Sparc workstation) lets me switch between them without mousing, and away I go.

If I had to make the two windows fit on screen at the same time, it would be an enormous pain.

It's all about giving me the freedom to work how I work best; if any window manager refuses to allow me to use the paradigm I know and love, I won't fscking use it.

Re:Maybe I'm just stubborn (2)

Znork (31774) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516908)

You're wrong. There's nothing more annoying than applications that mess up window overlap. I use it all the time every day, which I suspect anyone who has multiple threads of attention or work going on at any point in time.

A computer desktop without window overlap is like a 50 cm square desk. Sure, you could use it, but the overhead of picking reference litterature out of the shelf, reading it, putting it back, going back to writing what you were writing, etc would make it annoying in the extreme. There's a reason why desks usually are not made like that.

Yes, it would look tidy. It would also be a serious PITA for people who actually have work to do which doesnt just involve our heads and a single paper.

OS X (2)

Have Blue (616) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516777)

Once again, Apple is ahead of the curve... Look at their latest applications: iTunes, Disk Utility, System Preferences, iMovie, Final Cut Pro. They either use a single window for nearly all functionality (only bringing up new ones for things like Open and Preferences) or they take over the entire screen, a throwback to computing "modes" that the Mac was developed to avoid in the first place.

alpha channel... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516778)

would be nice to have transparent windows that you could see thru with an easy way of increasing transparency and opacity as required.

Re:alpha channel... (1)

MaxVlast (103795) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516807)

I agree! One of my suggestions to Apple for OS X was a title bar widget to adjust window transparency. It could get hairy, but it could be really useful.

Transparent (really transparent) terminals in OS X are quite nice.

Re:alpha channel... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516862)

Check out these's URLs:
http://www.xfree86.org/~keithp/
http://www.xfree86.org/~keithp/render/translucen t. png

:P

Re:alpha channel... (2)

griffjon (14945) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516876)

This actually available in OSX (duh) and in Win2k (and XP, I presume). For 2k (and prolly XP) you have to buy an addon called WindowFX that does all sort of crazy UI things, but the best reason is to be able to set transparencies. Also, virtual desktops (to allow for multiple, full-screen apps to run parallel would be great to see worked into the mainstream (I hear XP has an implementation of this, and, of course, Linux WMs have done this for ages).

I'd love to see more intelligent auto-arrangement of windows, as long as I could specify what intelligent meant and override it.
The best possible improvement to UI would be more features available to reduce reliance on the mouse for basic computing needs, and more education about these. Everyone--even my dad--should know alt-tab switches windows, and ctrl-tab switches focus within an app (sometimes).

Transparency of course reduces the number of window switches you have to make if you can keep an eye on one window while computing above it, and helps that way.

Ick! (2, Informative)

vanyel (28049) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516779)

That's the one thing keeping me from switching to Opera on my Windoze boxes: I can't stand not being able to get multiple windows up on my desktop. I feel like General Zod and company in that window pane prison in Superman.

Re:Ick! (1)

Anonymous DWord (466154) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516809)

Weird. That's the one thing that keeps me going back to Opera in Windows. I love the mouse gestures and the single window. There's nothing worse than surfing 4 pr0n sites at once and having 8 billion pop-ups pop up, each with their own memory suckage. Good luck closing all that at once. Opera, you just close the program.

Interesting (2)

selectspec (74651) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516781)

It never really occurred to me, but I don't ever use "free" windows anymore. My windows are always maximized, and I use a combination of atl-tab and workspace shifting to navigate between them.

I used to have 4 xterms neatly arranged sharing an entire screen, but I haven't done that in a while.

I don't like apps that have framed views which are not easily hidden, such as msdev and kdeveloper. I much prefer an xemacs approach, where I can zap in and out frames as I see fit, with a quick keystroke. Perhaps you can do the same with msdev and kdeveloper, but I'm used to emacs.

Re:Interesting (1)

Darren Winsper (136155) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516801)

I use "free" windows sometimes. When I'm browsing the web, writing code or an essay I tend to use maximised Windows. However, it makes little sense to have, say, your IM program maximised, or your file manager.

I do like overlapping windows, so I will refuse to use anything that doesn't let me use them.

Re:Interesting (2)

spongman (182339) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516819)

Perhaps you can do the same with msdev
yes you can, there's a keyboard shortcut for opening each of the dockable frames (eg the Visual C++ 2.0 bindings use Alt-2 for the output window, Ctrl-K for the callstack, etc...) and once the focus is in a dockable window you can use Escape to return to the current MDI child, or Shift-Escape to close the dockable window.

Here's why the mainstays for Linux development hav (1, Insightful)

ekrout (139379) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516783)

Here's why the mainstays for Linux development have ground to a halt:

1) Nobody is willing to work on something, pouring hours upon hours of work into it, only to have someone working in Company X take their code, and make a living off of tweaking it. Suppose you're writing a windowmanager for Linux. In order for your windowmanager to succeed, it probably has to be GPL in order for it to really catch on. And if its GPL, surprise-surprise, there are employees of parasitic companies like VA Linux Systems who make a nice living playing with your code. No one in their right mind is going to do something for free, working side by side next to someone who is getting paid to do the same. By simple virtue of the fact that parasitic GPL companies exist, you're effectively letting someone else make the money off your work by making it GPL. This is why companies who capitalize on Linux software development are a (tm) Bad Thing, because they assert a choking influence over the entire community. It stops becoming an exercise in fun, and rapidly becomes an exercise in profiteering.

2) Nobody is willing to think about doing anything different, more useful, or more ergonomic right now. The main driving force driving Linux UI development is "lets make it look like Windows!" which is a horrendously bad move. Instead of giving Linux its own face, its own appeal, and its own distinct look, we're playing Poor-Man's Explorer with X11. Instead of putting our own talents to work, making something useful for us, we're playing second fiddle to a third rate design by copying it.

Now, rather than purely bitching, here's what you can do about it:

Start at the ground up. Get ahold of the source of a weak windowmanager like fvwm, that has all the basic guts you need to work from. Ask yourself what makes sense to you as a user, NOT what makes sense because you've seen the same thing in Windows. Give Linux its own look. Try to avoid imitating other platforms. Build it because it makes sense to build, not because "Windows has it". The sheer number of things that Windows has wrong with its UI would require a completely separate article to discuss them in detail. Think about how to represent things differently. Is there a better way to represent the same information? Do you really want an OS that resembles a browser? Think, ask, and move. Learn, modify, and repeat.

Re:Here's why the mainstays for Linux development (1)

MaxVlast (103795) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516826)

Flamebait? This is the most insightful thing I've seen on slashdot in years.

Re:Here's why the mainstays for Linux development (3, Insightful)

mgkimsal2 (200677) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516832)

Start at the ground up. Get ahold of the source of a weak windowmanager like fvwm, that has all the basic guts you need to work from. Ask yourself what makes sense to you as a user, NOT what makes sense because you've seen the same thing in Windows. Give Linux its own look. Try to avoid imitating other platforms. Build it because it makes sense to build, not because "Windows has it". The sheer number of things that Windows has wrong with its UI would require a completely separate article to discuss them in detail. Think about how to represent things differently. Is there a better way to represent the same information? Do you really want an OS that resembles a browser? Think, ask, and move. Learn, modify, and repeat.

What if I want to put in a feature because it makes sense *AND* "Windows has it"? What kind of moral dilemma does that bring up? Refuse something sensible, because it's in Windows? Or implement an idea, and have people like you blast it because it's "copying"? Hmmm.... Really not sure which one I'd choose... Why not discuss those things "wrong" with the Windows UI then? Really - back it up - write an article - post a link to it here. I'd love to read it - because for as much as I think there are some screwy things with various versions of Windows, *every* Linux UI I've used has been worse by a huge margin, either in terms of speed, or refusal to have standard ways of doing things across all apps (copy/cut/paste/etc) or *UGLY* graphics and fonts. And I do mean ugly.

KDE and Gnome are both making strides in improving things, but each still have many improvements to make to be as usable as Windows is for everyday people doing everyday tasks. Some of it isn't their fault - building on X, for example, brings its own problems - but for goodness' sake, Windows is still, on the whole, more usable than pretty much every other effort out there.

Re:Here's why the mainstays for Linux development (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516878)

http://joelonsoftware.com

Re:Here's why the mainstays for Linux development (2)

jchristopher (198929) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516843)

Nobody is willing to think about doing anything different, more useful, or more ergonomic right now. The main driving force driving Linux UI development is "lets make it look like Windows!" which is a horrendously bad move. Instead of giving Linux its own face, its own appeal, and its own distinct look, we're playing Poor-Man's Explorer with X11. Instead of putting our own talents to work, making something useful for us, we're playing second fiddle to a third rate design by copying it.

It is shameful and speaks volumes about the moderation system that the parent post has been moderated "flamebait". Take a moment to read the parent post and think about it. This IS a major problem for Gnome/KDE - the goal should not be to emulate Windows, the goal should be to EXCEED Windows.

Re:Here's why the mainstays for Linux development (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516844)

Why did you change handles, Bowie J. Poag?

Re:Here's why the mainstays for Linux development (1)

cerulean (99519) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516872)

Sawfish [sourceforge.net] is GPL. It can be made to look like anything X can handle, with much less effort than it takes to write a new windowmanager. Sawfish can also manage windows by any policy you can dream up and write down in lisp, i.e. anything. And it's fast enough on anything less than, oh, perhaps 5 or 6 years old.

Re:Here's why the mainstays for Linux development (1)

gmack (197796) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516901)

VA is making money? That's news to me.

Seriously though the GPL prevents companies from being truely parasitic. The GPL prevents said company from making changes and keeping them to themselves.

So what if they make money off the code? At least these companies have payed developers and contributed things like useabillity studdies and If (heven forbid) I actually wanted to go into the tech support buisness, they have no real advantage other than being previously established.

Contrast that to what happens without the GPL:
Some company takes the work done so far, improves on it and keeps the changes from the original developer and uses their improved version to make more money.

Personally, I improve things the way I want and send the changes to the proper maintainers. It's cool that some other people actually use my code but I'd rather not have to deal with the users.

Xerox did not have it (5, Interesting)

jchristopher (198929) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516784)

Actually, I believe that Xerox did NOT have overlapping windows, it only appeared to. In the book "Infinite Loop" by Michael Malone, it talks about how someone at Apple Computer (Bill Atkinson? I can't remember) had such a difficult time duplicating what he thought he saw at Xerox.

In reality, it was very difficult to duplicate, because it did not yet exist. Atkinson (Apple) ended up creating the algorithims to do overlapping windows on his own. At some point he was in a car accident, and there was alot of concern, because at that point, he was the only one in the world that had the knowledge.

Re:Xerox did not have it (1)

spectecjr (31235) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516904)

Actually, I believe that Xerox did NOT have overlapping windows, it only appeared to. In the book "Infinite Loop" by Michael Malone, it talks about how someone at Apple Computer (Bill Atkinson? I can't remember) had such a difficult time duplicating what he thought he saw at Xerox.

No, it had overlapping windows. Check out Fumbling The Future, or Makers of Lightning.

Also, you can see screenshots dotted around the net.

paper vs. windows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516785)

...mimic sheets of paper on a desktop


With sheets of paper on a desktop, you have to remove the top sheets to see the bottom one. With a computer you just click on the window that is "at the bottom" on the taskbar and it will appear.


Re:paper vs. windows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516887)

You mean there are differences between computers and sheets of paper? Damn! Now I know why people laugh at the white-out on my monitor.

And BTW unless you're a retard, if you can see the piece of paper you can pull it from the stack without disturbing the rest of the papers.

We need bigger desktops (1)

EvilIdler (21087) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516787)

ION looked nice at first, but I found that I need to do
side-by-side comparisons fairly often. If our screen
were 4096x3072, we could use the window manager's
functions to sort everything side-by-side..till then, I'll be
using overlapping windows for my development work.

$bling bling$ (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516790)

niggas wear shades just to stand to the side of me/bitches say take that chain off boy you blindin me/all day my cell phone ringin, bling bling bling/you can see my earrings from a mile bling bling

Re:$bling bling$ (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516860)

Fuck off and die, you disgusting ape nigger shit.

GNOME, KDE, CDE, etc... (3, Insightful)

ekrout (139379) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516792)

I think the key things that seperates GNOME, KDE, and CDE (and to a certain extent, OpenWindows and HP VUE) from the rest of the window managers is the concept of underlying services that facilitate communication between apps. In Windows, it's OLE (or COM or whatever they call it nowdays). In CDE, it's ToolTalk; in GNOME, it's CORBA (I don't know what it is in KDE).

You see this underlying communication in various ways: the most obvious is Drag-and-Drop between apps (or the desktop and apps). It also shows up in inter-app communication with documents (think Excel spreadsheet embeded in a Word Doc).

I'd almost consider WindowMaker an environment. It has most of the hooks that Enlightenment and Kwm have for their underlying services, and can work nicely in a GNOMEish or KDEish setup.

I think when people say "environment", they're referring to the whole shebang: backend libraries and daemons that provide Inter-app communication, a Window manager that uses those backend facilities, and apps that also are aware of the available functionality. Integration is the key here: all the parts need to be aware (and use) eachother, and not just be able to function next to eachother.

No (3, Insightful)

Stephen VanDahm (88206) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516793)

I certainly hope that this never comes to pass. Sometimes it's OK, like when Konsole allows you to have multiple shells in the same window and select them via tab-like buttons. But the GUI design of KDevelop and other apps like it is bad enough to ensure that I never use them. Why? Because I use a laptop for all my computing stuff, and the laptop only has a 800x600 display. I can't have all these tiled and paneled windows screwing up my workspace. When space is tight, it's nice to control exactly where you want your stuff to be displayed on the screen.

Steve

Windows 1.0 (2)

fireproof (6438) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516794)

Yeah, I've seen that time. It was called Windows 1.0.

Seriously, after looking at the ion screen shots, I can't imaging that being terribly useful to me. I've found that enviroments like Window Maker are most suited to my work style, but I'm certainly willing to admit that maybe my workstyle has been influenced too much by the reigning paradigm in UI.

I'd think that having stuff auto-tiled for me would annoy me to no end, but I think I'll try out ion and see how it works. Maybe I'm wrong.

I think Microsoft calls it Tiling! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516867)

Absolutely, ion looks like a feature call Tiling! MS Innovation at it's best, copied by ion! It must be a cold day in hell.

And as for overlapping windows, sure I use a full screen for coding in xemacs but you can take my overlapping xterms when you pry them from my cold dead hands.

Then there's netbeans... (1)

BlackStar (106064) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516797)

Then it evolves into netbeans, which has tabs to switch between modes (like debug, edit, gui layout etc.) where clicking the tab changes the family of windows in the workspace entirely.

Then you get modes which support free layouts of sorts.

It's an interesting concept. And obviously some alternatives to "whatever goes whereever" are slowly being challenged to help us get things done.

Everything comes around again... (4, Insightful)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516798)

Back in the late '80s for a while I owned a small OS-9 computer (some of you will guess which one) which used to lay its windows out this way. As time went on and Windows and X became bigger items, I started to desire those "overlapping windows" and eventually moved to Linux in '93 or so to get them.

Now you're telling me that tiled, edge-to-edge windows are the wave of the future? I don't know. How about some sort of compromise which allows overlapping windows but doesn't "require" them to the same extent as today's desktops? I'm not sure I'd really like to do away with them altogether... sometimes you just run out of display space, and I'm not really interested in 45" of computer display.

Re:Everything comes around again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516899)

a coco?

No accounting for taste... (1)

Jetson (176002) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516799)

The desktop-as-series-of-nested-frames may make creating desktop software easier and (for some people) allow easier navigation, but it largely suffers from the fact that all windows are not created equal. If I want a small clock visible in one corner of the screen, why should I be forced to divide the desktop into multiple frames when "always on top" allows the underlying application to run full screen?

It looks to me like ion was written by someone whose spent far too much time creating framed web sites and wants to bring the rest of the desktop down to that level.

Re:No accounting for taste... (1)

nickjennings (132759) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516923)

If I want a small clock visible in one corner of the screen, why should I be forced to divide the desktop into multiple frames when "always on top" allows the underlying application to run full screen?
&nbsp
It's called osd-clock, why don't you give it a shot and ask some questions on the ion list before you assume too much.
&nbsp
Besides, this paradigm is still being fleshed out. I have used Ion ever since I tried it out (almost 6 months) on my laptop. It's perfect because I hate using the mouse, especially on my laptop, and it's such a light weight WM that my 64mb of RAM doesn't seem so bad.
&nbsp
It also kicks ass when I'm coding.
&nbsp
I seriously think that I am MUCH more productive when using Ion.
&nbsp

Ditching the old GUI paradigm (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516803)

That's one disappointing thing about today's GUIs, that there's no dialogue. The technology exists for the computer to, say, anticipate your next move, complete it ahead of time, and wait for you to tell it if it "done good" or not. For example, completing commands at a UNIX shell prompt is quite possible (in fact, it's been done before) and useful. One of these days (it's always "one of these days") I'm going to write a shell that does this.

Windows are a useful abstraction of display space and a useful way of dealing with user input. I wouldn't want to try to program a GUI without them. However, I'm not convinced that overlapping windows are not an unnecessary and cumbersome user interface element. I myself am an advocate of non-overlapping tiles as an efficient way for a user to manage his screen space.

Some say the web browser is the most popular GUI program. But the Web browser suffers from a whole host of problems. Just like the CD player programs that looks like the front of a CD-ROM driver, Web browsers only support plodding motion through the Web. The Forward/Back/Stop formula has got to go. A really slick Web browsing scheme that I saw at U. of Maryland, I think, provides a visual browsing history in the form of miniature views of past Web pages you've visited, with more recently visited pages still visible at about half the size of the page you're presently at, and pages visited very long ago appearing very small. I don't recall if the hyperlinks on the miniature pages could be activated, but I think that they *should* be, as that would make it really easy to move from one page to another if, say, you're at a Web directory of some sort.

Those who will not learn the lessons of history (3, Insightful)

Simon Brooke (45012) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516804)

... are doomed to repeat them.

Remember that the Xerox movable overlapping windows paradigm appeared at a time when tiled and framed paradigms were widespread (Symbolics [uni-hamburg.de] , TI Explorer [uni-hamburg.de] , a whole range of other systems) and quickly became universal because it worked better. It still does.

Sure, there are issues in navigating the stack of windows, particularly if you use desktops as cluttered as I tend to; sure, less sophisticated computer users may find these navigation problems difficult. But focus, visibility, prominence and accessibility are in the hands of the user, and that's where they belong

Litestep VWMs (1)

Mr. Pibb (26775) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516811)

For those of you using Windows, you can set up LiteStep to replace explorer and have it use Virtual Desktops. If you hate stacking windows, just spread 'em out. See LSD4P [litestep.com] for the easiest install of LiteStep.

No (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516813)

Now shut the fuck up, you cockwhore.

a new paradigm would be welcome (1)

xah (448501) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516815)

The overlapping window paradigm makes the user's desktop a mess. One window gets in the way of another. This creates the need for some centralized window control mechanism that wastes users' time.

Why are we limited to a 2D environment? Games have used 3D heavily in the last several years. Why not bring 3D to the desktop? One way to do this would be to change the "look and feel" of the UI from a 2D window with sub-windows, to a polyhedron, such as a cube.

Each face of the polyhedron could display a separate application. The user would see all of the apps in perspective. To select a different app, you just click on it. During the task switching process, the user sees the polyhedron move into position. With a cube, you're pretty limited in how many faces you can view at once. If the polyhedron has 12 sides, however, each face would be hexagonal, and you could see more faces. With larger monitors, the wasted screen real estate is less important.

Or make the desktop the inside of a sphere. There is more than one possibility.

Re:a new paradigm would be welcome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516910)

I'd rather have a polyhedron of monitors around me and an automatic seat that turns into the direction I am looking.

Ion rocks (0)

Penrod Pooch (466103) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516820)

I've been using Ion for about 6 months now. It has completly ruined me for other windowmanagers. Every time I end up in front of a stupid "normal" wm, i'm totally lost. It seen like I spend most of my time arranging windows on one of those instead of doing real work.

Yes.. if optional.. (2)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516823)

I think tabs and frames are a common interface now because of popularity in web interfaces and they've proven to be useful. Docking and stacking has always been rather useful. I don't want forced to have a 2D grid of windows though. I like it made easy to align windows to a grid and to other windows and like it when I can stick them together so if I move, open/close, etc one the others will follow. I also am really waiting for the day that KDE/Gnome stop chasing Windows and put some really useful features such as pie menus, cluster menus, and gesture support in rather than all the nasty pull down menus and icons. At least Mozilla is supporting these things so any Mozilla-based apps should be able to also.

what about the average end user? (1)

Prion86 (463800) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516825)

most people will want an os that is easy to use as possible. the less thinking they do, the better. people that read /. generally seem to have the ability to think for themselvs....unlike the moron who bought his computer at wal-mart. as long as the lowest common denomanator keeps getting lower, people will continue to like their UI the way it is. and as long as people are spending money, if its not broke, dont fix it.

ion is great (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516827)

I'm posting this is AC so it will likely never be seen, but I actually have no /. account (GASP!) and don't feel like creating one just for this post...

anyway, I've used ion for a month or so now and I think it is GREAT. Yes, partly because of the window arrangement issue. The normal paradigm, honestly, is retarded. But even moreso because it is designed for KEYBOARD users. I switch between windows and whatnot SO much faster now. I like GUIs, I like pictures on my monitor, etc, but I absolutely detest being forced to use a mouse. It's about time some people started realizing how inefficient a mouse is compared to a keyboard.

I'm actually thinking of developing an X toolkit designed to make it easy to develop apps that are both keyboard- and mouse- user friendly.. altho I've been reading up on xlib and it seems like a huge mess, so now I'm not so sure if I really want to do that.

Re:ion is great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516916)

so "ion" is a new synonym for emacs or what ?

What about workspaces? (1)

Nevrar (65761) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516829)

I've always thought workspaces were the ideal way to manage multiple windows. When I'm browsing sometimes I use up to 8 workspaces. I doubt everyone will think the same, but I think that illustrates the point that if you have something automated, it's gonna be how the designer wants it to be, not you.

(in reply to another comment: I hardly ever maximise windows - I have never thought about why though and I now that I think about it, I still don't know. Preference again I guess.)

Re:What about workspaces? (1)

VA Software (533136) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516839)

I don't maximise windows either - but I do like them as tall as possibly with an A4/Letter ratio. So I wrote myself a little backgorun apps which triggers on Alt-Ctrl-H and makes the current window full-height. I use that key combination much more than maximise.

It has to prove itself. (2, Interesting)

VA Software (533136) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516831)

Microsoft's new Visual Studio.NET implements some, if not all of this. Windows can be either free floating, docking or added to a tabbed set.
I've not used it much yet, so I don't know what layout I'll end up using.

At the moment it is set up the same as my VC 6 layout - workspace in the top left. Output/Build windows tabbed in the bottom right and the editor window taking up the entire right hand side - I like to see lots of code at once.

The default view was way too busy - for example it showed compilation errors twice - once in the standard compiler output window, and once in a new "tasks" window that allows you to tick off the errors once you've dealt with them. Maybe this is useful for one of the other languages .NET supports, but it isn't how I work with C/C++.

It would be nice if this flexiblity with floating/docking/tabbing was in the window manager instead of the application; although, to be honest, developer studio is the only application I use with a large number of internal windows. Most applications are much simpler - tending towards a single view on a single set of data.

acme/wily (2, Interesting)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516833)

acme is the primary text editing / programmers tool on plan9 and inferno
It doesn't use overlapping windows but uses rows and columns for text areas. One can maximise to size of the column.

there are no dialog boxes, turns out you don't actually need them. File/directory interaction is just in place (click on a filename in the current directory and ti gets opened [very useful for opening include files etc.]).

this also works for running programs. middle click on the command anywhere in any window and it's stdout gets opened in a new window.

try it and you'll see how simple and innovative such an approach can be. These plan9 guys are really on to something.

Paned window environment over Z-Order windowing (1)

ZaneMcAuley (266747) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516840)

I think the Oberon development environment had the right idea. It was based on window panes rather than overlapping windowing.

I think it is easier to work with and more intuitive.

Re:Paned window environment over Z-Order windowing (1)

ZaneMcAuley (266747) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516884)

For more info on tiled window environments check here

http://www.oberon.ethz.ch/native/WebScreen.html

I belive in the KISS methodology (Keep It Simple Stupid) why increase difficulty and adoption with complexity? Remember, there are also accessability issues to solve.

We aren't too far from these ideas already. (3, Interesting)

zCyl (14362) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516846)

As for ion, it appears to be a restriction on user ability, rather than an increase of user ability. I can already align my windows such that they don't overlap if I desire.

But I already have the flexibility of using my graphical interface almost entirely without my mouse. I'm running Gnome and Sawfish, and I can setup multiple desktops, indexable with alt-F#. Then if I keep the number of windows on my screen down to a reasonable number, no more than 3 or 4 (which is what ion would be limited to anyway for reasonable space consumption), then I can tab between them almost instantly with alt-tab. Then I can access them all immediately without the mouse, and without sacrificing the size of my windows, because they can all be close to full screen. As for organizing by graphical tabs, that's what the tasklist in the gnome panel is for, which is always an option when one feels the urge to reach for the mouse to find a window.

Every application I use regularly on my computer has an associated Sawfish shortcut. Mozilla, gnome-terminal, xmms, etc... Even shortcuts for common functions can be created in Sawfish, such as a shortcut locking the screen, shortcuts for raising and lowering volume, shortcuts for playing cd's (all using console-based tools, and the ability to bind a key combination in sawfish to the launch of arbitrary programs), shortcuts for closing a window, and shortcuts for bringing up frequently accessed files.

Excluding web browsing and copy/paste, I could go an entire day without having to reach for the mouse.

Re:We aren't too far from these ideas already. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516858)

The (primary) difference is that with Ion you have the multiple windows in one frame thing going on, which is oh so nice... it just makes sense. Plus it's DESIGNED for keyboard users. And yes, in a normal WM, you can align your windows so that they don't overlap, but Ion does that for you. And no, that's not a bad thing. I cannot think of a single situation in which I would ever want my windows to overlap.

Re:We aren't too far from these ideas already. (1)

nosferatu-man (13652) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516879)

The big bonus with Ion, though (speaking as a long-time Ion user) is that all the window management functions are available through the keyboard: you never have to take your hands off the keyboard to open a new window, rearrange your desktop, launch new programs, etc. And Ion includes multiple workspaces; I usually have six or seven going at once.

I don't know if I'd say that Ion is the "future" of anything; for me, however, it's made the difference between being able to continue working and hand surgery.

Peace,
(jfb)

Glad this is happening (2)

FattMattP (86246) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516857)

I'm really glad this is happening. I've always hated the concept of windows and having to constantly shuffle the windows around. I miss the days of my Amiga where we had "screens" that we could flip through and even drag down to peek at the one behind.

The closest I can get to that now is to use MS Windows and to maximize every window that I can. it's close enough and at least that way all of my pull down menus are in the same place even if they aren't right at the top where they should be because the title bar is in the way. The Mac puts the menus in the right place, but Mac apps are more obsessed with using lots of windows than MS Windows. I know I can maximize them, but at least with MS Windows, I can save that setting in the icon. Not all Mac apps remember the window settings.

If I can figure out how to make every app's window to maximize under KDE without having to explicitly push the maximize button, then I'd be more inclined to make the switch to Linux for all my work.

Enlightenment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516918)

Enlightenment's the closest I've seen to the Amiga desktop. It's got the groovy screens you can drag down. I think they're supported natively in X or something but it's only e that i know of that uses em.

I think overlapping windows will go away. (1)

BigZaphod (12942) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516859)

I once wrote a small rant about this on my site [sumballo.org] . Although I admit, it isn't very well done. :-P

Basically, I think that overlapping windows waste far more time than they save. It might be better if you could dedicate the entire screen to one task at a time. Perhaps providing a common tool bar across all views for things like the clock and MP3 player displays or whatever. Also that bar could be a common place to drag information when you need to switch between contexts. I don't know for sure how well this would work, but it seems a lot of things could be cleaned up about the user experience if we just got rid of overlapping stuff.

But maybe it's just me. :-)

If it's good enough for Geordi... (2, Funny)

eclipse127 (167016) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516865)

Well, if you notice, in the Star Trek universe I don't see anybody woth a pointing device of any kind... "keyboard" console only... it would seem that at some point in the future somebody just makes the decision that were going with ion... we might as well give it a look!

-EclipsE

Evolution towards less windows (3, Interesting)

Drone-X (148724) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516881)

For some time now I've seen this trend towards more heavyweight applications rather than small, lean applications that are used in conjunction. Now, this isn't a bad thing per sé since shared libraries or components can be used to share code.

It also has an advantage for desktop users because these heavyweight applications have the unique possibility of using paradigms different than windows for managing documents/tools reducing the window clutter on the desktop. E.g. in a PIM several related applications are presented in one window (where if needed the different components can often be opened in a seperate window anyway); in an IDE it is common to have a form editor, code editor, class browser, debugger all in one window.

But there are other approaches that can be taken. I've read dialog windows in MacOS X stick to their owner which is nice because it reduces the amount of windows you have to manage. X window managers could probably implement this feauture pretty easy.

But more can be done, e.g. it would be nice if there was a Nautilus-like panel on the right side of the screen in which things like music players, instant messengers, calendars, RDF-boxes, etc. could be embeded (these would be Bonobo components or KParts). An idea would be to model the panel after Nautilus' sidebar, only when hiding a tab the panel should disappear completely except for the tabs at the bottom of the screen.

In conclusion, it would be nice if the desktop environments started to work more towards reducing the number of open windows rather than taking the GLADE appraoch where there's a window for the menu and tool bars, a toolbox window, a property window and a window per form. (Yes, I know of workspaces but that ruins the advantage of windows even more.)

For a clean brain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516888)

To do away with overlapping windows, use ratpoison and forget the rodent.

Ratpoison!! [sourceforge.net]

PicoGUI! (2)

RevAaron (125240) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516889)

Surprised no one else mentioned this, but if you're interested in windowing systems with no overlapping windows, have a look at PicoGUI [sf.net] . A really cool (IMO) little windowing system that is network transparent, and runs well on little resources. E.g., there's PicoLinux [sf.net] , a linux OS for a PDA called the Helio.

Star Office in the 80's (0)

nvainio (135908) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516890)

From the first linked article: In the early 80's Xerox tried to market a system called "The Star Office System" This was a very capable machine, except the list price was $17,000. No-one was going to pay that when IBM PC's were far cheaper. After the failure of this system, Xerox decided to just stick to the photocopying business.

I didn't know Star Office was that old...

All your window are belong to us. (1)

Bistronaut (267467) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516896)

I am very pleased with my new setup: old X-style focus-follows-the-mouse setup with all my big windows (Mozilla, Konsole) in shade mode. They de-shade themselves and come to the front on hover (after a short delay, of course). I keep EveryBuddy and KDE media player (with my .ogg playlist) over to the side so I have a partial view of them even when my bigger windows de-shade.

We already have options in many ways, like mo (3, Interesting)

kalinh (167661) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516900)

Rambling warning, I'm sicker than hell, and extremely tired from playing civ all night... mod down at will.

I've been thinking about this for a while, nothing frustrates me more than having windows obscured behind something else, and having to either drag the front window out of the way, or else alt-tab through everything. In a lot of ways this is what first got me hooked on linux as a desktop replacement for windows, the well developed multiple desktops system. So I can hit a key combination and cycle from one desktop to another. One has my mail and IM open on it, the other one browsers, the next nothing but terminals, and then filemanagers/xmms.

A lot of application shave taken a better look at how they're actually used. Sometimes the UI is bad bad bad (StarOffice 5.2). Other times it's really appropriate, like the tabs in galeon [sourceforge.net] which are great for organizing all the browsing into different windows based on subject (for those of us that like to have 20 pages open at once. Right clicking to open in a new tab is great for s site like slashdot, K5 [slashdot.org] or Adequacy [adequacy.org] , where there might be 7 or 8 links on the main page that i want to get to, but not forget if I get sidetracked.

When I first grasped mozilla's power as a platform I had the epiphany that since 90% of the apps I ran were network based and mozilla provided an API for creating spiffy looking network applications, it wouldn't be a stretch to do everything in tabs within one maximized window, and that it could eventually function as an OS for lightwieght computers. If you type chrome://messenger/content/messenger.xul in mozilla you can get the entire mail application dropped into your browser window. Press ctrl-T on a recent build and you have a new tab to browse in, but you can switch back to your mail real fast. Add Jabberzilla [mozdev.org] to your sidebar. Throw in a few more apps from MozDev.org [slashdot.org] and you can do most of what you'd want within a single window. It's in no way complete or stable, but it's enough to shed some light on a usable way to avoid the worst of window overlap. Apparantly there is a company that's working on using mozilla as an operating environment [hrome] for appliances called OEone [oeone.com] . You can check out the screenshots of their calender application here [oeone.com] .

We already have a modern successful non overlapping interface, and it's called PalmOS. Just as it took a limited use platform to accept "modeing", probably not a lot of desktop users will be willing to give up the poer that free windowing gives them, but for appliances, or special uses, such as subject-centered web browsing. Things like tabbing and fullscreen interfaces are a good idea, and have already been implemented.

Oberon (1)

crashcheval (534011) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516907)

The idea of non-overlapping windows reminds me of the Oberon OS interface. I like Oberon's clean look, and the interface is usable even on the old HP OmniBook 800CT's tiny screen. So it seems that Ion like WMs could work on a wide variety of monitors.

Oberon had all this (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2516915)

take a look at Oberon [oberon.ethz.ch] . Wirth/Gutknecht had the same thoughts back in 1986, and i still think they were right. but still, a gui like that is not so easy to teach to the masses. looking at the all the messy blobbs and popps on a winXP or MacOSX screen, i think the trend is going the oposite way.

Reminds me of Oberon... (2, Interesting)

DaoudaW (533025) | more than 12 years ago | (#2516925)

Anyone with Oberon [oberon.ethz.ch] experience out there?? It started out as a tiled windows system only, but now they've developed an overlapping windows desktop as well. Checkout the screenshots. [oberon.ethz.ch]

Their comment on tiled display is useful: The Gadgets desktop also has a tiled display mode with two vertical tracks. In this mode a newly opened viewer automatically covers half of the largest existing viewer in the track. This is ideal for text-based work, e.g., programming or text editing. Viewers can be resized vertically and moved, but they always use the full track width. Because there are fewer degrees of freedom, it is much quicker to arrange viewers optimally. newly opened viewer automatically covers half of the largest existing viewer in the track. BTW, windows are called viewers in Oberon.
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