Interface Relations 1
|Column Tag:||Developer's Forum
Interfacial Relations, Part I
By Joost Romeu, Huntsville, AL
InterFacial Relations is the continuation of About Face: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, a series appearing in MacTech Journal that discussed the development and deployment of the Human Interface. InterFacial Relations complements the standard MacTutor fare. The source code it considers is the way an interface looks, acts, and feels. The source code it provides challenges rather than codifies.
As the Macintosh gains credibility it loses some of the flexibility it had in its early heydays. As software financial investments and requirements increase, developers find their nose to the profit driven millstone of a market with its own axe to grind. Developers no longer have the time or space to express their dreams of a better way. And its showing--in the interface. Ported products show little understanding of the Macintosh, previously solid products evolve convoluted interface tumors, and newcomers trade the tried and true for tricks and gimmicks.
Now that the rest of them is looking through Windows to catch up with the rest of us, its time for developers to explore their dreams again and crucial for Apple to provide the tools and leadership to encourage developers to expand their interfacial relations. Interfacial Relations hopes to take part in this exciting challenge by providing food for thought and debate.
About Face Part 1 described the foundations and precursors of the Macintosh GUI.
About Face Part 2 explored the relationship between interface and the real world and studied the role of metaphor, the Macintoshs interface lifeline. It came to the conclusion that the relationship metaphor establishes between user and program may be educationally useful but is in the end one-dimensional, linear and fragile. One way you could see the relationship was fragile was because the relationship was mediated by paper--rather than electronic--glue. Part 2 then suggested an approach it called relational interface to address the real world more contextually, and establish interface--rather than paper--as informations exchange medium.
The graphical interface--icons in specific and metaphor in general--is at a crossroads. Metaphor provides a valuable introduction to the user who has just abandoned hunt-and-peck for point-and-click. But unrestrained, metaphor may restrict our vision by cluttering our applications and narrow our focus by implying that computers merely facilitate, rather than redefine and expand the field of human experience?
The Macintosh human interface has set standards but is no longer carving new domains. Its become a motif to be copied.
Macro concepts such as virtual reality and micro developments such as the gestural interface of the pen-based computer are beginning to refine the scope and direction of the desktop interface.1
Initially, computers needed to prove their worth by emulating things we had done before. Situated between the virtual and the gestural, todays desktop computers can occupy a pivotal position only if they emulate less and relate more. Whether facing a real or virtual Macintosh, todays computerphile is looking for tools and capabilities that teach by associating themselves to his/her experience and affect by relating to his/her developing context.
Interfacial Relations, Part I, suggests directions the Macintosh interface might take to become more relational.
Part I: Relational Specifics
A natural movement
File folders, documents, paintbrushes, trash cans, keyboards, are ways the Macintosh emulates reality. Sorting, selecting, and translating are ways the Macintosh constructs reality. Relational interface consolidates tools, emphasizes attributes, and concentrates on context. Before the advent of the graphical interface, icons were enough to ensure user friendliness. In tomorrows graphical rich environments the user is going to expect relational components to feel comfortable with an interface.
Certain relational interactions on the Macintosh are expected. Highlight text (or one or more objects), bring up a text style dialog (bring up an object attributes dialog box) and you expect to see the currently selected text (object) attributes checked, unchecked, or greyed out (indicating multiple text styles (object attributes) within the active selection). Relational cues of this sort give the impression the software is responding to the last thing the user did. But this is just the tip of the relational iceberg.
Alongside the iconic look-alike menu and tool palettes, new relational tools are appearing. They include:
- the simple bezier tool that constructs a curve relative to previously constructed points;
- the Quark XPress2 Measurements Palette that provides interactive access to many of the active characteristics of highlighted elements;
- Nisus3 rich search/replace functionality which permits the user to set character attributes directly on the form;
- Digital Darkrooms4 context sensitive preview forms:
- Studio 32s5 color slip and replace functionality and
- the Oasis6 tool box that concentrates on attributes rather than discrete tools
These developments indicate that a natural progression is occurring--away from the metaphor and toward the relative.
Computer Metaphor: Evolutionary or Destructive
Computer-promoted metaphor is a unique beast. Unlike the metaphor of everyday speech, a juxtapositional device that invites deliberation about historical roots, computer-based metaphor deliberately sets to work dismantling the base from which it gets its grounding. Maybe because its so interactively compelling or mind-numbingly pervasive, the computer metaphor tends to immediately subvert, and eventually replace, its benefactor. Rather than enriching the environment that gave it identity, computer metaphor often seems to recommend we abandon our heritage. Its a shame, because both tools--the traditional and the technological--are unique and invaluable.
The Relational Desktop
The relational desktop is a layered interface that can permit Apple, developers, and end users to:
- retain the basic interface foundations established by Apple.
- extend the finder/multifinder environment while retaining the desktop/metaphor analogy7 as an option;
- develop interface options that take advantage of particular software/hardware configurations and capabilities (e.g. sound, color);
- customize interfaces to individual needs or job requirements;
- accommodate unique requirements without abandoning basics; continue to maintain a predictable look and feed;
- transport these customized interfaces from one machine to the next and secure the best fit regardless of software/hardware differences;
- experiment with alternative approaches.8
Multifinder: Opaque layering
Pervasive on todays desktop/application interface are menus, tools, and windows. Bookbinding that holds together the (application) pages, the menu bar provides stability and repeatability. The tool palette sequesters the tools. Windows are application-owned surfaces which the tools mark and the menus modify.
Non-permanent interface components include dialog boxes. They record, warn, and modify tools, windows, and menus.
Though in MultiFinder applications may overlap, each application actually occupies a discrete layer (sometimes modified by DAs and inits), controls its own tools, and owns the active window.
Relational interface first attempts to break through (Multi)Finders opaque layering schema by accepting application layers as they appear today--as metaphorically consistent set of tools, modifiers, defaults, and configurations that reflect a particular design and direction--and adding relational overlays.
Without changing the look and feel of an application, relational layers can be added that relate to every visible element on the application layer. The user names the level, adds items, positions them, and determines the relationship between each of those items and items on other layers.
The following layers, linked to tools and menu items (and/or other layer items), might be implemented:
- Name layer(s): contains alternative names for tools and functions.
- Icon layer(s): contains alternative icons for tools and functions.
- Security layer(s): specifies who, what, when, where, and why can access or modify application elements.
- Default layer(s): specifies defaults relative to each item.
- Description layer(s): contains (editable) text descriptions of selected items.
- Speech layer(s): specifies audio activation commands that call specific items.
- Macro layer(s): expand individual (sound/keyboard, ) calls into call sets and sequences.
- Journal layer: journals selected items.
- Undo layer: specifies undo functions unique to specific tool events (see below).
- Alternate Platform layer: maps items to alternate platforms (e.g. PenPoint, DOS, )
- Job layer(s): relates application items to job requirements.
- Time and date stamping: records frequency of use. Could be used to evaluate software upgrade paths.
- Hardware layer(s): maps interface specific information onto alternative screens. Users employing transparent lectern screens or miniature eyeglass screens can decide to remap all or parts of the interface off the computer screen and onto these alternative surfaces (thereby reclaiming the crt completely as the active work surface).
- Alarm or question layer(s): contains alerts/questions about specific items.
- Personal/Job layer(s): customized layers related to specific job requirements.
Items can be cut, copied, and pasted from layer to layer. Items on one layer can be linked to items on another layer. Items can be repositioned anywhere on the screen. For example, all items on a description layer could be arranged to appear near the top right hand corner of the screen, multiple tools could be positioned underneath each other (and accessed by flipping a tool page). Transitions between one layer and another can occur via programmed scripts or layer/menu/dialog box choices.
The translucent layers discussed above expand the existing interface. Transparent functionality cuts through the layers to radically customize the interface.
Transparency is added when (the interface makes it appear that):
- Windows are separated from their application.
- Tools are separated from their application.
- Menus are tool, rather than application, related.
With transparent layers, the user can--by cutting and pasting elements from one layer-to-layer--arrange the desktop so he can work on any active window with any tool, from any application. The user doesnt need to save (in a common format)/close/and open the file. Transparent layers overcome the impression--as one switches from tool-to-tool--that one is traveling from application-to-application.
A one-person shop might use transparent layers to set up a desktop with Quark XPress page layout tools, Microsoft Word9 word processing capabilities (within the XPress frames), an Adobe Illustrator10 bezier tool, Oasis paint brush, Studio 32 pencil, PhotoShop11 stamp tool, etc. Because these visible items can still be associated to entries on hidden related layers this information can be selectively brought up to describe, reconfigure, expand, or change the existing desktop. If a tool is still unrecognizable, its root application environment (situated on another layer) can always be invoked.
Translucent and transparent layering complements individual work styles and workplace job requirements in a multi-application environment. It permits individuals, workplaces, and workflows to compose and refine unique interface profiles reflecting their own preference and default dispositions across application/file boundaries.
Name and icon layers might be employed to explain or replace a tool or tool-function whose appearance is unclear. Descriptive layers may relate information particular to a job, operator capability or current software facilities. (Software companies can pre-release layers describing upgrade refinements or interactively polling program usage before upgrades are instituted.)
Layers can be understood and managed by report and sort functions. Sorts can, for example, organize visible tools and associate the icons with general information linked to these tools and residing on the help layer. More specific information (e.g. job particular) information can be called from a job description layer. These can be combined and printed as a tool-general/job-particular manual.
Translating text or speech layers into a foreign language or redrawing cryptic icons for another culture can immediately make those functions accessible to a new audience--without disturbing underlying applications.
Relational layers become instrumental when files, jobs, and workers move from one location to another and as software evolves into groupware. Today, software operators are judged more by what applications they are familiar with and less by what they can do. With relational layers, an individual can develop a (multi-layer) profile consisting of tools and processes with which he is conversant. When the operator installs that profile on another computer, the profile will be able to be search the foreign site, determine common (e.g. Adobe Illustrators bezier tool), identical (a MacDraw12 rectangle and an identical Canvas13 rectangle on a name layer), and similar (two airbrushes configured differently) tools and functions and--by sorting through the familiar and the available--construct the best interface for the situation.
Mediating between profiles using sorts, searches, and reports and modifying selected profiles using language translators it becomes clear how powerful relationally based interface profiles can function in complex projects that must travel across job specific, high security, foreign language, and cross-cultural borders.
Inter-application relational Interface
Having established an overview that hints at how a relational interface might operate, we can look at application specific relational tools.
Early electronic keyboards attempted to emulate the sound of a piano. But algorithms were crude and the artificial sounds generated, though interesting, didnt quite cut the mustard. Today, with sophisticated sound sampling techniques, a piano perfect sound is possible. Yet the piano relic remains on the modern keyboard--renamed the electronic piano.
Our paint palette sports similar throwbacks in the spraycan/airbrush and the paintbrush/artists brush.
Consider the real pencil. Turned on its side, or applied with various pressures, it can apply as subtle or seductive a line as desired. The pixel-point pencil is simply an unrealistic metaphor.
Is the metaphor dominated toolbox doomed to be filled with relics? Computer-derived tools arent intended to reflect their real world counterparts. Theyre meant to expand their real world referents.
In the short run, and for users acquainted with the referent, metaphor continues to be a fine way to introduce and contextualize an application and icons continue to be a fine way to sequester sample tool effects. However, in the long run these devices can limit an applications scope and unnecessarily clutter its appearance.
Point-and-click is easy to understand. But, simply implemented, this approach encourages a pick-and-choose (digital) rather than mix-and-match (analog) attitude. Applications need to adopt an interface that encourages mixing rather than picking tools. Tools need to be defined as processes rather than products.
Oasis, a paint program employing a relationally powerful interface, has reduced its tool palette to two major tools, the airbrush and the paintbrush.
Associated with its tools are three major palettes that address an infinite spectrum of software and hardware (see The Sensitive and the Sensual below) paint capabilities.
By changing size, density, tool attribute, and tool application settings, and relating these settings to the current palette, the paintbrush can simulate soft and hard pencil, pastel, watercolor, oil, etc.
Whats important about this approach is that rather than providing the user with discrete tools, the application acquaints the user with ingredient proportions necessary to emulate certain effects. The tools the user employs assume a relation to each other and the tools the user hasnt yet employed take their place on the (nearly infinite) continuum of options defining in-between settings.
Inside and out, the Macintosh depends heavily upon icons. Icons frame tools and predetermine their usage by associating them with non-computer tools and non-computer ways of doing things. But iconic tools still are familiar only to an educated user. Only someone acquainted with a paintbrush can appreciate how a brush might work.
Well designed icons are clean, clear, and powerful tools. But icons gain their power through their context, and they retain their power only insofar as that context is able to freeze time. But time marches on
Metaphor is an adequate jumping off point. But as tools and their modifiers become more complex, metaphor begins to turn in upon itself. Today, by choosing the proper sizes, shapes, repeat patterns, colors and modifiers you can easily transform a paintbrush into a pencil, an eraser or (with slightly more effort) practically any tool on the paint palette.
When the tool or the task is simple and obvious, literal icons continue to be relevant.
Sometimes the best solution is a combination of the literal and the abstract. The universal No sign superimposed over a literal icon transmits a clear message.
Few smokers wouldnt understand this "no smoking" icon in airplane bathrooms.
But metaphor can get in the way when computer tools can perform tasks unimaginable in the non-computer world.
Abstract icons are no less infallible than literal icons. Consider the on/off icon imprinted into the pushbutton switch of the MacII, the toggle switch of the Canon copier at work, and--separated into its components--on the MacSE toggle.
|What is it--a key and circular lock? People I asked didnt know.
|Left: (Top = On; Bottom = Off) MacPlus/SE rocker switch.
|Right: MacIIfx On/Off Push Button
Nonetheless SE users still knew how to use the switch because it was differently colored.
Pictorially speaking, theres very little thats universal. To the Chinese, the owl is an especially stupid bird. Thumbs-up means OK to Americans, but is an obscene gesture in Mediterranean countries.
Abstract icons sometimes work better when they call attention to an action rather than representing an object. However, abstract shapes intended to communicate complex processes may be too elaborate for a simple picture to describe.
Sometimes it doesnt matter if an icon is immediately understandable. If the interface provides some sort of feedback describing or naming the icon, using it a few times can be enough to imprint that icons function clearly in the users mind.
Claris CADs14 three stage object drawing process succinctly defines the what, how, and relative-to-what drawing technique required of a technical illustrator. Whether drawing or resizing objects, the tool (e.g. rectangle, chamfer, linear dimension), method (e.g. corner-to-corner, center-to-edge), modifier (e.g. corner, center, end-point) process is so clear and consistent that even after using it a few times the user can relate methods and modifiers to tools that havent yet been explored. Not all the procedures apply across the board (e.g. the positional modifier end-point does not apply to a circle). But in this relational context, encountering situations where a process doesnt apply still yields useful information about the objects involved.
A mini-canvas tool icon might best represent that tool. This scratch pad approach provides immediate, specific feedback, that incorporates all the effects of currently selected tool modifiers and reflects the capabilities of the selected (2, 8, or 24 bit) monitor color configuration. It also replaces one of the most useful (and expensive) parts of a manual, the full color samples page.
Extending the samplicon concept:
- icons can, as the active color is changed, change colors to provide a set of samplicons for comparison;
- adding cut/copy/paste to the mini-canvas, the user can experiment with the tool without affecting the active drawing surface;
- with tool mini-canvas manipulations separately journaled, the user could selectively undo ones way through different revisions of the tool, thus recalling effects without having to reconstruct them.
- add the ability to name and save configured tools, and the user will have a cross-document, visual and lexical record of unique ways a tool has been constructed and applied.
Relational concepts can be extended to a programs forms.
Page layout programs that handle picture frame and text frame placement must deal with various offset parameters. Pictured are two approaches to establishing a runaround and a margin (frame offsets established from the outside-in and inside-out respectively).
PageMakers15 icon based dialog box approach is simple and intuitive. It portrays the interrelationship between runaround and margin. Pick the right runaround icon, and the available margin icons show up.
PageMakers icon based runaround dialog box.
Quark XPress more versatile runaround tool is simple and clean. However, it does not relate runaround to frame margins. Frame margins are established elsewhere.
Quarks runaround dialog box.
What are the disadvantages of these forms?
- Both approaches are modal (each form covers the document, cant be moved, and must be dismissed before you can see the results), both take up a lot of room. Neither can easily be extended to other offset features, such as frame-specific traps/spreads, which may be built into future product versions.
- Neither allows the user to affect multiple selected objects, to change unit measures individually, to incrementally modify one or all object offsets by a specific amount, to check to see if more than one objects have the same offset, to reset offsets to the same amount, in short to view and change offsets contextually.
Quark XPress 3.0s Measurements Palette;, is a relational portent of forms to come. An interactive form, the palette reflects the characteristics of the currently chosen object(s). Nonmodal, its horizontal profile can be unobtrusively placed beneath highlighted objects.
Quarks Measurements Palette: An interesting testament to the relational approach is that users introduced to page layout through XPress 3.0 tend to rely on this form exclusively (and not go to the menu to access its modal object modification forms).
FrameMakers16 Character Format and Paragraph Format dialog boxes provide similar functionality.
Applying similar principles to a runaround and margin offset form might result in the following. A modular form of this sort could easily be extended to show chokes and spreads.
This relational form permits the software designer to add interactive modules as more capabilities are added. The user can display selected extensions or portions of each extension (Show & Margins All Sides) on the document using colored guidelines. Within the form, the user can change selected dimensions, change unit measures, and lock or incrementally change dimensions (notice the arrows replacing the locks). (Note: the question mark indicates a dimensional disagreement among the selected set of objects. A more verbose form might show a range of dimensions.)
Tied to an interactive set of colored guidelines surrounding selected text frames this approach gives the user the option of changing attributes to each frame individually directly on the active page or absolutely/incrementally en-masse through the relational form.
Other Relational Forms
Nisus search/replace form permits the user to set and view character attributes directly on the form.
Nisus search/replace function includes relational facilities (or) and permits the user to incorporate different type styles, sizes, colors, and modes directly on the form. The word time appears jaggy because it connotes any font.
Graphic relational forms include Digital Darkrooms form suite. Its Paste Control form interactively affects combined images as they are being applied and teach as well as demonstrate the complex interaction of selected colors and feather and dissolve settings as they apply to replace, blend, darken and lighten procedures.
Menus--once single level multi-button pulldowns permanently attached to menu bars--now can appear beneath dialog box buttons, application tools, and window widgets and borders; can cascade into sub-sub items; and can tear away to coexist on-screen as non-modal forms. Sensitive to screen edges and limited in cascadable depth, Apple-approved menu functionality is designed to be easy to understand and ergonomically stable enough to easily operate.
Depending on the application, menus, or menu pulldowns may change depending on currently selected objects and tools. Menus that change in unexpected ways can be disarming to the inexperienced operator.
Menu items tend to be recalled often. If those items are at the end of a long dropdown or hanging off a long cascading menu branching up from the long dropdown they can be difficult to repeatedly access. Menu entries calling up complex dialog boxes could allow entry sets to be named and cascaded from that menu item. A macro could assign a keycode to the item but that might require recoding another keyboard assignment or remembering an obtuse code. Relational menus could position recent selections on a new menu or alternate the existing menu configurations by stacking items based on frequency of use or last-up top-of-stack fashion. Of course, restacking could destroy a carefully designed and sorted menu. But if the interface split each menu item into a left, center, and right button area the user could have the choice of:
- left: accessing past menu choices (or past named dialog boxes),
- center: selecting a default entry, (or the standard dialog box) or
- right: selecting from the expected arrangement of sub-menu items (or the full set of named dialog boxes).
Digital Darkrooms visually consistent set of interactive forms affect the window image or selected image areas to preview visual effects.
The cascading Font menu reflects the full range of choices to the right and a chronological font selection to the left. The center could be used to select a default entry (indicated by the * next to Times)
The Type menu allows access to the standard dialog box or to a sub-menu of named Type designations.
Notice the horizontal lines next to Geneva and Palatino fonts. This is the relational device Apples System 7.0 uses to designate multiple selections within the currently active area.
Relational menus could shrink the main menu to include only designated and previous choices or provide the user with a limited set of options that related directly to the task at hand. Such menus, could make menuing more efficient by reflecting what had been done to date.
Command Line Descriptions
As programs and environments get more complex, they are employing command line descriptions of some sort. Either tied to the cursor or appearing on a specified screen position these context sensitive titles, descriptions, and instructions serve to alert, name, describe, or instruct relative to currently active items. Apples System 7.0 has added context sensitive Help bubbles to explain any item you point to with the cursor.
MiniCADs smart cursor is a relational tool that describes and suggests.
The Sensitive and the Sensual
A graphical interface can communicate through digital or analog means.
If you consider interface a means of conveyance--a way of getting from here to there--and you compare interface tools to a railroad, digital is to analog as each staccato rail tie is to the source-to-destination rail line. Specifically, digital is how you construct, reconstruct, and remember--its the parts that eventually make up the whole. Analog is how you enjoy--its the whole expressed in parts. Walk alongside the tracks, dissecting every step of the journey and youre concentrated on the digital; travel the tracks by train and your senses are immersed in the analog.
Computers define reality digitally, using on/off logic. Software that emphasizes input by the numbers, numerical increments, ±, <, >, extend this digital logic to their interface. But showing a digital face is as much a matter of choice as using numbers rather than hands on an electronic watch. Interfacewise, digital and analog are two sides of the same coin.
Digital interfaces subtly affect the way we relate to reality. Digital interface provides precision and accuracy at the expense of contextual richness and relative understanding. Its effects arent limited to the computer. Listeners can lose hard to find stations when theyre forced to step through frequencies rather than tune-in stations. The implied message Its just about quitting time loses some of its timbre when your digital watch indicates 4:43 rather than showing a about quarter of... minute hand creeping toward the appointed hour. Gas pumpers trying to get the best of their local oil conglomerate no longer can get that tiny feeling of accomplishment by inching the gas meter up to the hairline below $5.01.
But the digital approach also has its advantages. The touch tone telephone takes less effort, is faster, provides more feedback, is more personal and secure, and is easier to build and customize than the dial model.
Analog interface alternatives have a more relational feel. And relational interfaces, because they relate to wholes rather than sift through parts--have a distinctly more sensual feel. They communicate a flow. Analog devices provide the tactile undercurrent that makes a friendly looking interface a friendly feeling interface.
As construction devices, interfaces that show objects with handles that can be stretched and shrunk may not be as precise as their key-in counterparts but relate much better to the person doing the constructing. Analog progress indicators include animated expanding and shrinking windows, turning balls, filling/emptying gauges, scrolling bars, etc. These devices move to indicate something is happening, and fill to indicate--in relative terms--the process is moving toward a goal, and its approaching completion. Their digital counterparts--word lists, number countdowns, percentage readouts, -- may be the real grist of the mill, but are often as irrelevant to the task at hand as continually counting our heartbeats is to staying alive.
Which is not to say that--in the proper context--digital readouts cant be valuable adjuncts or informative options.
The letter manipulator prefers a keyboard because it provides a tactile touch-and-apply alternative to the pen, which must calligraphically reconstruct each letterform every time it is applied. But the keyboard is not an analog device.
The mouse--a brick on wheel--and the turboball--a wheel on brick--are testaments to the human bodys willingness to adapt itself to practically any tool with an analog feel. A mouse certainly doesnt provide the direct tactile response the human body expects when applying marks or manipulating objects. However, its preferred to the keyboard as a drawing device because in getting from point A to point B it doesnt require the user tap out every pixel heartbeat along the way.
In the real world, most analog marks are applied with tools that are shaped like pens (pencils, paintbrushes, airbrushes, dentist drills). Computer pens and tablets have attempted to extend this shape to the computer mark maker. But the WACOM17 tablet applies to the tablet pen an analog component that extends interface one dimensional step deeper. Applying the cordless WACOM pen more or less heavily to the tablet the user can (depending on how the tool is configured by its parent program) control the relative size, shape, density, color, etc. of the tools mark.
The WACOM pen is to the mouse what a caress is to a touch. The WACOM tablet has been such an immediate success with computer artists that many paint programs investing a considerable amount of software functionality to interfacing with WACOMs pressure sensitive device.
Interestingly enough, what the WACOM tablet lacks is a switch to override its pressure sensitivity. Though the WACOM is a giant improvement in delivering fuzzy gestures to the screen, because there is no accurate way to instruct the pen exactly when to begin and end a mark, it is more difficult to apply precise pencil lines to a drawing using the pressure sensitive pen.
For the time being, pressure sensitivity is a tool particular to pixel artists. Impressive as the results already are, paint programs are applying pressure sensitivity in only the most obvious (metaphorical) ways. If the concept of pressure sensitivity is to be expanded, WACOM needs to provide a way for the average user to access pressure sensitivity (e.g. through a macro program or through HyperCard commands). Left to the wiles of the greater user community, pressure sensitivity is more likely to become part of a common computer language.
Related developments in notebook computer pen-based interface technology promise that in the future we may be seeing deep and shallow gestural commands that address information in computer-unique ways.
Touch screen technology is typically regarded to be a point-and-select interface. However, work is underway to develop gadgets that respond to twisting, sliding, and toggling. What these tools sacrifice in space they may make up in meaningful feedback, especially when these tools need to be manipulated blind. People whos attention needs to be devoted to images other than the tools they are accessing (e.g. pilots, air traffic controllers) and people who cannot see images at all may benefit from these analog devices tied to audio feedback.
Unlike visual symbols, sound is an analog interface medium that can record the interplay of many factors at once. It has the power to coalesce an infinite set of abstract components into an immediately recognizable symbol. Three dimensions has been a tough nut for the 2D interface to crack. Attempting to accurately make two objects meet in three-dimensional space can be a complicated maneuver for the remote computer operator. Translating each dimensional coordinate into a musical note and attempting to relate positions in 3-D space by resolving them into 3-dimensional chords may be a relational navigation scheme worth investigating.
Part II discusses the role of the designers role in a post industrial--i.e. relational--design context.
1 Virtual reality, is an interface that temporarily replaces reality by responding to and addressing our senses directly. Goggles completely address our visual senses; gloves accept and return tactile sensations to our hands Gesture is an interface that accepts gestural shorthand cues to succinctly record pen-based onto small notebook computers. Both interfaces--though in lesser and greater stages of development--are already affecting how we see the role and function of the computer.
2 1990. QuarkXPress®3.0. Denver, CO 80209. Quark Incorporated.
3 1991. Nisus 3.05. Solana Beach, CA 92075. Paragon Concepts, Inc.
4 1990. Digital Darkroom V2.0. San Diego, CA 92126. Silicon Beach Software.
5 1990. Studio 32. San Mateo, CA 94404-2497. Electronic Arts Inc.
6 1991. Oasis. Santa Rosa, CA 95407. Time Arts.
7 Human Interface Guidelines: The Apple Desktop Interface. (Apple Computer Inc. 1987. Menlo Park, CA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc.) supported by Tog Tognazzinis column The Human Interface. (which appears in Apple Direct, a supplement issued regularly to the Macintosh development community) are the arbitors of the Macintosh interface. These documents provide guidelines to insure that new features are software compatible, that they work on all Macintosh hardware platforms, and that any changes will not cause a rough transition between what the Macintosh community is used to and what it needs.
8 Providing the small, independent developer access to the desktop platform (through DAs, inits, and HyperCard) has proven that the most fertile program and interface development arena continues to be the independent end user.
9 1989. Microsoft Word 4.0. Bellview, WA 98004. Microsoft.
101990. Adobe Illustrator 3.0. Mountain View, CA 94039-7900. Adobe Systems Incorporated.
11 1990. PhotoShop. Mountain View, CA 94039-7900. Adobe Systems Incorporated.
12 MacDraw. Santa Clara, CA 95052-8168. Claris Corporation.
13 Canvas . Miami, FL 33126. Deneba Systems.
14 1990. Claris CAD 2.0. Santa Clara, CA 95052-8168. Claris Corporation. (Claris CADs introductory Video Tape is testament to Claris extremely clear interface.)
15 1990. Aldus PageMaker. Seattle, WA 98104. Aldus Corporation.
16 1991. FrameMaker V2.1. San Jose, CA 95131. Frame Technology.
17 1990. WACOM Tablet. Paramus, NJ 07652. WACOM.