Welcome to the Post-WIMP Era

It is hard to say exactly when the WIMP paradigm came into being. The mouse and pointer (or ‘bug’ as it was originally called) came out of the work of Douglas Engelbart and his research staff at the Stanford Research Institute during the mid to late 1960s (his Mother of all Demonstrations is still amazing to watch). It was later, with Xerox Parc’s Alto and Xerox Star, and with the Apple Lisa, that the WIMP approach solidified. Which device got there first is somewhat irrelevant; between them, these early devices established the central features of what we now know as desktop environments.

Xerox Star (1981)

The ‘WIMP’ paradigm is made up of four key components: windows, icons, menus and a pointer. The approach was highly file-centric when it was conceived, and mimicked the physical world of the office. There were files and file systems, and a desktop containing a variety of objects, such as a wastebasket. (The Xerox Star desktop even had an inbox and outbox for mail.) Multiple files could be worked with simultaneously by having them on the screen at the same time, with windows forming the basis of early multitasking functionality.

Apple Lisa 3 (1984)

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Every Detail Matters: An Update

Last month, I announced a new initiative called Every Detail Matters. Its goal: to make GNOME 3 really awesome by ensuring that small design details are taken care of. Each round of the initiative will focus on a particular part of GNOME 3. Designers and developers will work together on refining the user experience.

For this first round of Every Detail Matters, we are focusing on the Activities Overview. We are being ambitious and are aiming to fix 20 UX bugs by the end of the release cycle.

There has already been an amazing response to Every Detail Matters. A whole crew of contributors have set to work, including some new contributors. Zan Dobersek, Seif Lotfy, Stefano Candori and Marc Plano Lesay have all successfully sumbitted patches. Vít Stanislav and Stefano Facchini are also hard at work on contributions of their own. The development version of GNOME Shell is already much nicer thanks to what they’ve been doing.

New style launcher labels

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Announcing Every Detail Matters

Today I’m announcing a new GNOME initiative called Every Detail Matters, the aim of which is to take care of all the little details and make sure that every part of GNOME 3 really shines. It will also provide great opportunities for those wanting to contribute to GNOME.

Minor visual and operational details make a huge difference to the user experiences that we provide. Small bugs can seriously undermine the overall experience. At the same time, little details can make the difference between being good and being amazing. The aim of Every Detail Matters is to focus in on these small details and make sure that we get them right. Continue reading Announcing Every Detail Matters

GNOME Design Update

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these design update posts. There’s plenty going on in GNOME design at the moment though, so I thought it would be a good idea to write about what’s being worked on. Here’s what we’ve been up to recently.

Perhaps the biggest and most exciting design venture right now is Jon and Jimmac’s ongoing application design work. We all know about Documents and Contacts, which had initial releases in 3.2. Now other new application designs are being produced, including Music, Photos, Chat, Transfers, Weather, Web, Mail, Calendar, Videos, Clock, Maps and Notes. These application designs are looking pretty awesome, and we’re already had developers stepping up to work on them. You can check them out them out on the wiki.


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Power to the people

Some design tasks fall into place fairly quickly. Others seem to refuse to be resolved, despite your best efforts to wrestle them into shape. I managed to finish up one such task last week, for the power settings panel. It had been dogging me for what seemed like an age, so I’m really happy to have it more or less sorted.

The design of the configuration options was actually resolved last cycle. The status part of the design remained unfinished, however. That power status part was the tricky bit, since it had to represent power information for both the actual device which GNOME is running on and any connected devices which might have their own power status. Last week, after many iterations, I finally came up with what seems to be a nice solution. Continue reading Power to the people