Linked by David Adams on Thu 12th May 2011 17:19 UTC, submitted by rhyder
Graphics, User Interfaces Back in the 80s, a GUI paradigm called WIMP (Windows, Icons, Mouse, Pointer) began to establish itself as the new way in which most people interacted with a computer. When it comes to one of the most significant elements of that system, overlapping windows, I'm beginning to wonder, has it had its day?
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Who knows
by No it isnt on Thu 12th May 2011 17:34 UTC
No it isnt
Member since:
2005-11-14

Most of the computer illiterate users I know use apps full screen most of the time. Personally, I see no advantage to it, as it is a waste of screen real estate (with modern 22"++ screens, it wastes a lot) and makes simple things like drag + drop difficult. Maybe that's the reason why OS X doesn't have a proper maximise feature, a better idea than removing the option to use overlapping windows to accommodate for people who don't use the feature.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Who knows
by OSbunny on Thu 12th May 2011 18:45 UTC in reply to "Who knows"
OSbunny Member since:
2009-05-23

I am computer literate and I prefer to run windows maximized. I like to focus on one thing at a time. I can always switch tasks if I want to. As far as dragging and dropping goes the dolphin file manager has support for split windows.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Who knows
by No it isnt on Thu 12th May 2011 19:16 UTC in reply to "RE: Who knows"
No it isnt Member since:
2005-11-14

Split windows within Dolphin don't really account for more than a minor fraction of my drag & drop activities. I drag file names from Dolphin to the command line (very practical), and I drag files from Akregator to Dolphin or to the desktop (I'm sure there are better ways to get podcasts, but I don't really want to bother with more than one RSS reader). It's not even about "switching tasks"; one task takes several applications.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Who knows
by phoenix on Thu 12th May 2011 22:04 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Who knows"
phoenix Member since:
2005-07-11

Dragging over the taskbar icon will cause that app to come to the front. Very useful on small screens where you don't have the luxury of enough space to keep more than one app visible at a time.

What's nice about kwin in KDE4 is the "drag to window border to resize" feature, which even works with maximised windows. Gives you the benefits of "keep everything maximised" with all the benefits of "non-overlapping" when you want more than one window onscreen.

Neither "always non-overlapping", nor "always maximised", nor "jumble of windows everywhere" is the best. Use the mode that suits the task at hand.

Reply Score: 2

TABBED!
by Ensue85A on Thu 12th May 2011 18:16 UTC
Ensue85A
Member since:
2009-07-10

I think that tabbed file browsing would help.

Reply Score: 2

Solution
by fretinator on Thu 12th May 2011 18:41 UTC
fretinator
Member since:
2005-07-06

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Reply Score: 6

Comment by Drumhellar
by Drumhellar on Thu 12th May 2011 18:54 UTC
Drumhellar
Member since:
2005-07-12

I run my browser maximized simply because I don't have as much vertical space as I'd like, so every pixel helps.

If I had a sufficiently large screen again, I wouldn't.

I think that's the key, really. People who barely use computers might still maximize everything, but I think anybody who spends more than a couple hours a day in front of one doing work has a better handle on window management, and won't maximize everything automatically, provided they have enough real estate on their screen.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Comment by Drumhellar
by Zifre on Fri 13th May 2011 01:29 UTC in reply to "Comment by Drumhellar"
Zifre Member since:
2009-10-04

People who barely use computers might still maximize everything, but I think anybody who spends more than a couple hours a day in front of one doing work has a better handle on window management, and won't maximize everything automatically, provided they have enough real estate on their screen.

I use my desktop with a 20" screen for a couple hours per day, and I maximize everything except file managers, terminals, and calculators.

Reply Score: 2

I guess I live in the future then
by senicar on Thu 12th May 2011 18:55 UTC
senicar
Member since:
2008-02-27

I don't think tiling window managers are the thing of the future, I'm using a tiling window manager right now and I've been using it for quite some time. They just are not (were not) that mainstream I guess. But once you use and accept the concept of automatic tilling you barley spend any more time on moving and resizing windows and the idea of going back to overlapping windows is just ... well it's madness ;)

The only drawback, to me at least, is that some chrome rich applications use a lot of space and you still need to maximize them or everything looks cramped.

However I find it sad that drag&drop is still considered an expert feature.

Reply Score: 1

Icaria Member since:
2010-06-19

I find it sad that D&D is still a feature. If ever there were an error-prone computing activity, D&D would be it. If the computer illiterate aren't dragging-and-dropping, that's a good thing; it means fewer people coming to me, asking where their files ended up after their finger slipped.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by Luminair
by Luminair on Thu 12th May 2011 19:10 UTC
Luminair
Member since:
2007-03-30

I don't think overlapping windows is a big concept. Managing a bunch of them sucks and always has, so nobody is trying for force tons of it on users.

But there are definitely some applications that are big. And there are definitely some that are small.

So do you want to PREVENT the small ones from being able to pop up over the big ones? No more popups? No notifications? Everything gets its own panel? I guess iPhone does it, but everyone else has SOME kind of overlap.

The concept of windows overlapping is as basic as a bowl of cereal on the newspaper. I don't see this going away completely.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by Luminair
by Icaria on Fri 13th May 2011 10:53 UTC in reply to "Comment by Luminair"
Icaria Member since:
2010-06-19

Managing a bunch of them sucks and always has


Agreed, which is why I just posted this on the linux journal article:

Dead simple solution

Dumb down window placement and resizing. No one needs 1920*1080 different possible window sizes and positions; 10*5, or 8*4, or some user-configurable number of x and y fractions is more than enough.

Morons can still maximise and stack every window but tiling has also been made user-accessible and window management just became a lot less daunting. Done, fixed. Next.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by Luminair
by Luminair on Sat 14th May 2011 14:55 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Luminair"
Luminair Member since:
2007-03-30

agreed. the next user interface revolution: standardized window fractions

Reply Score: 2

Comment by orestes
by orestes on Thu 12th May 2011 19:36 UTC
orestes
Member since:
2005-07-06

If we, collectively, were going to get rid of overlapping windows I think we'd be better off with something like Jef Raskin's Archy than with more traditional tiling WMs.

Not that I think it's a great idea for designers to be forcing that sort of decision on the userbase en masse in the first place. As an option sure, but not a wholesale shift.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by orestes
by WereCatf on Thu 12th May 2011 21:11 UTC in reply to "Comment by orestes"
WereCatf Member since:
2006-02-15

Not that I think it's a great idea for designers to be forcing that sort of decision on the userbase en masse in the first place. As an option sure, but not a wholesale shift.


Indeed. I definitely would really hate it. I have tried several tiling window managers and.. I just cannot bring myself to like them. With overlapping windows I can have only the relevant part of the window visible which obviously saves me screen real-estate, and I can arrange the windows exactly the way that suits my taste. Tiling window managers on the other hand either hide the whole window or show the whole window, thus wasting space. Not to mention the fact that they're inconvenient.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by orestes
by abstraction on Thu 12th May 2011 22:50 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by orestes"
abstraction Member since:
2008-11-27

I thought about trying to explain why I disagree with your oppinion on tiling window managers and your use of the word inconvenient but I have reached a point in my life where I dont really care to explain my viewpoint anymore. People I explain stuff to mostly come to the same conclusion anyway given enough time.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Comment by orestes
by teki on Fri 13th May 2011 02:58 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by orestes"
teki Member since:
2006-03-29

Agreed.

You need an iPad not a computer if you don't need overlapping windows.

Reply Score: 2

Why not have best of all
by Verenkeitin on Thu 12th May 2011 19:52 UTC
Verenkeitin
Member since:
2007-07-01

It all depends on who you are, what you do and what size screen you have.

When you need to work with multiple applications you'll want freedom to organise them in what ever configuration is most useful. Sometimes that is side to side, sometimes overlapping, and sometimes one always on top. Limiting these options or favouring one over others regardless of context would be simply stupid.

KDE has nice implementation that makes all window configurations equally simple. There is full screen and overlapping windows, AND you can trigger resize & reposition to half, quarter or full screen with appropriate location by dragging window to screen edge.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Why not have best of all
by phoenix on Thu 12th May 2011 22:10 UTC in reply to "Why not have best of all "
phoenix Member since:
2005-07-11

Exactly!

No one single mode is perfect for every possible situation or setup. This is a fact! Thus, no one single mode should be forced upon you (looking at you MS and Apple).

Use the mode that best serves your needs at the time.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Why not have best of all
by Neolander on Fri 13th May 2011 06:28 UTC in reply to "Why not have best of all "
Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

An alternative approach which I'd like to see is tiling in most cases, but with an easy way to resize/move windows for those who can't get around their overlapping needs.

Reply Score: 1

awesome guys, awesome! ;)
by andih on Thu 12th May 2011 19:59 UTC
andih
Member since:
2010-03-27

I have found AwesomeWM (window manager) + bash terminal (as file manager) to be the Holy Grail for my desktop systems. I'll never ever go back to overlapping windows, thats for sure ;)

Reply Score: 1

iconbar
by Gone fishing on Thu 12th May 2011 20:15 UTC
Gone fishing
Member since:
2006-02-22

Microsoft didn't develop the taskbar from scratch RISCOS had something similar first with the iconbar. I remember when I had Windows 3.1 being very impressed with the RISCOS interface.

Reply Score: 2

RE: iconbar
by tupp on Thu 12th May 2011 20:36 UTC in reply to "iconbar"
tupp Member since:
2006-11-12

Microsoft didn't develop the taskbar from scratch RISCOS had something similar first with the iconbar.

Negatory on that.

Windows had a iconbar/taskbar/dock in 1985 version 1.01: http://toastytech.com/guis/bigw101.gif

The RISC Arthur GUI wasn't released until 1987, two years later.

By the way, the first icon/taskbar/dock appeared on the GUI of the Three Rivers Perq: http://yahozna.dyndns.org/computers/perq/photos/accent-small.jpg

The Perq GUI computer was released in 1980, four years before the Mac and seven years before RISC Arthur.

Reply Score: 5

Tiling WMs
by Elv13 on Thu 12th May 2011 21:07 UTC
Elv13
Member since:
2006-06-12

I use AwesomeWM since 3 years, I wont ever look back to floating window WMs. Having rules to manage your window let you with minimal effort and save time for ever.

-A terminal or file browser don't need to be full screen, but having more than 6 at once make them unusable: made a for that
-Browser are better full screen: made a rule for that
-Office documents dont need to ba too large, they represent a slide (640x480 to 1024x768 depending on the projector and final screen size) or a piece of paper (8.5"x11" in America) so two can go on the same screen: made a rule for that

And so on. Once you have your rules setupped, window size and position will be managed for you. There is a tag system, a more advanced version of virtual desktop to group windows by activity, context and layout. So you can have 20 windows open and switch from configuration to configuration and context to context without ever "breaking" your layout. Think of it as a way to save different AeroSnap configuration in Window7 without having to manage it (once the rules are done).

Of course, this is not perfect. It does not work out of the box and it is optimized only for you and you alone. Everybody else will find it unusable because he/she is not the author of the rules. But to manage windows/activity/context on one computer, it is by far superior to floating WMs

(awesomewm support floating with tilebar too, but I use it only for popups and java apps)

Reply Score: 2

Comment by kokara4a
by kokara4a on Fri 13th May 2011 08:09 UTC
kokara4a
Member since:
2005-09-16

While I'm quite comfortable with overlapping windows, they just don't scale. Switching between applications becomes very burdensome once you have more than 5-6 windows. App Docks make it even worse because you cannot distinguish the different instances of an application. I switch with Alt-Tab but identifying the window you need gets exceedingly difficult with more windows.

Enter virtual desktops. I don't use that many (4-6; I knew a guy that used 72!) but each virtual desktop I dedicate to a particular task. It seldom takes more than 2-3 application to achieve the task so switching between them is easy. And I use keyboard shortcuts for switching between the desktops so I have constant time overhead to switch to a particular task. Admittedly, I'm a power user but I really don't need anything more than that.

On a small laptop, browsing is full screen. Period!

Reply Score: 1

Interesting idea but...
by Drunkula on Fri 13th May 2011 14:00 UTC
Drunkula
Member since:
2009-09-03

I don't see overlapping windows going away. For me, personally, I like windows to overlap a little. I find it quicker for me to just move my mouse a little to select something at the bottom of a page. If a user can't grasp that and they want fullscreen - more power to them!

Reply Score: 2

RE: Interesting idea but...
by Doc Pain on Sat 14th May 2011 09:45 UTC in reply to "Interesting idea but..."
Doc Pain Member since:
2006-10-08

I don't see overlapping windows going away. For me, personally, I like windows to overlap a little.


If you can control such situations properly (e. g. by a handy combination of mouse and keyboard and the model "focus follows mouse"), it can even help in productivity. Also, not having "everything" in one program window can be a benefit, especially for very complex programs. Their functionalities, each one represented by an own window, can be arranged on multiple virtual desktops. I would assume this concept is "very complicated" (haha) to novice users, as it requires a working brain, but it has lots of potential in relation with maximized windows.

Although the article states: "One of few things that Microsoft can claim to have developed from scratch is an efficient method of application switching called the taskbar, although it's now in the process of being superseded on most GUIs by the application dock.", I think it was already common prior to the task bar to use virtual desktops on X based GUI systems. Those allow you to easily switch between maximized windows, no batter if this is done by mouse or, often more comfortable, by keyboard.

Overlapping windows can be a problem if a window manager hasn't enough useful ways to move them. One problem could be that a program window gets moved its title bar above the upper screen limit. That can happen by accident - wrong initial window placement. What do you do? In X, you simply press Alt, click left somewhere inside the window (doesn't matter where exactly) and move it down. What do you if this happens on "Windows"?

I find it quicker for me to just move my mouse a little to select something at the bottom of a page. If a user can't grasp that and they want fullscreen - more power to them!


I do also very often see fullscreen approaches. Sadly, there are users who don't get the idea of having two (or more) programs in parallel, while just seeing one of then on the screen. What is their "solution"? Starting program A, working with it in fullscreen, pressing "the red X", and then starting program B, doing the same, and starting program A again. I've seen that too often to claim that it's just a minor side effect.

Another thing worth mentioning is the waste of screen in fullscreen applications. I may say that many "modern" web pages have been maliciously designed with a fixed width in mind. This leads to "white stripes" on the left and the right of the page's content when the broswer runs in fullscreen with a width of 2400px, while the web page assumes 1024px width. It doesn't "size automatically", but instead "squeezes" content horizontally.

On the other hand, there are programs that make good use of the 16:9 aspect ratio in fullscreen. Although I would prefer the approach of 9:16 (because especially for office tasks where you deal with paper, you need more Y than X, not more X than Y), modern wide screens can bring some comfort that professional users know from "dual head" settings - and maximized windows are a common concept there, at least on one of the two screens. :-)

Reply Score: 2