Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 18th Nov 2007 15:46 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces This is the sixth article in a series on common usability and graphical user interface related terms [part I | part II | part III | part IV | part V]. On the internet, and especially in forum discussions like we all have here on OSNews, it is almost certain that in any given discussion, someone will most likely bring up usability and GUI related terms - things like spatial memory, widgets, consistency, Fitts' Law, and more. The aim of this series is to explain these terms, learn something about their origins, and finally rate their importance in the field of usability and (graphical) user interface design. In part VI, we focus on the dock.
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Regarding your last paragraph. Please take into account that the term "Dock" originates from NeXTSTEP. The docks/wharfs/harbors in fluxbox, openbox, pekwm and so on exist to make use of WindowMaker's dockapps, which became a sort of X11 "applet" standard in the old days. And the whole point of WindowMaker (and AfterStep) was of course to recreate the NeXTSTEP experience, if only at a shallow level. OS X is really the latest version of NeXTSTEP, so to have had a dock before this OS, you need to do much better than 2001, more like 1989. That's two years before Linus released version 0.01 of his kernel, by the way.

Whether something counts as a "Dock" depends on your subjective definition of the term. I don't consider Windows' taskbar with quicklaunch to be the same concept at all, for instance. You're not "docking" anything in there, really. Actually, I even think the changes Apple made to the Dock drifts it somewhat away from what the term describes.

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tupp Member since:

Okay. The term "dock" relating to GUIs probably originated with NeXTSTEP, but "a rose by any other name..."

Thank you for reminding me of the term "harbor" -- I was racking my brain earlier, trying to remember it.

Yes. Many of the *nix WMs that had "docks" after 1989 were emulating NeXTSTEP.

However, if "docking" an active application means having its icon appear along one edge of the screen, you need to do much better than 1989, more like 1985. Windows 1.01 had this capability then. That's four years before NeXTSTEP's dock was released (according to your post).

In an earlier post, I made the same statement as you regarding the subjectivity of "dock" definitions.

Don't know "quicklaunch," but I don't see much functional differences between task-bars and docks.

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bogomipz Member since:

As mentioned earlier, Apple did some changes to the Dock. Today, the definition seems to be; an icon bar where the same icons are used both to show running apps and to launch them.

Traditional taskbars don't fit this description. So there is at least one difference right there. All the choices of ways to launch and/or monitor applications share some similarities. It can therefore be hard to distinguish them, and maybe there's no real need to, but we humans tend to come up with words to distinguish similar but slightly different concepts.

However, if "docking" an active application means having its icon appear along one edge of the screen...

Well, in NeXTSTEP, nothing appeared in the Dock at all. You had to drag it there to dock it. See my post further down for a screenshot and some more comments on this.

By "quicklaunch" I meant the Quick Launch toolbar.

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