Graphics Archive

The Amazing Artwork of Fedora 10

Now that the second deadline for Fedora 10 themes has been reached, the remaining theme proposals have matured and gotten much, much better. At this point, it is clear that no matter what theme is chosen, Fedora 10 will look great. Still, all themes are not equal. These are some of the best, though.

pt. VIII: Tabs

This is the eighth article in a series on common usability and graphical user interface related terms . 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 VIII, we focus on the tab.

Why Free Software Has Poor Usability, and How to Improve It

"The best open source applications and operating systems are more usable now than they were then. But this is largely from slow incremental improvements, and low-level competition between projects and distributors. Major problems with the design process itself remain largely unfixed." Personal Note: I am not sure how many people feel that Free Software has poor usability. As far as the desktop environment, I find most of linux window managers to be the more user-friendly than Windows and OS X.

Windows UI Taskforce: Your Help Wanted

As I already explained in the first Usability Terms article, consistency goes a long way in ensuring a pleasurable user experience in graphical user interfaces. While some user interfaces appear to be more graphically consistent than others, Windows has always appeared to be worse than most others - probably because it carries with it stuff that dates back to the 16bit era. IStartedSomething agrees with this, and started the Windows UI TaskForce.

Multitouch, New Taskbar in Motion

Yesterday, during the opening hours of the D6 conference, Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher jointly interviewed Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates. While the interview dealt mostly with the past, Yahoo, and a bit of Vista, by far the most interesting part was the first ever public appearance of Vista's successor: Windows 7. Earlier today, the team behind D6 posted a video of the demonstration, which was conducted by Microsoft's Julie Larson-Green. From a graphical user interface point of view, there were some interesting things in there.

Anatomy of Linux Flash File Systems

You'll find flash file systems used in personal digital assistants (PDAs), cellphones, MP3 players, digital cameras, USB flash drives (UFDs), and even laptop computers. This article looks at a couple of the read-only file systems and also reviews the various read/write file systems available today and how they work. Explore what the flash devices are all about and the challenges that they introduce.

The Rise of Contextual User Interfaces

Read Write Web has an interesting article on the concept of the contextual user interface. A contextual user interface - as the name implies - is an interface which adapts to the current wishes of its users, the context. The interface will change according to the actions the user takes; present a set of minimal options, and show other options as the user goes along. While the article makes some good points, it also contains some generalisations that I find rather debatable.

Grape: a New Desktop

Rethinking the desktop metaphor, or even improving it in any significant way, is a daunting task, and few dare to take the risk. The end result is that the desktop metaphor that we use today barely changed over the years - which is quite unique for the computing industry, as normally, things change very rapidly.

The Popup Scrollbar Concept

As you may remember from our series on common usability terms, I have a lot of interest in graphical user interface concepts. In addition, I applaud anyone trying to improve existing concepts, people that try to think beyond set conventions to come up with an improved version of that concept, or a new concept altogether. Thorsten Wilms took on the well-established concept of the scrollbar, and came up with a few interesting tweaks.

Fixing the Trash Can: Automated Deletion?

The trash can metaphor in computing is as old as the desktop metaphor itself. It was first introduced with the Apple Lisa user interface, and found its way to the Macintosh. Apple patented the whole idea, and sued anyone who tried to use the same name, resulting in other user interfaces implementing the exact same principle but just named differently. Despite its old age, and the fact it barely changed over the decades, many people have issues with the traditional concept.

AMD 780G Changes the Graphics Game

"AMD has done the seemingly impossible - made an integrated graphics part that does not immediately draw ridicule from all sides. It is actually good. The main trick AMD pulled out of the hat is to change the specs on what an IGP (Integrated Graphics Part) is. AMD decided to take a full GPU and put it on the chipset, so what you have is a full Radeon HD24xx (RV620) on board, video acceleration, 3D and all."

Rethinking the Progress Bar

"Most software packages employ progress bars to visualize the status of an ongoing process. Users rely on progress bars to verify that an operation is proceeding successfully and to estimate its completion time. Typically, a linear function is applied such that the advancement of a progress bar is directly proportional to the amount of work that has been completed. However, estimating progress can be difficult for complex or multi-stage processes. Varying disk, memory, processor, bandwidth and other factors complicate this further. Consequently, progress bars often exhibit non-linear behaviors, such as acceleration, deceleration, and pauses. Furthermore, humans do not perceive the passage of time in a linear way. This, coupled with the irregular behavior of progress bars, produces a highly variable perception of how long it takes progress bars to complete. An understanding of which behaviors perceptually shorten or lengthen process duration can be used to engineer a progress bar that appears faster, even though the actual duration remains unchanged. This paper describes an experiment that sought to identify patterns in user perception of progress bar behavior."

The State of Skinning: 2007 Edition

StarDock's Brad Wardell has published his yearly 'State of Skinning' article. He concludes: "So there you have it. 2007 was a bit of a sucky year for skinners. Vista was a pain in the ass to get existing things working on. If you want to create cool new stuff on Vista, it's very painful unless you use Windows Presentation Foundation but if you do that, you'll find that your app is incredibly slow until SP1 arrives. And with so many new platforms to choose from, the skinning community is extremely fragmented. And plus, Bill Gates retired which just makes me sad. But 2008 looks much better. The transition to Vista should be completed soon. The software will get polished. More focus will be put on the actual skins. And skinning will likely move from just being mainstream to ubiquitous. So hold onto your hats, this year should be a great ride!"

10 Mistakes in Icon Design

"It is much easier to criticize somebody else's work than to create something cool yourself. But if you apply a systematic approach to criticizing, make a numbered list and prepare illustrations, it will be regarded as a fully-fledged analysis! In my opinion, icon design is undergoing a transitional period. On the one hand, screen resolutions are increasing, hence enhancing icons. On the other hand, we still have good old pixels. Icons sized 16x16 and even smaller are still widely used. And so, here are the most commonly observed mistakes in icon design."

Why Can’t Free Software GUIs Be Empowering Instead of Limiting?

"It's one of the more popular culture wars in the free software community: GUI versus CLI (graphics versus the command-line). Programmers, by selection, inclination, and long experience, understandably are attracted to textual interactions with the computer, but the text interface was imposed originally by technological limitations. The GUI was introduced as a reply to those problems, but has undergone very little evolution from 1973 (when it was invented at Xerox PARC) to today. So why can't we do better than either of these tired old systems?"

Visualising Fitts’ Law

I detailed Fitts' Law not too long ago in one of my usability terms articles (the series will pick up later on, by the way, I am currently too busy with my bachelor's thesis), and this article is a very detailed addition. It is a little old (October 2007), though. "Back in school, I remember that it wasn't until I started taking classes in physics that calculus made any kind of real sense to me. I just need diagrams to function. In that spirit, I thought it would be nice to go over Fitts's Law, a staple in the HCI diet, with a few visuals to explain both the concept and why it's ideas are a bit more complicated than most would have you believe."