Graphics Archive

pt. II: the Icon

This is the second 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 II today, we focus on the pictogramme, popularly known as the icon.

pt. I: Spatial Memory

This is the first 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. We start off with spatial memory - my personal favourite.

A Review of Online Photo Services

"Some time ago, I switched to Google's Picasa Web Albums online photo management software. Although it's simple to use, Picasa Web has been missing too many features for too long, and after Google locked me out of their software for a few days due to a bug of some sort, and their iPhoto plug-in stopped working, I decided it was time to start checking out the alternatives. I have played with a few services, and judged them based on a number of criteria. I've tested the following services: Picasa Web Albums, Flickr, Zoto, Zooomr, SmugMug, Photobucket, Facebook, and MySpace. Read on for my initial results."

WindowBlinds 6 Released

Developer Stardock has released WindowBlinds 6 today. It is a utility that allows users to customize the look and feel of Windows by applying "skins" to change the user interface of the OS. WindowBlinds 6 can make Windows XP look virtually identical to Windows Vista (including blurred glass). Thanks to hardware acceleration, a typical XP system dressed to look like Vista will perform faster than Vista still. WindowBlinds 6 also adds full skinning support to Windows Vista, making it the first and only program to support full Windows Vista customization. CNet takes a quick look at this new release.

David Lanham: Inside the Mind of an Artist

"David Lanham is one of the most popular Mac designers today, best known for his icons and illustrations on his website, his two themes Amora and Somatic, and the designs for sites My Dream App and MacThemes 2.0 (along with Renato Valdes Olmos). He currently works at the Iconfactory, creating freeware icons as well as commercial designs for clients like Canonical, Microsoft (Vista, XP, XBox 360), MacPractice, and Sybase. Austin Heller and Sam Gwilym of MacThemes sat down with David to get a closer look at his life as a designer, his thoughts on desktops, and his opinions on Aqua and other themes." My take: David Lanham is one of my favourite artists - ever. His work is amazing, and almost instantly recognisable. It is definitely recommended to take a peek at his portfolio.

Testing Gnash 0.8.1 on FreeBSD

"Here it is, at last. Gnash 0.8.1 no longer segfaults on FreeBSD, I've solved all configure problems, all dependencies are checked, all test builds completed successfully. Behold, native Flash player for FreeBSD. It seems like I'm the first to try it, so why not do some tests while the port is being committed? I wonder, can I play flash games now? Can I be see those shiny flash banners? Can I watch YouTube videos at last?"

Image Compression: Seeing What’s Not There

"The HTML file that contains all the text for this article is about 25000 bytes. That's less than one of the image files that was also downloaded when you selected this page. Since image files typically are larger than text files and since web pages often contain many images that are transmitted across connections that can be slow, it's helpful to have a way to represent images in a compact format. In this article, we'll see how a JPEG file represents an image using a fraction of the computer storage that might be expected. We'll also look at some of the mathematics behind the newer JPEG 2000 standard."

Microsoft Patent Gives a Peek at the Future Beyond the Taskbar

"An interesting patent application recently filed by Microsoft may offer a glimpse at the future of the Windows interface. The patent describes a 'method for managing windows in a display' that seems to describe a method of task switching that is neither Taskbar nor Expose, but something in between." It reminds me of a feature called 'iconify', where you can minimise windows into an icon on the desktop (as CDE has, for instance), a feature I miss in most modern desktop environments.

Texts Rasterisation Exposures

"Joel Spolsky in his article 'Font smoothing, anti-aliasing, and sub-pixel rendering' compares Microsoft and Apple ways of text rendering and explains why windows people don't like Safari. Text in Safari looks too blurry and that must be why. I want to go further and sum up my experience and observations about it. I'm not an expert in digital typography, but I 'have something to say'. At least, some ideas may be useful for the GNU/Linux community."

There Is No Grand Theory of Usability

Federkiel writes: "People working with Apple computers are used to a very consistent user experience. For a large part this stems from the fact that the Lisa type of GUI does not have the fight between MDI and SDI. The question simply never arises, because the Lisa type of GUI does not offer the choice to create either of both; it's something different all along. I usually think of it as 'MDI on steroids unified with a window manager'. It virtually includes all benefits of a SDI and and the benefits of an MDI." Read on for how I feel about this age-old discussion.

Windowblinds 5.5 Released

"Stardock released WindowBlinds 5.5 today. WindowBlinds is a program that enables users to customize the look and feel of the graphical user interface of Microsoft Windows. WindowBlinds 5.5 is a major update in that it is the first program to allow users to change the look and feel of Windows Vista. For Windows Vista users, WindowBlinds 5.5 makes use of the new hardware accelerated Desktop Window Manager to ensure the highest level of performance."

UIF Benchmarks: Vista, XP, Mac OS X

When Windows Vista was released in early 2007, a significant amount of attention was given to the new user interface called Aero, that sets out to give Windows a slicker look and feel and promises more fluid operation. But eye-candy aside, how does the new Aero interface stack up compared to Windows XP and Mac OS X in terms of low-level user interface efficiency? "Windows Vista increases the amount of user interface friction of the operating system. Windows XP and particularly Mac OS X performed better than Windows Vista in these benchmarks."

The State of Skinning in 2006

"It's been awhile since I've done one of these but this is certainly a pivotal year in skinning. The term 'skinning' has really expanded in what it means. Today, skinning is loosely used to describe customizing in general. From phones, to PDAs, to computer cases, skinning has become an all purpose term. But for our purposes, we're going to stick with customizing the user experience of personal computers (primarily PC and Macintosh). This article will give a head's up on where I think, in my highly biased way, things stand and where I think they're going."

Adobe To Take Photoshop Online

Hoping to get a jump on Google and other competitors, Adobe Systems plans to release a hosted version of its popular Photoshop image-editing application within six months, the company's chief executive said Tuesday. The online service is part of a larger move to introduce ad-supported online services to complement its existing products and broaden the company reach into the consumer market, Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen told CNET News.com.