Monday, May 20. 2013
In the previous post I talked about how I got to use the Windows laptop for a month. It is a whole another experience I must admit. The major difference (excluding the OS and software) is my screen size (being now a staggering 12.1 inches on my Lenovo ultraportable x61s).
I'm a big advocate of vertical tabs in UI. Almost all (if not all) desktop and laptop screens (excluding phones and tablets!) are growing horizontally. So the extra space on the side could easily be used for ... you guessed it - TABS.
With 12 inches screen (1024x768) I had to reconsider the vertical vs. horizontal tabbing. I took a look at all major web browsers and opened 15 tabs (# of usually opened tabs) in each of them. The things to consider were:
1. How many tabs are visible at once (visibility is crucial for an overview of everything available)
2. How the tab UI helps as reminder to tasks to be done (people use all sorts of clues as reminders in all PIM tools - e.g. moving files to the desktop or un-marking email as read)
3. How tabs can be navigated (navigation has to be easy and improve both visibility and 'remind-ability')
- Internet Explorer 10: IE can show only 8 tabs at once at this resolution. Tabs are hidden and reminding is greatly affected. Although a list of all tabs can be shown by clicking the IE icon on the Windows TaskBar. Navigating the tabs is tedious as well. The small chevrons/arrows on each side of the tab's list are small. Vertical scroll with the mouse scroll button (the one that also moves left and right) is not working which makes the things worse. Tabs are also small and only one Letter of web page title is not helpful.
- Google Chrome: Tabs list is better as it spans over the whole browser's window. In chrome all windows are visible all the time although they get squashed and don't provide reminding capabilities. Beyond 20 tabs all the favicons disappear which makes the reminding, visibility and usability worse (see next image of the 30 tabs being opened). Maybe there's an option to list them (Vertical tabs extension provides a list similar to the above in IE). Sadly Chrome does not support real vertical tabs anymore.
30 tabs opened in Chrome. No favicons are shown and there's no way of telling what's under each tab.
- Firefox + Tree Style Tab extension: Still my favorite, despite the small screen resolution that makes me sometimes scroll web content horizontally. But visibility, reminding function (favicons + page titles) and navigation are all there.
With vertical tabs, Firefox shows only 9 tabs at once at this resolution and navigating left and right on the tab's list can be done by clicking on chevrons/arrows on both sides of the list (similar to IE). This can be tedious as the mouse pointer has to move from one side of the screen to the other. Horizontal scrolling with the mouse is not working. The spatial tab management is possible with Tab groups (which clearly helps visibility and navigation). But navigating from the tab's list to the spatial tabs layout and back switches the context an Tab groups are not always visible while browsing.
- Safari: It shows 9 tabs only as Firefox, but the navigation on the list is done by pressing the 2 chevrons/arrows on the rightmost tab (why they are on the tab itself is not clear). The click on these arrows does not move the list left and right but rather opens a drop down list of remaining tabs (improving somehow the spatial memory). It also shows the list of all opened tabs by clicking on the icon in the TaskBar.
- Opera: is my second favorite and if it wouldn't be for vertical tabs extension in Firefox this would be my choice. All opened tabs are visible at once (as with Chrome) and it is possible to group them (as with Firefox Tree Style Tabs or Tab Groups). Although the grouping somehow hinder visibility and reminding capabilities. Even if more tabs are opened the favicons remain visible (see next screenshot).
Opera with 30 tabs opened still preserves some visibility and reminding capabilities.
Although my screen estate is significantly smaller than the one on my 15.4 inches laptop, I still prefer vertical tabs. The reminding, visibility and navigation are still superior than with horizontal tabs and this outweighs some horizontal navigation on some web pages.
Monday, May 13. 2013
For the past month I'm stuck with Windows 8 as my MacBook pro had a common GPU problem which is being fixed at the moment (BTW I'm not an Apple fanboy and for the cost of their computers they should be way more reliable).
After a long time not using Windows (last time XP and then various flavours of Linux, BSD and OS X) I have found some annoyances with this particular 8th version. But the worst (being a PIM researcher) of them is Windows Explorer.
1. When navigating folders on the File Pane (right side), the tree in Navigation Pane (left side) is not expanding. So 8 levels down the hierarchy on a File Pane I realise that the tree is still closed and moving files between File and Navigation Pane is not possible until I move 8 levels down the hierarchy on both sides?!? I remember the expansion being default in Windows XP. I learnt so far that the current (non-expanding) behaviour became default in Windows 7 and is persistent in Windows 8. Who thought that this would be a good design? To make things just a bit worse they changed the way to turn automatic expansion on :(. (Windows 7 or Windows 8 solutions).
2. What are the Libraries for? It's a rhetorical question. But I have all videos in separate folders (e.g. movies, cartoons, personal videos, etc.) and I don't need the OS to accumulate them together. I put them in separate folders for a reason. The same with photos. So I'd love to remove Libraries from the Navigation Pane. Right mouse click in Navigation Pane and deselect "Show all folders"?!? What?!? What does this string has to do with Libraries?
And to answer my rhetorical question:
"In 7 it is intended that you use your Libraries to handle data, and leave the data management to the system"
Wait, what? I DON'T WANT THE SYSTEM TO HANDLE MY FILES! This is what all user studies suggest SINCE 1980! And nothing has changed in 2013 as far I as I read scientific papers :(.
3. Missing status bar. In XP the status bar showed the remaining space on the currently browsed hard drive or how big are selected files, how many of them are in the current folders, etc. I know this was not shown by default but View->Toolbars->Status bar (or something similar) was not hard to select. Now it's gone ... the reason:
"... removed due to a user anxiety problem, usually caused by reserved space allocations for the Virtual Memory or TEMP set asides ..."
What, what, WHAT?
To clarify. I understand that less technically savvy users might embrace these features (I checked with my sisters and parents and they are not using the Libraries .. don't even know what they are and what's their use). But disabling features for Power users?!?! I simply don't get it.
The only two Windows file browsers with Miller Columns (or multi-columns if you like) I found are:
- UltraExplorer which sadly is not developed for the past 3 years and its multi column interface is very buggy (to name one, after deleting files the current column is not auto-updated and it crashes at least once a day)
- WinBrowser which isn't cheap for a file browser but at least it's being developed.
I find it hard to believe that there aren't more alternatives.
Well .. every current OS has some annoyances and every new version of each of them will annoy some users. I suppose that's life ....
EDIT 15. 5. 2013: WinBrowser is buggy :/. Crashes at least once a day. So no real Muller Columns alternative for Windows.
Monday, May 6. 2013
First of al I don't have a solution (I just happened to work on this Ubuntu 12.04 box). I found it amusing that every time I opened Kile the order of menu items was different.
In the photo below the order of items is View, Edit, File ... :).
Everyone knows that changing positions on the menu items kills the familiarity with the system ... but maybe an element of randomness makes it more fun (at first at least).
Monday, December 24. 2012
It's been over a year since I wrote a list of non-linear presentations software. I used Sozi then, but things have changed and there's more choice. I now make my presentations in HTML5 and CSS3.
I wont go into details, just open the links and check what they are capable of. Major drawback of these is that you need to know HTML and CSS to create presentations. And if you need printouts, this can be hard to achieve as well. The good thing is that a few editors are available.
- dizzy.js comes with an editor
- impress.js has two GUI editors:
One markup editor
Both Impressionist and Strut look very promising for the wider adoption of these type of presentations.
One thing is sure: HTML is plain text and I LOVE plain text. I'm not a fan of proprietary formats which break my files (in general) with every
major version release. This is one of the reasons I WRITE (almost)
everything in TXT and TEX. With presentations in HTML, my digital life moved even more into the plain text world.
I'd like to thank everyone for producing such a good variety of tools.
Tuesday, September 25. 2012
Just writing something about hierarchy visualisations and found these two useful apps.
GrandPerspective using (cushion) treemaps . Similar Disk Inventory X.
 Van Wijk and Van De Wetering, Cushion treemaps: Visualization of hierarchical information, IEEE Symposium on Information Visualization 1999 (Info Vis' 99) Proceedings, 1999
 Stasko, Catrambone, Guzdial and McDonald, An evaluation of space-filling information visualizations for depicting hierarchical structures, International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, Elsevier,2000