The designers of the Phelps farm tractor in 1901 based their interface on a metaphor with the interface for the familiar horse: farmers used reins to control the tractor. The tractor was steered by pulling on the appropriate rein, both reins were loosened to go forward and pulled back to stop, and pulling back harder on the reins caused the tractor to back up
Gyrotasking is an idea I had last year for a better way to switch between apps running on your iPhone. The current way to switch apps is to double-tap the home button, bring up the multitasking bar, scroll through and search the ‘icon soup’ for the icon of the app you want to switch to, and then click on the icon.
But it doesn’t have to be this tedious if we make use of the gyroscope that every iPhone 4 (and above) ships with. This is the base for my idea - Gyrotasking.
Gyrotasking lets you switch apps by simply pressing the home button and then moving/rotating the iPhone physically around you and depending on how much your arm/iPhone rotates around you, the apps start switching in sequence.
Here’s an interactive flash widget I made to demo the idea - simply press and hold the home button in the demo below with your mouse and move your mouse left/right to switch between open apps. It’s one, simple fluid motion to switch between apps instead of the present “double-tap, scroll through and search for app icon you want to switch to, then tap on that icon” flow.
I did this file sometime about the middle of last year and Apple has since updated the switching transitions so if you see that the switching animation in my flash demo doesn’t look exactly the way it does on your iPhone, this is why. The file is also a bit too wide but I don’t have the time to edit it back down to a more compact res.
While doing this on an iPhone mockup on your desktop using a mouse is clumsy, you can get a real world feel for it very easily. Simply hold up your iPhone, press and hold the home button and swing your iPhone left and right slowly while imagining the apps switching, like in the demo above - ain’t that sweet?
One of the things about closely following software UI changes is that, over time, they can give you hints about the thinking and planning that goes behind-the-scenes. As a UI enthusiast, I’ve been doing this for a long time and when I saw the latest Mac OS X Lion screenshots, it got me thinking and here is my theory…
The graphic says it all - as OS X gains market share and continues to want to gain market share, its target is now set squarely on the mainstream audience and as you can see from the graphic, OS X progress is now tracking the same paths Windows is - “great for none but good enough for everyone”.
For someone who first started up Photoshop 8 years ago, to complete that tutorial on “How to make Mac OS X style Aqua-esque pill buttons”, OS X Lion is a huge letdown.
The buttons have told us their story, a story about great fame and fortune. But when the story ends, only sadness lingers in its wake.
If you look at the iPhone above (image via taptaptap)**, you’ll see a now familiar sight - a blob of selected text. But what I want to focus on, is something so subtle that we take it for granted, but is in fact highly useful and interesting - the edit handles at the ends of the selection.
We’ve been selecting stuff on our desktop machines for decades now, but after using my iPhone and getting used to the edit handles that iOS provides for selections, I’m amazed why no one has ever thought of bringing this highly useful feature to the desktop. Think of all those times when you had to cancel a selection and start over again. Now imagine if you had the ability to edit your selections all along - saves clicks, time and you from frustration.
Apple is already working to carry over iOS innovations ‘Back to the Mac’ with the upcoming release of Mac OS X Lion. I just wish there was a way to add my ‘Editable selections’ feature request to the innovations they’ve already added in like Launchpad, Folders, Full-screen apps, and Auto-save.
If only Steve read this blog.
** An easier way to select an entire paragraph is to simply do a two-fingered swipe down gesture, over the paragraph you want to select. Tapping four times is insane.