On occasion my brother in law have great conversations centered on tech topics. I couple reoccuring themes we have discussed involve the future of interaction design, especially on the desktop. I have been excited to see that a couple of our ideas must be in the water because there is some good stuff coming down that closely mirrors them.
The first is Windows 8’s separation of Global and local controls. If you swipe down from the top of the screen in a Windows 8 metro app global controls are revealed and if you swipe up from the bottom of the screen the local controls having to do with the current app are exposed (this appears to not be perfectly consistant across all apps). This separation of global system controls from local controls gives a good mental model to the user of what their OS does and what an app does. It’s a small thing, but if it can be standardized across the entire OS it will make an outsized difference.
The other exciting thing is coming from Ubuntu. The HUD coming in Ubuntu 12 is basically a launchbar that replaces software menus. For users who are comfortable with the keyboard this will make heavily nested power apps more flat and accessible. I use Alfred to launch my apps and love it. It is faster than any other method and I would love to see it replacing as many commands as possible in all the apps I use. There’s a little bit of this in Mac OSX already. You can find where commands are located in a menu by searching for them in the Spotlight box of an application’s help menu. This is great, but not nearly as accessible and useful as the Ubuntu HUD. If a similar HUD were implemented on other platforms and menu items were named more symantically and understood a variety of queries that they have been programmed to recognize it would make jumping into complex powerful software (Adobe software specifically) much less daunting.
Imagine resizing an image in Photoshop. You could open the photo, call the HUD, begin typing resize. The HUD would understand that you probably mean Image Size or Canvas Size and present those two options. Arrow up or down to pick and press enter. The appropriate tool’s options window opens and you continue from there. A fairly daunting task for a newcomer has been made much simpler. It is not a leap to see that controlling this with voice would be a much simpler affair than the voice control schemes we’ve dreamed up in the past.
Desktop computers may be the trucks of the future, but many of us will still be using those trucks frequently despite spending an increasing percentage of time in our sleek little touch screen sports cars. I hope that we will continue to see innovations in productivity like this as time rolls on. I have stuff to tow and want next year’s F150 to be better than this year’s.