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[Gentner and Nielsen: The Anti-Mac Interface]

From the website..

At recent user interface conferences, several speakers have lamented that the human interface is stuck. We seem to have settled on the WIMP (windows, icons, menus, pointer) model, and there is very little real innovation in interface design anymore.

Physicists and mathematicians often stretch their imaginations by considering what the world would be like if some of their basic assumptions and principles were violated. . . . This has led to new concepts such as non-Euclidean geometry, positrons, antimatter, and antigravity. At the least, violating basic assumptions is a useful mental exercise, but a surprising number of the resulting concepts have provided useful descriptions of the real world.

In this article, we explore the types of interfaces that could result if we violate each of the Macintosh human interface design principles.

so, what is the different between the "anti-mac" interface and a natural language, command-line interface with windows (like a natural language version of Unix/X)?

i reluctantly agree that language needs to play a central role in any powerful interface; i prefer a cyberspace kind of thing but i don't see how it could be done. I don't think the ideal system requires expert users; i think the ideal system has a HyperCard-like "beginner/advanced" modes so that the system can be used by both expert and non-expert users (but i do think a language-based "beginner" mode would be even better than the GUI-for-beginners thing).

i do sort of prefer modelessness, although i am not UIish enough to know the term for the sort of things that i like it for. i hate it when a dialog box pops up and you can't do anything until you get rid of it, and my feeling is that this is much more painful for beginning users. but, for instance, i don't mind the fact that this Wiki has an "editing" mode and a "viewing" mode, in fact i think that is a feature.

i think aesthetic integrity is good. i see what they mean that it would be nice to have more different icons to locate yourself, but i think in most cases the easy-learning and effortless feel of using a clean, simple interface outweighs that.

i agree that perceived stability can be sacrificed for some tasks

i think forgiveness is key. their counter-example for forgiveness (having to bother to empty the trash when you obviously want to empty the trash) doesn't really have to do with forgiveness.

i think user control is big. i hate it when windows insists on doing something automatically that you have to undo manually. automated stuff fine, though, as long as it is easy and clear how to turn it off.

in conclusion, i agree with them that language is a good command tool, but i disagree with many of their other points. i think we have just reached the point in AI/natural language processing where we could build an OS with a more flexible, easy to learn use of language, even if it didn't really "understand" natural language. The AntiMacInterface approach of negotiation sounds promising, as long as you could make it fast rather than annoying. --BayleShanks

I agree that sometimes modes are good. Is there such thing as a completely modeless GUI program? I'm not sure I've seen one. They all have these modes that happen when you click on menus. The problem is when you get trapped in a mode and can't escape. Sometimes that's a bug. Other times it's an annoying misuse of something (javascript popups, anyone?).

Problems emptying the trash tend to come from systems that are too stupid to do it themselves. programming languages have garbage collectors. Web browsers have caches. LRD (least recently deleted) removal from the trash when space ran out could solve that problem on single user systems (you'd need quotas to stop attacks in a multi-user system).

I very much wish that bash could do negotiating the way they describe, but I also think a lot better job could be done using the existing WIMP framework. --ErikDeBill

See also: HumaneInterface -- the Author worked on the Mac UI and has some good alternatives to modes and traditional WIMP stuff.



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