When you hear the word “Internet” or “Web” you don’t imagine instant messengers or some kind of administration tools or anything else. Your first thought are zillions of sites, that carries zetabytes of information, that is given to you in different ways like text, pictures, animation, flash, music, video and so on. So, if the device is called Internet Tablet — that means that it is profiled to give you easy and handy access to the maximum amount of internet resources. So the heart of that device should o be web browser. We gonna look at Internet Tablet browser and it’s UI closely in this article. Fire your engines!
To begin with I’d proudly like to say that OS2008 Internet Tablet’s web-browser called MicroB (also you can install it as additional engine in OS2007) is one of the best portable experiences of web browsing at all. It totally kicks Windows Mobile “Opera Mobile” and other competitors and easily competes with iPhone’s Safari that is “revolutionary extremely great new awesome and blah-blah” ;-) And it beats UMPC’s (to be fair, to that moment) because of battery life. It handles most of the sites without any render problems or crashes (actually, I haven’t seen such site :-). This is really really great and it approves the name of Internet tablet for 100%.
But nothing is ideal for 100% so after long time of everyday using MicroB I have come to some UI improvements that will help user to access most of the functions easy and quick.
First of all let’s see how it looks and behaves right now:
Right now we have Big Fat Browser Icon in top left which should to be a Mothership for all browser aspects but now it’s somehow used for quick launch of bookmarks. And that’s all. What I want to do with it I’ll describe a bit later, let’s see other items.
Going clockwise, we have a “view options” button. It pops up a menu where you can adjust images visibility and loading priority, activate some browser media add-ons to display (like flash), set zoom amount, toggle “fit to width” mode, when browser tries to reformat web-page… to fit screen’s width :-) and the last you can enable “find on page” menu, which behaves exactly as it said. After short adaptation it becomes very handy. The one thing I wanted to demand is to give user some “media profiles”. For example, while on cellular connection the MicroB will automatically disable flash and images loading to increase speed and save money :-). And while on Wi-Fi it enables all. As for me I’m a bit tired but get used to always switch them with my hands.
Then we can see three absolutely standard buttons for every browser: Go/back/forward. But. While everybody knew it for a long time that tap’n’hold on “go” makes the refresh of the page, in this time almost nobody knew that on tap’n’hold on back/forward they will pop-up the history of opened pages. I was dreaming about this feature and already made mock-ups of interface and so on, and hen I just found it by chance :-) This is very great feature and I’m glad that it’s already made :-)
Now we came to the address bar. For the first sight there must be nothing special and nothing to do. But. Micro, as it’s elder bro Firefox have (actually had) a great feature: you can just type a search request that you need in the address bar and it will be automatically searched in Google. But in OS’08 developers made some very (extremely) strange thing: now it actually searches Google BUT it shows you the page that was the first in Google’s results table (A.K.A. “I’m feeling lucky”). That’s crap. Sorry but it is. Please, bring back standard search results, I think everybody were happy with them :-(
Ok, let’s move on. Then we have an optional RSS button, that appears when RSS feed is available. This is great. You can subscribe to the feed in one click right in the browser. Awesome. You guys got the right steam!
And the last one is “Bookmarks & History” button. It pop-ups a small menu where you can choose, add and organize bookmarks (again), manage and explore your browsing history and quickly jump to your homepage. Ok, we’re done with describing. Let’s see how it works.
You click on the Big Fat Browser Icon and tap “Open new browser window”. Then enter preferred address and you’re there. Or you can just choose a bookmark and new window will automatically open. If you click a bookmark when the window is already opened – then it loads in it. That’s ok. But how can we navigate thru two or more windows? You can click the browser icon in the taskbar and you’ll see a list of opened windows.
Ok, but what should I do when browser taskbar icon is out of sight? Well, almost no problem, just tap bottom-left icon (window manager) and you’ll see… a list of all opened programs. Oook, now we’re gonna find our browser and tap it. In my example there are just four apps opened. But what if I’ve opened 6 browser windows, a few Pidgin chat windows and media player? I need to scroll thru all of them just to find the browser window that I need. Pay attention that Big Fat Browser Icon that is always visible and is staying unused all this time. let’s give it some work!
Here you can see a totally rearranged web-browser menu.
First of all — the number on the icon. It shows you the number of opened windows right now. It helps you to quickly manage your Tablet’s performance. It can handle 2 digit numbers :-) Then. We click on it and see well known two-sided menu that you can see by clicking “applications”. It behaves the same way on overflow. Let’s take a look on that menu. Right after clicking the left menu is standing on the “opened windows” position and shows you a list of opened windows on the right side. You can close them right there. Now I’m gonna tell you some hint/suggestion.
As you can see there are three windows with different favicon (that small square on the globe) properties. Nokia start page have no favicon, NYT have standard 16×16 favicon. But what’s that with Wikipedia? Photoshop? Not really. It helds the advantage of the “iPhonomania”. technically it takes a picture that is dedicated to be taken by the iPhone/iPod Touch. They use a special 57×57 .png file named “apple-touch-icon.png” that is always placed in the site root, to use it in WebClip shortcut. So, why not to use it too? :-) And if there is no such file then we can use “oldskool” favicons.
Let’s go on. Next menu tab is “Bookmarks”. I’ve combined whole bookmark management in there: adding, organizing and choosing — all things thru one simple and easy to access menu. Bookmark groups behaves the same way like the old. On the screenshot there is “Google apps” group displayed.
History behaves exactly the same way like bookmarks: white list — day groups and sub-menus — links. Easy and relative.
Search is a special kind of bookmarks – there you can add your preferred search engines or sites like Wikipedia, Google, Yahoo! and so and so on for instant access.
And the last one is a quick jump to your homepage.
So. As you can see we have made an easy and very handy access to all browsing aspects: quick switching, closing, opening, bookmarking, organizing and searching. And we used only native OS’08 tools that are already (almost) available. In Chapter II we’ll discuss and improve other aspects of MicroB like quick copy/paste, roll over mode, scrollbars and others.