Maemo UI improvements blog.

December 30, 2008

New Year Countdown Series: #9

Filed under: Heavy UI improvements — Tags: , , , — Andrew Zhilin @ 23:27

Hello and welcome. Today I’ll show you one of my favorite concepts in this New Year Series. I’ll show you my vision of task switching.

So. Let’s think what we should see in the ideal task switcher. It should allow you to quick manage all your open software, no matter how many apps you’ve opened or how many instances of one app is on. So here’s my concept.


As you can see, al opened apps are shown on the bottom, number of opened windows of one app is also shown clear. All works pretty natural. Click app icon to open it or to view all open windows.You can also close whole app, no matter how many opened windows it has. Simply drag icon out of the row.


So that’s all for now, hope you like it. I’ve got one last improvement and beleive me, my last idea in the Series is really unique and mind-crashing :) So stay tuned during the last day in this year!


  1. How would you make the task switcher appear? Hardware button?

    Your UI ideas rules! keep going!

    Any chance this make its way into fremantle?

    Comment by Bokal — December 31, 2008 @ 12:51

  2. Agreed, some interesting concepts here.

    @Bokal: I guess the only way these’d make it into Fremantle is if Nokia’s UI designers came up with similar concepts. It remains to be seen how much external UI experts will actually influence things for Harmattan and beyond (not just limited to external UI experts, it’s only recently that Nokia have started to better tap into the large amount of development resource in the community)

    Comment by Andrew Flegg — December 31, 2008 @ 14:16

  3. i like this idea, but have 2 concerns. (yes I realize these are mock ups and not final implementations)

    1: dragging icon to middle of the screen to close app seems counter-intuitive. the center of the screen is an active interaction area. in general I hate the idea of trashcans, but it seems like something akin to that would be more intuitive, although more cluttersome.

    2: the (x) in the top right of the app previews seems like it wouldn’t be very finger friendly

    so.. i just scrolled back up an stared for a minute and another idea came to me that might be interesting. Instead of dragging the icons up to close, or having an X in the top right of the previews, why not have a X icon on the bottom right of the taskbar, you drag it and drop it on what you want to close? would be akin to how xkill behaves. don’t necessarily think its any better than you ideas (which your whole series has been awesome btw) but its a thought that might be a bit nicer than having a trashcan. although after suggesting it it seems just as bad. meh.. kudos to you for doing this work, its beyond us non-ui ppl :)

    Comment by greg — December 31, 2008 @ 17:21

  4. Remember to support tabs somehow. For example, in a browser window, you have tabs but todays task switchers are not aware of them. Its unreasonable to believe users will not use tabs in Mozilla Firefox (or whatever next browser; ie Fennec will only support tabs not new windows).

    Instead of a number you can have a window icon with a number in it, or a tab icon with a number in it, but this is confusing. One could say X + Y or put one of them in an other corner but this is not very clear either. I’m still pondering on this…

    Comment by allnameswereout — December 31, 2008 @ 19:36

  5. closing an app by dragging the icon away from the bottom might lead to accidental closing of applications and user frustration. adding a trash can or something and having only a specific areas where icons can be dragged to close the application might avoid accidental closing.

    Comment by thp — January 1, 2009 @ 15:52

  6. Users must learn to lock the device when they do not use it. The device might have or need a mode where it auto locks under certain circumstances. This mode must also be able to be disabled because of monitoring or movie watching. If applied well this lowers the incidence of performing key combinations or touchscreen behaviour while the device is in the pocket.

    If it happens while the user is using the device the user at least knows what happened. The first time a user performs a gesture the device can give feedback to the user: you performed the gesture ‘X’. Do you want to use this gesture? You can disable gestures here-and-here.

    BTW, perhaps UI developers need to get more into contact with each other? A more central place? What Carman and Canola developers have learned from their development might be very interesting in this discussion.

    Comment by allnameswereout — January 2, 2009 @ 18:46

  7. I like the idea with trash can, but it mimics some part of OS X Dock where putting dock item into trash can was peforming an uninstallation of app (which I find super-stupid). So some OS X users will be affraid to kill aps that way for some time :)
    Also I like the idea of visualising gestures for the first time, maybe it can go further and allow user to replace gestures with his own.
    Bout tabs: Well, maybe they can be shown just like multiple instances of browser? Cause I don’t see much sense in multiple windows if you can use tabs (But it still can be)

    Comment by Andrew Zhilin — January 4, 2009 @ 05:29

  8. The point of that dragging and dropping is that it is clueless-friendly to install an application. Apple does not have something like a centralised APT though. We do not need their behaviour because we have a superiour package management.

    Showing them as multiple instances is confusing because they aren’t. The user should be made aware these aren’t multiple instances; that these are tabs but this has to be done in a non-obstructive manner. Perhaps allow the user to browse through the tabs. Ie. by default, show the number of tabs, with current window previewed. If the user clicks on the browser window in the task switcher, show the tabs. Then again, maybe the user intended to go to the current tab. Some kind of tree I do have in mind with arrows and/or dpad. If its rendered 3D you can even show the tabs from the side. I would even imagine some kind of process accounting with this. Like renicing and such. Being able to see easily what uses resources.

    I believe it is allright to do such full screen. I believe a task requiring user interaction should be by default full screen unless there are valid reasons _not_ to instead of the other way around. Although also these occurances requiring user interaction (especially non-interactive ones) should be minimized.

    Comment by allnameswereout — January 4, 2009 @ 17:31

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