3Desque: interface elements for a 3D graphical user interface

Abstract

This paper explores some design possibilities and constraints for 3D enhancements of graphical user interfaces. This is done with the aim of conveying more information in less screen space, while avoiding visual clutter. Design elements include the use of " slapped-back " windows obtained by projecting windows and icons into three dimensions; " trays " , an alternative to folders or piles; the use of transparent "beams" for indicating hierarchy; and the use of "periphs" for a form of fisheye projection on window borders. In addition we employ shading and shadows to enhance the interface, and automatic placement algorithms to prevent visually confusing occlusion. By considering these approaches together, rather than in isolation, the interactions between the different modifications are made explicit. 1.0 Introduction "Escaping this flatland is the essential task of envisioning information-for all the interesting worlds (physical, biological, imaginary, human) that we seek to understand are inevitably and happily multivariate in nature." Edward R. Tufte, Envisioning Information, 1990 [1]. Graphical user interfaces have had spectacular success over the last decade, becoming the de-facto standard for interaction with file structures and applications on personal computers. However, their intuitive ease-of-use and familiarity mask a number of underlying problems, [2]. These problems only become apparent as people try to use the interfaces to manipulate larger numbers of files or to orchestrate complex tasks. We list some of these problems below. Visual Clutter: When orchestrating complex tasks, such as copying between applications, users may end up with lots of overlapping windows which are only partially visible. This may lead to a cluttered visual field such as Figure 1. The Visual Cliff: When an object is off the edge of the visible portion of a window, there is very little indication that it is there. The window's scroll-bar gives some indication of the size of the scrollable area, but not how many files occupy that space or their spatial arrangement. Different views, such as text lists, (Figure 2) may be more compact, but the visual cliff remains. The visual cliff also exists for the edge of the display. This may be particularly problematic for a scrollable desktop. Fig. 1 Visual clutter in a window-based graphical user interface. Fig. 2 Viewing a list of files. Hierarchy as Memory When opening a folder, the window grows out of the icon. However, once in position, the relationship is graphically lost and has to be replaced by …

DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1099-1778(199904/06)10:2%3C109::AID-VIS198%3E3.0.CO;2-F

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