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A New Paradigm in User Interface Design

The persistent robot assistant.

While browsing the web, reading newsfeeds or playing media, composing emails or authoring business documents, coding database interfaces or searching for new malware on an old hard disk, a hierarchical folder/window system is just too narrow.

Modern operating systems can run multiple applications simultaneously.   They can even interact (copying and pasting between documents and applications is invaluable.)   As screen sizes get larger and resolution improves there is no longer a need to have just one active window per screen.   Firefox has its tabs and plugins, Windows Explorer has   search options and a quick navigate sidebar, word is that MS Office apps will be combined under a common UI. Multitasking is not just for applications anymore.

I expect (once a reasonable everyman explanation can be proposed, to describe
a robot assistant that has no face or puppy tail, just a useful active information set) that workflow will become far more inviting.   I imagine that rather than the metaphor of looking at glass window information workspaces (windows) we will move to the metaphor of workshops, areas of a computer for different tasks, and a toolbelt that is independent of the application, and always available.

This will include things like copy and paste, but far more powerfully than one at a time, like stamps (do you have the same signature in Word as Outlook?), addresses and frequently accessed information (what's the weather? where's my shipment?   how many hours until my Tivo is done recording?   when is the next snow day?   did my gadget sell on eBay? what kind of money do I have to save to get through tax season with a smile?   tell me a joke? pithy quotes for my new article on vacuum cleaner robots?   suggest a project, get help on a hobby?   email a stranger for a suggestion, email a friend for a coffee break...)

These are the type of quick things that we never need to boot up a new application for. Maybe it's just me, but I tend to lose track of the last great idea while I wait for Firefox to load, or Crimson Editor to finish loading FTP sources.   I want to do it now, let it load later.

When opening files, sometimes the default application is great, sometimes I want something else. The right click is fine if it's a single file. Searching for terms also has value, my hard disk is indexed (sort of) but why can't I get into the index?   MY Documents has some of My Documents, but several subfolders and my source code is elsewhere.   There are "logical" and "physical" locations for files (for the computer scientists)
but they are neither logical to me nor physically (ie. number of keystrokes, mouse transfers, error messages)
close to one another.
There ought to be a quick expand, always on workflow memory area, browsable and convertible by cluster attributes.

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Time: 2007-05-20 10:44:03 -- Author: Curtis Moore

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