Thursday, October 30, 2008

Windows 7 UI changes

It's nice to see Microsoft has finally caught up with the NeXT GUI circa 1986. In all fairness it took Apple another 14-ish years to really get the Dock right with OSX. Still, 22 years to finally accept the Dock is a bit on the extreme side. Better late than never I guess. I've always really hated the Chicago style taskbar. As it got more and more cluttered over the years it became even less useful. This is one of those cases where Microsoft is clearly copying but you can't hold it against them. Windows users shouldn't be stuck with a outdated broken UI just because NeXT/Apple were the first company to make it mainstream. Clearly NeXT lifted elements of the Dock design from other places too. I'm just glad I can get a consistent UI experience moving from all the major platforms now.

The most interesting thing I saw out of PDC was the concept of Libraries. It sounds a lot like what I was advocating Apple do in future OSX releases. The whole file/folder/tree concept has to go. It's becoming impossible to really manage a file system on such a granular level. I don't think people are quite ready for a 100% meta-data interface but that's going to be the next step.

Overall I think they're heading in the right direction with the Windows 7 UI. The big question is if they can break all the bad habits of Windows developers and really enforce a new GUI design policy that is consistent. Right now with Vista you can see the whole range of Windows UI elements from Windows 3.11 (try to install a font via control panel if you don't believe me) all the way up to the newest .NET/Windows Forums style -- plus the various proprietary controls mixed in. It's a complete mess. At some point Microsoft just has to punish developers who don't try to buy into the consistency of a unified GUI or things will never get better.

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