Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Leopards finder looks like a zoomable interface

Jef Raskin was a man with a vision. Many of the things he thought up, are still being implemented today two years after he died. That in itself doesn't make him a visionary. But the fact that these implementations are still considered revolutionary does.

Today I watched parts of Steve Jobs keynote at WWDC. What surprised me is how close the new finder interface is getting to the concept of the zooming user interface. The list of items in a can now be shown as a cover flow, which is really the same as the album cover flow in iTunes. And surprisingly (to me at least) it seems to work equally well when browsing documents and applications as it does when browsing album covers.

At first glance this looks functionally similar to the thumbnails mode of Windows explorer, with just a nicer rendering. But that superficial similarity goes away when you see that all the "covers" are live. This means that video files have a small HUD that allows you to play them. And while they're playing you can still scroll through the documents. And video is not the only thing, you can also flick through PDFs, browse through Excel pages, etc. All without ever leaving finder - without ever switching "modes".

Once you've found the document you like, a single press of the space bar zooms in on the document opening it in the Preview applet. And another key press closes it again and takes you back to finder. From preview it is just one more action to open the document it in its native application.

So everything is just a single key press away. And it all works seamlessly and -as I said at the start- reminded me of Raskin's zoomin interface.

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