The Personal Role Manager (PRM) provides users with a role-centered environment, where people can structure the screen layout and the interface tools to match their roles [22, 19]. The goal is to simplify and speed the coordination of tasks. Thus, fast access to partners, schedules, tools, and documents regarding each role, and fast switching between roles is a requirement of PRM.
Figure 9: Hierarchical organization of different roles of a student: CourseWork window on the left holds all the information related to the two courses Software Engineering and Computer Networks that the student is enrolled in. Housework window contains windows related to the responsibilities at home, and Job window contains the two projects that the student is responsible at work.
Figure 10: Layout customized to reference the code for Networks project at school, while working on the code for the Multimedia project at work.
Figure 9 shows an example mapping of different roles of a student onto a hierarchical window organization. This student takes two courses this semester: Software Engineering and Computer Networks. Project materials and partners, homeworks, and correspondence with the professor, TA's, and classmates are organized in a hierarchical fashion for each course. This student has a number of other roles like the organization of a birthday party, home duties, and job responsibilities. Partners, schedules, tools, and documents regarding each of these roles are mapped hierarchically into different windows. The layout clearly indicates the semantic relationship between the contents of the windows by the spatial cues in the organization of windows.
The layout provides users with an overview of the roles, in which they can pick any task regarding a role easily and customize the layout for that task. Figure 10 shows an example customization of the layout to enable the student to reference the code of the Network project at school while working on the code for the Multimedia project at work. While working on the code, the user still has an overview of the roles since the packed windows keep the same spatial relationship. This layout can be considered as an example of detail within overview technique, where users are relieved from the burden of merging the overview and detail mentally. Comparison of the elastic windows approach with the independent overlapping windows approach shows the substantial reduction in the number of operations (Table 1).
Table 1: Comparison of the number of window operations in the PRM example
With the use of multiple window operations, as well as resize, pack, and unpack operations, users can focus on their roles rather than arranging windows. Fast switching among roles enables users to work at their own pace, with minimum distraction due to window housekeeping.