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The digital revolution is affecting every member of the society. Today, we are creating, using and manipulating more information than ever. Advances in computer networks, hardware and software lead to increased information presence on our systems which provide significant opportunities and challenges for the human-computer interface designers and researchers. Information in various forms is gathered from all over the world through e-mail, web browsing, databases and various applications. However, advances in technology did not translate significantly into increased user productivity and satisfaction. One reason is that there has been little improvement in the functionality and design of window managers.

Current window management techniques are based on the computer technology of the 1980's. Almost all current windowing systems use the independent overlapping windows approach, where windows are allowed to overlap and operations on windows are performed one window at a time. Overlapping windows came as a solution to the small-screen problem by allowing more windows to be open simultaneously. Independent window operations also made sense since each window was merely the visual representation of a single independent application.

Today, users are dealing with more ambitious projects that demand rapid processing and access to large amounts of visual information. Users focus on pieces of information regardless of software applications. However, current window management strategies often make it difficult for users to locate what they need, and to coordinate several pieces of information. Advantages of large screens and fast displays are lost or misused, leading to confusion, poor user performance, frustration and missed opportunities. Users become quickly disoriented, lose the relationships that exist among windows due to loss of spatial cues, and become unproductive in completing their tasks. Screen space is not used efficiently and productively for their tasks. Increased clutter on the desktop, due to increased information presence, forces users to spend more time on managing windows rather than using their cognitive resources on tasks. In my observations of users performing complex tasks in current windowing systems I found problems such as screen scarcity, lack of scalability, disorientation, inefficiency of window management and low visibility of information. The details of these observations are presented in Appendix gif.

My focus has been to improve window management systems in terms of visual information organization, access and manipulation capabilities. Windows basically provide contexts for display of and interaction with information [1]. Thus, multiple windows enable several separate contexts to be presented in one overall view [2]. Window managers are software packages that help the user monitor and control different contexts by physically separating them onto different parts of the screen [3].

Window managers are fundamental to all graphical user interfaces by forming a base on which more advanced interfaces can be built. Advances in window management strategies are very likely to improve overall user performance and satisfaction in all user interfaces.

This research is timely because many applications are now being designed based on principles that do not reflect the high performance workstations, larger displays and improved designs. This research is likely to affect the design of multi-window applications in terms of organization, access and manipulation of visual information providing higher user performance and satisfaction.

next up previous
Next: Motivation Up: Introduction Previous: Introduction

Eser Kandogan
Sun Sep 13 18:34:46 EDT 1998

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