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Zooming to better use desktop space

Posted by staufferjames on January 23, 2008 at 12:17 PM PST

On a real-life desktop I will often move toward an object to work with it. i.e. When I want to look at the calendar I will move closer to it. That allows better use of my desktop because some objects are "zoomed out" and therefore take less space (in my field of view). I received an iPod Touch for Christmas and the zooming of web pages and pictures works well. Of course adding a touch screen to a normal computer would help zooming work better.

Has anyone ever tried to incorporate a similar idea into a GUI? Icons, minimize/maximize, and resizing are somewhat like that but not quite enough. It would be nice to resize something to a "zoomed out size". i.e. I could set a size for my email program when it isn't in use and it would be shrunk to fit in that space when desired. That would allow me to "watch" the output of windows without it being large enough to read it.

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Yes, my company's Java program does this. In fact, "magnify" is the default action when dragging the corner (with the "clip" controls on the sides). We have a home-grown scenegraph workspace that took a lot of hints from Jazz/Piccolo back in the day, so the magnify operation is really just changing one affine transform and dirtying the screen. The product page is here if you're curious.

I actually submitted a JavaOne proposal that offered to discuss our desktop GUI, scenegraph, and how we tie it to our data model, but haven't heard a peep from them so it probably wasn't accepted.

Also, I have unfortunately not been able to even peek at the Sun scenegraph because I don't want any polluted IP between something that's GPL-only and our stuff, since it sounds like the lineages are pretty close. But I'm chomping at the bit to examine, contribute, and maybe someday move our product to it once they put it under a commercially friendly license. But anyway, you can probably do something pretty similar to what we do with that toolkit.

I run Ubuntu 7.10 and have Compiz installed. I have a plugin called "Zoom Desktop" and it allows me to zoom the entire screen, focusing in on anything I want to. Its fun. It looks great until you zoom in too much and some bitmaps get pixelated.

Well the research OS BlueBottle does something like this. The desktop is conceptually of infinite extent and you can zoom out and back in again to navigate from one part of your desktop full of windows to another.