Release Candidate One with Chris Clark


R. Clayton Miller

10/GUI has certainly inspired discussion, I’ll give it that much. The one-dimensional application-centric window manager doesn’t strike me as much of a “re-imagining” so much as putting training wheels onto existing window management paradigms and adding multi-touch, but it’s a fun demo.

The gestures, though, I like a lot. A lot a lot. It’s not to say the WIMP isn’t in need of reinvention—it is—but if we’re going to get multi-touch gestures onto the desktop and into the mainstream any time soon it would be best to fix them to our existing GUI, making them global and consistent as they are in 10/GUI:

A single finger manipulates objects inside applications, two fingers scroll or pinch-zoom inside applications; so far as you would expect. Three fingers move applications around the application space, pinching resizes the application. Four fingers scroll the application space, pinching zooms the entire application space.

I say “if we’re going to get multi-touch gestures onto the desktop” as though it’s not already happening, but it is happening. Apple supports multi-touch gestures in its later model laptops, but the effort seems clumsy and uncoordinated; applications define their own gestures and behavior rather than adhering to a global standard. We have such novelties as four-finger swipe-Exposé, three-finger swipe-Back in Safari, and inconsistent use of pinch-zoom throughout.

Re-wording the 10/GUI passage above to fit the Mac: a single finger points, clicks, and drags objects like a mouse. Two fingers scroll or pinch-zoom inside windows. Three fingers move windows around the desktop, and three-finger pinching resizes windows. Four fingers switch between applications, and four-finger pinching invokes Exposé.

Those four-finger gestures still bother me as much as the existing ones, but they strike me as stopgap gestures between today’s desktop and tomorrow’s: the Z word I’m afraid to use in case you’ve started a drinking game.