It has appeared to me some times ago that my long-term goals of resolution and screen size independence, with apps dynamically adapting themselves to input&output resolution along with the amount of screen estate available, could have big implications even on classical PC hardware, like say a 15″ laptop screen with a usual optical mouse.
Take, as an example, window tiling. It is a thing which has always fascinated me. It just looks like the right solution to everyday window management problems. Imagine this : most applications start maximized (or with black borders around them) as a default setting, in order to make maximal use of screen estate and help you focus on what you’re doing, with special UI tweaks being used to ensure that this maximization does not hurt usability. Suddenly, you want to see two windows side by side. Without even thinking, you hold the Ctl key and click the corresponding entry in the taskbar. Instantly, the two windows are automatically displayed side by side in an horizontally tiled layout. Want to go back to the first window ? Click its entry, and it switches back to full screen mode. Simple, useful, efficient, and consistent with other mechanisms like file selection.
However, in practice, tiling already exists in the mass market, as an example in the form of Windows 7’s Aero Snap feature, and it doesn’t really work. Why ? Because most applications’ windows don’t work well when resized to the size of a tile taking up half of the screen. Toolbars take up too much space, content must be scrolled, and so on. What’s more, the Windows 7 implementation of tiling is fairly crude and doesn’t allow Ctl+clicking in the taskbar, nor easily redistribute the space taken by each tiled window. The tiling is not customized per-application in a way that applications displaying lots of content may get more space than apps displaying only little content, or that apps with a fairly horizontal layout are automatically tiled vertically instead of horizontally.
In short, I think the tiling concept needs more love, but has the potential to become much more than a geeky thing, turning into a more comfortable way to manage windows than the overlapping mess. If windows got adaptive layouts that work well on a wide range of size, I’d like to experiment with a tiling window manager as a part of the default desktop environment.
And you, what would you do with window resizing that’s not completely broken ?