h a l f b a k e r y
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I was just reading a really long html page
in my browser. When reading a page I
usually grab the scroll bar and drag it
down the page as I read. Unfortunately,
this page was so long that I didn't have
mouse control to keep a reasonable rate
of scroll and I ended up jumping several
at a time. I paged through the
document instead. No big deal...
...except that I'm keen on user interfaces
and like them to work. I like them to
well. In fact if something isn't intuitive
then I start thinking about ways that the
interface could be improved. What I came
up with was this:
A variable rate scroll bar. When you drag
it, the rate at which the bar moves
depends on how far away from the
bar you position the mouse. Take my
example of the long web page. I'd grab
scroll bar at the side of the browser
window and by dragging it up and down
would scroll as normal. For every pixel I
drag it scrolls the window by a
of its total length.
Too fast? I drag the mouse off-axis (to
left or right of the vertical scroll bar) and
the amount by which the document is
dragged per mouse move decreases.
to scroll to the end a long document?
Click on the vertical scroll bar then drag
down. You'll be there in no time. Want to
do some fine positioning? Click on the
scroll bar and drag left. Your mouse will
do less of a scroll for the same amount
The visually astute amongst you will have
realised by now that the mouse pointer
will move across the screen at different
rates (for the same movement of the
mouse) depending on how far it is
positioned from the scroll bar. Yes, that
is the case, and those
you that know more about operating
system design than I do will probably be
able to tell
me just how much of a pig this would be
to code into an OS.
Finally the look and feel. Well, I can't
Windows, but on a Mac it would be nice if
the scroll bar got magnified locally by an
amount that was relative to the fineness
control you had. Much like the
magnification on the OSX dock (which
allows to to clearly see which icon you
your mouse is over but doesn't increase
mouse precision), but instead with
magnification that would vary with
distance from the scrollbar. Underneath
scroll bar could be tick marks that show
what fraction of a screen you would be
going though with a move of the mouse.
Although nothing would change about
the way the mouse physically feels I
imagine that dragging a mouse a long
way away from a scroll bar would create
the impression of moving the mouse
through treacle; you have to put more
effort (drag it further) to make the same
movement on screen.
There... now that's more intuitive.
[looks at annotations.] Apparently not
Adjustable Scrollbar Settings
Changing the scroll rate globally. [st3f, May 24 2005]
Logarithmic search bar
Changing the paging rate when you click on the scroll bar. [st3f, May 24 2005]
||Get a mouse with a wheel... Press the wheel as a button and you have exactly what you're after already...
||Er... no. That's whole different way of
scrolling. Not that there's anything wrong
with it but it's not what I'm after.
||The off-axis part I easily can imagine. Nice and, I think, very intuitive after a moment of experimentation. I'm not even sure that there needs to be visual feedback.
||I have seem some apps that use a variable rate scroll bar that works a little differently than you describe. The scroll bar is always centered in the scroll track, and the rate of movement is determined by how far from center you pull the scroller. The further you pull, the faster the scroll. When released, the bar returns to the center position on the track.
||Mouse with wheel on it already does that and you can make it go as fast or as slow as you want it to.
||I can picture it now...me, the addict of the printed word, sipping my pint in the scroll bar, unrolling a vintage Jack Vance and savoring his work.
||"I'm unsure how this idea is different from
the existing click and scroll function
available with any wheel mouse."
||One scrolls when you hold the mouse still,
the other scrolls when you move the
||I really don't want this to be a PC/Mac
war. I use both. You can probably easily
work out my personal preference but
that's all I see it as.
||I don't have a problem with people not
liking my ideas. I do get frustrated
when people don't understand them.
||I thought that "One scrolls when you
hold the mouse still, the other scrolls
when you move the mouse" pretty much
covered the difference between the two.
Maybe someone else that understands
can see where I am failing to explain
||UB, he understands what you mean.
||With what we'll call a 'wheel click' as you've described above, the page is set to a scroll 'mode' where the *rate* of scrolling changes depending on how near or far the cursor is from the scroll point, right?
||The normal everyday scrollbar, such as the one to the right here, doesn't work on a scroll rate, but a scroll *ratio* - distance rather than speed, a distance that is linearly proportional to the distance scrolled on the page by the ratio of the size available to use as a scrollbar and the size of the actual page.
||What st3f wants to do is essentially add another axis to this secondary mechanism that changes this rate. Let's see if I've got it right:
||the scrollbar to the right here is vertical. if I hover my mouse over it and use the scroll wheel (to scroll not click) it moves the page up and down at a certain speed per scroll movement. what st3f is suggesting is that you should be able to move the mouse (in a horizontal direction? Or just far away from the current position indicator? Not sure about this bit) to a different position to effect a change of a different magnitude. This is a subtly different effect to changing the speed of a scroll, although it ends up with the same effect. For the record, I think I slightly prefer this one.
||Of course, if you're changing the ratio of size represented on the scroll bar to page size, you need to change the height (or width) of the current position indicator too. But we'll leave that one to the graphic designers, hey?
||(oh, and he worded the idea terribly, UB ;) )
||Thanks, yama. I'll add what I just wrote
which will hopefully help, too.
||Think of it in terms of gearing. Put the
mouse on the meaty bit of a vertical
scroll bar. Click and hold the left mouse
button and drag it up and down. The
page should scroll. Still keeping hold of
the scroll bar, drag the mouse a couple
of inches to the left then drag it up and
down. The page should still scroll. What
I'm proposing is that, when you do this,
the page should still scroll, only slower,
so that you can still use the scroll bar at
side to read one of Vernon's ideas.
||"Why" only really comes into play if you
use the scroll bars much. If you always use
wheel mouse to scroll you'll never need
nor use this idea. [joins UB in corner.] Rat
on a stick anyone?
||The further the mouse is laterally from the engaged scroll bar, the less scrolling "power" it has. It is this simple, proportional relationship which makes me think that this would be an intuitive, useful and well-received addition to UI control and one that could be added without any change to the visual elements of the controls or a requirement for special hardware.
||It'd be especially useful for pen-based computing.
||It's elegant, inobvious, new, very plausible and eases a common problem without changing the widely-understood metaphor. These are all hallmarks of an excellent, and patentable, invention.
||Awww... shucks. You don't know people
in a certain team within a particular
development company that might be
interested in running with this, do you?
||Another appliction of this concept
would be the fine or coarse adjustment
of a slider. At the moment, the number
of values a slide can take is limited by
the number of pixels it takes up.
Adding off-axis dragging would allow
the slider to take a far wider range of
values without increasing its size.
||It's very rewarding to post an idea that few really
seemed to get then, years later, see it
||The variable rate scroll bar is now on the iPhone
and iPod Touch (version 3.0 and above). If you
play a piece of music and grab the bar that moves
as the song plays (yes it probably has a name,
possibly the scrub bar (see below)) you can see
that it implements a variable rate scroll bar.
||Drag your finger horizontally along the bar and the
dot representing where you are in the track moves
with your finger (1:1 gearing). Without lifting your
finger off the screen, move it off axis and you
have to move your finger further horizontally to
get the same movement in the track, giving you
finer grained control.
||A bit of text even changes from "Hi-Speed
Scrubbing" through "Half..." and "Quarter..." to
"Fine Scrubbing." I kid you not. I guess it's an audio
term. Wonderful.... and yes, I am fully aware that
I am blowing my own trumpet. Deal with it.