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alpha channel focus indicator

Window manager hacks for systems with too much processing power.
  (+7, -1)
(+7, -1)
  [vote for,

Maybe this exists somewhere, or someone has tried it - if so, I'd like to hear about it.


On my laptop, I can control the opacity of windows. (Their "alpha" -- the lower the value, the more transparent the window is.) This is one configuration value; it's stored per window, or globally as a default for all of them; but it doesn't change depending on the window state.

Yesterday, I tried making my main editor window just a little bit transparent. It was annoying. Not fingernails-on-blackboard annoying, just a distraction that, after a while, one can't quite place.

Is there a way of benefitting from the wide-angle all-at-once perspective that transparency allows without it being annoying and distracting?


Maybe it would work if the window that I'm typing into became opaque, and everything else were transparent. Everthing else should be a big pile of chaos that I can find things and see things in at the same time; but the code that I'm writing, the stuff that I'm focusing on, should be crisp and separate.


In addition to the alpha channel, each window could have a "thickness" that would cause it to display the things behind it displaced by a certain distance, like a lens does. That way, window A on top of window B would look different from window B on top of window A, even if both are transparent. You'd be able to tell at a glance which one's "on top".


The other thing I'd enjoy seeing as a hack is an interface where the windows that are not on top of the window stack actually blur just a little bit.

jutta, Nov 08 2006

Enlightenment window manager http://enlightenmen...enment/Screenshots/
[jmvw, Nov 08 2006]

Windowshade http://www.unsanity.com/haxies/wsx
for us mac users delight [xenzag, Nov 08 2006]

exposé http://www.apple.co...sx/features/expose/
more mac delights [xenzag, Nov 08 2006]

3d display Easier_203d_20display
It would definitely be easier to do this virtually. [bungston, Nov 09 2006]

Multiblending http://www.patrickb...blending/index.html
shows alternatives to alpha-blending that preserve readability [dragice, May 28 2007]


       I think the Enlightenment window manager allows you to configure Idea 1. I remember playing with transparancy and it was indeed annoying. This was back when Enlightenment was new. It crashed too often to be really useful and it ate up too much memory. It seems to be still around and they might have worked out the bugs.   

       It might be able to do Idea 2, but I don't think it was able to blur inactive windows.
jmvw, Nov 08 2006

       Thanks for the pointer. From looking at the specification, it definitely wouldn't surprise me!
jutta, Nov 08 2006

       I think I understand what you want, but not why. Could you elaborate a little on that?
Chefboyrbored, Nov 08 2006

       jutta - you need a macintosh running os x
xenzag, Nov 08 2006

       And then I'll be able to do what?
jutta, Nov 08 2006

       Tell pc users how great macs are.
wagster, Nov 08 2006

       //And then I'll be able to do what?// only you can answer that.
xenzag, Nov 08 2006

       One of the "Windowshade" modes almost does variant #1, but it requires one click or keystroke too many: I have to explicitly minimize the windows I want transparent. I want something that just latches on to my normal flow of changing focus quickly between windows, mostly using keyboard shortcuts.
jutta, Nov 08 2006

       Jutta - I think you may also want to look at exposé which is built into os x
xenzag, Nov 08 2006

       I like the idea of blurring inactive windows. Use z-order to determine the amount of blur: the least recently used window would have the most blur and the most recently used inactive window would have only the slightest blur. Sort of an optical focus or myopia effect. Moving the mouse over a window would temporarily remove all blur.
jmvw, Nov 08 2006

       Add a feature to start fuzzing out the halfbakery (or anything else in your browser you've been spending too much time at) after a set amount of time, bringing your actual work sharper into focus.
Worldgineer, Nov 08 2006

       I like the blurrification idea - and even more, doing it within a virtual model of a physical system i.e. lenses.   

       Rather than fiddling about with alpha values etc, you could specify a material that had certain behaviours, refractive indexes, degrees of convexitude/concavity, frosting, tint, specular index (whatever that is) - and have them all act as the tablets upon which one's work was displayed. Then set a light source (perhaps one that alters position at varying times of the day, or in response to user actions, or even take into account the virtual effects of any real, ambient light in the locale) that will cast shadows, reflect, refract, do 'lens flare' and so on. (And don't even start me on the lasers) Make the 'focus' literal, so that the current active window is the one that is, literally, in focus. You might have to have some special rules about stacking, but nothing that's not already being done in traditional windows guis.   

       In short, a fully operating optics simulation, that also happens to be a sexy windows environment. Bunnage.
zen_tom, Nov 09 2006

       I definitely align with your 'IDEA 1'.   

       I find that windows or panes with transparency have the opposite effect than expected. I find them immensely difficult to actually work with once you get down to concentrating on what's within only, as there's now a bunch of other noise coming in through the same channel too. The cool factor persists, though, so people persist in trying to use it.   

       What I reckon would be more usable would be, as you say, to make all unused panes and windows transparent, but not the one in focus. That remains solid opaque. That way you get cool and usable.
Ian Tindale, Nov 09 2006

       You can obtain the features described in 'IDEA 3'. You need an extension for you display drivers called 'Vaseline'.
Jinbish, Nov 09 2006

       (sp. in Idea 2 - "lens")

I'd like to see "Idea 3" - the blurring or loss of resolution of these windows reminded me of one of the coolest UIs I've seen, which had the user wearing a VR headset which superimposed a VR world on top of what they could see. So, they could drag windows off the screen in front of them and have them hanging in the air in (low-res) VR space. The windows could be dragged back onto the screen when the user wanted to work on them.
hippo, Nov 09 2006

       Or alternatively, send all unused windows to a different output device - a daisywheel printer, or a loudspeaker.
Ian Tindale, Nov 09 2006

       //different output device//   

       sp. "another dimension, such as 'the void'"
Jinbish, Nov 09 2006

       Or - more realistically - unused windows could be printed out onto sheets of paper and then quickly cut out and stuck onto a noticeboard behind your monitor (robot scissors, robot arm). Pointing a little laser pointer in your mouse at these windows will reactivate them on your screen and cause the robot arm to rip them off the noticeboard, crumple them up and throw them in the bin.
hippo, Nov 09 2006

       Or even realisticallyer, it handwrites them onto PostIt Notes and sticks them around the periphery of the monitor, then [etc…].
Ian Tindale, Nov 09 2006

       I think all this Windows nonsense is a result of having too small a screen. Get a screen as big as a desk, and lay everything out side by side etc.
Ling, Nov 09 2006

       Wouldn't it be great to peel off a window and carry it about with you, perhaps editing it directly with some form of hand-held stylus etc...
zen_tom, Nov 09 2006


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