Thursday, June 14, 2007

Flip3D vs CoverFlow

There is a lot of discussion on the Web about similarities and differences between Vista's Flip3D and Leopard's CoverFlow. Below you can see screenshots of the two interfaces:

Well, the point is: apart from aesthetics, from the user point of view, which one is more useful?

Vista's Flip3D is a substitute of the the ALT-Tab applications switcher. You can now visualize ALL the application windows in the middle of the screen as being "documents" from which select the relevant one.

Leopard offers the same Desktop functionality in a less "obtrusive" way: it's what they call Stacks. Stacks are expandable icons placed in the Dock. You can see below a screenshot of this functionality:

CowerFlow is a new visualization techniques that Apple has bought from SteelSkies. Unlike Flip3D, this technology is not bound to the desktop and can be used in different applications (API). In fact, it is already available in applications such as iTunes, AppleTV, and FrontRow. Enhancing the Finder by CoverFlow allows Mac OS-X user to visually access any type of document by its preview. CoverFlow has been proved to be useful in iTunes because it simply provides user with a better experience.

I did not try Vista's Flip3D, but intuitively I can imagine how much this tool might enhance my user experience with the OS. Switching application should very fast and when I move from an application to another, I don't really care about the preview. I want to switch to the application, that's all. In contrast, is when I browsing the content of my hard-drive that I need to preview the content of the documents.

So what? I believe that, as usual, Microsoft policy is about being impressive but not effective. Vista designers don't care about users, they just wanted to show how good they are at programming 3D interfaces. Maybe, Mac OS-X user interface is less impressive than Vista's one, but certainly more fluid and usable. Special effect are used with parsimony and when they can be of real help in providing a better user experience.

Once again, I am proud of Being a Mac and not a PC!

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