Optimizing Window Layouts in a Widescreen World

Slashdot posted this link to a preview of the next KDE release. Its a nice upgrade from previous versions. Looks great.

KDE 4.5's upcoming look

Functionally this is the same window design that's been around for ages. Specifically the title bars at the top of the windows.

Title bars have been there doing nothing since since the first versions of Mac and Windows. Their original use was to help get the idea of a "windowed" interface across to early use. It's an idea that no longer needs these vestigial appendages.

Their location obviously works, as every popular operating system currently uses this layout. But in a world where 90% of monitors sold are in the 16:9, 16:10 or other wide-screen layout, its a terrible inefficient use of space. Why do we need a bar that spans the complete width of the window dedicated to (usually) just 5 words and 4 buttons? It's absurd. Some programs are taking it upon themselves to remedy this issue. Apple's Safari browser tested the idea in their beta versions, but abandoned it for the full release. It was a brilliant implementation, and I'm not sure why they didn't go with it. Just look at the efficient use of screen real estate.

Safari's Tabs on Top in the Beta.

The Windows OS can't break away from title bars. Too many corporate users with too much reliance on the old ways. However, Window's programs can ditch the bar. Paint.net recently updated their UI, but they didn't displace the title bar. Their design lends itself to ditching the title bar, and I think they should. Here's my horrible mock-up.

A Paint.net mock-up without the title bar.

KDE has a great opportunity to break the standard. It's users are generally technically savvy. They understand the concept of a window. They don't memorize button locations and blindly rely on them. The programs in the Linux environment adapt quickly to  change. Go for it KDE, innovate. You've got my support.

  1. avatar will says:

    I liked the way the tabs were handled in the titlebar in the Safari beta. Chrome does a good job of ditching the menus too, at least in Mac OS X

  2. avatar Marceau says:

    I love this. This is something I'm really struggling with as well, because it hits me on such a basic level. Things aren't helped by the fact that I'm on a netbook.

    Having installed Ubuntu Netbook edition just a few days ago, one of the features that really got me was Maximus, which does away with the title bar and just places in the system menu above it. Two for the price of one. It took a few minutes getting used to (I didn't grasp the concept immediately), but once it clicked, I was smitten.

  3. avatar frogs says:

    You can do this in Windows using AutoHotKey.

    I use the Capslock key to remove and bring back the title bars, since it's normally useless. The script is

    Capslock::WinSet, Style, ^0xC00000, A

    Combine it with a script that drags the window if the Capslock or middle mouse button is held down (here -- http://www.autohotkey.com/docs/scripts/EasyWindowDrag.htm).

    Makes things a lot neater.

  4. avatar Ben says:

    I understand your point that title bars are a waste of space, however I find they have a very important function. A title bar where you click on to drag the window. I find it annoying how accurate I have to be when dragging google chrome windows around. Personally I'd rather have a nice 'handle' to quickly drag windows around than save a bit of space.

  1. [...] you’ve read my rant on window layout in a widescreen world you’d know that I dislike wasted vertical space. FireFox 4 beta has just been released and [...]

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