Flip3D: New != Improved

March 20, 2007

An important facet of knowledge: knowing what you know, knowing what you don’t know, and knowing what others know and don’t know.

I don’t know Usability the way I should, but I know that certain engineers at Microsoft are not in much better shape.  Witness the monstrosity that is Flip3D.  Everyone raise your hands: Who here winced the very instant they saw the implementation of this application switching disaster?

The series of missteps required to research a solution, code it, test it in user labs, and get the greenlight for production are mind-boggling.  Right now, the Pontiac design team is breathing a sigh of relief, as their Aztec looks downright competent and slick in comparison.

Can you imagine the whiteboard at the first design meeting?  It only had three points:

  • Must be animated
  • Must not look like Expose
  • Must be done by Friday

They’re breaking Wade’s Cardinal Rule: Can Do vs. Should Do.  Why are the windows placed in that direction of back-left to front right (are they reusing the card-springing code from their Solitaire app)?  Why are they placed in depth perspective?  Why are we inducing the need for antialiasing on everything and begging for jagged pixel lines because not a single line seems to be horizontal or vertical?  Why do users want to see distorted angular versions of their miniaturized windows?  Why do we think users only want to see the front window in its entirety?  Why have we come up with a solution that will make a user’s brain explode if we ever expand Flip3D to cover virtual desktops?  Why have we created a solution that avoids any sensible future ability to cursor drag and select multiple windows?

Why, because we can! Because we’ve got to show that we can do desktop acceleration.  And we only had 3 days.

More reason for the KDE community to be thankful for our Usability experts.  If you know that you don’t know usability, know that there are people who do know it and know they know it.

12 Responses to “Flip3D: New != Improved”

  1. Nef García Says:

    You may already be aware of this, but just in case.

    I wasnt able to properly read your blog using konqueror, it shows another vertical scrollbar (appart from konqueror’s) and i have to scroll using that one. If i scroll using konqueror’s own, it all becomes gray (the color of the background) and shows nothing.

  2. woers Says:

    Everything is fine on my konqueror (version 3.5.5)

  3. mactalla Says:

    With 3.5.6 I’ve got the same thing — and the scroll wheel scrolls the main scrollbar (the one that doesn’t work) instead of the fabricated scroll bar.

    I’ve seen it on another web site, too. I hope it’s not becoming a new fad for web pages…

  4. Rotevatn Says:

    Simply screwed in konqueror 3.5.6

    It scrolls some element separately and the scrollwheel won’t take that element except exactly on that vertical scrollbar which is partly hidden behind the main vertical scrollbar, and both vertical scrollbars are full length for viewing the entire page…

  5. steve Says:

    I have the same problem on KDE 3.5.6.


  6. i need to agree with you, and disagree at the same point. the new implementation on kde of the hardware aceleration on kwin is really strange. xgl is also (but not kde-related) very strange in terms of usability. yah, it looks cool, yah, it can improve usability, but… app-swirling… app-bouncing… no good at all. just fancy graphics.

  7. Daniel Says:

    I have the same problem viewing the page in Konqueror version 3.5.6

  8. Andrei Says:

    I have the same problem as the first comment, using Konqueror 3.5.6

  9. Franta Says:

    I disagree with you – I’ve tried Vista and I think Flip3D really improve usability (IMHO), more than expose in Beryl (I think Beryl rather decrease usability in the default settings).


  10. […] Flip3D: New != Improved An important facet of knowledge: knowing what you know, knowing what you don’t know, and knowing what others know […] […]

  11. Leo S Says:

    The term “usability” should be banned. Franta, what exactly makes Flip3D more “usable”? Just say you like it more than Expose. That’s a fair judgement, but if you want to make the claim that’s it more usable you have to at least provide some rationale. What are the use cases for which it performs better or aids understanding? Without some reasoning behind it, I might as well say that chocolate chip cookies are more usable than peanut butter cookies, and for loose enough interpretations of “usable” that would be true. Makes the whole term meaningless though if it routinely gets used in this way.

    Personally I agree with the original blog post though. Flip3D is a horrible misfeature and a very clear cut case of microsoft having to match the features of OS X, but having to remain sufficiently different at the same time. I don’t see any reasoning why the windows have to be so big. Smaller thumbnails are sufficient to determine which window is which (Microsoft seems to agree, since they used smaller thumbnails for the taskbar previews). Just look at the usage of space. Expose uses the whole screen to show windows while Flip3D just uses part of it.

    Also, the whole point here is to un-overlap my windows so I can find one of them. Flip3D takes my overlapping windows and merely scales them, and then puts them in a cascaded heap. So I’m actually worse off than without anything, since now my windows are not only overlapping but made smaller. If you’re just gonna show one window at the same time, you might as well just cycle through the open windows with the mousewheel. No fancy 3D effect necessary.

    One more vote for Konqueror 3.5.6 being messed up by the way.

  12. Filip Brcic Says:

    I agree about Flip3D. And I agree about Beryl. Both of them are not good. Flip3D has distorted windows and I don’t see why that should be that way. Beryl has much better window switching plugins (the expose-like plugin and the other one that enables you to cycle your windows in a circle but keeps them the way they are – straight). But Beryl’s bouncing windows and snow falling through my screen are not something that I would like to use my graphic card on. And btw, Xgl makes problems with some things that are more important than fancy gui (such as other OpenGL apps, fullscreen games, Xine, …). At least on my card (ATI Radeon9600). I hope that AIGLX works better (but I can’t test it because free software drivers for ati don’t implement full OpenGL and ati’s drivers don’t allow both composite and dri).

    And I can’t read this site with Konqueror 3.5.6. If people can read it nicely with 3.5.5, then this should probably be reported to bugs.kde.org (has anybody done that yet?). And you probably should change your template. I don’t see the use of this second scrollbar, anyway.


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