matt partridge
416 854 9197



Interactive Dwell-Time Icons

novel user interface prototype


Project Objective:
Preview a document's content with minimal user input.

With load times of some programs and large file sizes, opening a document to learn it 's not what you are looking for is time consuming and frustrating. Previewing a document's meta data or simplified contents is commonly available by right clicking it's icon then selecting info. The subsequent information offered is usually enough for the user to decide further investigating the document. Some files require different criteria for effectively previewing their contents, for example media files are most effectively played rather than stating simple meta data. Previewing a document requires a request for preview input by the user which may be a welcomed step to circumvent intuitively.

Taking advantage of a user's cursor stagnation over an icon (dwell-time) a script can prompt the icon to preview its contents with no additional input. In the case of a text document (sketched above), the icon inflates to a legible size, with the written content scrolling the surface; much like the credits at the end of a film. Audio files can play from their beginning or user determined hooks. Video files may inflate to a legible size and begin to play through clips at predetermined lengths. Image files may also inflate to a more legible size, or project their actual size (if less than screen size), via a dashed lined box.

Controls and Cautions:
Previewing file contents via cursor dwell-time is an OS feature that may not be desirable by all users, at the very least in its default settings and should allow for fine tuning or disabling.
One obvious change to be accounted for is disabling preview for files containing sensitive information. For these, preview should be disabled, ask for a user password, or decoy the contents with unrelated and harmless information.
The required dwell-time for an icon to preview should be adjustable for each file type. Additionally, the ability to disable dwell-time preview for each file type should be allowed.

Additional Features:
A previewing file may offer a halo of directionally activated options (pie menu), sensitive to the file type. For example, a .jpg file may inflate to a legible size showing the contained image, continual steady cursor dwell will then prompt the halo of options, such as "modify image", "email image", "open", "save as", "send to", etc. Selecting a surrounding action is achieved by passing the cursor through the desired option. Leaving the halo without selecting an option is achieved by passing the cursor through the large blank area.


Similar Uses:
Many web site employ mouseovers as a simple means of offering more information on the linked content of an icon's first state, usually by means of animation or text overlay.
Balloon help windows are common place in operating systems today; these are activated by cursor dwell, offering descriptive information of an icon's behavior.
Screen reading programs for visually impaired computer users recite an icon's information and/or behavior across an operating system.

© copyright 2005 matt partridge