Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends
How new technologies are modifying our way of life

mercredi 22 janvier 2003

No, there's no typo in the title: THE stands for "The Humane Environment." And this is the brainchild of Jef Raskin, who helped design Apple's classic user interface. Alex Salkever has the story.

Raskin headed the Macintosh project at Apple back in the early '80s and helped guide the design and information structure of the first production graphical user interface (GUI). His work was obviously pretty good, since Apple's current GUI is still largely based on that same system (Microsoft seems to like Raskin's work, too, since Windows borrows heavily from it).
A restless mind and an inveterate tinkerer, Raskin has since become a vocal critic of the old GUI system that both Mac and Windows use. Among his beefs: Pull-down menus are slow and hide information that users might want to see. Text editors require too many keyboard movements. And shuttling between a keyboard and a mouse wastes too much time.
[But,] unlike most Apple critics, Raskin is actually doing something about his gripes. He and a band of volunteers are building a new type of command structure that combines the old GUI's strengths with the flexibility of command-line systems still commonly used in more complex software, where hundreds -- even thousands -- of commands might be used and pulldown menus would prove disastrous.

The first tool coming from the group is THE, a freeware text editor. You can download it at This is what Alex Salkever did to try the tool.

My conclusion in a nutshell: Cool but weird. At its heart, THE is a command-line system, but it adds a key element: visibility. The user should see information only when needed. Raskin accomplishes this simply. The cursor is represented by a flashing blue block. Within the blue block sits a single letter or text command such as space (indicated by a black dot) or a tab (indicated by an arrow).

After looking in depth at the product, Alex Salkever concludes.

Right now, I can't say THE is the answer, but I'll be eagerly watching it develop and trying it out as Raskin adds more depth to the collaborative project. The guys at Apple's One Infinite Loop HQ should be watching, too.

For more insights, please read the full article.

Source: Alex Salkever, BusinessWeek Online, January 22, 2003

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