Gmail has been around for a while now, and most regular users of the service have gotten used to the Conversation view. In fact, most users seem to find it vastly superior to a standard email list view. But a group of users have been calling for Google to offer the option to turn off the conversation interface and allow them to use Gmail like a standard email account. Now it's looking like Google may offer the option.
The Conversation view groups all relies with the same subject line together in one set. This can keep an inbox less cluttered and offer faster access to attachments and older messages. Still some users claim Conversations are confusing and cause them to miss important messages. Luck for them Google has handed over control of Gmail to a new VP who is reportedly receptive to this idea.
No official word from Google as of yet. Though, Google is known for rolling out updates to Gmail with little fanfare. Is there anyone out there that would like to turn off the standard conversation view? If so, what is it about Conversations that don't work for you?
It looks like Facebook is actually planning to make some changes in the wake of repeated recent privacy issues. While on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, Facebook's VP of product, Chris Cox said that so-called "drastically simplified" privacy controls will roll out starting tomorrow. Many were skeptical about the likelihood of real changes this soon, but Cox claims the new controls will ease privacy fears.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post admitting Facebook had made mistakes. Some did, however, note he neglected to actually apologize for said mistakes. When the changes start taking place, we'll see if Facebook is actually listening to the concerns. It is unlikely that Facebook will cease the practice of requiring users to opt out of privacy changes, though.
We're a little concerned with the implications of "drastically simplified". There is such a thing as too simple. What are your predictions for Facebook's new privacy controls? Will it make more sense, or just lead to new complaints?
Google has finally begun widespread rollout of their new search results page after a testing period. Google has added a number of useful options to a new left hand column. The column is separated into three sections: Universal Search, the Search Options panel and Something Different.
Universal search is at the top and helps users refine their searches by suggesting search "genres". The "Everything" option is selected as the default and provides the classic Google results. It can be used to narrow results to categories like "News" or "Blogs". Below that is the search options panel which was rolled out last year, so you're probably already familiar with it. It is mainly used to change how the search results are displayed.
The bottom block in the new column is called Something Different. It is based on a labs project called Google Squared. This section is designed to help users compare search results. Based on search context, this area will provide similar searches. Now this is integrated right into the search results page.
According to Google, the new page will be rolling out to all users by the end of the day. Do you have the new look yet? If so, what do you think?
The JooJoo has gone through some changes since it ceased to be the CrunchPad when the partnership of Arrington and Fusion Garage broke down. Among those changes is a new home screen UI and improved virtual keyboard. There’s also expanded codec support for playing local media.
The old home screen was sort of a disaster. The background was a solid color and the icons were black tiles with various website logos in them. Then there was the confusing pinch to go back gesture. The new set up is much improved with high resolution user customizable backgrounds and much more attractive icons. The pinch gesture has been replaced with a more intuitive swipe.
The new keyboard can be used in a smaller one-handed mode that can be moved around the screen, or in full screen mode. It also fully supports multitouch complete with chording (registering multiple simultaneous presses). We’re also hearing you can plug in mass storage and play almost any video format under the sun including AVI, DivX/XviD, MKV, MPEG-4, and MOV. The JooJoo is set to ship later this month. At $499 it’s priced the same as the low end iPad. Is anyone planning to pick one up?
I’ve been using the Microsoft Office 2010 beta for a few weeks now, and I’ve got a few comments about the user interface. But before I tackle that, I want to talk about card games. Stay with me, this is related to user interfaces.
Let’s take a look at two card games. Both these are from Rio Grande Games, and both are excellent in their own way.
Dominion is a card game where the object is to build a large deck of cards, gathering victory point cards along the way. The rules are very simple, and can be boiled down to: play one action, buy one item, discard, then draw five cards. There are nuances, of course, but that’s pretty much the basic rule set. The real rules, of course, are on the cards themselves.
If you look at the Festival (action) card, you can see that it modifies the basic rules by allowing you to play additional actions, buy more stuff, and gives you more money to buy more stuff. What the Festival card does is overload your abilities for a turn.
Now let’s look at another card game: Race for the Galaxy.
Color us a little confused by this one. Sony has been showing off a surface computer of sorts. The system was constructed with Atracsys and utilizes a camera to track the locations of your fingers, meaning you don’t have to physically touch anything. For some reason, it’s being shown off on a table top… that you touch.
Sony/ Atracsys also showed how the camera system can track facial movements and even calculate mood. The point seems to be that you could interact with a computer without actually touching it. This would be invaluable in an operating room, for example, where sterility must be maintained. Sort of like Natal on the Xbox, apparently. Despite what they’re saying the camera tracking is capable of, Sony is making it look like a glorified Microsoft Surface. Check out the story link above to see the demo video.
A series of images have shown up online that purport to explain how the mysterious Microsoft Courier interface works. They consist of some professional looking diagrams and illustrations of the Courier device from the previously leaked videos.
The docs indicate that the unit will have multitouch gestures for actions like opening apps, and zooming. There’s a pen as well. It has two buttons, an eraser, and a twist mechanism to access different functions. Courier’s “home screen” is called the Smart Agenda. It displays email, weather, to-do lists, and any active items in the journal. Almost any content the device can access can be “clipped”, and stored in the journal.
There are also numerous references to “the cloud” in these images. They say that any part of your journal can be shared with the cloud. People can instantly comment on these portions via a web browser. Speaking of browsers, the courier has one, and it actually looks nice. Pages are organized like a stack of note cards to flip through.
While this may be vaporware, it is very attractive vaporware. Let’s hope it actually exists.
Skype announced that an open source version of the Linux client is currently under development in a blog post by Stanislav Karchebny. “There's an open source version of Linux client being developed. This will be a part of a larger offering, but we can't tell you much about that right now," wrote Karchebny.
The original Linux client had been released several years ago, but a new open source client could mean community focused developments. Skype expects that “having an open-source user interface will help us get adopted in the multicultural land of Linux distributions, as well as on other platforms, and will speed up further development.”
Within the comments of the post, users were hoping to see Skype also unlock the Skype Protocol to the open source community. Unless that is part of the “larger offering”, that Karchebny mentions, it appears for the moment that their plans are to open only the source to client interface.
Alex Faaborg set the record straight on his user experience blog for Mozilla about Firefox 4.0 coming standard with a ribbon interface. There were a slew blogs, tweets, and news articles saying that the latest Firefox would sport the Redmond style-feature. However, it seems the information may have been a bit misconstrued.
Faaborg clarified in his blog, that while they have been investigating the interface trends in popular software products, they have not chosen the “Ribbon” to be an ideal solution for a web browser. He goes on to point out that “a tab based and contextual UI designed for holding a massive number of commands for document creation (a Ribbon) doesn’t actually make any sense for a Web browser” and they have no intention of implementing one.
It would appear the proposed interface for Firefox 4.0 (see image) resembles the Chrome and latest IE front-ends: losing the menu bar, and integrating a minimal command UI.
What do you think? Would Firefox have been better with a pretty little “Ribbon?”