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System and method that facilitates computer desktop use via scaling of displayed objects

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System and method that facilitates computer desktop use via scaling of displayed objects

The techniques described herein provide user interface(s) for managing display objects on a display surface. The techniques define a central focus area where the display objects are displayed and behave as usual, and a periphery outside the focus area where the display objects are reduced in size based on their location, getting smaller as they near an edge of the display surface so that many more objects can remain visible.

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Inventors: George G. Robertson, Eric J. Horvitz, Daniel C. Robbins, Gregory R. Smith, Mary P. Czerwinski, Patrick Markus Baudisch
USPTO Applicaton #: #20120290973 - Class: 715801 (USPTO) - 11/15/12 - Class 715 
Data Processing: Presentation Processing Of Document, Operator Interface Processing, And Screen Saver Display Processing > Operator Interface (e.g., Graphical User Interface) >On-screen Workspace Or Object >Window Or Viewpoint >Layout Modification (e.g., Move Or Resize) >Resizing (e.g., Scaling) >Contained Object Scale Change

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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20120290973, System and method that facilitates computer desktop use via scaling of displayed objects.

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This application is a continuation of and claims priority to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/374,351, filed Feb. 25, 2003 and issued as U.S. Pat. No. 8,230,359, the disclosure of which is incorporated by reference herein.


The present invention relates generally to user interfaces, and more particularly to a graphical user interface, data structure and method to facilitate management of data.


Various graphical user interfaces have been developed to provide a rich experience for computer users. Computer programs typically provide a graphical user interface (GUI) to facilitate data entry, to enable viewing output on a display screen, as well as to manipulate or rearrange data. A graphical user interface can be associated with an application program or operating system shell, which may be running on a user\'s local machine and/or remotely, such as in a distributing computing system or over the Internet.

In view of continuing technological developments and increasing use of the Internet, people are using computers to access information to an ever-increasing extent. Such information can reside locally on the person\'s computer or within a local network or be global in scope, such as over the Internet.

Users of window-based graphical user interfaces face difficult problems when they employ a same machine for multiple tasks or activities—they often have a large number of windows to manage, with many windows for each task. Switching between tasks is difficult because the windows often can be scattered around. Moreover, if windows are minimized while not in use, they are typically not organized together. If not minimized, a user can be faced with a difficult task of locating all relevant obscured windows and bringing them to a top of a display.

When users begin employing large display configurations (e.g., multiple monitors), managing windows and tasks becomes an ever more difficult problem, because minimized windows are kept in a location that may be significantly distant from where they will be used. Managing many display objects on small displays (e.g., PDA\'s) is also difficult—in such case, oftentimes sufficient screen space is not available to display objects of interest.

Although various attempts have been made via conventional user interface schemes to address some of the aforementioned concerns, there is still a substantial unmet need for a system and/or methodology that facilitates efficient use of valuable computer desktop real estate in a multi-task working environment.


The following presents a simplified summary of the invention in order to provide a basic understanding of some aspects of the invention. This summary is not an extensive overview of the invention. It is not intended to identify key/critical elements of the invention or to delineate the scope of the invention. Its sole purpose is to present some concepts of the invention in a simplified form as a prelude to the more detailed description that is presented later.

The subject invention relates to a system and/or method that provides for interaction technique(s) and user interface(s) in connection with managing display objects on a display surface. One aspect of the invention defines a central focus area where the display objects are displayed and behave as usual, and a periphery outside the focus area where the display objects are reduced in size based on their location, getting smaller as they near an edge of the display surface so that many more objects can remain visible. In addition or alternatively, the objects can fade and/or become increasingly transparent as they move toward an edge—fading increasing as a function of distance from the focus area and/or use of the object and/or priority of the object. Objects in the periphery can also be modified to have different interaction behavior (e.g., lower refresh rate, fading, reconfigured to display sub-objects based on relevance and/or visibility, static, . . . ) since they may be too small for standard techniques.

The invention can be implemented in connection with any suitable display area (e.g., large display surfaces, standard display surfaces and small, for example PDA, displays as well). The invention has wide applicability to window and task management in a multi-task computing environment, for example. In such case, display objects are typically windows although they can be objects (e.g., documents, presentations, media, pictures, audio files, video files . . . ) as well. In the focus area, the windows can have a standard appearance and behavior. When the display objects cross into a periphery of the focus area, the objects reduce in size and the behavior can change to a much simpler set of interactions. For example, refresh rate of the windows can be made a function of size and/or distance from the focus area. In addition or alternatively, the windows outside of the periphery can become static until repositioned into the focus area.

By grouping windows in the periphery into clusters, and supporting cluster operations (e.g., move all cluster windows into the focus area, or move windows in the focus area back to their peripheral location), the invention significantly facilitates task management, allowing user(s) to easily swap from one task (or activity) to another.

Another aspect of the invention provides for employing computer-based intelligence (e.g., inference, probabilistic determination, statistical determination, machine learning . . . ) that can move the display objects as a function of activity and/or priority associated therewith. For example, display objects that have not been used for a predetermined period of time can be made to drift from the focus area to the edge of the display space. Likewise, size of the display object can also be automatically adjusted as a function of various pre-defined and/or learned metrics. Moreover, based on computer-based inference as to a user desired display of object(s), object(s) can automatically be moved to the focus area for interaction therewith based at least upon predetermined and/or learned metrics associated with user use and inferred intentions.

It is to be appreciated that the subject invention is not limited to window and/or task management, but can work for any suitable kind of display objects. For example, the invention can be employed in connection with photo management.

One particular aspect of the invention relates to a notion of automated, patterned, canonical display object (e.g., window) motion given enlargement or opening of indicia at a center of focus. A concept behind such notion is the idea that the invention can include flexible policies for effecting shifts of multiple display objects so as to automatically move older, less active objects into a periphery—and to pop them back when those objects go away.

Another particular aspect of the invention relates to a notion of fundamental transitions or phases of transition that can be discontinuous, also to maintain, in a substantially continuous manner scaling properties associated therewith. In such case, a minimum density or resolution of an object can be established as a threshold and the object can be rendered into a different, potentially less visually accessible representation—and the object(s) can be re-rendered when other object(s) are closed. Thus, the subject invention can provide for several multilevel transitions, including continuous and potentially discontinuous transitions.

Yet another aspect of the invention provides for continuously adding more objects and a mechanism for automatically shifting and moving off and on objects, in a manner that keeps the respective objects on a screen usable (e.g., above a particular resolution). The invention also provides a means for implicitly returning to similar state(s) as newer objects are closed.

Another aspect of the invention relates to display object occlusion avoidance within a display area (e.g., focus area, periphery or progressive shrink area)—such aspect of the invention mitigates objects from obscuring one another. An extension of this aspect relates to cluster occlusion avoidance which mitigates clusters from obscuring other clusters as well as mitigating merging (e.g., since clustering can be proximity based) of clusters as a result of moving clusters.

Thus, the subject invention mitigates many of the aforementioned windows and task management problems by keeping windows open but making them much smaller when they are not in use. By doing so, it becomes possible to maintain a large number of windows around the periphery of the display. Task management is supported by placing windows into clusters that represent tasks and adding some simple mechanisms for task switching. Human spatial memory can be used to facilitate locating a desired window or task. The invention also mitigates a display object management problem for small displays, because the objects in the periphery take so little space.

To the accomplishment of the foregoing and related ends, certain illustrative aspects of the invention are described herein in connection with the following description and the annexed drawings. These aspects are indicative, however, of but a few of the various ways in which the principles of the invention may be employed and the present invention is intended to include all such aspects and their equivalents. Other advantages and novel features of the invention may become apparent from the following detailed description of the invention when considered in conjunction with the drawings.

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