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Archy (wikipedia.org)
76 points by GuiA on July 9, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 36 comments

For anyone who hasn't read it, Jef Raskin's The Humane Interface is a great book. Makes you really stop and think about how we interact with objects around us - physical and virtual.


I still find a lot of inspiration from the earlier UI books (ideas), before everything settled down. Lots of crazy, awesome ideas. Now it's just how to books.

I've been anticipating the ZUI for ages. eg It's the correct answer for a window manager. It's the only way to maintain continuity, preventing users getting "hyperlost", kinda like what breadcrumbs try to accomplish.

Did you see the new flashy zooming Calendar transitions in the WWDC Mavericks demo? It appears to have the right balance between zooming and level of detail (LOD). Me want!

FWIW, I did not anticipate the dynamic 2.5D in the forthcoming iOS 7. That's gonna be huge.

I've clicked because I tought it was Archie


for which I have fond memories.

I've thought it was archy as in anarchy, and until I clicked I was wondering why someone would post article about some obscure political term.

Fond memories? Archie was truly horrible.

Archie was no doubt truly horrible compared to every search engine that came after it. However it was at it's time a god-send, as previously there was simply no way to find anything you weren't directly linked to.


Nice, especially the zoom-approach, have anyone seen this being implemented? However, I disagree with the whole idea of typing commands. For power users that's great, but for casual users, it's nearly impossible to know which commands exist, what they are called or what they will do. The menu based interface has the great advantage that it categorizes commands and allows the user to see what can be done, and use deduction to pick the right command. There should be no need to remember any command names or key combinations for light users.

Menu and typing commands are not either-or exclusive; you can have both. In a system like Archy there can be menus stored as plain text - given that it's trivial to select text and invoke it as a command. It's just that menus don't require a separate subsystem or component, they're stored in the homogeneous system's data representation (and they can be user-editable, which modern GUIs don't allow - yet).

I've known of Archy and The Humane Interface for about ten years, and it's funny how more and more interfaces are converging towards the interaction style defined by it (with some tweaks because of backwards compatibility and-or because some of the ideas in the book have been tested and improved since then).

There is no need to remember anything actually. If you've ever used Enso, Ubiquity (both made by Jef's son Aza) or Sublime Text 2, or Google Instant/autocomplete, or indeed Firefox's "Awesome Bar", then that is the kind of experience the humane interface describes.

I wrote a ZUI at my previous job. We needed to speed up the process of manual classification for large number of products. The web based approach did work but we figured there might be a better way. The idea was to split large number of product into smaller sets using various tools. These small sets were then manually classified (with suggestions provided by the system).

All this was done in a zoomable interface, so it was very easy to navigate the sets. The system was a huge success.

Here is a short video. Sorry about the quality: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLy6Qj7MNOo

Most people who aren't used to (decent) tab completion interfaces have this misconception. Let me guess: you've never really spent much time in a CLI like bash or Emacs? It's incredibly powerful to try tabbing into what might be related. Emacs tab completion (variables, functions, buffer names, etc) in particular is very nice in that you can type part of what you're looking for and anything that matches in any part will show up in the completion list (eg M-x -mode<TAB> will get you a completion list of anything containing "-mode" anywhere in the function name).

As Steve Yegge points out in Effective Emacs (https://sites.google.com/site/steveyegge2/effective-emacs), mousing through a menu is very inefficient, even when you're learning or exploring. They don't scale well, can't possibly cover all the options, and once you've dug down two or three deep, you're sort of trapped. Whereas with decent tab completion, you can backward-kill or just plain <DEL> your way back up the heierarchy.

The Active Oberon System (AOS) use the zoom-approach. There are some videos in youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pe0ZdzO_urU

The 'zoom approach' is used in inkscape and adobe illustrator.

Interesting how OSX strives to achieve similar points, although not coming from a "from scratch" experience.

- persistence + universal undo: Versions and Time Machine

- leaping: missing (although OSX strives to support both fn/alt/cmd+stuff and a reduced set of emacs keybindings, it's a far cry from doing it anywhere)

- commands: services. Also, the 'bundle' architecture, of which applications are a specific instance of aims to make self contained components that add features to the system.

- zoomworld: Exposé/Mission Control/App Exposé (with open/minimized/MRU). Also, Finder inline previews, then QuickShow and finally the document opened in the corresponding app.

Again all of this is in a reduced form, and applied to a pre-existing WIMP environment. None of those features existed on OSX 10.0, and it gradually evolved to have them.

Has anybody used this, and can comment on how well the "type while holding the Alt (or capslock) key" works? I imagine it's a bit hard to type with both hands while holding down a key.

I've tried it, and it's a pain even with dedicated keys.

This is one point of Raskin's design where the rationale is sound, but the solution he found was sub-optimal. Instead of a "pure" quasimode, modern interfaces do incremental searching following the search box style introduced by Firefox, with a persistent dedicated and non-obtrusive search field.

I find that this is a superior interaction, and it still can be considered non-modal. The style has spread to notifications too, with browsers showing small rectangles above and below the window instead of an obtrusive modal alert dialog.

I used it. It was a very interesting experience, but a little hard to get used to. The position of alt is not comfortable for the quasi-mode required. CAPS is more accessible, but then you can't use your pinkie. Raskin's idea was to use a special keyboard with two spacial keys, LEAP FORWARD and LEAP BACK near SPACE.

It's so sad that the project died. The interface was very promising and I long for that keyboard I never used.

Even though the project died, the ideas in it have spread. It's a funny exercise for a trained eye to look for ideas originating in The Humane Interface throughout all kind of modern interfaces.

That book has been much more influential than it may seem - all the good interface designers seem to know it or at least follow its principles.

The LEAP keys are supposed to be under the space bar, so that they are easily held down while your fingers are in the home position. Try it, it's surprisingly comfortable.

I would pay good money (a few hundred dollars, easily) for a mechanical keyboard that had those two additional keys under the space bar, as well as a vertical F-key cluster left of the main typing area, as seen on old IBM PC/AT keyboards.


unless you touch type, in which case you should change hand

The hardware keys were actually implemented, in the Canon Cat project: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canon_Cat

Looks like a lot of good ideas have been taken from Emacs and applied to the windowing system; which btw is a great idea. Hope it is as scriptable and extensible as well.

A big difference between Emacs and Raskins' design is the concept of modelessness. If you've ever typed META+X in emacs in anticipation of typing a command, and then switched windows or got distracted or clicked the mouse, emacs is left in the 'command mode' and will misinterpret your next input.

Raskin coined the term 'pseudo-mode'. The difference between a pseudo-mode and a mode is the difference between the SHIFT key and the CAPS-LOCK key (for entering uppercase letters). The latter frustrates while the former goes unnoticed because it works so well.

If you are in any way involved with usability, read The Humane Interface: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Humane_Interface

actually he coined to term "Quasi-mode"

I like that he named Archy after Don Marquis' Archy and Mehitabel, the cockroach and alley cat duo. Archy the cockroach would spend hours throwing his body against the keys of a manual typewriter to convey his poetry about his muse Mehitabel, who in turn would throw herself repeatedly against the harsh world of alley-cat living with irrepressible gaiety. Two paragons of the struggle with interfaces!

Interesting. I have been working on something similar in spirit but with a simpler UI that incorporates a feed and a has greater focus on collaborative work. It has the goal of covering 70% use case through community plugins instead of being an alternative OS.

Reducing scope also allows you to avoid relying on modifier keys (which I have always found to be a pain point for wide adoption.)

No comment on the license yet?

I might be dumb but if somebody don't sell commercial licenses why would they restrict the usefulness by adding restrictions on commercial usage?

Edit: style. And a possible reason - maybe they have used a non-free library with a non-commercial only clause?

Don't take this the wrong way but for an interface expert Raskin doesn't seem to give much consideration to typography. While it might be innovative, I couldn't use that interface simply because of the bad readability…

IIRC this is the guy who pushed for graphical, user-configurable types in the original Mac - something that hadn't been done before ever. The software was an alpha release, it's likely that they went with whichever fonts were available in the environment they used.

Those are details that can be refined later. The overarching concept is great.

Later? He was working on this stuff since the 1970s. You'd think there's be something generally useable out in the wild by now.

I see what you did there.

Is this reddit?

Interesting. The modern smartphone OS is almost exactly like Archy. Perhaps related to the common Raskin@Apple lineage of Archy and the iPhone.

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