Introducing the Stack

Here we are again with a new post about Unity. This time I want to introduce you a new feature I recently designed: “the Stack“. The stack is a new 3D presentation approach for icons in the launcher, a concept to easily understand and discover whether an application is started and how many opened windows it has. Currently, as you can see from the image below, the only way to know the status of an application in the launcher is looking at the small points on the left of the launcher icon.

“Current Unity launcher icons view”

Where there are no points, it means the application (if docked) is closed; one point means it is started with one window, multiple points means multiple windows of the same application.
It’s not that bad, but:

  • It looks too Mac
  • It’s sad to have 2D solutions (points) in the age of 3D


The stack

That’s why I designed a different solution based on the concept of a stack:

“A design concept of the stack”

“Stack icons view”

  • When a docked application in the launcher is closed, its background is almost transparent (except for a light effect on the top) and only its borders are coloured
  • A started application has a full-coloured background
  • A multiple windows app has a perspective stack behind it

No more points, no more triangles, Welcome 3D :). The implemented concept should look like this:

A complete Unity launcher mockup

In the picture on the right you can see 2 started applications: Firefox (with multiple windows) and LibreOffice Writer (with a single window). All others docked applications are closed. I believe “the stack” design perfectly suits with “the spread”, the new Ubuntu task switching system. By clicking on a stacked icon all windows will be scattered, showing them using the Spread switching approach, while selecting one of them will collapse all windows in the stack again.

Icons requiring attention…

On my Ubuntu 11.10 a small blue triangle to the left of an icon means that an application requires attention. In my opinion, attention requests should be clearer. A motion effect, which is enabled every few seconds and only stops when people click on the icon, even if annoying, may be a better solution. It is also to be noted that colour-blind people can have problems in distinguishing a started program from one requesting your attention if only colours are used.

I hope you enjoyed this post, let me know your thoughts…


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