March 11, 2006 20:26 | MacStuff



I'm in a "everything's new again!" state of mind tonight...

So this is what my email/calendar desktop looks like. I run virtual desktops (see the strip on the bottom right? on a work day all of those boxes are filled with open windows) and I keep my email and calendar in the 3rd one. Chat is on the second. Right now I am writing this in the 5th (which is not visible in the screenshot cause I took it before I launched ecto...)


So yeah, I resized my Mail window, placed the Activity Monitor in the top right, and placed iCal behind, in the lower right. This way I can see my email, have access to MailTags, can browse my To-Do's and call up my calendar with a click or Command+Tab.

Let's see how this works for me.


That's one thing that still puzzles me about Macs... Sure I see the use of grouping windows (especially when you have a dozen or two) into different desktops, and that sounds like a great add-on for any OS, but... would you really need as many as five desktops if you could easily switch open windows with one click? Switching open apps should really be that easy.

Patrick, this has nothing to do with Application switching (Macs have Alt-tab, Command - tab, as well), Application window switching (Command - `). This has to do with creating multiple work environments, multiple contexts.

It's not a computer, or OS thing; is a people thing.

Besides which I HATE having windows overlap. The above is only acceptable to me because the view almost feels as if it were one app. :)

Actually I am quite puzzled by your comment now that I think of it... Most people are quite happy with the 5-10 methods mac OS provides to switch window focus, without mentioning Exposé, which I don't use myself but many live by...

What are you comparing us to? Win? Linux? In terms of window focus, I think we're all on par no?


Odd. I would have picked you as a big GUI-customizer. But no, all your icons are out-of-the-box. Your title bars come with.

Hmm. So maybe you prefer substance over form. Or just don't have the time to fiddle with the way your Mac looks.

Have a safe trip to Tokyo! Hopefully I'll be gone by the time you return.

Joel, one thing I have learnt is to not futz with some things. OS GUI customization is a sure road to massive headaches: if it isn't system wide concordance (which is what the default achieves well enough), then it's the inevitable instability any hacks introduce.

where you goin?

Vegas, baby. Vegas.

My post-GVO vacation.

I was looking through kirsh's stuff and recalled the picture of your screen changes!
only read the abstract - the term congnitive congeniality is quite nice!
Kirsh home: Articles: Adapting the Environment Instead of Oneself
Adapting the Environment Instead of Oneself

David Kirsh
Dept. of Cognitive Science
Univ. California, San Diego
La Jolla, CA 92093-0515
+1 858 534-3819


This paper examines some of the methods animals and humans have of adapting their environment. Because there are limits on how many different tasks a creature can be designed to do well in, creatures with the capacity to redesign their environments have an adaptive advantage over those who can only passively adapt to existing environmental structures. To clarify environmental redesign I rely on the formal notion of a task environment as a directed graph where the nodes are states and the links are actions. One natural form of redesign is to change the topology of this graph structure so as to increase the likelihood of task success or to reduce its expected cost, measured in physical terms. This may be done by eliminating initial states hence eliminating choice points; by changing the action repertoire; by changing the consequence function; and lastly, by adding choice points. Another major method for adapting the environment is to change its cognitive congeniality. Such changes leave the state space formally intact but reduce the number and cost of mental operations needed for task success; they reliably increase the speed, accuracy or robustness of performance. The last section of the paper describes several of these epistemic or complementary actions found in human performance.

yeah, see this is essentially what I do for a living... it's also been at times a bit of a compulsive obsessive thing.

My once-coworker and longtime friend Steve probably recognized this preoccupation of mine when I posted this piece. :)

Thanks Tracey, gonna read this for sure!

yes. Awesome awesome awesome. Articulates *exactly* what I have never been able to properly (and hence had people think I am totally crazy...)

Information architecture, information design, interaction design... all of these are deeply tied with this kind of practice. Zen gardens and feng shui share in this as well.

"cognitive congeniality" is a very nice way of putting it... when something is easily, even pleasureably acquired and absorbed by the mind. Design... architecture... art! etc etc etc...


you're not crazy you are a cognitively congenial bridge scientist - ccbs!