Development of a 'Pile' metaphor for casual organization of information

Richard Mander, Dan Rose, Gitta Salomon, and Yin Yin Wong, Advanced Technology Group, Apple Computer, Inc., One Infinite Loop, MS 301-3H, Cupertino, CA 95014

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University June 2, 1993


An interdisciplinary design team, lead by Gitta Salomon, sought to extend the Macintosh desktop metaphor to provide for casual organization of information on the desktop. A user study was conducted to investigate how people deal with the flow of information within their physical workspaces. It was noted that piles were (1) created in order to quickly and informally manage information, and (2), seen as complementary to the more formal archiving system provided by folders and file cabinets. A new desktop interface element, the pile, was developed through two iterative design cycles. The design includes direct manipulation techniques and supports browsing and system assistance for automatic pile construction and reorganization. Our presentation will cover the original user studies, design process and history, user tests, and technology underlying implementation of system assistance for construction and reorganization.


Richard Mander is a user studies specialist in Apple Computer's Advanced Technology Human Interface Group. He is completing a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology at Stanford University. Currently, he is a member of an interdisciplinary team developing interfaces for personal interactive electronic devices. Dan Rose is a senior scientist in the ATG Information Technology group. He has a Ph.D. in Cognitive Science and Computer Science from UCSD, where he worked on an adaptive information retrieval system that learns from its experience with users. Gitta Salomon is an interaction designer within Apple Computer's Advanced Technology Human Interface Group. She currently leads an interdisciplinary team examining interface issues related to computational environments. Before joining Apple in 1987, she worked as an interface consultant and was a member of staff at MIT's Project Athena. She has a B.A. in mathematics from UCLA and an M.S. from the MIT Media Laboratory. Yin Yin Wong joined the Apple Computer's Advanced Technology Human Interface Group in 1989. Her education and previous work experience were in traditional graphic design. Currently, she is a member of an interdisciplinary team that is exploring new adaptive interfaces and informal interaction. She specializes in the design, visualization and prototyping of user interfaces.


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