Early sketch of Windows 7
In a presentation at last week's Mix 09 event in Las Vegas, Microsoft designer Stephan Hoefnagels traced the evolution of the company's new Windows 7 operating system.
"This was a pretty wacky brainstorm that we had early on," Hoefnagels told the crowd. But, he said, it wasn't just a bunch of designers going crazy. Even these early sketches represented a collaboration across the technical and design ranks. "In this brainstorm for instance, all the disciplines were involved...developers, program management, user research. Everybody was coming up with these crazy ideas."
Another early sketch
Flashback to 1985
Hoefnagels noted that even the earliest Windows, Windows 1.0, had a place at the bottom to indicate multiple running programs.
"What are those big icons?" he asked during his speech at the Mix 09 conference last week. "Is that the Apple Dock? No, this predates the Apple Dock by 15 years. This even predates the NextStep OS on which the dock is based by two years."
Thumbnails on bottom
In this prototype from late 2006, Microsoft experimented with putting the thumbnail of a window, rather than an icon, on the taskbar. At this size, however, the thumbnails were too indistinguishable from one another.
"Most of the time they just turn into these white squares and don't help you find the window you are looking for," Hoefnagels said. That sent Microsoft back to the drawing board.
In this February 2007 prototype, Microsoft first introduced the concept of using the window itself as a preview mechanism, connected to the taskbar via a spotlight a la Batman. Using this approach, it was easy to tell two documents from one another, Hoefnagels said, even if they were two long text documents.
"We were pretty happy with this idea," he said, noting that it was rolled out to the entire Windows organization, who found it was too distracting when the mouse accidentally hit the bottom of the screen.