The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of twenty-nine newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we focus entirely on Apple's first granted patent for Radial Menus. The first two patent filings were discovered by Patently Apple, not in the US, but rather in filings found in Europe and Korea. Even the granted patent published today in the US was a surprise, as it too came out of nowhere. In this granted patent, Apple notes that radial menus will be both for the desktop and portable devices. Radial menus will work with a mouse and/or touch commands on multi-touch displays using a finger, stylus and/or iPen. The timing of this granted patent comes on the heels of Google's radial patent filing coming to light in this current quarter. Obviously there's a race to get radial menus on portables and beyond – and Apple's in-depth trio of patents now give them a definite edge.
Apple Granted a Major Patent Relating to Radial Menus
Apple has been granted a patent relating to radial menus in computer applications. Specifically, this invention is directed toward providing menus and submenus at optimal locations relative to a cursor. Apple's patent specifically points to the iPhone but it also focuses in on the desktop.
In June, Macworld reported that Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed in an email to an Apple customer that the company is working on "something really great" to address the professional market. Reinventing the menu system could be considered a major move on Apple's part, marking the first major advancement for the desktop in some time. The timing of these patents could suggest that this is one of the many changes coming to the Mac Pro in late 2013.
A Broad Overview of Apple's Radial Menus Patent
The most common method of presenting such options in a graphical user interface is to provide a linear pull-down menu. That is, a menu including a row of menu items that give access to columns of submenus. In a linear pull-down menu a user selects a general category from a provided list of menu items, such as File, Edit, View, Window, Help, etc. These broad categories are sometimes called "top level menu items" because in a hierarchal tree of menus, they would be the items at top of the tree. Some top level menu items allow access to submenus related to the selected item. For example, selecting a top level menu item "File" can activate the item, causing a submenu to appear with selectable commands relating to files. The submenu would appear as a column of the options, leading down from the "File" menu item. A submenu for "File" might include "Save", "Load", or "Print" commands. Some items on submenus might have submenus of their own, and so on for any number of levels of submenus.
Linear pull-down menus are often located at or near the top of a screen or window in which an application is running. Accessing such a linear pull-down menu via a cursor control device involves moving a cursor to the top of the window with the cursor control device, then moving along to the appropriate top level menu item, activating a submenu (if necessary), etc. Using a cursor to select items on a linear pull-down menu requires a user to move the cursor by a particular distance down the menu to reach the desired menu item. This can require moving a cursor through a considerable distance and with considerable precision required to reach the desired menu item without going past it.
An alternate method of presenting a menu of options uses a radial menu. A radial menu can appear as a set of wedges, each wedge representing a menu item, around the location of a cursor on the display. Submenus of some radial menus are activated by moving a cursor to the wedge representing that submenu and clicking on that wedge. Such a method is sometimes called "hunt and click". The hunt and click method provided a fully functional menu, and there was no obvious reason to modify it. However, useful and non-obvious changes to the methods of providing radial menus were possible, such as using other processes for selecting menus, or providing a user with options for more than one method. Accordingly, the present invention provides such useful, non-obvious changes.
Apple's patent goes into depth covering these facets of radial menus: Sweep Commands; Selecting and Activating Menu Items with Sweep Commands; Predicting Stopping Location of Sweep Commands; Serial Sweep Commands; Moving Menus; Spring-Loaded Commands
Apple's patent FIG.1A illustrates radial menus and submenus activated by sweeps; FIG. 4 illustrates an example of the motion of a cursor through a wedge of a radial menu during a sweep command; FIG. 9 illustrates where a submenu will be displayed in some embodiments; Alternate Menu Item Selection; Cursor Control Devices; Relative Position Cursor Control Devices; Absolute Position Devices; and more.
Apple's patent FIGS.10a and 10b illustrate two different paths that would both activate the same series of submenus; FIGS. 15a through to 15f illustrate a submenu starting off small and expanding against first one, then two edges.
Apple's patent FIG. 18 illustrates a timing diagram for an alternate spring-load command; FIG. 23 illustrates a mouse, computer, and a display screen with the graphical user interface of some embodiments.
Apple's patent FIG. 24 illustrates a one-to-one correspondence between a graphics tablet and a display screen; FIG. 25 presents one embodiment of a touch-sensitive input device that may be utilized to implement the present invention.
Apple credits Charles Migos and Jean-Pierre Mouilleseaux as the inventors of this granted patent titled "Radial Menu Selection" which was originally filed in Q2 2008 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of granted patents with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each Granted Patent is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any Granted Patent should be read in its entirety for full details. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.
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