On August 8, 2013, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a new tabbed browser design and methodology, the second in the last three weeks. Apple introduces us to tabbed browsing in "array mode" and a new tab pile metaphor.
Array Mode: A New Tabbed Browsing Approach
Tabs provide a useful way to manage content, and users often find it convenient to maintain a large number of open tabs. However, as the number of open tabs increase, finding a particular page becomes a challenge. The page name or other label in the tab may be insufficient for the user to recognize the page she is seeking, and in some cases not all tabs may be visible due to the limited size of the browser relative to the number of tabs that may be open.
A few weeks back we posted a report titled "Apple Invents New Carousel Styled Safari UI for Tabbed Browsing." Today, Apple provides us with another take on handling tabbed browsing via an array mode.
Apple's invention provides improved navigation between open tabs. In any context where a user can view multiple different content items, such as a web browser or word processing program or the like, switching among open (or currently loaded) content items is provided using an array mode.
In a full-frame mode, one content item is visible and active, but other content items may also be open. In response to user input the display can be switched to an array mode, in which all of the content items are viewable in a scrollable array.
Selecting a content item in array mode can result in the display switching back to the full-frame mode, with the selected content item becoming visible and active. Smoothly animated transitions between the full-frame and array modes and a gesture-based interface for controlling the transitions can also be provided.
Allowing the user to quickly see all of the open content items by scrolling through the array can assist the user in quickly finding a particular content item regardless of how many items are open at a given time.
In some embodiments, a gesture-based user interface can be used to control the transitions between array mode and full-frame mode, e.g., in response to gestures made by a user on a touch-sensitive surface.
Apple's patent FIG. 4 illustrates another browser screen in an array mode, indicating scrolling.
Apple's patent FIG. 29 is a screenshot illustrating navigation among tabs in array mode using a "tab pile" metaphor. FIG. 29 also illustrates a browser screen in full-frame mode.
Apple's patent FIG. 35 illustrates a browser screen in array mode with pages arranged in a grid.
Apple credits Kevin Decker, Nicholas Zambetti, Jeffrey Bernstein, Raymond Sepulveda, Duncan Kerr, Julian Missig (Prototype Interaction designer) and Donald Melton as the inventors of patent application 20130205244 which was originally filed in Q1 2013. To review specific details, see Apple's patent.
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