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Designing Windows 95's user interface
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-02-10 00:11:34

Three years ago I came across an interesting paper written up by a Microsoft employee, Kent Sullivan, on the process and findings of designing the new user interface for Windows 95. The web page has since been taken down - one reason why I’m a bit of a digital hoarder.

It specified some of the common issues experienced from Windows 3.1's Program Manager shell and looked at the potential of developing a separate shell for 'beginners'. Admittedly my inclination was that this was possibly inspired by Apple's At Ease program that was reasonably popular during the System 7 days. I remember At Ease well during my primary school years, so kids couldn’t mess with the hard disk in Finder.

So here's what Kent had to say verbatim in his paper titled "The Windows 95 User Interface: A Case Study in Usability Engineering" so it’s not lost altogether.

However you feel about Windows 95, there's no denying that its user interface is probably one of the most iconic and well-known user interfaces ever designed and developed. Literally everyone knows it and has used it, and it singlehandedly defined what a personal computer's UI should work like. It's incredibly fascinating to read about the thought processes behind its development.

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RE[2]: UI Design triumph
By Bill Shooter of Bul on 2018-02-12 15:51:30
Maybe it was just me, or my memory has been clouded by time. But I really remembering OS/2 flying on a 386 with 4 MB. It had pleanyt of Apps! (Er well all the windows 16 bit apps and the DOS apps!). At the time, that was more than enough.
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RE[3]: An unsung triumph
By Vanders on 2018-02-12 19:58:29
I think there may be some arguments that there are issues with discoverability, but on reflection the "Click the arrow to show options" is no worse than a nested menu item.

Likewise screen space may have been an issue when they were introduced but it's hardly an issue these days.
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RE[4]: An unsung triumph
By Kochise on 2018-02-12 21:02:06
Well, since laptop are still sold with 15" at 1366x768 screens, it is still an issue. The toolbar icons were 16x16 pixels and were perhaps a bit too little, 24x24 might have been a compromise. But ribbon ?
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RE[3]: Re:
By rener on 2018-02-12 22:21:03
not everything is /mnt, and what is the problem with / is your computer and ../.. is other storage attached to it?
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RE[3]: Re: (Reasons Windows 95 was well received)
By Drumhellar on 2018-02-13 03:10:42
> System configuration is done on Linux just like it's done on Windows or Mac, through a control panel or a system configuration applet.

Sometimes.

Sometimes, though, it's through visiting a webpage on localhost and some obscure port number, as it is with CUPS and SAMBA.

Sometimes, it is provided through your desktop environment. Sometimes, it isn't.
Sometimes, it is provided through your distribution's custom configuration utility, which may or may not interfere with a utility that your DE includes.
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RE[5]: Re: (Reasons Windows 95 was well received)
By Drumhellar on 2018-02-13 18:26:52
You still have the problem, but significantly less.

Like, will your distribution respect changes made to resolv.conf? Or will it not? Or will it, but only sometimes?

IIRC Debian does its own thing for configuring interfaces, and Ubuntu to, when doing it via console (but not Debian's, even though it's based on Debian).

That's part of why I prefer FreeBSD over Linux.

Edited 2018-02-13 18:39 UTC
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RE[2]: UI Desgin triumph
By zima on 2018-02-13 23:13:08
Odd (even considering Amiga-loving executive) that AmigaOS was even considered for evaluation in 1995 or so, coming from a dead by then company... (really dead? This calls for the following link! http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-engla... :D )
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RE[3]: UI Desgin triumph
By zima on 2018-02-13 23:17:31
> Windows won because all these other products were either unaffordable or worse.
Or too late... (BeOS on x86) But I wonder, why NextStep on x86 failed? It was out 2 years before Win95... Or maybe contemporary Win3.x had already too much momentum? Was it too expensive hence hardly anyone bought it / OEMs didn't ship PCs with it? Had it too high system requirements neccessitating an expensive PC? Did lack of DOS compatibility kill it? Some other reason?

Edited 2018-02-13 23:18 UTC
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RE[3]: An unsung triumph
By zima on 2018-02-13 23:29:14
> touch gestures serving the same role on mobile as the CLI does on desktop.

(Non-discoverable, but high-efficiency once learned.)

But at least not that high as often claimed... https://9p.io/wiki/plan9/mouse_vs...
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RE[4]: UI Desgin triumph
By ssokolow on 2018-02-15 08:31:11
Everything I've read said that one of Windows 3.x's greatest competitive advantages was its combination of DOS application compatibility and not being IBM's attempt to chain everyone back to their proprietary licenses.

Likewise, later versions of Windows leveraged that same effect relative to earlier ones, except that none of the competitors had comparable application compatibility and a company the size of IBM pushing them, so Windows's dominance was even more secure.

Edited 2018-02-15 08:43 UTC
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