Apple's Been Playing With an iPad UI That Assigns "Weight" to Files Based on Data Size

By Gerald Lynch on at

Would a touchscreen iPad interface that assigns mass to file icons based on size be more or less intuitive? It's an idea that Apple is wrestling with, as a patent showing an intriguing new concept GUI for the tablet has appeared online.

The physics-based system would see files and icons assigned properties such as gravity, friction and drag, based on their file size, reacting accordingly to touch. A larger file would be, for instance, slower to drag around the display. Overall the interface sounds like a hybrid between iOS and OS X -- files on its desktop could be arranged freely, independent of any grid system, while groups of files and apps could be pulled together by drawing a circle around them, much as you'd do with a mouse. Making use of the tablet's sensors, gestures could also be used to organise files -- a "snow globe" shake could see you separate files taking up more storage space from others, bouncing off the sides of the screen. A "pouring" gesture would let you wirelessly transfer files from one device to another, too.

It sounds a bit at odds with iOS 7 / iOS 8's flat design principles -- adding "weight" to digital files seems the sort of thing ousted Scott Forstall would have pushed for. Indeed, its filing in 2010 would line up well with Forstall's leadership, meaning it's unlikely we'll ever see these ideas put into practice in a finished product. But with rumours of an enterprise-focussed iPad Pro refusing to die, perhaps a work-orientated GUI with an intuitive file manager may still in time be needed. [Apple Insider]