Image by SIMON LEE
  • antoniodellomo

Windowing Systems

Windowing system may be viewed a managing input and output resources, such as the screen display and input devices, in much the same way that an operating system manages disk space and processor time. Windowing systems typically contain mechanisms to help the user move, resize, scroll, transfer data between, and generally manage multiple windows. They provide window facilities for application programs to enhance user interaction.

Windowing systems can be very useful to users using a single display whose work involves working with more than one document or application at a time. The effectiveness of this system also depends on ways in which the task and the system design minimize time spent finding, opening, closing, resizing, arranging, organizing, and generally manipulating windows, as we will now investigate.

A brief history of windowing systems

The invention of windows (along with the mouse and hypertext) is usually attributed to Doug Engelbart, as part of his work during the 1960s at the Stanford Research Institute. Windows that could overlap and be moved easily appeared in the Smalltalk environment developed by Alan Kay and others at Xerox PARC during the 1970s. The first high resolution, a mouse-based computer system with a graphical user interface to be commercially successful in the mass market was the Apple Macintosh in 1984. Windowing systems were successfully introduced to an even wider mass market some years later.

Basic Window Components

Checkboxes, bars, sliders, menus, and buttons are all examples of interface components. The below image shows the standard components that appear in nearly all windowing systems.

Image from World of Infotech

The address bar is where you find the name of the active window. The text field allows the user to input textual data. The value is typically not accepted until some confirming button on the control panel or the "enter" key on the keyboard is pressed. This allows the entry to be edited sing simple text editing facilities, which are often provided, until correct.

Most windowing systems provide a system of menus consisting of implicit or explicit pop-up menus. Explicit pop-up menus are triggered by clicking on appropriate interface components such as icons, menu bars, window controls, and so on. Implicit menus appear when a user clicks anywhere on the screen and they usually remain in position until the user instructs them to disappear. Generally, menus contain a list of commands each with sub-commands, which are available on every open window.

The navigation panel displays folders in different locations and those folders can be accessed (opened) with a click.

The control menu is used to control the window explorer, it consists of three buttons which each have their differences. The minimize button minimize can be used to restore the window to the taskbar, and can be called up again by clicking on the window’s button on the taskbar. The maximize button maximize can be used to enlarge the window explorer such that it occupies the whole screen. The close button close can be used to exit the window.

But the term control is quite general for interface components, it also includes sliders, buttons, checkboxes, and so on. Windowing systems typically provide standard controls for operations such as moving, resizing, and scrolling.

They are not in the above image but it is absolutely worth considering the mouse cursor and the text cursor among the basic components. Both types of cursors can be different from one application program and another but they are fundamental. The mouse cursor shows the user where the current position of the mouse is considered to be in respect to the windows on the screen. The text cursor, instead, shows the user where the input will be directed from the keyboard.

Users very often (always) tend to have multiple windows open, they will not fit on the screen at once, therefore facilitates are generally provided to iconify, tile, or overlap windows.

Photo by Riku Lu on Unsplash