The computer's metaphorical desktop, with its onscreen windows and hierarchy of folders, is the only digital work environment most users and designers have ever kwn. Yet empirical studies show that the traditional desktop design does t provide sufficient support for today's real-life tasks involving collaboration, multitasking, multiple roles, and diverse techlogies. In Beyond the Desktop Metaphor, leading researchers and developers consider design approaches for a post-desktop future.The contributors analyze the limitations of the desktop environment--including the built-in conflict between access and display, the difficulties in managing several tasks simultaneously, and the need to coordinate the multiple techlogies and information objects (laptops, PDAs, files, URLs, email) that most people use daily--and propose vel design solutions that work toward a more integrated digital work environment. They describe systems that facilitate access to information, including Lifestreams, Haystack, Task Factory, GroupBar, and Scalable Fabric, and they argue that the organization of work environments should reflect the social context of work. They consider the tion of activity as a conceptual tool for designing integrated systems, and point to the Kimura and Activity-Based Computing systems as examples.Beyond the Desktop Metaphor is the first systematic overview of state-of-the-art research on integrated digital work environments. It provides a glimpse of what the next generation of information techlogies for everyday use may look like--and it should inspire design solutions for users' real-world needs.
Mary Czerwinski is a Principal Researcher and Manager in the Visualization and Interaction Research Group at Microsoft Research and adjunct faculty member in Psychology at the University of Washington.