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Visualization and Interaction for Business and Entertainment

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Interaction

GroupBar Instructions

Bar interaction:

When launched, GroupBar should appear much like the portion of the TaskBar devoted to running window tiles. Individual window tiles can be dragged and dropped either in between existing tiles, which will simply re-order the tiles, or on top of another individual window tile, which will create a new 'group' for the two tiles involved. Group memberships are distinguished subtly through the shape, spacing, and background of the buttons, and each group has a green 'hat' which denotes the start of the group and acts as a clickable button for group operations. Window tiles within groups can be dragged around inside the group for re-ordering, or outside the group either into another group or back out to be an individual tile again. The GroupBar also contains a tray area which displays the current time/date and offers two buttons. The "List..." button brings up a list of all available Snapshots and allows them to be edited, deleted, or restored. The camera button brings up a dialog that allows a Snapshot to be created of either the entire desktop or a subset of windows. See Snapshots section below for details.

Groups:

By grabbing the group button, groups can be dragged around the bar to reorder them like individual window tiles but can't be dragged on top of tiles or into other groups. The 'active' group is the group (if any) which contains the current active window, and is displayed as a darker (depressed) group button. In the default behavior, clicking on a group button will restore all of its grouped windows and bring them to the front of the z-order, while minimizing all windows not in the group. If the clicked group button is already the active group and all the group's window are already restored, it will minimize all of the group's windows. (These behaviors can be modified with settings described below.)

Snapshots:

Snapshots can be created for an existing group easily by using the "Save As Snapshot" command on the group's right-click menu. More sophisticated Snapshot creation options are available using the dialog offered by clicking on the camera button in the bar. Here you can select a subset of windows or the entire desktop to take a Snapshot of. When selecting a subset, a new group is also created - you can alternatively opt to create only the new group and No snapshot. When the whole desktop option is selected, any and all existing groupings are automatically preserved in the Snapshot. A Snapshot persistently stores window title, position, and grouping information for one or more windows. When a Snapshot is restored, GroupBar attempts to find all the windows (by window title) and return them to their Snapshot locations and groupings. When a Snapshot is created, GroupBar also attempts to glean enough information from each constituent window to be able to relaunch it if it can't be found. For instance, for a Word window it tries to store the document name and path; for an IE window, it tries to store the URL. This is so far only reasonably successful for a very small, well-known set of applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Visual Studio, Internet Explorer, and Shell/Explorer (folder windows). By using the "Edit..." command off the Snapshot dialogs, however, you can try providing your own custom launch string to achieve the Restore functionality for any arbitrary window. A Snapshot is stored as a binary file with the extension ".gss" in the same directory as the GroupBar executable. The GroupBar reads in all available Snapshot files in the same directory when launched.

Bar Settings:

(Right-click on the bar)

Always On Top, Autohide: Same meanings as the settings for the existing Taskbar.
Bar Animation, System Minimize Animation: The right-click menu's "System Animations" setting turns on or off the standard Windows animation that occurs when windows are minimized. The default is off because "Minimize on Group Switch" is much faster that way. "Bar Animations" refers to the sliding that occurs within the bar when tiles are dragged and dropped.
Toggle Minimize/Restore: When not checked, a tile that is clicked on will always bring the window (or group) it represents to the front of the z-order no matter the current state of the window (or group). When checked, a tile click toggles the state - i.e., a minimized window/group gets restored, but an already restored window/group gets minimized.
Restore Group On Group Click: When checked, a group tile click always restores the entire group of windows. When unchecked, a group in a "mixed" state (i.e. some windows minimized, some restored) remains mixed - restored windows are brought to the front but minimized windows remain minimized. Regardless of this setting, if all of a group's windows are minimized when the group button is clicked, it will restore them all and then bring them to the front.
Minimize Others on Group Click: When checked, if a group button is clicked, as all its windows are brought forward all other windows are minimized. When unchecked, other windows are unaffected.
Minimize Others on Any Tile Click: A superset of the group setting, applying to individual tiles as well as group tiles.
Auto-collapse Inactive Groups: Keeps any groups not containing the currently active window in a collapsed state, and only expand the group containing the active window.
Capture Snapshot, List Snapshots: Same as clicking on the buttons in the GroupBar tray area.
Add New Bar: A GroupBar can be docked on any outside edge. "Add New Bar" offers the ability to add more bars, which may also be docked on any edge. New bars start empty, but individual window tiles and groups may be dragged into and out of them.
Close All Bars: Exit GroupBar.

Group Commands:

(Right-click on the group tile)

Restore Group, Minimize Group: Applies the appropriate command to all the windows in the group.
Collapse Group: A toggle command switching between collapsed and expanded views of the groups.
Layout Group: Offers graphical templates of possible layouts. Layouts are only applied to unminimized group windows.
Capture As Snapshot: Captures the state just this group, adding a Snapshot to the Snapshot list. Shortcut for opening the "Capture Snapshot..." dialog and adding just the group's windows into the Snapshot.
Close All Windows: Posts a close message (WM_CLOSE) to each grouped window. Most apps respond by quitting.
Ungroup All Windows: Dissolves group back into individual window tiles.

Last Updated 03/12/2007