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Opera Adds Gesture Navigation 213

Trepidity writes "The Opera web browser appears to be the first to add gesture-based navigation (made popular recently in the game Black&White) as a standard feature. You can perform a bunch of common actions with simple gestures, such as holding down the right mouse button moving left and releasing to go back, or moving up then down while holding the button to reload the current page. A list of the various implemented commands can be found on their site." I've been playing a fair amount of B&W lately - the interface took a bit to learn, but once you['ve got it done, it's actually a very efficent system of getting around - the use within the Web might finally take the Web beyond just a point and click interface. Maybe. Probably not. CT: Just don't try it with a thinkpad style nipple mouse. My wrist lost feeling. Update: 04/18 02:55 PM by T : Read more below for a software project that promises to spread some gestural goodness even further.

Mike Bennett writes with news of his "free software project. It's called wayV, and provides gesture recognition for X. Version 0.1 was released a while ago and let you start applications with gestures, version 0.2 will be released this week and also includes the ability to send keypress, e.g. make a gesture to change desktops, etc." This looks like a modestly conservative 0.1, too;)

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Opera Adds Gesture Navigation

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    "For those not in the know, it's totally invisible." That isn't really true. It only takes a slight movement with the right mouse button held down to activate a gesture in Opera. If you don't know that you have to be very careful when popping up a contextual menu it's very easy to unintentionally make a gesture.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    In Netscape 3, the right-mouse-button context menu wasn't context sensitive in that the top menu item was always 'back'. Thus you could learn the gesture "right mouse down, down-and-to-the-right-a-little, release" to mean 'back'. And I did.

    Netscape 4 made the menu context change the top item, so if you tried to do the above over an image (even an invisible one, like one colored like the background) or frames, it wouldn't work--hence it was no longer gestural. (Which sucked. I downloaded the original mozilla source just to fix that for myself.)

    It's possible to do more gestures using menus like this (so that it's not really separate gesture code), but gesturing a particular distance is harder than a particular direction.

    Pie menus [] to the rescue! Pie menus open up around the cursor arranged in a circle. By making sure the directions to particular items are always fixed, it can be made gestural. (Not too different from Ken Perlin's alternate PDA input language, actually.)

    Pie menus have been around for over ten years. There's pie menu widgets for windows and X, and even a piewm [].

  • I've filed an RFE bug report [] for mouse gestures in Mozilla. If you'd like to see mouse gestures in Mozilla, please vote for this bug []. Of course, you need a Mozilla account to vote on bugs, but you can easily create an account [] if you don't have one.

    Alex Bischoff
  • Yes! The Mentor Graphics strokes interface is great! Rotating, deleting, copying, zooming, just about anything you need to do can be done with a stroke. Anyone designing a gesture interface should spend some quality time using this application suite.

    Mentor Graphics was the first set of applications that showed me TMTOWTDI. If only Perl would implement it so elegantly... :)


  • The guy (formerly) at Purdue would be me. :)

    The project is LibStroke [].

    Current status is that it is fully integrated into FVWM2, gEDA, and a number of other apps. It has also been ported to several languages including tcl, Python, Java, and the original C.

    In my, uh, copious spare time, I am working on releasing the newest version which, thanks to the hard work of fellow hackers, is the GNOME-aware version.

    The development philosophy is to keep LibStroke a small library that can be built upon to add stroke regcognition to apps.

  • by heroine ( 1220 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2001 @10:10AM (#283057) Homepage
    I remember back when gesturing the right way to get a computer to do something was considered a joke. You only had to stand on one foot and wave the right way when Win 3.1 wouldn't boot. The "hold button down and slide left" gesture was your way of fingering the computer. On a good day "moving up and then down while holding the button" was a high five. Then again why else would we be in a recession if 1001 things to do with E-Commerce sites wasn't the invention of the day?
  • Does Opera crash as frequently as B&W?
    Do your window decorations morph to reflect the kind of sites you visit?
  • So what if you're browsing a pr0n site? How would it react to a "tent raising" gesture?
  • by Tet ( 2721 ) <slashdot@a s t r a> on Wednesday April 18, 2001 @05:47AM (#283060) Homepage Journal
    Actually, this concept is really not that new. Check out the Strokes extension in Emacs and XEmacs. It does this very thing.

    No, it's not new at all. In fact, it's been used all over the place in the gaming world for some time. Good examples are Hybris and Battle Squadron, two Amiga games that used circular motions with the joystick to launch a smart bomb, or separate the wings from the ship. Of course, that was back in the days when gameplay was important, so making the user interface efficient was more of a priority than it is in today's world of flashy graphics and sound but no gameplay.

  • by Quazi ( 3460 )
    they probably have some hidden moves in there:

    while holding ctrl: down, right, middlebuton, rightbutton, rightbutton, P -- pingflood the opposing server
    while holding alt: down, up, left, space, (release alt, hold tab) right, down, up, enter -- bypass username/password prompt (to bypass root, press "XYZZY" then enter)
    shift-up-left-right -- triple high-kick

    there's dozen's more! ..gotta be!
  • by Genom ( 3868 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2001 @06:58AM (#283062)
    ...and the new patent on "single gesture response to Amazon's patents"...

    "A gesture in which the third digit of either hand is extended while the rest remain closed, and the hand then placed in such a manner that the back of the hand faces towards the recipient, indicating displeasure"

  • I think that was a troll: Calling for the UI for every application to act like a browser or game seems silly, doesn't it? I'd agree that brainstorming a new interface, or a supplementary interface for gestures, is a good idea.
  • I remember gestural interfaces having a brief heyday of popularity on the Mac back around 1988-89 when Hypercard came out. They made alot of sense at the time, and I'm not sure why they never caught on with the desktop computing crowd. Other posters are astute in noting that any decent pen based interface such as PalmOS or NewtonOS has relied on gestures for along time now. I definately think NewtonOS had made excellent use of gestures, such as scrubs to erase text.
  • by Johann ( 4817 )
    How about &ltctrl-R&gt or &ltF5&gt to reload the document. Holding the mouse button and moving the mouse around to reload sounds more complicated (never tried the b-n-w software, tho').
    "In the land of the brave and the free, we defend our freedom with the GNU GPL."
  • by Johann ( 4817 )
    Having more options is better...

    Excellent point. I had not considered it.
    "In the land of the brave and the free, we defend our freedom with the GNU GPL."

  • Your ISP connection never, ever fails.
  • Your hands must get awfully sore. How many RSI operations have you had lately?
  • right. what those games needed was a way to issue complex commands quickly, without taking your hands off the input device (or eyes away from the screen).

    and for the very same reason, gestures have become an integral part of Alias|Wavefront's Maya [] (the successor of the infamous PowerAnimator). the gestures take a bit to learn, but once you've got them wired you'll never look back. i know a few artists who have completely removed all of Maya's menu bars and buttons - no need to clutter your screen real estate when everything is available by hitting blank and a few strokes with your pen/mouse. needless to say, their productivity has improved dramatically, and they keep complaining about having to use 'traditional' menus in all those other applications.
  • by simpleguy ( 5686 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2001 @06:50AM (#283070) Homepage
    Ok how many weeks till we read a story on slashdot along those lines:

    "Foobar Inc. has threatedned to sue Opera because Opera browser is using their patented NaturalNav(tm) technology without permission."

    Will all the patent insanities happening lately, this will not surprise me.

  • I wonder if Microsoft had an emergency meeting yet to try to get this into the next version of Windows so they can claim to be innovative.

    They probably decided against it because it would be too confusing to the average Windows user.

    Sounds like a good opportunity for Apple to innovative too. Increase that market share from 0.1% to 0.2%.

  • by rew ( 6140 )
    two things. When a friend mentioned "mouse gestures" for B & W he just bought, I mentioned Mentor Graphics (dated 10 years ago!) immediately.

    two: A good userinterface gives you different ways to accomplish an action. Clicking the "next" button, selecting "forward" from the "go" menu, pressing alt-right, or dragging right with button 2 all accomplish the same thing. Different people prefer different things. Different levels of users also trigger different interface requirements.

    If the task you're currently doing happens to have a lot of keyboard based activity (e.g. filling out a web-form), then having to move your hands to the mouse to click on the next form-item is annoying. So you rather press 'tab' to go to the next item....

    But if you're pointing and clicking with your hand on the mouse, it's annoying to have to go to the keyboard to press alt-right to navigate to the next page in your history. So you get both options. Having more options is better.

    And a good interface will help the user find the "shorter" ways. For instance, emacs shows me the shortcut when I select something from the menu. If I select "forward" from the "go" menu in my netscape, netscape could flash the icon that's on my toolbar. The keystroke is already mentioned in the menu. The statusbar might mention "shortcut: drag mb2 right" when the menu is selected or the icon clicked.

  • ...but its not something I could ever get on with. I always found it quicker to hit the G key for grabbing than I did moving the mouse around in some arcane squiggle. Still, I guess it has its uses.

  • you get thirty free browser windows in reserve, of course.
  • "Opera's smooth scroll is just like, well, is this a family web site?"


    Now *that* is an endorsement! :-)

  • "And people are just figgering out that this widget is in there?"

    Ah, no. I've been using it since it first appeared in the beta releases several months ago.

    It's just *Hemos* that's finally figured out that it's there.

    For me, I find it frustrating using other applications. I keep expecting to use gestures in wordprocessing...

  • Or Hemos does have a windoz, contrary his claims []? Frankly I don't care if someone has windos or not, use it for game or something else, but what is the point in lying about it?!

  • by hatless ( 8275 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2001 @05:46AM (#283078)
    There's enough of a learning curve involved with sedond and third mouse buttons and shift- and control-click operations to where much of it is used only by "power users". This is interesting, again, for power users. But honestly, the mouse is only an "intuitive" tool when it has one button and no chording or other such behavior modifiers.

    Mice have been in the mainstream since 1984. That's 17 years. It's shocking how little innovation there has been in interface design since the Apple Lisa. We're still dealing with mice, overlapping windows with raise/close widgets, modal dialogs and trashcan icons. I look back and remember that Radio Shack had rudimentary speech recogniton and speech synthesis peripherals available in 1981. Mass-produced flat touchscreens go back at least to the GRiDpad. Moving pointers with eye movements was done years ago.

    Technologies like handwriting and speech recognition made strides right up to 1984 or so, and then stagnated until a few years ago. Human-language command parsing was coming along well, too, in the mid-1980s and has barely been heard from since. The WIMP (Windows, Icons, Mouse, Pointer) UI killed off interest in a lot of things.

    Things like this gesture stuff--wildly non-intuitive extensions to mouse functionality--are indicative of the myopia and stagnation among interface designers. Mouse "gestures" will be useful to small, technical audiences like engineers, providing a shorthand for dealing with complex visulaization applications. But it's much too reliant on training and so completely non-intuitive that it can never be a viable direction for mainstream UIs.

    Why, in the year 2001, some 14 years after GRiD's touchscreen-and-stylus tablets, can't people reading a document onscreen simply touch the corner of a doument and flick it to the left to turn a page? Why can't I pick up a pen and scribble recognizable corrections directly on a spreadsheet? Why, if I do want to use speech dictation software, can't I make corrections with a pen at the same time using standard proofreading marks? And why isn't my speech recognition profile stored on a central sever or on a pocket-sized dongle so I can dictate text from any computer or telephone anywhere? Why are keyboards still being used by people besides programmers, paralegals and data-entry clerks?

    Why do command-line OSes not offer plain-English (or French or Mandarin) command recognition? Surely if the parser used in Zork worked as well as it did on a lowly 6502 back in 1981, and I used BBSes with plain-English command recognition ("Go to the library and download 'bluebox.txt'") in 1985, you'd think natural-language access to basic (and not-so-basic) file and system management operations, among other things, would be a piece of cake by now.

    This isn't innovation. It's just sort of sad.
  • by deusx ( 8442 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2001 @05:52AM (#283079) Homepage
    It'd be great if Lionhead released their source, including the gesture recognition. But why wait, then there's...

    LibStroke [] - a stroke translation library
    Implemented in C, and with a transliterated Java version included as well.

    strokes-mode.el [] - a strokes recognition minor-mode for emacs
    Go easier on your wrists, take a break from C-M-A-|, and make vague mouse wavings at emacs to make it do your bidding.

    IMHO, the algorithm [] used in strokes-mode seems much nicer than that in Black & White, or even libstroke. It could be just a matter of parameters, since for all I know B&W and libstroke could use pretty much the same algorithm as strokes-mode.el.

    I'm already looking at tweaking the Java libstroke class to play around with it in a few Java apps I'm poking at.

  • I'll bet this is so they can sell the browser to webpad manufacturers, especially those who aren't going to put Windows on them.

    I seem to remember news of a webpad that was going to use BeOS, for example...
  • I bought Popmouse [] years ago and have been using it as my primary way of running stuff all that time. I use windows, but I use the Litestep shell -- the combination is superb. There was also an app called Jerboa, but having to hold the right-mouse button down meant that it tripped up some other stuff I cared about.

    I bet if you search through the /. archives for "popmouse" you'll find a few posts by me...


  • by necama ( 10131 )
    Sounds kinda like the old pi menus to me.
  • It adds more work to already tedious processes and completely ignores any strides made in UI regarding access for those with disabilities.

    Cool down, already: Opera is one of the best browsers around for keyboard access, and the best of the GUI browsers. Press Ctrl+J for a list of links on a page. Press Q and A to jump between links, W and S to jump between headings, E and D to jump between elements, Z and X for back and forward, keypad + and - to zoom the entire content in or out...

  • I'm thinking that the VLSI/logic design tool Mentor Graphics did this too, although it's been a while since I've used it. It did make life a lot easier once you got used to it.

    One tool that this would really help with would be the Gimp. Like Menthol Graphics, it has a ton of menu choices and sometimes it's tough to hunt through them all (at least for a Gimp newbie like me). Mouse squiggles would be a neat addition.

  • Why do people consider "gesturing" a good user interface? It adds more work to already tedious processes and completely ignores any strides made in UI regarding access for those with disabilities. Should we really be tied even more to the mouse? I would like to know the benefit of having a non-visual work-intensive UI versus a visual efficient (less mouse movement and quick/hot-keys) UI. I played Black & White and I couldn't play it for long because of the UI - if I had known it would be like that I wouldn't have bought it. I'm already dealing with RSI and don't feel like having to move my mouse in circular motions repeatedly.
  • It's nice to have multiple independant systems, however. If one could do everything with ..either.. the keyboard or the mouse, then when things were working well, one would have options, and when something was broken, one would have possibilities.

    Of course, there's always the pickaxe through the screen...

    But, within reasonable limits, duplications are useful.

    Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.
  • No, that's Up, Down, Left, Right, A, B, Start.
  • what happens when you move your mouse up up down down left right left A B B A?

    -jason (and his psycho alter ego, jyee)
  • We used an interface like this for VLSI circuit design back when I was at Purdue. The package was called Mentor Graphics, and their term for this type of interface was "strokes". You could even add your own, and it was extremely intuitive after you spent a half-hour fiddling with it. It saved a TON of time-- the interface to Mentor is pretty heavy without it. Lots of deep, nonintuitive menus.
  • Although I haven't played B&W, we used a gesture interface in the Mentor Graphics circuit design package at Purdue. The problem you mention with mouse sensitivity (and dodgy mice, too) was a serious problem in the labs, since those machines took a lot of abuse, and had huge monitors with tiny little arcane menus. But the gestures are size-independent and work anywhere on the screen, and so as long as you make approximately the same shape the gesture works. This is an excellent alternative to menus when the menus are a pain in the butt.
  • by TheCaptain ( 17554 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2001 @05:22AM (#283091)
    Hemos...just yesterday there was this post:

    Posted by Hemos on Tuesday April 17, @11:29AM
    from the i-wish-this-was-more-like-this dept. "It's a Windows app, so I'm not able to run it. Neither do I have a CueCat -- but apps like this make me smile. "

    With regards to the cuehack story. Now you tell us "I've been playing a fair amount of B&W lately "....

    Ok....are you playing it on Linux or do you just talk out your butt alot? I am not trolling here...I am serious! Don't give us the "I can't run a windows app" crap anymore...we know you have a windows machine in there. :)
  • They don't refuse; they're simply not able.


  • Sometime ago I wrote pie menus [] for Gtk+ (pie menu extends the ability of common menus by "gesture recognition").

    I think I revive my almost two years old project and implement pie menus as a gtk theme (some Gtk+ developers suggested that)

  • by Basilisk ( 20668 ) <ahung&alumni,uwaterloo,ca> on Wednesday April 18, 2001 @05:06AM (#283094)
    ... on one gesture shopping.

    Oops. My mouse slipped.
  • by ywwg ( 20925 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2001 @06:01AM (#283095) Homepage
    There was a windows program called Pointix that allowed you to navigate the web with what they called "glicks". A counter-clockwise circular motion would mean "back" for instance. I forget what it was called, but I was using it in, well, late 1998. It had lots of different gestures that were all programmable.

    The web site and domain,, are junk now, but this was a really cool program. Along with GetRight it's one of the two programs I ever registered.
  • So what you're saying is that this somehow makes for a better interface?
    Yes, it makes Opera's interface better because it provides more options to those who need/want them. If you don't want to or cannot use them then simply don't, they are purely optional and do not replace nor interfere with the other interfaces that Opera provides.
  • I still use this program. Actually there are a few different Pointix apps with "glick" functionality.

    Scroll++ has glicks plus does wheel mouse simulation by holding down the right mouse button and dragging the mouse to scroll.

    Pop-Mouse Lite does the circular gestures, plus it has left-right-left or up-down-up type gestures, each of which can be assigned to a number of different functions. The Pro version had more customizability, but the Lite version was freeware.

    You can still find both of these programs out on the net on numerous "shareware archive" sites. I use Scroll++ religiously both at home and work -- the circular glicks are to web navigation what mousewheels were to scrollbars ;)
  • Ah ... I can see Jeff Bezos filling out the zero-click shopping patent application right now.
  • I've been using a bit of software from Sensiva [] to do this with my tablet for a while - and it works across any application not just the web.

    They seem to have versions for Windows, Mac and Linux.

    I missed having the thumb button on my mouse which was set to back until i found this.

  • And people are just figgering out that this widget is in there?

    Well I have never found it and I can't find it in the latest version for Linux either... is this a windows only feature?

  • Design Architect by Mentor Graphics has offered this on their Windows NT port and SUN ports for years now. Moreover, it is fully customizable for each user some screenshots can be found here: IT
    and the homepage of mentor graphics is:

    Check it out, it is quite interesting and puts the opera system to shame.

  • If you are arguing that there is some "user interface" context definition of gesture which disallows clicking a button, then fine, and I think giving the taxonomy which include strokes, gestures, and whatever else would be interesting. But getting away from human-computer interaction, I'd say that the presence or absence of "contact", if you'll allow that analogy to the mouse click, doesnt preclude these other things form being gestural in nature.
  • by ccweigle ( 25237 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2001 @05:15AM (#283103)
    ... gesture-based navigation (made popular recently in the game Black&White) as a standard feature ...

    B&W doesn't have gesture based navigation. You gesture for common commands (pick up leash, drop leash, change leash, perform miracle, perform special move). Which is really more what Opera appears to be doing - the most common browser commands happen to be navigation.

    PalmOS did this earlier, the most common PDA commands are "input character", "delete", "select", and "scroll". In turn, this comes from writing and proofer's marks (you know, omit, insert, new paragraph. These have a proper name?), which is just recording gestures (the written alphabet, the marks) in pen and ink for later use. You might argue that drag-and-drop, especially in the context of cut-and-paste, is gestural input.

    I'm not discounting the usefulness, or the novelty of incorporating gestures into a standard WIMP interface application. I'm just putting a little perspective on the above quote.

  • Photoshop has really great accelerators - it takes a while to use them, but I could do what you describe with:

    ctl + (zoom in) (hold space anywhere and move the mouse to scroll window at all times - MUCH quicker than scrollbars.)


    z (zoom tool) and drag out a zoom marquee


    m (marquee tool), ctl c (copy), ctl n (new doc - bash return for default settings), ctl v (paste).

    There you go - 5 gestures, no menus ;-)

    Because each gesture is a real world key press it works out 3 times as fast as casting a spell in black and white...

    If you like keyboard shortcuts, photoshop is a dream to use.
  • I haven't played B&W yet (need to, want to, it's just been a busy few weeks), but I can certainly see a use for this in a browser. When I read the headline here about Opera implementing actual support for gestures, I was immediately interested because I already find myself doing something very similar in Internet Explorer using the mousewheel.

    Pressing the mousewheel button in IE has the effect of placing it into "scroll-mode", where moving the mouse then rapid-scrolls in that direction. It's become such a habit for me to just hit the mousewheel-button and then move the mouse up rapidly to emulate a "Home" keypress without going to the keyboard. Similar results can be obtained for "End".

    Believe it or not, I'm so used to doing this that I just haven't been able to move over to Mozilla as a result. I personally hope to see gesture support picked up by Mozilla at some point in time so that I could do something similar there.

    Of course, I'm really a keyboard person at heart, but web browsers just don't have the support for keystrokes that they should (e.g. Why does "tab" always take you to the first link at the top of the page you are viewing rather than starting in the current viewport? How about support for something like "20 <tab>" to take me to the 20th link on the screen? Etc., etc.)

    If I'm stuck using the mouse for web pages, I really don't want to have to switch over to the keyboard just to go to the top or bottom of the page. And I'd prefer not having to move my mouse over to the scroll bar either since, being so close to the edge of the window, it's all too easy to miss-click and activate the window behind the browser.

    Simple gestures (nothing complex like drawing a square or anything) seem like a great answer to me.
  • The software we ( []) used to distribute with our Data Glove product had a demo that mapped gestures to actions way back in 1995 already. Some of our applications use it too, not unlike the way it appears in B&W. Our current glove driver has some simple gesture recognition built into it. Granted, this is "real" hand gestures, not gestures using the mouse, so it probably isn't quite the same thing.


  • Just add voice recognition, and then you can move on to grunt navigation. It has taken years, but now my wife know that when she is helping me work on the car, "unhh" means "hand me that rachet". "SHIT" means "get me a bandaid".

  • Mentor Graphics had this same thing a long time ago - you could use various strokes (I believe that is what they were called) to perform various actions in their VLSI program. Most people I knew relied on this heavily - once you got the hang of it, it was very efficient.

    Someone I knew at Purdue had started incorporating something like this in FVWM, I believe, but I don't know how far he got (this was several years ago)

    Hmmm... I'd like to see some features like this incorporated in KDE/GNOME (maybe even Windows XP.. er, scratch that thought).
  • This must be how Dust Puppy [] navigates the net.
  • Yes, and if it has lots of "option" keys, say 3 called "control", "meta" and "shift", we could get hundreds of commands with just 3 or 4 keys held down simultaneously. Commands like "control+meta+shift+!". And we could call the editor "editor macros" or "emacs" for short.
  • Great, now I can do Tai Chi and use my computer at the same time.
  • It's good to see people coming up with ways to allow mouse users to cahieve their goals more quickly.

    I wonder though whether it will end here. We already have 3 button mice, 5 buttin mice (yes, the "wheel" is actually buttons 4 & 5) Adding any more buttons would have been silly to operate with one hand, so they invented "gesture" control.

    Maybe the next step could be to make it two handed. Give it a more rigid design (say a static board shaped design) and that would allow the hands to more more independently of it thus making the addition of many more buttons a better option.

    They could call it a "button board" or even a "keyboard" that would be cool, and allow VERY fast control of apps once learned. Now if only all the applications were optimised for this kind of input. Maybe we could have an editor that was optimised for this so called "keyboard"! we could name it "vi"

  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2001 @07:32AM (#283121)
    > I wonder though whether it will end here. We already have 3 button mice, 5 buttin mice (yes, the "wheel" is actually buttons 4 & 5) Adding any more buttons would have been silly to operate with one hand, so they invented "gesture" control.

    I think you're onto something here - why not go all the way - take that "natural" (split) keyboard and turn it into two mice, each with 50-odd buttons?

    Wanna keep it still and type? Lean your wrist back a notch. Wanna move around, lean your wrist forward. (Or vice versa, some ergonomics expert has no doubt figured this out :)

    If the problem is that users don't want to switch between a movement controller with no buttons and a keyboard with lots of buttons, perhaps the solution is probably to move the buttons to the movement-controller, not, as has been done up until now, the other way around.

  • Ever use wily? (I should say acme, I guess). It uses extensive chording of mouse buttons to do away with pretty much all menus and control commands.

    It's been a while since I used it (and then only briefly, so I'll make it up), but typically, you select a bit of text with B1, and then B2B1 chord on a word to execute that word with the selection as stdin. B1B2 chord selects then cuts, B1B3 pastes. jsut B3 opens a file.

    I was unable to live without font-lock and programming modes from emacs so I quickly reverted, but it was suprising how quickly the idioms became subconcious (jsut like ctrl-a and ctrl-e are impossible for me to unlearn when using windows, to my enless select-alling and centering annoyance).
  • Very possible, Lionhead have mentioned both a Linux port and the possibility of releasing the source code. Both made possible by Lionhead funding the project privately.
    Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion.
  • True GESTURES use no mouse button; they just watch the pattern of position over time.

    In Black & White, and in other applications that use a mouse to detect gestures, those mouse actions that do not require the buttons to be GESTURES. Drag & Drop is not a GESTURE but a direct interaction with the objects involved. Tooltips use the simplest of GESTURES: hovering in place. No mouse button.

    On PalmOS and other devices where the pen must actually touch the screen to have its position registered, I would still call them STROKES, not GESTURES. Most artists' pen tablets can register the position of the pen if the pen is merely close to the tablet, not even touching, and therefore can support GESTURES.

  • PalmOS did this earlier
    Even earlier than that was Alias PowerAnimator []. It had mouse/gesture based commands as early as 1995.
  • by Pepsiman ( 89597 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2001 @05:07AM (#283142)
    I use gestures to start X applications.

  • I had that with my upgrade to Opera 5.10 (in Windows).

    Do you have the GetRight plugin installed? The old one is incompatible with 5.10, and kills Opera on startup. Delete the GetRight plugins in the ../Opera/Plugins directory. Also, I think there might be a new version of the plugin avalable too.

    Then again, you could be using a Linux preview release... which, if it is having problems, is most likely due to the fact it's only a preview...

  • Opera has an undocumented feature that works so doggoned beautifully that you want to throw a party when you first try it.

    My party was for Shift-Ctrl-Click 'New Window in Background'. That is without a doubt my favorite features (apart from the whole 'self contained' bit), and the feature I miss the most in EVERY other brower!

    And it can be gestured with 'Down Up' on a link! Woop! :)

  • by Xenex ( 97062 )
    Does it work in OS X, or will it possibly be ported in the future?

    Just wondering, I've been pondering a Mac purchace just for OS X for a few months now, and it'd be nice to be able to use Sensiva with it...

  • This is a very good example of providing a good user interface.

    For those not in the know, it's totally invisible.

    For those in the know, it's available right there and then!

    I just wish all software was this user friendly..
  • This reminds of an old Amiga program that came on the front cover floppy of some magasine a few years ago. It allowed you to launch certain programs by doing simple gestures like squares and so on. Anyhow I tried it for a few weeks but the novelty value wore off after a while...

    Ah found it on the Aminet [] - it was called Stroke []. So there ya go.

  • Sutherland's original Sketchpad [] had gestural input. PenPoint [] had it. Blender [] still does.

    It works better with a direct pointing device like a pen, less well with an indirect pointing device like a mouse, and badly with a velocity pointing device, like a joystick or force-sensing button. Basically, if you can't handwrite with the input device, gestural input will be a pain.

  • Many web sites do not allow the user to right-click, in an attempt to "protect" their "content" by using EcmaScript to disable the contextual menu that accesses "Save Image As..." and "View Source." This is a Bad Thing, as if even the Back button is moved to the right mouse button, the webmaster has complete control over your browsing. It's also annoying for those with disabilities such as dial-up connection.
    (Read More... [])

    Tip: IE doesn't completely disable right-click. When the dialog pops up, keep holding the right mouse button and press Enter. Release to get your contextual menu.

  • So what you're saying is that this somehow makes for a better interface? An interface that works without fail for you but sporadically for me and not at all for others such as those with disabilities. Aside from the hit and miss reliability, gestures take considerably longer to perform than either with a mouse click on a button, or a keyboard press.

    Personally I think gestures are great if you work with a stylus, but mice are too clumsy to precisely use them. Even with my Palm Pilot it is not uncommon for it to screw up a gesture I make.

  • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2001 @05:31AM (#283168)
    Anyone who's played Black and White will know that gesture navigation is actually a major pain in the butt to use. Sure it's novel, but frantically waving the mouse around for several seconds in some pattern does not make for a quick and useful interface, especially when it fails a good portion of the time.
  • I tend to use keyboard actions to navigate web pages and browser menus - alt(backarrow), PGDN, PGUP etc. Saves on moving the mouse around, especially when your mouse sensitivity is set as high as mine (for gaming) and it's hard to keep the pointer on those darn menu items... Personally, I wouldn't want to use this kind of interface much.

    I do think it's good that unusual and innovative methods of software control are being tried out, especially in a respected piece of software like Opera. Maybe this will get the ball rolling, but to tell you the truth I can't see this sort of thing being standard in any M$ apps any time soon. Users who need the Paperclip to help them "save as" aren't going to like the mousing equivalent of waving one's hands in the air :-) Maybe it could be implemented as a "power user" setting.

  • There is piece of CAD software called ARRIS that has been doing this for years. I rather like it, but it's not that new.

  • I downloaded Opera 5 here in the computer lab after reading the article and enjoyed the gesturing very much, it's better than moving the mouse all the way to the top of the screen or switching to the keyboard.

    I also noticed problems with /. afterwards: I was unable to navigate pass a main article page, clicking on a comment link would bring me back to the start page, logging me out in the process. I was going to post a comment on the anomaly but the same thing happened when i clicked reply.

    What's weird is that when I tried to post in Netscape and then IE, they both did the same thing. Didn't have a problem with any other pages, tho.

    I enjoyed Opera so much that if I can get it to work at home, I'll very likely switch to it permanently.

  • with the new Theremin Interface! With just two metal rods mounted on your monitor you can control your PC by just waving your hands in front of the screen!!!

    Actually, that would be rather cool.... Especially if it still made the oooEEEOoooouuuUU noises.

    Hacker: A criminal who breaks into computer systems
  • I wouldn't have thought so.

    Lionhead studios is UK based and there are no software patents in the UK.
  • by HiQ ( 159108 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2001 @05:23AM (#283187)

    Shouldn't there be a sort of consistency among the different applications used within one GUI. Before you know it, we are back in the 'goold' old DOS day, where every application was setting it's own standards (remember WordPerfect?). These gestures would only be nice if they were an integral part of the GUI, and thus useable for all applications.

  • I only use gestures in Black and White to the extent that I have to due to lack of keyboard equivalents. I use the keyboard to move, and I'm just happy I realized that you can press "R" to repeat the last miracle...

  • It's just sad that it came out of a game house instead of application programmers.

    Wrong. Mentor Graphics [] have been doing gesture-based input for some time. I have personally seen it in one of their products at my work a couple of years ago. Also, read comment #8 (sorry, can't get <a> hyperlink to work).

  • And people are just figgering out that this widget is in there?

    Just how revolutionary is this gimmick if people have not even noticed it for weeks or months? And if people have not noticed this bell and whistle before, is it even news?

    or does this fall into the category of if it is a major bug, it is news, but if it is an anti-bug (ie, a feature) then let the PR department deal with it.

    on a separate front, I can see this when 3D interfaces become popular for computers. You'd have a widget in your hand for interfacing with the machine, and operate the unit by gestures.

    The similarity of this to a magician with a magic wand is *purely* coincidental.


    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [] comic strip

  • I doubt that 3-D UI's will ever become big. There's a huge amount of interface overhead involved in simulating 3-D in 2-D.

    Very true, but probably no more of a jump than going to a GUI vs a pure command line interface. GUIs have tremendous overhead as well, compared to command lines. It would probably fit well with speech oriented OSs.

    heck, with technology advancements, the wand would probably be the CPU with built in speech recognition and wireless networking and wireless peripherals. And gesture based operations.

    And then the reaction to the idea of a GUI back in 1975 was probably very similar. It would take a long time for it to become practical. But then you know the history of the computer.

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [] comic strip

  • Even earlier than that was Alias PowerAnimator. It had mouse/gesture based commands as early as 1995.

    ...and to go almost full-circle back to the notion of it being a game-based innovation, one could argue that Street Fighter 2 has joystick/gesture-based before all of these.

    Okay, I admit it's a bit of a stretch, but there are some amusing similarities. I wonder if I'll be just as incompetent using GUIs as I was playing fighting games.

  • the various combinations and think to themselves, "Back Forward Punch... Sonic Boom!"

    So are we going to see the Opera strategy guide with the full list of key/mouse combos?
  • by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2001 @05:05AM (#283207) Homepage
    Actually, this concept is really not that new. Check out the Strokes extension in Emacs and XEmacs. It does this very thing. You can teach it various patterns, and then you can use those patterns to execute commands. Heck, now that I think about it, you could integrate Strokes and Emacs W3 to do exactly what Opera is doing...
  • As soon as I started thinking about this and reading some of the other comments in this discussion I started thinking the same thing. It's enough work sorting out which buttons on button bars do what (especially if you have non-standard buttons-- and this only gets worse in Linux as opposed to Windows, where at least there seem to be some basic bars for the fundamentals like cut, paste, print, etc). Usually word-based menus are not too tough since they use language, which is highly expressive.

    But to me the idea that I'm going to have to learn to right-button-left-drag, just to do the same thing as cmd-left-arrow or alt-left-arrow seems like a major waste of time. And is right-button-left-drag going to mean the same thing in Word, Excel, or Outlook? Can it even mean the same thing? If there is a page scroll gesture, will it be consistent? Do we really think the big software houses will accept the Opera standards across the board, thus making life easy for users?
  • This type of feature isn't new at all. Have you ever used a CAD package? Many of the top packages such as Catia and Unigraphics (to a lesser extent) use a similar type of control. Although I don't have any experience with Ideas, I've heard that it uses gesture based control to a large degree.

    The reason that CAD tools have had these features for longer is that they are inherently more complicated. For example, just to rotate and translate your 3-D model, you have 3 axii of rotation and 6 directions of tranlation. How do you do that without some form of Gesture based control?

    Maybe the idea of 'gesture based control' as used in web browsers will become the norm of Office/productivity apps. Finally, companies such as Microsoft don't need to dumb down their products anymore, since 99.9% of the office/productivity force use computers. They can concentrate on making them more efficient and not easier to use. I'm still waiting for a webbrowser that can see my eyes and determine which link that I'm looking at.

  • What's sad is not the fact that the game houses are innovating and creating great new concepts and ideas for interacting with one's computers.

    What's sad *is* the fact that a lot of programmers refuse to think like non-programmers and design interfaces that are truly beautiful to see and use, like B&W's.

  • by Bonker ( 243350 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2001 @05:21AM (#283239)
    This is the (real) innovation we've been waiting for. It's just sad that it came out of a game house instead of application programmers.

    Think about it: The one reason that many people think that command prompt shells are superior to 'gruntnclick' is that the ability to use written language and commands is infinitely more flexible than typical WIMP operations. Despite the fact that it's slower than Grandma before she's had her prunes, most of the developers I know eventually drop down to csh or bash to get 'any real work' done.

    Gesture systems, provided in combo with typical WIMP operations, have the potential to change that. If there is a gesture for every non-destructive command, and gestures can be stacked so that you can direct the output of one gesture command into another, you've created a truly flexible and intuitive command interface.

    I've been playing B&W since it came out, and in only a couple weeks, I can shoot fireballs and sheild spells around like no one's business. I suspect that this will be true for a great majority of computer users. Not all, but enough to make the project worth it.

    Zoom into an image in photoshop, select a square capture to clipboard, paste into new image. If I can do that with a few gestures rather than 8 different menu commands, I will have sped up my image processing dramatically without having to write a complex script or plugin to do it for me.

    Now Lionhead has talked a little bit about releasing their source code if the game becomes popular enough. What I would like to see is source for their gesture recognition systems so that it can be integrated into KDE and Gnome, and OS plugins for Win32 and MacOS. With the level of interest in this new system, that may not even be necessary.

    This *will* work. Get behind it, guys!
  • I don't know for sure how old they are, but in about 1993 I was using a gesture based interface (the normal GUI and CLI interfaces were still there though) for circuit design. Cadence would allow you to use gestures with the mouse to do certain simple operations. Want to zoom in on a circuit? Draw a Z over the area you want blown up. There were other commands but I don't remember them.

    It actually worked well in my opinion, I'm not sure if it isn't supported any more or just isn't enabled at my current company. Time to drag out the manuals to see and maybe relearn SKILL.

  • I tend to use keyboard actions to navigate web pages and browser menus - alt(backarrow), PGDN, PGUP etc. Saves on moving the mouse around, especially when your mouse sensitivity is set as high as mine (for gaming) and it's hard to keep the pointer on those darn menu items...

    This is precisely the reason why I would prefer gesture based commands using the mouse. So that I do not have to take my hand off the mouse to do keystroke commands. This would be especially useful for people with carpal tunnel I would think, as there would be more arm movement (waving the mouse around), and less finger movement (typing alt-backarrow as you suggest).

    I have found the Black and White interface of waving the mouse around quite useful for a couple reasons.

    1) Full-screen graphics - no Menu bars anywhere on the screen to clutter up you viewing area.
    2) Less switching back and forth from mouse to keyboard. - I wish a similar gesture based system existed for CounterStrike! :)

  • No I won't have to sit up and click the next arrow!!!!!!!
  • by whanau ( 315267 )
    I use gestures all the time:

    Cops: ID please Jedi gesture Me: You do not need to see my id

  • Zoom into an image in photoshop, select a square capture to clipboard, paste into new image. If I can do that with a few gestures rather than 8 different menu commands, I will have sped up my image processing dramatically without having to write a complex script or plugin to do it for me.
    What are you talking about? I can execute 8 menu commands in the time it takes you to find your mouse, let alone grab it and waggle it around in a complex dance.

    A good GUI (that is, one that can be navigated solely with the keyboard) accomplishes this:

    1. Allow the user to work with the tool even without familiarity
    2. Once familiarity is gained, to work with the tool with lightning-fast speed.
    A mouse-only GUI gives you the former, but not the latter. A keyboard-only GUI (or CLI) gives you the latter, but not the former. A proper GUI gives you both keyboard and mouse navigation, and accomplishes both goals.

    You may be faster with your gesture-recognizing GUI than your icon-clicking brethren, but you'll always, ALWAYS be ten steps behind me with my keyboard. Especially if keyboard chording becomes commonplace.

    The misconception of the mouse being better than the keyboard is compounded by the fact that for some tasks, it really is.

    For example, anything that requires spacial manipulation, like drawing, graphical manipulation, or gameplaying can generally be implemented more efficiently with a pointer device such as a mouse.

    On the other hand, any series of discreet tasks, like scrolling an increment, selecting a function, closing a window, picking a desktop, etc are more efficient with the keyboard.

    While you're clutching at the mouse, finding the cursor on your screen, then navigating to the close button, I've already hit Ctrl-W and done eighteen other tasks. (Alt-F4 for Windows, Alt-W for Netscape/Linux, whatever your example of choice is)

    I only shake my head at this innovation because, as great as it is for the mouse-only users of the world, it means that those of us proficient on the keyboard will only be left further on the fringes. Microsoft is the only company so far that seems to consistently design GUIs right (try unplugging a mouse from a Microsoft system and notice that you almost literally can do everything you need to do, after the reboot).


  • by Magumbo ( 414471 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2001 @05:27AM (#283259)
    catchy, context sensitive sounds based on B&W.

    villager: "We need more poooorn."

    whisper: "Pooooooooooooorrrrrrnnn"


  • I read this paper titled Contextual Animation of Gestural Commands [] a while back, found it fascinating and wondered when we were going to see some practical applications. I'm glad to see Opera et. al. trying the gesture nav approach.

It's fabulous! We haven't seen anything like it in the last half an hour! -- Macy's