Making a computer behave like a web page on a tablet looks like a step backwards, albeit a pretty one, but there is one good thing in the following Microsoft video on Windows 8. The demonstrator half-drags another application onto the screen at 2:05 and 3:00 to create a resizable region so two apps can run side by side:
The is a logical evolution of the one thing I like about Windows 7 and use regularly, window snapping. It’s also one step closer to a desktop that works like the Eclipse IDE with various resizable panels for different elements like object browser, code editor, and compilation messages. Apple is also taking a tablet-inspired approach in Mac OS X Lion. It’s about time operating system vendors step up and do something about the sad state of application window management, but I don’t expect Windows 8 or Mac OS X Lion to bring perfect solutions because of their inspiration: Tablets make great content consumption devices, but I need something inspired by a content creation tool as my desktop.
In the meantime, I’m using a little open source app called Shift It to get something like window snapping on the Mac. It uses keyboard shortcuts rather than the Windows-style border collision which the Mac already uses for virtual desktop management, Spaces. Here’s my somewhat-Eclipse-inspired desktop with the Shift It menu exposed:
Shift It isn’t a perfect solution. It has some problems with window size or position being a little off sometimes, and the top/bottom options are practically useless on a widescreen display. Most people won’t mind, but my particular pathological need to organize (also expressed by my obsession with The Container Store) requires precision and symmetry and flexibility. Steve Jobs has a similar affliction, so I’m hoping Lion will be like digital Paxil for my application window management OCD.