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GUI Graphics Programming

The Semantic Line Interface 123

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the do-what-i-mean-not-what-i-click dept.
First time accepted submitter yuriyg_ua writes "[The] semantic line interface may combine features of both command line and graphical interface, which would allow even more complex applications than we have seen before." The idea is that the layer underlying user interfaces should define the semantic relations between data enabling the UI to provide better contextual information. Kind of a modern version of the CLIM presentation system.
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The Semantic Line Interface

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Isn't this similar functionality to the windows 7 "search" box in the start menu?

    • by Alex Belits (437) * on Monday January 02, 2012 @09:05PM (#38568082) Homepage

      More like 4DOS shell (complete with menu system popping up). Or <Tab> in bash that is probably related to it. Or any autocompletion that relies on a parser instead of a dictionary.

      Does Windows 7 search box parse the input to select the context, or use a flat list of "things" to call?

      • by Bob9113 (14996)

        Or any autocompletion that relies on a parser instead of a dictionary.

        I'd toss in a heaping dose of apropos [wikipedia.org] for semantic relationships as well. For example, to get from "pattern" to "grep".

        If you could pull all those things together, it would be pretty wicked, I think. Tall order though, and I suspect there are people working on it (recent enhancements to context-sensitive tab completion come to mind).

        • by Alex Belits (437) *

          No, that's something completely different.

          apropos(1) uses the input language (unordered list of English words) completely incompatible with the language used by the interactive shell (shell and program-specific command line arguments). They do not belong together, should never be a part of the same entry, and user interface must never encourage the user to mix them. Interactive help may have command-line interface, even command-line interface with autocompletion, however this has absolutely nothing to do wi

      • by ulricr (2486278)
        windows 7 search searches tries to recognize phrases, common variations and misspelling in a flat list. it'll find task specific things in the new control panel
        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          it'll find task specific things in the new control panel

          It won't find where to shut off that annoying "tap to click" feature on the notebook... it's not in control panel (where it should be) at all. 7's CP is a step backwards from XP IMO.

          Embarrassingly, Linux gave me a similar idiocy yesterday when I discovered that you could make the bar at the bottom disappear; it was the one thing I thought Windows had an edge. I discovered it by accident; you should not have to discover features by accident, nor should

          • Technically, "Linux" doesn't provide any UI at all.
            Were you using Gnome, KDE, XFCE, TWM, or some other desktop/window manager?

            It's important that we know where to properly assign the blame and file the bug report.

            (I'd guess Gnome. They're rather notorious for completely hiding configuration options...)

            • by mcgrew (92797) *

              I get sloppy writing about Linux. Actually I should say GNU, but at any rate the desktop is KDE on Ubuntu (kubuntu 11.4).

              I tried Gnome about ten years ago and hated it. Maybe I should try it again... but if they like to hide options, maybe not.

    • by ulricr (2486278)
      yes it is. If took his example and typed in "Turn Off Monitor" in Windows Vista and up, you will get the GUI he suggests! But of course, the author is still using f**ing XP and lecturing about the future! seriously though, I understand his point. It's more a question of a natural language parsing and guessing by context.
  • I remember back in the 90s when I was first learning HTML and there were several articles talking about how the web was not sematic enough and I didn't really get the point. Now I totally get it. While trying to make good examples for climagic [climagic.org] on how to interface with the web, its just so much trouble. Even with all the recent focus on good web standards, web developers do stuff that just hinder people who want to scrape data. We really need some good commands for retrieving data from web documents, espec

    • by ClintJCL (264898)
      mod this off-topic, but i love your climagic twitter feed, even if my CLI of choice is TakeCommand (TCC.exe) and those examples are never represented. But I got cygwin so a lot of it is still useful for a Windows user like me who uses Windows in a "unix-esque way". Thanks for the good work.
    • Yeah I'd agree with this, made it all the more impressive when I saw this web summarising app [bbc.co.uk] on the BBC the other day.

      iPhone only, so I haven't been able to play with it.

    • by Grishnakh (216268) on Monday January 02, 2012 @10:16PM (#38568642)

      Web developers don't want you to scrape data. They want you to get the data by manually going to their website with your browser like everyone else. If they wanted you to have a more efficient way of accessing data from their site, they'd publish an API, which is indeed what websites do for things where they want you to automate it. If there's no API, that's because they don't want you to automate anything.

      Of course, there's a good reason for this too: if you automate your access to the data, you won't see their advertisements, err, I mean valuable marketing messages.

      • by tibit (1762298)

        I vote with my wallet, and I'm vocal about it every time a distributor/vendor calls to complain we stopped ordering from them. I then tell them that I have no time to fax an order over, or even to reenter it every time I need 200 line items to replenish production stock/kits. A few distributors allow uploads of CSV or XLS files, and that works reasonably well, even though you still have to screen-scrape the entire process to extract the final outcome (what's in stock, what is the pricing, etc). It gets real

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 02, 2012 @09:10PM (#38568124)

    So a guy submits an link to his own blog page featuring a long and dreary essay containing some half-baked ill-defined vague handwavey idea about some kind of "semantic" interface which seems to have no new basis beyond what google's autocomplete or win7's search functions already do, and it gets posted to the front page? If you're going to allow self-publicity like this, it should at least be for good articles rather than shit ones.

  • This isn't new. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MrEricSir (398214) on Monday January 02, 2012 @09:17PM (#38568184) Homepage

    Go back and play Hugo's House of Horrors (or many similiar adventure games of the not-quite-post-text era) and you'll see an interface that looks a lot like what this guy is describing.

    • Re:This isn't new. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Darinbob (1142669) on Monday January 02, 2012 @09:48PM (#38568448)

      Or any of the Lisp machine variants that blurred the line between CLI and GUI and editor; plus the lines between OS and application. I still haven't seen any user interface that comes close to what you had on a Symbolics machine. Ie, click on a word in your command line, get a drop down menu of command options, etc. There was definitely a contextual user interface going on there. Of course these systems were designed for programmers whereas most people make UIs for end users or administrators instead.

      • by Ostracus (1354233) on Monday January 02, 2012 @11:15PM (#38568968) Journal

        Genera [wikipedia.org]

      • by CAIMLAS (41445)

        Yet, a knowledgeable user or an average (I'd hope) administrator would be able to not only leverage but strongly appreciate.

        In some ways, I think this is actually what Microsoft attempted to do with PowerShell: some semantic functionality is possible, it's just awkward and kludged. (I believe you can interface GUI with the CLI through eg. a pipe to/from each other, for instance. Correct me if I'm wrong, I've only dabbled with it.)

        • by arth1 (260657)

          Yet, a knowledgeable user or an average (I'd hope) administrator would be able to not only leverage but strongly appreciate.

          From an admin's point of view, you do not want any interface that's not (a) absolutely consistent, or (b) tries to second-guess you. Those may be fine for users who need hand holding, but for an admin, it can be downright dangerous.

          It reminds me of the joke where a soldier pulls the trigger, and up pops Clippy, saying "It looks like you attempt to shoot a human being. Would you like help with this?"
          No, if you know what you're doing, you don't want any help or distractions. You want the machine to obey, a

      • by NekSnappa (803141)

        AutoCAD has been using this since at least the the late 80's when I first started using it.

        Pull down menus at the top, a sidebar menu that is somewhat contextual, and a command line at the bottom. All surrounding the drawing area in the middle.

        Of course most of the people I see using AtoCAD these days never used it before it became a Windows based program and are always clicking through menus. While I keep my left hand on the keyboard to type commands, or their shortcuts.

        • by Rich0 (548339)

          Pull down menus at the top, a sidebar menu that is somewhat contextual, and a command line at the bottom. All surrounding the drawing area in the middle.

          I've seen similar interfaces in a lot of other industry-specific hardware. I've seen lighting controllers (think robotic lights you see at concerts) that have interfaces like this (used more for setup/programming than in a live situation).

          I know that I've used command line in some primitive CAD software (ages ago), since it was the only way to ensure (in that software) that lines were drawn at accurate lengths/angles/etc. This was a "CAD-lite" package that was somewhere between something like AutoCAD and

  • Worst article ever? (Score:5, Informative)

    by gregrah (1605707) on Monday January 02, 2012 @09:18PM (#38568192)
    I had absolutely no idea what the summary was talking about, so I made a rookie slashdot error and went to read TFA. Here's the first paragraph:

    Games matter for humans. Games simulate reality, which is unaccessible for us by some reason. Boys (grown-up and not quite) usually play with gadgets. Girls of any age like behavioral games. Touch interface combines features of both. That's why boys and girls are still playing with it. Paradox is touch interface still does not influence PC world.

    The first paragraph is riddled with unfounded assumptions and grammatical mistakes - as is, I assume, the remainder of the article. While I stopped reading after the second paragraph, I did spend a few seconds to scroll down to the bottom of the page to the only screenshot of what Semantic Line Interface might look like:

    Example of a Semantic Line Interface [blogspot.com]

    Visionary.

    • by Bob9113 (14996)

      The first paragraph is riddled with unfounded assumptions and grammatical mistakes

      The same thing threw me at first -- he's Russian writing ESL.

      screenshot of what Semantic Line Interface might look like:

      Totally agree with your assessment at first glance. Reading the article explains what he's getting at, though, and it makes some sense.

      Mind you, I actually find a lot of what he says to be incorrect, and I suspect a lot of it is long-trodden ground (not my area of expertise), but the quality of presentation i

      • by gregrah (1605707)
        I completely respect the fact that it is difficult to write in a foreign language. If your point here is simply to say that it's not cool to hate on non-native English speakers, then I agree with you.

        That being said, I don't think that it is unreasonable to request that the author have somebody proof read his article before submitting to Slashdot to be read by a large English-speaking audience. Or to include half-decent mockups/illustrations. Presentation is important when disseminating ideas.

        I
    • That even though slashdot is the apotheosis of geek sitelization, that this one paragraph hasn't resulted in far dirtier comments about boys and girls enjoying a tactile experience. Is this place just chock full of Sheldon Coopers?

      Side note: I don't care if you do or don't like the/any show/character/screen/entertainment media. I just don't care. Don't tell me; I don't care. I put this note in here knowing that some people will have an instant complaint -- guess what...don't care.

    • by Inda (580031)
      I too haven't read the article and I don't intend breaking the habit of a lifetime.

      Combining the CLI with the GUI?

      Haven't I been doing this with all the CAD programmes I've ever used? Six. I think I've used six. Maybe seven. One was complete shite. Six. I'm going with six.

      Set Datum 0,0,0
      Show Layer 12, 15, 35, 60
      Zoom 200%

      All faster than clicking. Most of the time a quick C&P from previous commands was all that was needed.

      The "Zoom Window" command would prompt the user to click two points.

      Is it worth read
  • Command line (Score:1, Interesting)

    The command line is not coming back, especially with more applications moving to mobile devices where typing is just a hassle. The CLI will remain a nerd's tool. That's just reality.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      The command line is not coming back, especially with more applications moving to mobile devices where typing is just a hassle.

      But whenever we complain about some UI removing menus, desktop launchers and any other easy way of starting an application the fanboys tell us that's OK because we can just type the name of the application on a command line instead.

    • On the other hand (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Junta (36770) on Monday January 02, 2012 @09:52PM (#38568468)

      In the server case, MS is embracing CLI with more and more Powershell instrumentation. In the *nix world we've had it since the inception of the platform, but MS admins are getting very enthusiastic about a CLI now that they are given it.

      For the desktop end-user, the traditional CLI may not usually apply, but in many ways all the search dialogs in various places end up serving the role of a CLI,

      • by rvw (755107)

        In the server case, MS is embracing CLI with more and more Powershell instrumentation. In the *nix world we've had it since the inception of the platform, but MS admins are getting very enthusiastic about a CLI now that they are given it.

        For the desktop end-user, the traditional CLI may not usually apply, but in many ways all the search dialogs in various places end up serving the role of a CLI,

        I really like the UNIX-way, where almost everything is CLI-based, and for most of these commands, there is a GUI available as well. That GUI does usually not have all the options or has them in such a way that they still are inaccessible, but it does the job for anyone not familiar with those commands. And that's the way it should be. OSX and Ubuntu do this really well (which are the two systems I use on a regular basis) for OS-stuff.

        But take Photoshop (the non-OS-stuff), if I take a selection or apply a co

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The command line is not coming back

      Reality check: it never went away.

      And I'm not just talking about the fact that power users have continued to prefer it consistently, or even the way Mac power users gravitated towards CLI when OS X introduced it to their world. I'm talking about the stuff my grandparents use. Does that Google search box remind you of anything? Hint: it doesn't involve much clicking on buttons or menus! What about the total redesign of the start menu in Windows 7 to put the emphasis on

      • I was going to mention something similar, because even with the move to mobile devices the text has just become dictated. What is interesting with Siri is you do not HAVE to speak it. If it misunderstands the dictation, there is nothing stopping you from tapping the box and typing what you want it to do in natural language, it will react as if you had said it.

    • Re:Command line (Score:5, Interesting)

      by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Monday January 02, 2012 @10:09PM (#38568596) Homepage

      The overarching issue isn't really CLI vs GUI, but that the OS provides the user with very little semantic information, instead you simply get pretty pixel graphics. Case in point: Look at your screen right now, how much of the text you see can you select and copy as text? The answer will of course vary depending on what you do, but you can be pretty sure that it will be a good bit lower then 100% (i.e. window titles, menus, etc. can't be selected). There is really no good reason for that being that way, other then that being the way it has always been. The text is available to the OS and the applications, but there are no tools to get it out or at least not easily. Now that's of course just a very basic case, the issues goes of course much deeper when it comes to active parts of the GUI. When your filemanager is displaying a list, can you copy it into a spreadsheet? Can you move the play button of your MP3 player over to your iPhone? etc. Some of those use cases are of course a little far fetched, but essentially what you want is a rich and flexible way to interact with your computer. Neither CLIs nor GUIs really provide that and both of them don't really mix well (i.e. double clicking on the output of 'ls' should allow you to open a file).

      • by rvw (755107)

        Some of those use cases are of course a little far fetched, but essentially what you want is a rich and flexible way to interact with your computer. Neither CLIs nor GUIs really provide that and both of them don't really mix well (i.e. double clicking on the output of 'ls' should allow you to open a file).

        Some simple examples that do stuff like this, although this is clearly not as advanced as what you suggest:

        * OSX Finder: drag file into Terminal, and the filename including the path is copied to the terminal
        * Ubuntu Nautilus: press CTRL-L and the path turns into an textfield with the complete path, which you can copy and edit

        • Those are not only not as advanced. They are not general actions (you can't really drag that file into anything, altough that is getting better with time), and are not scriptable.

      • by jythie (914043)
        And this cuts to the heart of the problem with these attempts, they require extensive amounts of metadata to be exposed by applications. Not only does this require overcoming a significant amount of vender inertia (including the problem of legacy apps) but it would represent an ongoing struggle to keep vendors including all the hooks needed for such systems to work. This is why they tend to have nice 'OS + a few hand picked trivial apps' demos when people show off such interfaces.
    • by Bob9113 (14996)

      The command line is not coming back

      Nor is it going away. It is what it is; not useful for most visual-oriented tasks, and filling the space between writing your own code and using a stock gui for data-oriented tasks.

      When the stock gui won't do what you need to do, the CLI can often get the job done without writing your own full toolkit.

      The CLI will remain a nerd's tool.

      You damn skippy it will! Users just give up when the GUI won't do it. Pretty much leaves them either relying on a nerd to help, or up shit c

      • Using "nerd" in the pejorative sense is archaic.

        The fact that 'nerd' isn't an insult doesn't make people whose talents lean in that direction (or their lives) superior, it just means they're no longer demonized for it.

        Users just give up when the GUI won't do it. Pretty much leaves them either relying on a nerd to help, or up shit creek. Must be a horrible way to live -- if you can even call that living. ... Seems being an information tool-maker is up there with having opposable thumbs on the "competitive advantage" scale, right?

        Nope, try again... People with practically any ability or profession can look down upon about others that don't share that trait, regardless of what it happens to be. Mature people grasp that individuals find different things natural or pleasurable, and that their strengths and interests are balanced out by weaknesses & boredom with th

        • by Bob9113 (14996)

          People with practically any ability or profession can look down upon about others that don't share that trait ... Someone that finds a task a dull hassle is preserving/improving their quality of life by asking someone skilled in that field to do so for them, as it means they can focus their energy on something more suited to them.

          In the early 90's I was cutting code that not many people wanted while I worked at a coffee shop to pay the bills. My brother was trading commodities with the world at his feet. So

    • The command line is not coming back...

      I didn't realize it was gone...or optionally: Go tell all the admins!

    • If you use google or post on slashdot you are already using a CLI you just don't know it because of the wrapper.

  • by norpy (1277318) on Monday January 02, 2012 @09:20PM (#38568212)

    Think all the autocomplete addons for unix shells.

    Or even just a bit of work on top of powershell, I don't know if something Something like posh ( http://http//poshconsole.codeplex.com/ [http] ) implements autocompletes like that, but it wouldn't be hard to do in powershell since a well written cmdlet will expose strongly typed inputs which would allow you to use a fancy widget for input without any issues.

  • As that is like this and to take it way is a big loss.

  • Not again... (Score:4, Informative)

    by jythie (914043) on Monday January 02, 2012 @10:00PM (#38568520)
    This idea comes up every few years and it always suffers from the same basic problems.. it gets attention because of elegant examples and use cases that the designers come up with, but tends to fall apart when dealing with the flexibility users actually need.. I have yet to see an implementation that handles the command space well. instead they have to restrict it to the point all you end up with is something that is less flexible then both GUIs and CLIs while not really adding anything useful... so it really only ever allows for 'more complex applications' if by 'more complex' you mean 'a few complex use cases are more automated, but don't try to do anything else.'.
  • I've proposed something similar for years. Features would have a title and synonyms* and be tracked in a kind of database. One then searches for features similar to using a Google search and the features are then listed in the search results along with parameters, and any links to prerequisites, if needed.

    There still may be menus and icons that use (reference) these very same features, but the Google-like approach works better for obscure settings.

    * Synonyms may be user-configurable in case I call something

  • Ignore the BS examples, and it is true that a useable UI is one that expresses semantically related content in an appropriate context for the user, given time and place.

    Sorry that it's behind a paywall, but here is my (peer-reviewed) take on it all http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1368052&CFID=76329268&CFTOKEN=39574160 [acm.org]

    From the abstract:

    This research returns to first principals, and considers the underlying Dexter Model of Hypertext, and how that may be placed within a broader model of docu

  • I dislike GnomeShell.

  • In the interests of fairness, I am deeply involved with the following website, so my views are obviously bias! Consider the interface at: www.mindports.com Basically, it is used to organize an arbitrary set of categories and sub-categories and sub-sub-categories etc. Each segment contains a brief text label. Once selected, a segment may expose an interface, perform an action etc. After reviewing the article, it occurs to me that we could place commands (or options) through-out a set of these categorical
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday January 03, 2012 @01:54AM (#38569642) Homepage

    The article cited offers a crap solution, but there is a problem. It's the "What menu is that in?" problem. This is a real issue with some programs, especially the ones with modal and/or context sensitive toolbars and menus. It's really annoying when you read the manual, it tells you to use the "join" menu item, you can't find the "join" menu item, and the manual doesn't tell you under what circumstances the "join" menu item will be available.

    The original Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines insisted that menu items should be greyed out when inapplicable, but they shouldn't disappear. Many GUIs today either make them disappear, or leave them looking normal but inoperative. The right solution today is probably to grey them out, but bring up a tooltip that explains what's needed to make that function usable.

    (My current hatred in user interface design is invisible buttons, ones that only appear when moused over. Facebook is notorious for this. Many users don't know that if you hover over an ad, you get the option to make that advertiser go away.)

    • by bytesex (112972)

      That's not enough. Consider Word or Openoffice; an application that has so many functions, both in menus, in dialogs after menus, in buttonbars, etc. I still fight with it, and I still damn Openoffice to hell for being such a loyal follower of the Word way-of-thinking.

    • by bytesex (112972)

      You know what I like (and also the paragon of office-email programs, Outlook, doesn't provide this) ? Auto-completion. I think auto-completion, as used in shells, but now also in emailers like Evolution (where it completes addresses from your address-book), allows you to forego a tiresome process of inspecting dialogs and clicking and typing at the same time. It should be bloody everywhere. Infinite undo is something else that should be bloody everywhere; your desktop environment should provide it. The same

      • by radish (98371)

        1. Outlook does autocomplete of addresses - has done for years.
        2. Undo cannot be provided by the OS because the concept of application state (and what constitutes a previous state, and how to revert to it) is private and specific to each application.
        3. Not sure what your comment is re: fonts, but certainly in Windows every application has access to the same set of system wide fonts. Word doesn't have it's own fonts (although it does have own styles, which are different and by necessity Word specific).

    • by Laz10 (708792)

      Eclipse has an excellent solution for this.

      Ctrl + 3 pops up a search window that lets you type your way in to every available command in the system. Including what is hidden in the menues and context menues. So instead of trying to remember if the "Override/implement method" is hidden in the Source or Refactor menu or in the context menues somewhere, I just press ctrl + 3 and type 'override'.

      I miss that in MS Office and many other applications.

  • I think cuiterm does that.

    http://linux.pte.hu/~pipas/CUI/screenshots/scr-4.png [linux.pte.hu]

    http://linux.pte.hu/~pipas/CUI/screenshots.html [linux.pte.hu]

    Sadly, when it came out it crashed every now and then and these days it won't even launch.

    It's a great concept though

  • It sounds like the article is proposing a solution very similar to Humanized's Enso Launcher.
    http://humanized.com/enso/launcher/ [humanized.com]

    I tried Enso for a bit. It seems like a nice concept, but one thing that annoyed me to no end was having to type "open" over and over. I want to open something by default.

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