Apple patent app details 3D Mac OS X user interface

“A series of Apple patent filings published this week reveal the Mac maker has spent a considerable amount of time outlining a new multi-dimensional interface for Mac OS X that would make better use of screen real estate by increasing the number of virtual surfaces capable of housing application and interface elements,” Slash Lane reports for AppleInsider.

“The most extensive of those filings is labeled “Multi-Dimensional Desktop” and was submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office back in June of last year, around the same time the company took the wraps off the feature set for its upcoming release of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard,” Lane reports. “None of the latest interface enhancements described in the June patent are present in current pre-release builds of Snow Leopard, however, suggesting they’ll be candidates for inclusion in versions of Mac OS X that would surface in years to come.”

“Generally speaking, the filings depict a 3D interface by which side walls, a top, and a floor all protrude from a back surface that resembles today’s two-dimensional Mac OS X desktop. A few examples also suggest a radical departure from traditional interface design by which the Mac OS X menubar would be removed from the top of the screen and thrown into a stack or floating element.,” Lane reports.

read the full article, with many illustrations from the patent application, here.


  1. This looks like research Apple might have done, but cast aside because at a basic level, it just looks goofy. Then they patented it, just to get Microsoft to copy it for Vista 2015. Meanwhile, Apple will take their real 3D concept and deliver something with more WOW, something that Microsoft won’t even see coming.

  2. This could be an alternative interface you could bring up like time machine, and dismiss when you need to.

    Everyone likes to talk about a 3D interface but implementing it in a way that is more efficient that a 2D interface will be a big challenge. Maybe the transition will be more gradual, going from floating windows to a deeper 2D effect with other content becoming more blurred and out of focus.

  3. This would actually reduce the usable size of the screen. The only way I see this being used is if the traditional 2D screen zooms out to what is depicted in the above diagrams by some kind of key short cut like (ctrl + ~).

  4. Great eye candy, and it might be fun, but what will it add to usability and productivity? I think it will wait until really large screen territory becomes really cheap. I would not want my work viewing area decreased to accommodate all the extra interface elements.

  5. As Spaces and Exposé have been really popular, I can see the logic in expanding that to a 3D interface. However, at present it would have to be optional and also would be a bad thing for a 13″ MacBook, with very little screen that could be dedicated to this. Or, is Steve thinking that we should hook up to the Cinema Displays? But I can’t afford one! Oh no! Never mind though… naturally there will be a solution.

  6. You could see a 3-D desktop coming with the changes to the Dock and the menu bar in Leopard and with the introduction of Time Machine. This is the logical next step.

    The advantage of a 3-D desktop is increased screen real estate – not less as Berrylium suggests. Just look at the drawings in the Appleinsider article to see what I mean.

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