New Apple patent reveals Cover Flow-like 3D OS X user interface with parallax effect

“The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday awarded Apple U.S. Patent No. 8,560,960 for ‘Browsing and interacting with open windows,’ which at first blush appears to be a modified solution that brings Cover Flow to the desktop,” Mikey Campbell reports for AppleInsider.

“Deeper in the document, however, is language describing a fresh take on usability that implements a secondary mode of input more akin to controls used in an iOS device,” Campbell reports. “According to the patent’s detailed description, a user can tilt the computer to present the three-dimensional desktop ‘with a raised view level, such that desktop items behind the browsable parade are revealed.’ This action not only allows for a more immersive interactive experience, but increases viewable desktop space and aids in navigating the UI.”

“By tilting the three-dimensional desktop space, users can view an entire group of open windows in the parade from a higher view point. Content previously obscured by an active top window is made viewable, allowing users to select another window without cycling through all open assets,” Campbell reports. “It is unclear if Apple will implement the Cover Flow window invention in a future version of OS X, but a similar technique uses iOS device sensors to create the ‘parallax effect’ seen in iOS 7.”

Read more, and see Apple’s patent application illustrations and diagrams, in the full article here.


  1. Jony, Tim: Let OSX stay professional for some of us pro users. No ridiculous effects, no childish icons, no more iOS on my desktop. Listen, guys, I make my living with my Macs, you know? Make OSX even better, Mavericks is really great. But do not make OSX even more iOS-like. Different machines for different purposes may look different.

    1. OS X is far more stable and secure than windows.
      And while we run out render server with deb, Linux on the desktop is an almost constant time suck. (ye we know we’ve tried, all too often you end up diddling rather than working)

      As a professional those are my primary concerns, let the home users have their cover-flow and new icons, why does it matter so much to you??
      And I might ad I am delighted with many of the the new features in mountain lion . Why so negative? (if you really are a apple lover that is)

      1. I know reading is a prerequisite to understanding and understanding is prerequisite to making a reply that addresses a poster’s comments but you have done neither.

        He hasn’t said a word about OS X instability or its inappropriateness in an office or home environment. He said he preferred it if OS X remained the professional’s OS of choice and that future iterations of OS X kept its present features that suited professionals rather than be infected by iOS 7 childish icons and useless parallax effects.

          1. Sorry I might have offended you delicate sensibilities but I don’t suffer fools gladly.
            Yes your statement was foolish
            Do I care that they put cover flow in the finder?
            Or launchpad,
            No I don’t use it but it doesn’t make OS X any “less professional”

            Let me give you some profesional communication hints, writing crap like:
            ” No ridiculous effects, no childish icons, no more iOS on my desktop. Listen, guys, I make my living with my Macs, you know?”
            Just make you sound like a petulant child.

            1. … in other words, Tessellator, you seem to not mind the addition of bloat. Other users strongly prefer that the basic OS remain lean, allowing individual users to add fluff at the application level.

              The number of Mac users who remain happily using Snow Leopard is a testament to this. OS X 10.7 and 10.8 did little or nothing to improve a professional’s workflow — but these releases did add more OS bloat, much like Windows releases. That is a trend that pros DO NOT want to see continue.

        1. Don’t mind Tesselator. He’s exceedingly defensive in regard to his love for all things Apple. Say anything remotely critical of any aspect of anything having to do with Apple and Tess will jump down your throat as a troll and an Apple-hater. I know from personal experience.

          1. Been a professional user since 1988, Mountain Lion is the best OS I have ever used, makes Leopard feel very limited by comparison as good as that felt when first used. However I would love some aspects of the iPad on my desktop especially aspects that are used for enjoyment and general web access via apps. As long as they don’t become the dominant feature on the desktop itself and don’t interfere with my workspace or complicate the interface when I need to work I am all for these aspects coming to the desktop, indeed they could make my work easier if sensibly and fully exploited.

  2. Agree; looking the patent diagram I see nothing that would make anything functionally better about just rearranging the look of the desktop.

    Another change for the sake of change, which is what you do when you run out of truly creative ideas.

    Apple: stop trying so hard on stuff like this. You are better than eye candy. WAY too much candy of all kinds in the world today.

    Old ruddy-duddy and proud of it!

    1. It is a *patent*. Apple submits lots of patent applications and has been awarded quite a few patents. Some of them take years to appear on a shipping product in some form. Others never seem to see the light of day outside of an Apple R&D lab. Why are people getting their reactionary juices flowing over this? It is just a patent…

    1. From my POV, Apple has overall been conservative about going gizmo gaga. Steve Jobs killed a lot of the cute effects stuff of old Mac OS. But some of it has gone too conservative, such as the horrendous loss of window shading. And some gee-whizzy stuff has snuck in, such as Cover Flow, which I never use.

      However, the adventures into real 3D public experiments, beyond page turning, flipping and zooming, has been nil. Nothing. I find this to be extremely surprising seeing as 3D is required, by default, in most successful games at this period of time. Is there nothing useful in real 3D programming that can be applied to the GUI that is useful for user-friendliness and functionality? Or are the OS programmers simply too scared of being called ‘toy makers’?

      A lot of the OS X features are optional. I don’t have to use Cover Flow. Of course new 3D GUI elements can be optional as well. But first we have to have some.

      1. The programmers are not scared. They’re operating within the bounds of a now-canonical user experience that must maintain the accustomed battery life.

        They’ve paid for some of the new effects with increased processor efficiencies, some of it via code optimisation. If they haven’t taken 3D further, it’s because they were nudging that battery-life boundary.

        Keep in mind that the state of the art in UI is STILL PRIMITIVE relative to what it will become when the machine substrate can support it and the user has been psychologically prepared for it.

        Unfortunately, looking over the years of OS iterations, user dissatisfaction seems the only constant. 🙁

        It has seemed like a trail of tears for one group or another, a mortification ritual, a burning temple with no posterns, a Ganges choked with the emotional effluvia of a thousand scorned souls! — Look to the future with expectancy, say I, and lessen the burden of the present. 🙂

  3. If ruining iOS 7 were a prerequisite to becoming a so called top five star software designer, then heap all the raspberry awards possible on Ive. It’s a sick joke. What would parallax do to improve the OS X experience, except induce seasickness? Another useless ‘innovation’ from the S&D* labs at Apple.

    * Sick & destructive

      1. Parallax is a useless gimmick that arose out of the need to counter the flat icons. The flat icons were designed by a designer that had no eye for beauty within the framework of software design. If iOS 7 had retained the skeuomorphic icons of iOS 6, the parallax effect would not have been needed and therefore not caused so much controversy, not to mention battery draining side effects.

    1. “The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.”
      — George Washington

      Got any sense and/or character, Moron? Apparently not.

      1. @Truax

        Your vacuous comment epitomises your moronic character. Rather than get to the nub of the issue, you take issue with the way the comment is made. Another fashion conscious but totally vacuous fanboy of which there are many so you’re nothing special.

    2. “Eat shit & die, Ive”

      Seriously? Of course not. You’re just another anonymous coward trolling at us.

      For people who actually care: If you don’t like the parallax effect, TURN IT OFF. I like it. I want it on.

      Apple has consistently tried to add in something fun and cutting edge with each version of Mac OS X. I actually miss the old Mac OS days when we could pimp-out the GUI elements, create soundtracks for every little click, have fun little illustrations on screen MacInTalk at us, etc. All of it was optional. But it was also very fun and very Apple.

      1. Parallax is Apple’s way of offering pseudo-3D on the cheap. Ive apparently did not get the memo that 3D in home theater has been a dud.

        So, yes, people who see no advantage to the parallax have already turned it off. The problem is, they still have to put up with his crappy flat simplistic icons, illegible font, washed out color effects, borderless elements, slow transitions, and unintuitive operations.

        iOS7 is a huge GUI mistake, and the crudely-implemented parallax is just the tip of the iceberg.

  4. Leave the Parallax effects for video games.

    After experiencing the new iOS 7 colors and icons I’d rather they just left OS X alone and focused on making it a better OS without trying to induce a seizure in the end user with wild colors that blend together like an acid trip.

      1. Sure I can turn it off. It does not change the fact that the icon redesigns and colors in general make the whole UI look like someone was trippin’ balls on LSD when they signed off on it.

        I happen to like iOS and as a user of the platform I’m bound to form an opinion about it and where its going.

      2. You are being the troll. We are entitled to our opinions !
        Parallax settings wont turn of the horrible colors and UI design choices which have ruined all the built in Apple apps.
        Call us cowards and a trolls. Screw that, I have paid $1000 + dollars for my iDevices and have the right to bitch and complain all I want when I feel my devices have been ruined!
        And then the bastards won’t “authorize” us to re-install iOS6 if we don’t like it.

  5. I too being a “professional” don’t see a problem with this. I actually like how it visually organizes active project windows on the side. Totally beats having to flip through screens or manage different windows. This is a benefit if you multi-task. I’m sure Apple will put a ‘disable’ function as well.

    I agree that much of the iOS candy is too much on a desktop but this seems to be more functional that eye candy.

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