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Apple is out and proud about Resolution Independent User Interface Design
it would be beneficial to provide a means to specify the design of a graphical user interface object independent of its display resolution. Such a description may advantageously be used by a rendering module to display the designed object at substantially any resolution.
A patent application released today details Apple’s plans for facilitating resolution independent user interface (UI) design. The patent application covers methods (basically an updated ‘Interface Builder’ application) that facilitate the creation of resolution independent UI elements (buttons etc). These widgets are recorded in a ‘material map’ (the most likely format they talk about being XML) for use in applications.
Essentially, Apple is trying to gain a patent on a UI-element vector graphics creation program. This new ‘Interface Builder’ would encourage developers to create resolution independent applications and allow Apple to take the lead with innovative high-resolution display hardware.
Below: Describing a button never seemed so complicated! The resolution-independent UI ‘Interface Builder’.
Title: Resolution Independent User Interface Design
Inventors: Zimmer; Mark; (Aptos, CA)
Filed: July 21, 2006
Apple pushing Resolution Independence
A much talked about (and argued over) feature of Leopard is UI resolution independence. Even in Tiger Apple layed the groundwork for resolution independence but is only now starting to get serious. Even if Apple makes all of it’s own applications capable of being resolution independent the switch can’t be made unless independent developers can easily take advantage of these technologies themselves- hence this patent.
On another front, Apple’s WebKit (the technology behind Safari) is gearing up to make webpages scale better and advocating the use of resolution independent graphics such as SVG.
Further, the developer tools application “Quartz Debug” allows you to change the resolution of the UI- it’s fun and shows that the technology is already progressing. This form of scaling uses up-sampling and down-sampling of bitmaps (though elements such as text (being vector based) scale perfectly. This patent describes how Apple will make the scaling of UI elements (widgets) easy – these elements will be described by a list of attributes. This further supports the assertion that Apple has made resolution independence a priority. This seems a concerted effort of Apple’s to clear the way for high-resolution displays.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! GET YOUR APPLICATIONS READY OR BE LEFT BEHIND!
The old assumption that displays are 72dpi has been rendered obsolete by advances in display technology. Macs now ship with displays that sport native resolutions of 100dpi or better. Furthermore, the number of pixels per inch will continue to increase dramatically over the next few years. This will make displays crisper and smoother, but it also means that interfaces that are pixel-based will shrink to the point of being unusable. The solution is to remove the 72dpi assumption that has been the norm. In Leopard, the system, including the Carbon and Cocoa frameworks, will be able to draw user interface elements using a scale factor. This will let the user interface maintain the same physical size while gaining resolution and crispness from high dpi displays.
The introduction of resolution independence may mean that there is work that youâ€™ll need to do in order to make your application look as good as possible. For modern Cocoa and Carbon applications, most of the work will center around raster-based resources. For older applications that use QuickDraw, more work will be required to replace QuickDraw-based calls with Quartz ones.