WIMP (computing)

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A word processing program that uses a WIMP paradigm, providing mouse-operated toolbars and menus to access its functions. LibreOffice Writer 5.0.png
A word processing program that uses a WIMP paradigm, providing mouse-operated toolbars and menus to access its functions.

In human–computer interaction, WIMP stands for "windows, icons, menus, pointer", [1] [2] [3] denoting a style of interaction using these elements of the user interface. Other expansions are sometimes used, such as substituting "mouse" and "mice" for menus, or "pull-down menu" and "pointing" for pointer. [4] [5] [6]


Though the acronym has fallen into disuse, it has often been likened to the term graphical user interface (GUI). Any interface that uses graphics can be called a GUI, and WIMP systems derive from such systems. However, while all WIMP systems use graphics as a key element (the icon and pointer elements), and therefore are GUIs, the reverse is not true. Some GUIs are not based in windows, icons, menus, and pointers. For example, most mobile phones represent actions as icons and menus, but do not often don't rely on a conventional pointer or containerized windows to host program interactions.[ citation needed ]

WIMP interaction was developed at Xerox PARC (see Xerox Alto, developed in 1973) and popularized with Apple's introduction of the Macintosh in 1984, which added the concepts of the "menu bar" and extended window management. [7]

The WIMP interface has the following components: [8]

This style of system improves human–computer interaction (HCI) by emulating real-world interactions and providing better ease of use for non-technical people. Because programs contained by a WIMP interface subsequently rely on the same core input methods, the interactions throughout the system are standardized. This consistency allows users' skills carry from one application to another.


Some human–computer interaction researchers consider WIMP to be ill-suited for multiple applications, especially those requiring precise human input or more than three dimensions of input. [9] Drawing and writing are example of these limitations; a traditional pointer is limited by two dimensions, and consequently doesn't account for the pressure applied when using a physical writing utility. Pressure sensitive graphics tablets are often used to overcome this limitation. [10]

Another issue with WIMP-style user interfaces is that many implementations put users with disabilities at a disadvantage. For example, visually impaired users may have difficulty using applications when alternative text-based interfaces are not made available. People with motor impairments, such as Parkinson's disease, may not be able to navigate devices precisely using the traditional mouse pointer for input. To overcome these barriers, researchers continue to explore ways to make modern computer systems more accessible. [11] Recent developments in artificial intelligence, specifically machine learning, have opened new doors for accessibility in technology, or assistive technology. [12] [13]

Moving past the WIMP interface

Multiple studies have explored the possibilities of moving past the WIMP interface, such as using reality-based interaction, [14] making the interface "three-dimensional" by adding visual depth through the use of monocular cues, [15] [16] [17] [18] and even combining depth with physics. [19] The latter resulted in the development of BumpTop desktop and its acquisition and release by Google.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

Graphical user interface User interface allowing interaction through graphical icons and visual indicators

The graphical user interface is a form of user interface that allows users to interact with electronic devices through graphical icons and audio indicator such as primary notation, instead of text-based user interfaces, typed command labels or text navigation. GUIs were introduced in reaction to the perceived steep learning curve of command-line interfaces (CLIs), which require commands to be typed on a computer keyboard.

User interface Means by which a user interacts with and controls a machine

In the industrial design field of human-computer interaction, a user interface (UI) is the space where interactions between humans and machines occur. The goal of this interaction is to allow effective operation and control of the machine from the human end, whilst the machine simultaneously feeds back information that aids the operators' decision-making process. Examples of this broad concept of user interfaces include the interactive aspects of computer operating systems, hand tools, heavy machinery operator controls, and process controls. The design considerations applicable when creating user interfaces are related to, or involve such disciplines as, ergonomics and psychology.

Fittss law Predictive model of human movement

Fitts's law is a predictive model of human movement primarily used in human–computer interaction and ergonomics. This scientific law predicts that the time required to rapidly move to a target area is a function of the ratio between the distance to the target and the width of the target. Fitts's law is used to model the act of pointing, either by physically touching an object with a hand or finger, or virtually, by pointing to an object on a computer monitor using a pointing device.

In computer science, direct manipulation is a human–computer interaction style which involves continuous representation of objects of interest and rapid, reversible, and incremental actions and feedback. As opposed to other interaction styles, for example, the command language, the intention of direct manipulation is to allow a user to manipulate objects presented to them, using actions that correspond at least loosely to manipulation of physical objects. An example of direct manipulation is resizing a graphical shape, such as a rectangle, by dragging its corners or edges with a mouse.

Gesture recognition

Gesture recognition is a topic in computer science and language technology with the goal of interpreting human gestures via mathematical algorithms. It is a subdiscipline of computer vision. Gestures can originate from any bodily motion or state but commonly originate from the face or hand. Current focuses in the field include emotion recognition from face and hand gesture recognition. Users can use simple gestures to control or interact with devices without physically touching them. Many approaches have been made using cameras and computer vision algorithms to interpret sign language. However, the identification and recognition of posture, gait, proxemics, and human behaviors is also the subject of gesture recognition techniques. Gesture recognition can be seen as a way for computers to begin to understand human body language, thus building a richer bridge between machines and humans than primitive text user interfaces or even GUIs, which still limit the majority of input to keyboard and mouse and interact naturally without any mechanical devices. Using the concept of gesture recognition, it is possible to point a finger at this point will move accordingly. This could make conventional input on devices such and even redundant.

Tangible user interface

A tangible user interface (TUI) is a user interface in which a person interacts with digital information through the physical environment. The initial name was Graspable User Interface, which is no longer used. The purpose of TUI development is to empower collaboration, learning, and design by giving physical forms to digital information, thus taking advantage of the human ability to grasp and manipulate physical objects and materials.

In computer user interfaces, a cursor is an indicator used to show the current position for user interaction on a computer monitor or other display device that will respond to input from a text input or pointing device. The mouse cursor is also called a pointer, owing to its resemblance in usage to a pointing stick.

A voice-user interface (VUI) makes spoken human interaction with computers possible, using speech recognition to understand spoken commands and answer questions, and typically text to speech to play a reply. A voice command device (VCD) is a device controlled with a voice user interface.

Multi-touch Technology

In computing, multi-touch is technology that enables a surface to recognize the presence of more than one point of contact with the surface at the same time. The origins of multitouch began at CERN, MIT, University of Toronto, Carnegie Mellon University and Bell Labs in the 1970s. CERN started using multi-touch screens as early as 1976 for the controls of the Super Proton Synchrotron. Capacitive multi-touch displays were popularized by Apple's iPhone in 2007. Plural-point awareness may be used to implement additional functionality, such as pinch to zoom or to activate certain subroutines attached to predefined gestures.

In computing, post-WIMP comprises work on user interfaces, mostly graphical user interfaces, which attempt to go beyond the paradigm of windows, icons, menus and a pointing device, i.e. WIMP interfaces.

Interaction technique

An interaction technique, user interface technique or input technique is a combination of hardware and software elements that provides a way for computer users to accomplish a single task. For example, one can go back to the previously visited page on a Web browser by either clicking a button, pressing a key, performing a mouse gesture or uttering a speech command. It is a widely used term in human-computer interaction. In particular, the term "new interaction technique" is frequently used to introduce a novel user interface design idea.

GroupLens Research Computer science research lab

GroupLens Research is a human–computer interaction research lab in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities specializing in recommender systems and online communities. GroupLens also works with mobile and ubiquitous technologies, digital libraries, and local geographic information systems.

Human–computer interaction (HCI) studies the design and use of computer technology, focused on the interfaces between people (users) and computers. Researchers in the field of HCI observe the ways in which humans interact with computers and design technologies that let humans interact with computers in novel ways.

Alice Jane Bernheim Brush is an American computer scientist known for her research in human-computer interaction, ubiquitous computing and computer supported collaborative work (CSCW). She is particularly known for her research studying and building technology for homes as well as expertise conducting field studies of technology. She is the Co-Chair of CRA-W from 2014–2017.

Dan R. Olsen Jr. is an American computer scientist who specialized in the fields of human–computer interaction and information science. He worked in the computer science department of Brigham Young University from 1984 until his retirement in 2015, serving as chair of the department (1992–96), and also directed the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University (1996–98).

Wendy Mackay Computer Scientist

Wendy Elizabeth Mackay is a Canadian researcher specializing in human-computer interaction. She has served in all of the roles on the SIGCHI committee, including Chair. She is a member of the CHI Academy and a recipient of a European Research Council Advanced grant. She has been a visiting professor in Stanford University between 2010 and 2012, and received the ACM SIGCHI Lifetime Service Award in 2014.

Yves Guiard is a French cognitive neuroscientist and researcher best known for his work in human laterality and stimulus-response compatibility in the field of human-computer interaction. He is the director of research at French National Center for Scientific Research and a member of CHI Academy since 2016. He is also an associate editor of ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction and member of the advisory council of the International Association for the Study of Attention and Performance.

Andrew (Andy) Cockburn is currently working as a Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. He is in charge of the Human Computer Interactions Lab where he conducts research focused on designing and testing user interfaces that integrate with inherent human factors.

Shumin Zhai Human-computer interaction research scientist

Shumin Zhai is an American-Canadian-Chinese human-computer interaction (HCI) research scientist and inventor. He is known for his research specifically on input devices and interaction methods, swipe-gesture-based touchscreen keyboards, eye-tracking interfaces, and models of human performance in human-computer interaction. His studies have contributed to both foundational models and understandings of HCI and practical user interface designs and flagship products. He previously worked at IBM where he invented the ShapeWriter text entry method for smartphones, which is a predecessor to the modern Swype keyboard. Dr. Zhai's publications have won the ACM UIST Lasting Impact Award and the IEEE Computer Society Best Paper Award, among others, and he is most known for his research specifically on input devices and interaction methods, swipe-gesture-based touchscreen keyboards, eye-tracking interfaces, and models of human performance in human-computer interaction. Dr. Zhai is currently a Principal Scientist at Google where he leads and directs research, design, and development of human-device input methods and haptics systems.


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