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So someday around 1997, I re-invented Miller Columns...

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Posted by 22111
Feb 11, 2014 at 09:01 PM


I had told you that in those days, not knowing how to program a tree, I did cascading siblings’ lists, in multiple, docking or flee-floating panes, and which, expecially in the docked version, re-sized automatically by option, from top top of your screen to its bottom, thus not taking 2/3 of your screen’s real estate, but just about one sixth of it, and we’re speaking of 17” 1024x768 screens here… It wasn’t that elegant, though, visually, since with “ToolBook”, visual elegance was “difficult”: instead of, technically, a cascade of different panes (as even today, you can see in progs like UR), just ONE pane for any “tree-replacing list content”, divided by some different background colors and such, would be highly preferable - and without any frame lines, just some subdued “colors” on an all-white background (years ago, I spoke to Petko (MI) on such a layout - but which doesn’t seem to be available with third-class components, even today.

Speaking of “today”, I had a brief look onto (= not: into) the new SpeedCommander 15, and yes, they’ve got a new site which seems to have been built up from some of those “tool boxes” - it’s meant to be elegant, in reality it’s just awful. But even in quite early 14 versions,

” SpeedCommander 14.10
Neue Funktionen

  Kommandozeilenparameter /l und /r können virtuelle Ordner enthalten (z.B. ‘Desktop\Bibliotheken’ oder ‘shell:::{031E4825-7B94-4dc3-B131-E946B44C8DD5}’) [ID703]”

which means you could treat SC’s virtual folders, in command lines, like physical ones - well, it had been myself, asking for that feature, but “of course”, I was rebuked, and then the feature was quickly introduced without giving credits, the irony here being that most people will never even “get it”, i.e. will never know of the importance of such a feature for prof. file M; btw., the prof version is 60 euro now, or was it bucks? (I would have updated to a then current version of the prog 2 years ago and built up quite a lot of my file M upon that feature, had I been informed that the developer had changed his mind and followed my suggestion.)

Then, I had a quick look on Magellan Explorer: in Dos days, there had been a formidable-for-its-time prog of that name, and here again, it’s all in a splendid name - it’d be the very best there is for what I’ve got in mind.

From there, I had a brief look onto WinBrowser(.com), which is kind of “special” (but without my having known about this up to now): Please see some screenshots on their site in order to better (and visually) “understand”: You’ll have some folder in pane 1, together with its siblings (of course), then its “children” in pane 2, then the children of that child selected in pane 2 in pane 3 in pane, and so on: it’s exactly what I did those many years ago with my pim items.

From googling for “reviews”, I quickly “found out” that the Apple “Finder” is deemed to apply this principle… well, I couldn’t verify this, but it was quite amusing to find out there are lots of third-party add-ons to enhance that “Finder”...

Now, as said above, it’s certainly not the very best idea to grant each such list the same size, forcing the user into scrolling for perhaps just 2, 3 items, and then throwing away perhaps a fifth of the screen’s real estate for some just 2, 3 items on another level, but the real prob here is, of course, that file managers ain’t just for “finding” items (as Apple seems to imply by their naming), but especially, and above all, I think, for processing files, i.e. renaming, copying and moving them, and this implies that just ONE such cascade, for file M, is ridiculous.

So it would seem that you’d need some split-screen arrangement, upper half, lower half, with TWO such folder cascades - but in my search for screenshots for either WinBrowser and Finder, I did not find any indication for such a thing, and after all, it does NOT seem very evident that you’d really need such cascades for both parts, source AND target vicinities: On the contrary, it seems probable that such quick access to “anything else there” would be of interest in the target area, but why for the source, too? Anyway, it’s obvious that processing files in file M is quite different from working within in “set of subjects” within your IMS, so it’s doubtful if really the same concepts for tools should apply.

(Btw, as said, I had realized a “two-pane layout”, together with the whole cascade, but for one content pane only, the “list pane” for the second content pane just showing its immediate siblings (and special links), but with possible SWITCHING in the kind of bringing up the whole cascade for the second content pane, within the same panes that currently showed the first pane’s ancestors, and back again - technically, I had realized this by setting up TWO “pages to contain it all, in the background”, into which the whole data sets 1 and 2, respectively were copied, and the fields on screen just replicated a subset of those invisible fields, on page 1 and 2 - today, I’d do the same with buffers; it goes without saying that with a 2-screen setup, you could have both data sets in full, on screen.)

Anyway, I searched for “reviews” for WinBrowser, and so I got to some really interesting site:


from which I got the link to the respective wikipedia page,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller_columns (So I discovered what I had done, 17 years later again…)

which informed me that Mr. Miller invented this cascading style in 1980, which I then applied about 17 years later, and again, as Miller had done, in IM (and not in file M where it has strangely survived.).

(I once said here that some wikipedia founders are musing about overlaying an outliner structure upon their wiki-style wikipedia, as an alternative means of accessing all its content; it’s obvious that with such an secondary means of access, it would not have taken myself 34 years to discover Miller Columns, by pure chance.)

Now this Kljun blog is full of very repetitive descriptions (and pics) of doors not indicating strongly enough to which side they are to be opened, and of taps not telling you clearly enough how to get water out of them (let alone of what temperature at any given moment), but that blog’s author did create some secondary thing, a “wiki” which in fact is a little tree structure, of the utmost interest to IMS afficionados, not because of his own thoughts on these matters, but as a resource mine:


I’m sure this link, which gives access to quantities of more, will be of interest to some.

Kljun says WinBrowser’s buggy (and of course, my considerations above apply), but his blog also let me know about


and I kindly invite you to have a thorough look into that home page, since “design-wise”, both from the visual as from the functional pov, it seems to me quite outstanding. What I’ve got in mind as an integrative system (as described in this forum before) is quite similar to this, and this includes the smart (large) screen real estate M we see here:

Kudos, brilliant, châpeau ! (Even if it is, as said, not obvious to me that for pure file M, even such a splendid setup, of “a-concept-that’s-for-IM” is appropriate.)

P.S.: The following link would do very well with some additional clicks, too; it’s one of the most charming pieces you could find in the web today, or let’s call it the very moment before world class turns into tragedy (this being said, don’t overlook the fact that we’ve got world class composers of this fine craft, behind the scenes):



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