Microsoft detailed its work on portrait and landscape optimisation in Windows 8 on Thursday.
The software maker revealed a detailed and thorough approach to a largely overlooked aspect of its Windows 8 design. “We spent a considerable number of hours studying people as they used tablet devices in our usability labs as well as in their own homes,” revealed Microsoft’s David Washington, in a blog post on Thursday. Microsoft’s studies allowed them to work out users body postures, movements and interactions with various applications. “The number of combinations was staggering, contributing to the basic conclusion that postures, grips, and orientations change fairly frequently,” said Washington. “Simply put, there’s no one way to hold a device and people naturally seek to find a comfortable position and orientation that feels right for what they are doing with the device at the time.”
Microsoft decided to create some goals for its Windows 8 landscape and portrait support:
- You can easily rotate your tablet to best suit your task or ergonomic posture.
- Rotation in Windows is fast and fluid.
- Windows rotates predictably across the system and apps – keeping the user in control.
- Developers can easily build high quality and intentional landscape and portrait layouts, depending on the experiences they want to enable.
Microsoft’s support of landscape mode is the most natural way to view content on a desktop or tablet PC. “We’ve designed Windows 8 to be ergonomically comfortable in all orientations,” says Washington before explaining that the majority of the Metro experience is accessible with your thumbs. Microsoft’s multitasking experience and full-screen video playback are both support without letter boxing in landscape mode.
Microsoft studied ways of reading news in a web browser in portrait mode and viewing photos, scrolling through emails and other methods of use. “We tuned the system experiences like the keyboard, file picker, and charms to work great in portrait as well as landscape,” says Washington. “We wanted to make it so you don’t need to relearn the system when you switch to portrait mode; it just works.”
Microsoft’s work on rotation is greatly improved in Windows 8. The software giant has put a lot of effort into making the experience as smooth as possible. “We are continually working to make the rotation as stable and predictable as possible, as we know how annoying an over-eager rotation can be,” says Washington. Microsoft stabilises the accelerometer in a Windows 8 device before rotation starts, the technique prevents accidental rotations. “We introduced a hardware orientation lock to “override gravity” and keep the orientation the way you want it,” Washington adds.
Different screen resolutions and aspect ratios
Windows 8 is designed to run on a variety of screens. Microsoft is also supporting a number of aspect ratios, including 4:3 and 16:9. “Our scaling platform enables Windows and apps to seamlessly adapt and reflow content to of these different screens and make use of the space,” says Washington. The support will allow apps to adapt to a screen and ratio on the fly. The minimum resolution for Windows 8 Metro apps is 1024×768. “We chose this size as it is a common size designed for use on the web, and a strong majority (i.e. 98.8%) of Windows users can run at this resolution or higher,” says Washington. “We think it is important to have a minimum resolution for apps, as it allows all developers to design the smallest main view of their app without fragmentation across devices. This minimum also ensures that users do not see broken app layouts due to small screen sizes.”
Image Credit: Microsoft corporation