Microsoft details navigation improvements in Windows Phone Mango

By Tom Warren, on 8th Jul 11 5:00 pm with 39 Comments

Microsoft has detailed the upcoming navigation improvements planned for Windows Phone Mango.

The software giant is making a number of changes to Mango to improve the way users search and navigate through the operating system. One of the first changes you’ll notice on the Start Screen of Windows Phone Mango is the ability to search through existing and Marketplace applications. The search function will locate applications on the device or allow users to simply search the Marketplace and download the relevant app. Microsoft has also enhanced the main App List of applications to allow users to quickly navigate by the first letter of the application name.

“One possibility we explored was ordering apps by how recently or frequently they’re used,” said Rachel Jiang, program manager, Windows Phone Engineering. “While useful, this solution can prove disorienting and confusing, since app order is constantly changing.” Microsoft opted to keep the familiar App List but make it quicker for users to quickly jump through their apps, similar to the quick jump feature in the People Hub for contacts.

App List search/ quick jump

One of the biggest changes in Mango is the ability to full multitask applications. Microsoft has created a fast switching user interface that displays the five most recently used applications. The feature is accessible by holding the back button and allows users to quickly switch to different apps. “One design problem we pondered at length was how many cards to show,” said Jiang. “Five seemed like a good balance. Having only a small number of cards ensures that the task switcher is predictable.” Despite the limitation, Microsoft says that it will monitor reactions to the feature and reevaluate its design for future releases if required.

Windows Phone Mango multitasking user interface

  • GP007

    Well right now I can tell you what most people will ask for, an option to close apps from within the task switcher itself.  It shouldn’t be that hard to add a small X (like they have on the IE tabs for example) to let you close things you don’t need anymore. 

    Also the 2nd thing people will ask for is the option to bump that up from 5 to something else, with 5 being the bare minimum you could have.   Though that sort of change will probably depend on tests for stability, performance and battery life etc since those apps are more or less still in memory and haven’t been tombstoned. 

    • http://kulaid.blogspot.com/ slobo80

      I agree that it needs to be a way to close the app. Right now, if i want to close the app i need to make it active and keep pressing the back button multiple times until the app exits.

    • http://twitter.com/panjkov Dragan Panjkov

      You should press back button twice in order to close an app

    • http://twitter.com/panjkov Dragan Panjkov

      You should press back button twice in order to close an app

    • http://twitter.com/panjkov Dragan Panjkov

      You should press back button twice in order to close an app

    • http://twitter.com/oolong2 oolong2

      I’m not sure if you would really need to close an application since technically they are not running in the background (unless they are playing music or something).   

      The applications are taking up some memory but not processing power.  If WP7 needs more memory it will simply tombstone the applications.  So if memory gets low you will just get more of a delay when re-opening an existing application.

      It’s a pretty elegant solution so theoretically you shouldn’t need to close applications to free up resources like on Android.

    • 5letters

      But I might want to remove it from the switcher since it shows only 5 apps.

    • http://twitter.com/oolong2 oolong2

      I guess we’ll see once people get some more real world use out of it, but my sense is that most people aren’t going to care about “switching fast” between more than 5 apps.   If you open app #6 then the least used app in the list should automatically tombstone.

      I suppose they could have added the option if your phone has the memory, but I would think at some point it’ll be like the Live Tile home screen or an app launcher rather than a short list of the apps you’re currently working on.

    • Npgmbr

      I’d love a better way of navigating and closing IE withoug using the back button.  Something about the way that works just seems VERY odd.

    • Bobdole

      hit the “tabs” button, x out of all open tabs, hit back once you are on a blank IE page, you’ll be at the start screen.  i find this a lot quicker than having to hit back 10 times to get out of IE.

  • http://twitter.com/Chassit Kane Gao

    I’ve never touched the app search button so far. The letter groups are efficient enough. You could locate any one app within a sea of them by no more than 4 taps:
    1. Tap #
    2. Tap the letter group you want
    3. (If the group is especially bloated) scroll it a little bit
    4. Tap the target app

    The mechanism is very neat. Shines with beauty of simplicity.

  • http://twitter.com/vashibhavin vashibhavin

    Why does the title of this article say that “Microsoft details navigation improvements in Windows Phone Mango” when it does not say anything about the improvements.

    • Adam

      navigation around the phone, not like maps.

    • Adam

      navigation around the phone, not like maps.

    • http://twitter.com/vashibhavin vashibhavin

      aah it makes sense. Even then the title is misleading.

    • Guest

      Depends on who you are… In the software development tools, they refer to as “navigation”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marcass22 Marcus Herrick

    I don’t think I would need more than 5 apps open at a time.  Probably just TuneIn Radio and two or three others.

    • http://twitter.com/vashibhavin vashibhavin

      That’s what I thought when there was no copy/paste. I use it quite often now after the NoDo update. You never know how many apps you might need open. Would have prefered this to be a configurable option. But what the heck.

    • http://twitter.com/Joelleigh Joel leigh

      What if the next app you open pushes off an app that is streaming in the background?

    • Mark Pintar

      I believe i read somewhere that the task switching is smart for those types of things. If one of the apps is doing something in the background it will take precedence over ones that are just being stored in memory or something like that

    • Nelson

      Here’s how multitasking works in Mango:

      When an app goes into the background, its state is saved into memory and when its brought back to the foreground its state is read from memory. The app is literally frozen and unfrozen in place. 

      The only time a background app is actually doing any processing is when it has a background agent registered. These agents can do things like stream audio, download files, update live tiles,  or just run random bits of code for short amounts of time.

      The app swtcher is really just a “recent” app list. Though it only shows five, way more than five apps can have fast app switching. In fact, just compiling your app for Mango enables fast app switching. 

  • http://www.twitter.com/wixostrix WixosTrix

    I’ve been using the Mango beta for about a week now and I simply love it.  There are a few bugs on my Samsung Focus but for the most part it runs great.  There needs to be some tweeking for how the ‘back’ button works though and the task switcher makes it very unpredictable for regular consumers. 

    Say you go into the Music+Videos hub, navigate to a song and play it.  When you go to the task switcher last tasks in the line are two Music+Video tasks, one is the collection browser, the other is the now playing.  If the users pulls up a new apps, say IE, then switches back to the now playing, when they hit the ‘back’ button they will jump back into IE instead of navigating back though the M+V hub.  That isn’t very intuitive and I believe it is due to the fact that in the native apps, every time you go back to the start screen and enter one it creates a new task.  You can potential have five tasks that are just contact cards, message threads, etc.  There needs to consolidation or a way to view different task within the app, like how WebOS’s evolved multitasking has become. 

    And also, when u click on the now playing info in the drop down player, and push back, it goes back to the previous task instead of back into the collection.  That is one of the most annoying things for me.

  • Anonymous

    ok this is all great but they have to address the home screen. windows phone lets me pin almost anything. and I mean anything. From a map direction, to a song, to a playlist, to an office document, etc.

    yet there is no way to organize this. sure, you can order them somewhow, and that takes decades. then if your list is large, you have to page down and scroll down a mile.

    solution:
    re-think the live tiles page.

    requirements:
    -grouping: this will allow me to group tiles in logical ways. For instance, I can group my pinned docs, maps, etc in a common group.
    -collapsable: allow me to collapse groups. I don’t need to see all zillion tabs or scroll past them to get to the bottom.
    -quick find: you search my apps, why can’t you search/filter my tiles?
    -better ways to organize it: the tap, hold drag UI is clumsy. re-think it.
    -drillable: just as I should be able to group tiles, I should be able to drill down into groups of tiles so I see nothing but that group (and hit back to go up a level). This would allow me to reduce the amount of scrolling I have to do for large groups.
    -multi level grouping: I want to make groups of groups of tiles.

    and btw, while they are at it:
    -OMG make that blank space to the right be gone. extend the tile size!

    • http://www.searingarrow.com AlienSix

      I agree with all of your points except the last one. The space is part of the design language, having the titles take up the entire screen would look ugly

    • Guest

      And… it means that everybody has to re-do all their images & tiles, because the resolution is different.

    • http://www.twitter.com/wixostrix WixosTrix

      I too agree with your points except the last.

      it would be cool if you could have multiple Start screen layout based on location.  Say my normal start screen has a group tile of my best friends, the pictures, music+videos, and games hub.  But when I go near my job the Start screen will change and display my work email, calendar, group tile of co-workers, an enterprise, the Office hub, etc.  Perhaps they could also current time and appointments can play a role too. 

    • alexh2o

      I would quite like “tile groups” like you say. Was even thinking that a cool way to implement it would be like how WMP shows multiple albums; a stack with an angular offset. Then in the WP7 spirit make them live and constantly flicking through the different tiles in the group!

    • Nelson

      I actually dont agree. The act of pinning is a conscious choice, and one that shouldnt be made lightly given the finite amount of space you can use in practical terms (no one likes to scroll forever). 

      It should be just a list of things you need quick access to, and should constantly be changing (pinning/unpinning items) to suit your needs at that particular point in time.

      I like the grouping idea, but I’d much rather it be implemented in the app list vs the start screen. 

  • Anonymous

    ok this is all great but they have to address the home screen. windows phone lets me pin almost anything. and I mean anything. From a map direction, to a song, to a playlist, to an office document, etc.

    yet there is no way to organize this. sure, you can order them somewhow, and that takes decades. then if your list is large, you have to page down and scroll down a mile.

    solution:
    re-think the live tiles page.

    requirements:
    -grouping: this will allow me to group tiles in logical ways. For instance, I can group my pinned docs, maps, etc in a common group.
    -collapsable: allow me to collapse groups. I don’t need to see all zillion tabs or scroll past them to get to the bottom.
    -quick find: you search my apps, why can’t you search/filter my tiles?
    -better ways to organize it: the tap, hold drag UI is clumsy. re-think it.
    -drillable: just as I should be able to group tiles, I should be able to drill down into groups of tiles so I see nothing but that group (and hit back to go up a level). This would allow me to reduce the amount of scrolling I have to do for large groups.
    -multi level grouping: I want to make groups of groups of tiles.

    and btw, while they are at it:
    -OMG make that blank space to the right be gone. extend the tile size!

  • http://twitter.com/GriffinCoulter Griffin Coulter

    one thing that really pisses me off is that the app jump list letters are just outlines. trivial? yes. annoying? hell yes.

    • http://www.searingarrow.com AlienSix

      What should they be?

    • http://twitter.com/GriffinCoulter Griffin Coulter

      normal tiles like any other jump list…

    • Jornlm

      I like it

  • Sneakers77

    Forward button, please. Drives me crazy when browsing. I can go back, but not forward.

    • Shd

      hit the ellipses and hit forward.

    • Shd

      hit the ellipses and hit forward.

  • Sneakers77

    Forward button, please. Drives me crazy when browsing. I can go back, but not forward.

  • Chris

    While the people hub is great and pinned contacts are useful, I would still like to be able to search contacts via the dial pad when i need to make a quick call. If there is one feature i really miss from WM 6.x, its this one!!

  • Dushyantrathore_in

    they should add delete and sent folder in the sms list as we all are used to it.