Proposal to investigate interaction techniques and display styles appropriate for the application of pie menus to window management.

Pie Menu
Date: April 10, 1988
To: Members of the Technical Writing Class
From: Don Hopkins
Subject: Proposal to investigate interaction techniques and display styles appropriate for the application of pie menus to window management.

Pie menus are a fast, accurate way of selecting commands from a list
of options shown on the screen, by using a mouse to point and click at
the desired selection.

Pressing a mouse button causes a menu to be displayed, centered on the
cursor location. The menu choices are positioned in a circle around
the cursor, which is initially located in a small inactive region at
the menu center. Each choice is adjacent to the cursor, but in a
different direction. Moving the cursor in the direction of one of the
choices and releasing the button selects an item from the menu.

The selection is defined by the direction of mouse movement between
the clicks of the button. Since the target regions of the menu choices
are shaped like the slices of a pie, the accuracy of selection becomes
more precise as the cursor is moved further away from the menu center.
The distance of movement is independent of the direction, so it may
serve to modify the choice.

In a graphical environment supporting multiple overlapping windows on
the screen, such as the NeWS window system (Gosling, 1985), pie menus
can be a very effective interaction technique for window management.
They can be used to issue commands to move and resize windows, invoke
programs, and control the environment in many ways.

PROPOSAL

I propose to investigate display styles and interaction techniques
that make pie menus easier to use, and to apply the techniques towards
the development of a set of window management menus, designed to be
quick, reliable, simple to learn, and easy to remember.

RATIONAL AND SIGNIFICANCE

In an experiment comparing the selection time and error rates of pie
menus and traditional linear menus (Callahan, Hopkins, Weiser, &
Shneiderman, 1988), Jack Callahan found that novice computer users
could make selection faster and more accurately from pie menus than
from linear menus.

There are certain types of task for which the circular layout of a pie
menu is especially appropriate. They’re useful in situations with
pairs of complementary menu items, which can be placed in opposite
directions, and orthogonal pairs, which can be placed at right angles.
There are other types of groupings that are very appropriate in a
circular layout, such as directions, in a compass rose, or hours,
minutes, and seconds, in a clock face (Hopkins, Callahan, & Weiser,
1987).

Grouping menu selections into logically related nested sub-menus makes
the menus smaller, thus easier to select from, and makes the choices
easier to find (Barnard et all, 1977; Liebelt at all, 1982; McDonald
et all, 1983; Miller, 1981). Pie menus work very well for nested menu
selection, especially for experienced users. They have a nice
kinesthetic feel, and make good use of muscle memory. You remember a
path through a tree of nested menus as a series of directions,
somewhat like navigating from room to room. Since menu selection is
defined by direction, and delimited by mouse clicks, you can rapidly
mouse ahead through familiar menus, without having to look at the
screen. The physical gestures of menu selection “chunk” together into
higher level actions, which are easy for experienced users to perform
automatically (Buxton, 1986).

Another important factor is the style in which the menu is graphically
displayed. The appropriate use of icons and pictograms, the
highlighting style, and the layout of the labels can work together to
make the meaning of the menu choices more appearant (Barnard, 1984;
Billingsley, 1982; Card, 1982; Foley et all, 1974). It is important
to develop a consistant, concise visual language for expressing pie
menu functionality.

Window management tasks are typically done quite frequently, so it is
beneficial if they are quick, reliable, simple to learn, and easy to
remember.

PROCEDURE

To investigate interaction techniques and display styles appropriate
for the application of pie menus to window management, the following
will be done:

1. Conduct a literature search (partial bibliography attached).

2. Send a letter of inquiry sent to Lyn Bartram, a researcher at
 the Computer Graphics Lab, at the University of Waterloo,
 where pie menus have been used in a paint program.

3. Continue implementation and evaluation of experimental pie
 menu interaction techniques, using the NeWS window system.

4. Distribute my implementation of pie menus for the NeWS window
 system, so that people may try them out and use them in their
 own applications, and hopefully give me feedback in the form
 of comments, complaints, and suggestion.

5. Interview David Rosenthal, of Sun Microsystems, one of the
 implementors of NeWS, who has done much research into window
 management techniques.

It is well worth it to invest time and attention in developing quick,
reliable, simple to learn, and easy to remember interaction
techniques. Poorly designed user interfaces can make computers
frustrating and hard to use. The application of practical, intuitive,
and efficient pie menu techniques to commonly performed tasks such as
window management can save users a lot of time and effort, and make
operating a computer a much more enjoyable experience. Since users
spend much more time interacting with a system than implementors spend
developing and programming its user interface, it is important that
the implementor’s time is well invested. I therefore urge you to
accept this research proposal, so that that the results of the work
can be made freely and widely available for the advantage of others.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Abelson, Harold, & DiSessa, Andrea. (1981). Turtle Geometry, MIT
 Press.

Barnard, P., & Marcel, T. (1984). Representation and understanding
 in the use of symbols and pictograms. In Easterby, R., &
 Zwaga, H. (Eds.), Information Design, Chichester: Wiley, pp. 
 37–75.

Barnard, P. K., Morton, J., Long, J. B., & Ottley, E. A. (1977).
 Planning Menus for Display: Some Effects of Their Structure
 and Content on User Performance. Displays for Man-Machine
 Systems, IEE Publication №150, pp. 130–133.

Billingsley, P. A. (1982). Navigation Through Hierarchical Menu
 Structures: Does it Help to Have a Map? In Proceedings of
 the Human Factors Society 26th Annual Meeting, Santa Monica,
 CA: Human Factors Society, pp. 103–107

Brown, C. M., Brown, D. B., Burkleo, H. V., Mangelsdorf, J. E.,
 Olsen, R. A., and Perkins, R. D. (1983, June 15). Human
 Factors Engineering Standards for Information Processing
 Systems (LMSC-D877141).

Buxton, William. (1982, May). An Informal Study of
 Selection-Positioning Tasks. Proc. of Graphics Interface,
 ’82, Toronto, pp. 323–345.

Buxton, William. (1983, January). Lexical and Pragmatic
 Considerations of Input Structures. Computer Graphics,
 17(1), pp. 31–37.

Buxton, William. (1986, September). Chunking and Phrasing and the
 Design of Human-Computer Dialogues. Proceedings of the IFIP
 World Computer Congress, Dublin, Ireland.

Callahan, Jack, Hopkins, Don, Weiser, Mark, & Shneiderman, Ben. (1988). 
 A Comparitive Analysis of Pie Menu Performance. To be
 presented at the CHI’88 conference in Washington D.C., May
 1988.

Card, S. (1982, March). User Perceptual Mechanisms in the Search of
 Computer Command Menus. Proc. Human Factors in Computer
 Systems Conf., Washington D.C.: ACM, pp. 20–24.

Dray, S. M., Ogden, W. G., & Vestewig, R. E. (1981). Measuring
 performance with a menu-selection human-computer interface.
 In Proceedings of the Human Factors Society 25th Annual
 Meeting, Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors Society, pp.
 746–748.

English, William K., Englebart, Douglas C., & Berman, Melvyn L.
 (1967, March). Display-Selection Techniques for Text
 Manipulation. IEEE Transactions on Human Factors in
 Electronics, HFE-8, 1 pp. 5–15.

Evans, Kenneth B., Tanner, Peter P., & Wein, Marceli. (1981 August).
 Tablet-Based Valuators That Provide One, Two, or Three Degrees
 of Freedom. Computer Graphics, 15(3), pp. 91.

Foley, J. D. (1977). Graphical Output and Input capabilities
 [session summary]. In S. Treu (Ed.), Proc. of User-Oriented
 Design of Interactive Graphics Systems, pp. 119–120.

Foley, J. D., & Wallace, Victor L. (1974, April). The Art of
 Natural Graphic Man-Machine Communication. Proceedings IEEE,
 62(4), pp. 462–471.

Foley, J. D., & Van Dam, A. (1982). Fundamentals of Interactive
 Computer Graphics. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Gilfoil, D. M. (1982). Warming up to computers: A study of cognitive
 and affective interaction over time. In Proceedings of
 Conference on Human Factors in Computer Systems, Washington,
 DC: ACM, pp. 245–250.

Good, M. D., Whiteside, J. A., Wixon, D. R., & Jones, S. J.
 (1984). Building a user-derived interface. Communications of
 the ACM, 27, pp. 1032–1043.

Goodwin, N. C. (1975). Cursor positioning on an electronic display
 using lightpen, lightgun, or keyboard for three basic tasks.
 Human Factors, 17, pp. 289–295.

Gosling, James. (1985). SunDew — A Distributed and Extensible
 Window System. In Hopgood, Duce, Fielding, Robinson, Williams
 (Ed.), Methodology of Window Managment, Proceedings of an
 Alvey Workshop, Abingdon UK: Springer-Verlag, pp. 47–57.

Herot, Christopher F., & Weinzapfel, Guy. (1978, August). One-Point
 Touch Input of Vector Information for Computer Displays
 Computer Graphics, 12(3), pp. 210.

Hopkins, Don. (1987, September). Directional Selection is Easy as Pie
 Menus! [Summary of Work-in-Progress talk at Phoenix Usenix
 Conference.] Published in ;login: The USENIX Association
 Newsletter, 12(5), pp. 31–32.

Hopkins, Don, Callahan, Jack, & Weiser, Mark. (1987). Pies:
 Implementation, Evaluation, and Application of Circular Menus.
 (Paper in preparation. Draft available from authors.)

Koved, L., & Shneiderman, B. (1986). Embedded menus: Selecting
 items in context. Communications of the ACM, 29, pp.
 312–318.

Liebelt, L. S., McDonald, J. E., Stone, J. D., & Karat, J. (1982).
 The effect of organization on learning menu access. In
 Proceedings of the Human Factors Society 26th Annual
 Meeting, Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors Society, pp.
 546–550.

McDonald, J. E., Stone, J. D., & Liebelt, L. S. (1983). Searching
 for items in menus: The effects of organization and type of
 target. In Proceedings of the Human Factors Society 27th
 Annual Meeting, Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors Society, pp.
 834–837.

MIL-STD-1472C, Revised. (1983, 1 September). Military Standard:
 Human Engineering Design Criteria for Military System,
 Equipment and Facilities. Washington, DC: Department of
 Defense.

Miller, D. P. (1981). The depth/breadth tradeoff in hierarchical
 computer menus. In Proceedings of the Human Factors Society
 25th Annual Meeting Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors Society,
 pp. 296–300.

Mooers, C. D. (1983). Changes that users demanded in the user
 interface to the Hermes message system. In Proceedings of
 CHI’83 Human Factors in Computing Systems, New York: ACM, pp.
 88–92.

Muter, P., & Mayson, C. (1986). The role of graphics in item
 selection from menus. Behaviour and Information Technology,
 5, pp. 89–95.

Newman, W. M. (1968, May). A Graphical Technique for Numerical
 Input. Computing Journal, 11, pp. 63–64.

Newman, W. M., & Sproull, R. F. (1979). Principles of Interactive
 Computer Graphics, Second Edition. McGraw Hill

Palme, J. (1979). A human-computer interface for non-computer
 specialists. Software — Practice and Experience, 9, pp.
 741–747.

Papert, Seymour. (1980). Mindstorms, NY: Basic Books.

Pew, R. W., & Rollins, A. M. (1975). Dialog Specification
 Procedures (Report 3129, revised). Cambridge, MA: Bolt
 Beranek and Newman.

Rosenthal, David S. H., Michener, James C., Pfaff, Gunther,
 Kessener, Rens, & Sabin, Malcolm. (1982, July). The Detailed
 Semantics of Graphics Input Devices. Computer Graphics,
 16(3), pp. 33.

Shinar, D., Stern, H. I., Bubis, G., & Ingram, D. (1985). The
 relative effectiveness of alternative strategies in menu
 driven computer programs. Proceedings of the Human Factors
 Society 29th Annual Meeting, Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors
 Society. pp. 645–649

Shneiderman, B. (1982). The future of interactive systems and the
 emergence of direct manipulation. Behaviour and Information
 Technology, 1, pp. 237–256.

Smith, D. C., Irby, C., Kimball, R., & Verplank, B. (1982).
 Designing the Star user interface. BYTE, 7(4), pp.
 242–282.

Smith, S. L. (1962). Angular estimation. Journal of Applied
 Psychology, 46, pp. 240–246.

Snowberry, K., Parkinson, S. R., & Sisson, N. (1983). Computer
 display menus. Ergonomics, 26, pp. 699–712.

Stewart, T. (1980). Communicating with dialogues. Ergonomics,
 23, pp. 909–919.

Thompson, D. A. (1971). Interface design for an interactive
 information retrieval system: A literature survey and a
 research system description. Journal of the American Society
 for Information Science, 22, pp. 361–373.

Tufte, E. R. (1983). The Visual Display of Quantitative
 Information. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.

Uber, G. T., Williams, P. E., Hisey, B. L., Siekert, R. G. (1968).
 The Organization and Formatting of Hierarchical Displays for
 the On-Line Input of Data. AFIPS Conference Proceedings,
 33, pp. 219–226.

Van den Bos, J. (1978, August). Definitions and Use of Higher Level
 Graphics Input Tools. Computer Graphics, 12(3), pp. 38–42.

Wallace, V. L. (1976, April). The Semantics of Graphic Input Devices.
 Computer Graphics, 10(1), pp. 61–63.

Wiseman, N. E., Lenke, H. V., & Hiles, J. O. (1969). PIXIE: A New
 Approach to Graphical Man-Machine Communication. In
 Proceedings of the 1969 CAD Conference, Southampton IEEE
 Conference Publication 51, pp. 463.