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Apple's Mac OS X may gain multi-sized icon interface

Apple Inc. has developed an enhancement to its Mac OS X Finder user interface that will allow for different-sized icons within the same window as a means of representing their importance, a recent patent application has revealed.

In the filing, made last December and published for the first time Thursday, the Cupertino-based Mac maker notes that conventional graphical user interfaces already allow users to alter all icons of a display system or window from one size to another size based upon their preference.

"However, such difference in size does not indicate the relative importance of the files or program represented by the icon, since the change in icon size is performed universally for all icons in a container, such as a folder or window," the company wrote. "Accordingly, in order to present a more informative and personalized user interface, a manner of describing to a user relative importance of an icon in relation to other icons in a system is desirable."

Apple said it has developed a user interface which allows a user to adjust the size of icons based upon the user's preference or based upon a characteristic of the objects that the icons represent. The filing states that, "When the icon sizing is performed according to a user preference, a relative sizing scheme or an arbitrary icon sizing scheme can be employed to variably size icons."

The Mac maker's invention includes a method and associated apparatus for efficiently employing arbitrarily sized icons to represent objects within a display device. "To this end," Apple wrote, "a user's arbitrary sizing of various icons in accordance with the present invention generates icon representations that can advantageously represent categorization of application or file importance, and/or the size of a file represented by an icon."

Additionally, the new icon interface would make way for the user to designate one preference value for a plurality of grouped icons to be sized accordingly. For example, as shown in the image above, icons 46 and 48 labeled "BBEdit Startup Items" and "BBEdit FTP Temp", respectively, illustrate multiple icons that are grouped and sized equally. This is also shown for the smallest icons 50-57.

Apple's multi-sized icon interface

Once a user has chosen the relative size of each of the icons that are to be sized, Apple's icon sizing application will calculate the relative size of each icon to be displayed on display device, the company said.

The filing, titled "Graphical user interface for computers having variable size icons," is credited to Apple User Interface Design Team members Arnaud Gourdol and Donald Lindsay.