Most work on my PhD thesis is done and I like to provide you with the results from our research at Uni Auckland on Stack & Tile. At BeGeistert 023 (October 2010) I conducted a user evaluation of Stack & Tile to answer the question whether stacking and tiling within an overlapping window manager bring any benefits to the user. At the end of last year I used a web survey to investigate if and how Stack & Tile is used by actual users. The results of both studies have been presented recently at the INTERACT'13 conference in Cape Town. INTERACT is an A ranked conference for Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and hopefully I was able to interest some other researchers in Haiku. Thanks again for all participants of the evaluation and the survey!
The encouraging results are summarized in the following. The complete paper can be found here.
Stack & Tile Evaluation (BeGeistert 023)
We investigated the benefits of Stack & Tile's stacking and tiling features in a traditional overlapping window manager. Therefore we looked at use-cases where the user is working with documents of the same or of different applications, and a use-case where data is exchanged between documents of the same application, and designed experimental tasks accordingly. Another task measured the time needed to switch between different groups of windows.
In a controlled experiment, we found that stacking and tiling features can significantly improve completion times for tasks involving several windows (of the same application as well as of different applications). Furthermore, switching between different tasks was found to be much faster when windows were grouped by task using Stack & Tile. Setting up a Stack & Tile group is an initial overhead that may prevent users from using these features. However, the potential time savings as well as questionnaire answers indicate that the advantages outweigh this overhead.
Stack & Tile Web Survey
Stack & Tile is already integrated into Haiku for over two years, and thus is already exposed to a large group of developers and users. This allowed us to target another interesting question: How are stacking and tiling features used and accepted by real users? In a web-based survey we asked the Haiku community about their opinions and experiences of Stack & Tile. From 146 responses we got a detailed insight into how, how often and for what applications Stack & Tile is used.
There was a wide agreement that Stack & Tile can be useful, especially by participants who had used Stack & Tile before the survey. The stacking feature was perceived as being slightly more useful and also estimated to be used more than the tiling feature. We found that people were using the stacking and tiling features for a multitude of different use-cases, e.g., programming, browsing or file management. In a field for general comments many people wrote that they like Stack & Tile and suggested further ideas to integrate it more into the desktop. These ideas include future works such as grouping of windows by their Stack & Tile group in the taskbar and Stack & Tile group persistence.