the previous view.
ZUI technologies appeared in a
steady stream after that. A year later, Bederson and James Hollan, then at Bell-core, unveiled Pad++, a successor to Pad
that, instead of sudden jumps, would
zoom smoothly and continuously when
the mouse button was held down. Ensuing ZUIs included CounterPoint,
which Bederson introduced in 2001, a
Microsoft PowerPoint plug-in that enabled presenters to arrange their slides
on a zoomable space. In 2008, a company called Zoomorama introduced a
client/server ZUI for zooming images
over a network. And in 2009, Microsoft
brought out Canvas for OneNote, which
offered a zoomable overview of all of a
A particularly dazzling ZUI appeared
in 2009 in the form of Prezi, a “zooming
presentation software,” from a Buda-pest-based company of the same name.
Prezi is Web based and features 3D fade-in animation that combines smooth rotations, panning, and zooming in realistic 3D views of slide presentations. Prezi
uses Adobe Flash in the browser and the
desktop application, and uses native
OpenGL, the cross-platform API for 2D
and 3D graphics, on the iPad.
While each advance has been based
on plausible expectations of user ben-
efits, many ZUIs have enjoyed limited
success in the marketplace. Zoomora-
ma closed for lack of business in 2010.
And PhotoMesa, a zoomable photo
browser developed by Bederson in
2001 that simultaneously offered views
of multiple directories of images, did
not catch on either. “I used all kinds of
tricks to help you organize your images,
but in the end it was not a good idea,”
explains Bederson. “It has this essential
problem that its goal was to spatially
organize tens of thousands of images.
Nobody wants to do that.”
PhotoMesa was not the only ZUI to
make that mistake, according to Beder-
son. These ZUIs are based on the obser-
vation that people often organize their
lives spatially, such as papers arranged
on their desks, for example. “But the
reality is people don’t have 10,000 pa-
pers on their desks,” says Bederson,
who notes the problem is that people’s
spatial memories do not scale up. “You
can’t remember the position of 10,000
things. For these kinds of problems,
you can’t beat visual scanning of a one-
PhotoMesa users found they pre-
ferred to use simple programs like Mi-
crosoft Windows Explorer or Google
Picasa, where files and folders are dis-
played linearly and sorted alphabeti-
cally or by date.
The promise of zoomable user interfaces,
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Beijing, China, Sept. 28–29, 2010.
Cockburn, A., Savage, J., and Wallace, A.
Tuning and testing scrolling interfaces that
automatically zoom, Proceedings of the
SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in
Computing Systems, Portland, OR, April 2–7,
Igarashi, T. and Hinckley, K.
Speed-dependent automatic zooming for
browsing large documents, Proceedings of
the 13th Annual ACM Symposium on User
Interface Software and Technology, San
Diego, CA, nov. 5–8, 2000.
hronoZoom Tutorial, Microsoft Research,
default.aspx?id=161243, March 12, 2012.
Information Visualization, 3rd Edition, Morgan
Kaufmann Publishers, Burlington, MA, 2012.
Gary Anthes is a technology writer and editor based in