The Macintosh interface has been around, in one way or another, for 30 years. It has been the dominant computing interface for 15 years.
Jakob Nielsen (left), the King of Internet Usability (my title for him), says it is time for this to change.
The first attempt at that, he adds, will be in the next version of (wait for it) Microsoft Office.
The new interface displays galleries of possible end-states, each of which combine many formatting operations. From this gallery, you select the complete look of your target -- say an org chart or an entire document -- and watch it change shape as you mouse over the alternatives in the gallery. The interaction paradigm has been reversed; it's now What You Get Is What You See, or WYGIWYS.
I don't know how far this will get. We already have elementary versions of this interface in blogs. Blogs are based on templates, which specify typefaces, page design, and other elements before the writer starts to work. Here at Corante, these specifications are made centrally, and all Corante blogs look similar. That's also the way it works with such community network services as Drupal. Drupal calls such designs "themes," and the theme you choose for your community is the design every user gets -- reader, writer or administrator.
Earlier tools, like Blogger and Movable Type (on which Corante is based) give the individual more flexibility, but many writers choose one of the pre-written templates. This speaks to the fact there are many types of creative capability. Writing is just one. Design is something completely different. Programming is a third.
Microsoft's idea is to treat templates, which used to define whole documents rigidly, as creative elements, more like fonts and blockquotes.
This is fine, so far as it goes. But the Law of Unintended Consequences is bound to rear its ugly head, sooner rather than later. Just as people became slave to PowerPoint, and Desktop Publishing spawned a host of ugly reports, I am certain that automating design will not, automatically, result in truth and beauty.
But it is a step.