History of Plus Symbol (+) in HCI

18 Mar 2008 - 8:47am
6 years ago
4 replies
2079 reads
Charles Hannon
2008

I am interested in the history of (+). I am tracking the "evolution" of this
interaction idiom (and others) and the ways in which user mental models have
to adapt to such changes.

I think (+) first meant "expand" as opposed to (-) which meant "collapse."
In iTunes it means "Add Playlist" and this has been copied (very crudely) in
the Sony Reader eBook Library application. In the original iPhone/iPod Touch
Safari interface it meant "Add Bookmark" but after the January 2008 upgrade
it has been generalized to mean "Add Something."

I am not a long-time Mac user so I wonder if (+) has always been part of the
Apple lexicon, or if it is new. Also, has anyone on this list seen (or
created) different implementations/meanings of (+) in other products?

Charlie

Comments

18 Mar 2008 - 9:27am
Chauncey Wilson
2007

There are several pictorial histories of GUIs that have examples of
interface objects that go back as far as the Xerox Alto

http://toastytech.com/guis/
http://www.guidebookgallery.org/icons

The object with the + sign is often associated with a treeview object
so you might try searching on that. I looked in my Windows 3.1 guide
and in that book, there is no treeview, but hierarchical folders for
file operations (no +). One trick that many people, even after many
years don't know (or aren't aware of) is that the plus sign in Windows
often allows you to open things up without changing the selection
focus (different tree view widget may allow different types of
interactions).

Since the plus is possible in character cell applications, you might
want to look at some of the early office products.

You might also want to search for examples of "file managers".
Wikipedia has a good list of file managers that might use the plus
sign.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File_manager

Chauncey

On Tue, Mar 18, 2008 at 9:47 AM, Charles Hannon <channon at washjeff.edu> wrote:
> I am interested in the history of (+). I am tracking the "evolution" of this
> interaction idiom (and others) and the ways in which user mental models have
> to adapt to such changes.
> je
> I think (+) first meant "expand" as opposed to (-) which meant "collapse."
> In iTunes it means "Add Playlist" and this has been copied (very crudely) in
> the Sony Reader eBook Library application. In the original iPhone/iPod Touch
> Safari interface it meant "Add Bookmark" but after the January 2008 upgrade
> it has been generalized to mean "Add Something."
>
> I am not a long-time Mac user so I wonder if (+) has always been part of the
> Apple lexicon, or if it is new. Also, has anyone on this list seen (or
> created) different implementations/meanings of (+) in other products?
>
> Charlie
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

18 Mar 2008 - 10:56am
Murli Nagasundaram
2007

I recall outliner programs such as ThinkTank (by Dave Winer?) as being among
the first to use the +/- notation for expand and collapse. This was in the
mid to late 1980's.

- murli

On Tue, Mar 18, 2008 at 7:57 PM, Chauncey Wilson <chauncey.wilson at gmail.com>
wrote:

> There are several pictorial histories of GUIs that have examples of
> interface objects that go back as far as the Xerox Alto
>
> http://toastytech.com/guis/
> http://www.guidebookgallery.org/icons
>
> The object with the + sign is often associated with a treeview object
> so you might try searching on that. I looked in my Windows 3.1 guide
> and in that book, there is no treeview, but hierarchical folders for
> file operations (no +). One trick that many people, even after many
> years don't know (or aren't aware of) is that the plus sign in Windows
> often allows you to open things up without changing the selection
> focus (different tree view widget may allow different types of
> interactions).
>
> Since the plus is possible in character cell applications, you might
> want to look at some of the early office products.
>
> You might also want to search for examples of "file managers".
> Wikipedia has a good list of file managers that might use the plus
> sign.
>
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File_manager
>
> Chauncey
>
> On Tue, Mar 18, 2008 at 9:47 AM, Charles Hannon <channon at washjeff.edu>
> wrote:
> > I am interested in the history of (+). I am tracking the "evolution" of
> this
> > interaction idiom (and others) and the ways in which user mental models
> have
> > to adapt to such changes.
> > je
> > I think (+) first meant "expand" as opposed to (-) which meant
> "collapse."
> > In iTunes it means "Add Playlist" and this has been copied (very
> crudely) in
> > the Sony Reader eBook Library application. In the original iPhone/iPod
> Touch
> > Safari interface it meant "Add Bookmark" but after the January 2008
> upgrade
> > it has been generalized to mean "Add Something."
> >
> > I am not a long-time Mac user so I wonder if (+) has always been part of
> the
> > Apple lexicon, or if it is new. Also, has anyone on this list seen (or
> > created) different implementations/meanings of (+) in other products?
> >
> > Charlie
> >
> >
> > ________________________________________________________________
> > Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> > To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> > Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> > List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> > List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
> >
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

18 Mar 2008 - 2:14pm
Bojhan
2007

Hey,

I acctually think so to, if you visit his website you can see that back
in 1987 he started using this in his interfaces (
http://static.userland.com/misc/outliners/images/tank241pc/outliner1.gif
) and
http://static.userland.com/misc/outliners/images/more11c/outline1.gif .
His website beign http://www.outliners.com/ .

Best Regards,

Bojhan Somers

Murli Nagasundaram schreef:
> I recall outliner programs such as ThinkTank (by Dave Winer?) as being among
> the first to use the +/- notation for expand and collapse. This was in the
> mid to late 1980's.
>
> - murli
>
> On Tue, Mar 18, 2008 at 7:57 PM, Chauncey Wilson <chauncey.wilson at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>
>
>> There are several pictorial histories of GUIs that have examples of
>> interface objects that go back as far as the Xerox Alto
>>
>> http://toastytech.com/guis/
>> http://www.guidebookgallery.org/icons
>>
>> The object with the + sign is often associated with a treeview object
>> so you might try searching on that. I looked in my Windows 3.1 guide
>> and in that book, there is no treeview, but hierarchical folders for
>> file operations (no +). One trick that many people, even after many
>> years don't know (or aren't aware of) is that the plus sign in Windows
>> often allows you to open things up without changing the selection
>> focus (different tree view widget may allow different types of
>> interactions).
>>
>> Since the plus is possible in character cell applications, you might
>> want to look at some of the early office products.
>>
>> You might also want to search for examples of "file managers".
>> Wikipedia has a good list of file managers that might use the plus
>> sign.
>>
>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File_manager
>>
>> Chauncey
>>
>> On Tue, Mar 18, 2008 at 9:47 AM, Charles Hannon <channon at washjeff.edu>
>> wrote:
>>
>>> I am interested in the history of (+). I am tracking the "evolution" of
>>>
>> this
>>
>>> interaction idiom (and others) and the ways in which user mental models
>>>
>> have
>>
>>> to adapt to such changes.
>>> je
>>>
>> > I think (+) first meant "expand" as opposed to (-) which meant
>> "collapse."
>>
>>> In iTunes it means "Add Playlist" and this has been copied (very
>>>
>> crudely) in
>>
>>> the Sony Reader eBook Library application. In the original iPhone/iPod
>>>
>> Touch
>>
>>> Safari interface it meant "Add Bookmark" but after the January 2008
>>>
>> upgrade
>>
>>> it has been generalized to mean "Add Something."
>>>
>>> I am not a long-time Mac user so I wonder if (+) has always been part of
>>>
>> the
>>
>>> Apple lexicon, or if it is new. Also, has anyone on this list seen (or
>>> created) different implementations/meanings of (+) in other products?
>>>
>>> Charlie
>>>
>>>
>>> ________________________________________________________________
>>> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
>>> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
>>> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
>>> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
>>> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>>>
>>>
>> ________________________________________________________________
>> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
>> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
>> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
>> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
>> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>>
>>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>
>
>
>

19 Mar 2008 - 1:31am
Murli Nagasundaram
2007

Good digging, Bojhan. At this site:

http://davewiner.userland.com/outlinersProgramming

under the section 'VisiText', he writes:

"VisiText was the first outliner to use the now-familliar expand and
collapse outline display. "

Probably not the definitive answer to your question, Charlie, but a good
place to start. Of course, the idea could have come from Dave Winer's Aunt
Ruth while he was munching her wonderful lattkes and she in turn might have
got it from Rabbi Avram whose son just happened to be a geek.

Cheers,

Murli

On Wed, Mar 19, 2008 at 12:44 AM, Bojhan Somers <register at bojhan.com> wrote:

> Hey,
>
> I acctually think so to, if you visit his website you can see that back
> in 1987 he started using this in his interfaces (
> http://static.userland.com/misc/outliners/images/tank241pc/outliner1.gif
> ) and
> http://static.userland.com/misc/outliners/images/more11c/outline1.gif .
> His website beign http://www.outliners.com/ .
>
> Best Regards,
>
> Bojhan Somers
>
> Murli Nagasundaram schreef:
> > I recall outliner programs such as ThinkTank (by Dave Winer?) as being
> among
> > the first to use the +/- notation for expand and collapse. This was in
> the
> > mid to late 1980's.
> >
> > - murli
> >
>
>

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