Pie Menus: A 30 Year Retrospective

By Don Hopkins, Ground Up Software, May 15, 2018.

Take a Look and Feel Free!

Presenting Pie Menus at CHI’88. Photo by Ben Shneiderman.
Mark Weiser, father of Ubiquitous Computing. July 23, 1952 — April 27, 1999

“The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.”

-Mark Weiser

Apple’s recent product launch on 12 September has cast into the mainstream technologies that were first envisioned by Mark Weiser in the 1990s, when he was Chief Technologist at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Though Weiser died in 1999, at the age of 46, his ideas continue to inspire cutting-edge smartphone innovations. The release of Apple’s new iPhones and operating system this Fall signals a new stage in the tech industry’s commitment to making Weiser’s vision a mass market reality. Now is a good time to revisit Weiser’s ideas; his work foreshadows how our smartphones and the ways we use them may soon change.

My Goals for Pie Menus

Don Hopkins Demonstrating Pie Menus at CHI’88. Photo by Ben Shneiderman.
Ben Shneiderman

Leonardo Da Vinci combined art and science and aesthetics and engineering, that kind of unity is needed once again.”

-Ben Shneiderman

Pie Menus on Wikipedia

In computer interface design, a pie menu (also known as a radial menu) is a circular context menu where selection depends on direction. It is a graphical control element. A pie menu is made of several “pie slices” around an inactive center and works best with stylus input, and well with a mouse. Pie slices are drawn with a hole in the middle for an easy way to exit the menu.

Fitts’s Law

Fitts’s Law has deeply inspired my work with pie menus and gestural direct manipulation user interfaces over the years. In a nutshell: the bigger and nearer by the target, the faster and more accurately you can hit it. Pie menus maximize the target size, and minimize the target distance!

Fitts’s law (often cited as Fitts’ law) is a predictive model of human movement primarily used in human–computer interaction and ergonomics. This scientific law predicts that the time required to rapidly move to a target area is a function of the ratio between the distance to the target and the width of the target. Fitts’s law is used to model the act of pointing, either by physically touching an object with a hand or finger, or virtually, by pointing to an object on a computer monitor using a pointing device.

History of Pie Menus

The classic 1969 “PIXIE” paper by Neil Wiseman, Lemke, and Hiles had the first mention of circular menus, which was referenced in Newman and Sproull’s 1979 seminal book “Principles of Interactive Computer Graphics”. The “lightbuttons” were apparently target area based (selected “by pointing at one of them”), unlike pie menus which are based purely on the direction of the gesture, resulting in a large wedge shaped target area extending to the screen edge, not just the small rectangular area of the “lightbutton” label:

PIXIE: A New Approach to Graphical Man-Machine Communication

Wiseman, N.E., Lemke, H.U. & Hiles, J.O. (1969) PIXIE: A New Approach to Graphical Man-Machine Communication, Proceedings of 1969 CAD Conference Southampton, IEEE Conference Publication 51, 463–471.

Contents of Page 466–467

Neil Wiseman, May 19, 1934 – June 13, 1995

The control lightbuttons which are used frequently within a mode to carry out a sequence of operations. These buttons are displayed around the tracking cross and move about with it so that the user’s hand is always close to these buttons when he needs them. To avoid clustering a large number of control buttons around the tracking cross, it is arranged that only buttons for those actions which are legal at any given time are displayed and also that the user may select different sets of legal buttons by pointing at one of them (which acts as a sort of rotating switch for the rest).

Wiseman’s Notes on Radial Menus in PIXIE

Free-hand Copy of a Figure Accompanying the Notes

Control lightbuttons:

These vary according to the command mode currently selected. In drawing mode they are:

S: Start to draw under horizontal-vertical constraints from the + position

L: Start to draw rubber band line at current + position

F: Finish drawing at the current + position

W, X, Y…: Select a symbol from the catalogue of defined symbols and attach to the drawing at the current + Position

Principles of Interactive Computer Graphics

William M. Newman, Robert F. Sproull. McGraw-Hill, 1979.

Figure 12–35 Moveable menu displayed close to the cursor.

An interesting idea, proposed by Wiseman [520], is the use of a moveable menu displayed close to the cursor (Figure 12–35). The user can make selections from such a menu with the minimum of hand movement. Moveable menus should be displayed only when the user needs to make a menu selection; otherwise they tend to obliterate important parts of the displayed image.

How to Choose with Pie Menus

NeWS Window Management Pie Menu

Selecting commands from menus is an easy, straightforward way to operate a computer. You can use a pointing device called a “mouse” to indicate the selection you desire, from a list of choices show on the screen. Pie menus (Figure 1) differ from traditional “linear” menus (Figure 2) in the way that their choices are laid out, and the shape of their selection target areas on the screen.

An Empirical Comparison of Pie vs. Linear Menus

Jack Callahan, Don Hopkins, Mark Weiser, Ben Shneiderman. Computer Science Department University of Maryland College Park. ACM CHI ’88 Conference.

A crude pie menu

Menus are largely formatted in a linear fashion listing items from the top to bottom of the screen or window. Pull down menus are a common example of this format. Bitmapped computer displays, however, allow greater freedom in the placement, font, and general presentation of menus. A pie menu is a format where the items are placed along the circumference of a circle at equal radial distances from the center. Pie menus gain over traditional linear menus by reducing target seek time, lowering error rates by fixing the distance factor and increasing the target size in Fitts’s Law, minimizing the drift distance after target selection, and are, in general, subjectively equivalent to the linear style.

CHI’88 Trip Report

by Jakob Nielsen on June 1, 1988

Steve Jobs Thought Pie Menus Sucked

“That sucks! That sucks! Wow, that’s neat! That sucks!”

Steve Jobs Thought Pie Menus Sucked

Good Example: HCIL Demo — HyperTIES Authoring with UniPress Emacs on NeWS

HyperTIES browser and Gosling Emacs authoring tool with pie menus on the NeWS window system

Demo of UniPress Emacs based HyperTIES authoring tool, by Don Hopkins, at the University of Maryland Human Computer Interaction Lab. Shows tabbed windows in Gosling’s UniPress Emacs with pie menus for editing HyperTIES hypermedia databases.

HCIL Demo — HyperTIES Authoring with UniPress Emacs on NeWS

Good Examples: Just the Pie Menus from All the Widgets

Pie menu demo excerpts from “All The Widgets” CHI’90 Special Issue #57 ACM SIGGRAPH Video Review. Tape produced by and narrated by Brad Meyers. Research performed under the direction of Mark Weiser and Ben Shneiderman. Pie menus developed and demonstrated by Don Hopkins.

Just the Pie Menus from All the Widgets

Good Example: PSIBER Space Deck Demo

PSIBER Outline and PseudoScientific Visualization of the ARPANET

The PSIBER Space Deck is an interactive visual user interface to a graphical programming environment, the NeWS window system. It lets you display, manipulate, and navigate the data structures, programs, and processes living in the virtual memory space of NeWS. It is useful as a debugging tool, and as a hands on way to learn about programming in PostScript and NeWS.

PSIBER Space Deck Demo

Empowered Pie Menu Performance at CHI’90, and Other Weird Stuff

Don Hopkins performing with pie menus at CHI’90 Empowered

“By pushing the pie-menu interface to the limit you get a *gesture interface* that ties the tools so tightly and personally to their user that they effectively become one cooperative entity.”

Good Example: Pie Menus and Tab Windows for NeWS

Demo of the Pie Menu Tab Window Manager for The NeWS Toolkit 2.0. Developed and demonstrated by Don Hopkins. Shows mouse-ahead display pre-emption.

NeWS Tab Window Demo Showing Mouse Ahead Display Pre-Emption

The Design and Implementation of Pie Menus

Don Hopkins. Dr. Dobb’s Journal, Dec 1991.

Color Wheel Pie Menu

This article describes an alternative user-interface technique I call “pie” menus, which is two-dimensional, circular, and in many ways easier to use and faster than conventional linear menus. Pie menus also work well with alternative pointing devices such as those found in stylus or pen-based systems. I developed pie menus at the University of Maryland in 1986 and have been studying and improving them over the last five years.

BAYCHI October Meeting Report: Natural Selection: The Evolution of Pie Menus, October 13, 1998

BayCHI ’98 Talk at Xerox PARC

Pie menus appealed to Hopkins because they conform to the rule that the user’s attention should not be squandered. […] Hopkins uses pie menus because they take advantage of Fitts’ Law, which relates fast selection speed and low error rate to the pie menus’ large target size and small distance between selections.

Useful Technique: Mouse Ahead Display Preemption

The first step in learning a pie menu, using it in “novice” mode, is rehearsal for using it in “expert” mode. So if you remember that you want to move the mouse down, you can press and move the mouse, then you wait, and it pops up only after you stop moving.

Pie menus should support an important technique called “Mouse Ahead Display Preemption”. Pie menus either lead, follow, or get out of the way. When you don’t know them, they lead you. When you are familiar with them, they follow. And when you’re really familiar with them, they get out of the way, you don’t see them. Unless you stop. And in which case, it then pops up the whole tree.

Fun Example: X11 SimCity Demo

X11 SimCity on a Sun Workstation

Demo of Pie Menus in SimCity for X11. Ported to Unix and demonstrated by Don Hopkins. Shows mouse ahead display suppression, and pie menus saving the day by preventing a train from crashing into a fountain just in the nick of time at 3:30.

X11 SimCity Demo, Showing Pie Menus Saving the Day by Preventing a Train from Crashing Into a Fountain Just in the Nick of Time at 3:30
X11 SimCity Zone Menu

Difficult Problem: Designing, Creating and Editing Pie Menus

When editing a scrolling list or tree of items, it’s difficult to visualize the directions, which change when you add or remove items. As the antithesis of direct manipulation, it takes far too much pointing and clicking to indirectly edit a pie menu via a scrolling list or tree control.

Terrible Example: ActiveX Pie Menus

ActiveX Pie Menus
Emulating Alias Marketing Menus
Editing a Customized ActiveX Pie Menu as a Text Outline, Configuring the Image, and Previewing it in an Outline
Browsing the Customized ActiveX Pie Menu
Example Spoke, Speech, Thought, Blob, Punched and Image Shaped ActiveX Pie Menus

Better Example: Dynamic HTML JavaScript Pie Menus with ActiveX HTML Behaviors

XSLT to Generate Punkemon Pie Menus from XML Punkemon Database
XML Punkemon Database
HTML Punkemon Pie Menus Generated from XML via XSLT
JavaScript Pie Menus

Scientific American Article: Taking Computers to Task: 7/97

“It’s time to get angry about the quality of user interfaces,” exclaims Ben Shneiderman, head of the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory at the University of Maryland.

“The public doesn’t understand what they could have had by now,” agrees Bruce Tognazzini, a designer who helped to develop the original Macintosh interface.

They and others argue that applying human-factors research to existing software technology could make workplace computer systems dramatically more productive, easier to use and cheaper to support.

Useful Technique: Interactive Tracking Callbacks for Immediate Feedback and In-World Previewing

Pie menus should provide a complete set of callback events during tracking, so applications can provide real-time dynamic feedback, both providing feedback and help text within the pie menu itself (like a font size or color menu showing a live sample in the middle of the menu), or temporarily previewing the effect of the menu selection within the application or world.

Ideally, you see exactly the results you’ll get as you’re moving around the menu, and when you click to select, the world will just stay the same since it’s already previewing: what you see is what you get!

You can also provide all kinds of cool spinning, zooming and flying animations as feedback, but try to keep it practical, to focus and inform instead of dazzle and distract. One thing that’s helpful is to smoothly animate the selected item growing and moving towards the cursor (because that’s where your eyes are usually looking), while shrinking and pulling the other items back in, and popping up some text to describe the selected menu item in more detail.

The Selected Sim’s Head Looks at the Current Pie Menu Item

Good Example: Unity3D Pie Menus

This Unity3D implementation of pie menus has support for creating and configuring pie menus from within the Unity editor, both through traditional editor control panels, and direct manipulation of 3D objects. And it has a complete set of callback events that can provide all kinds of interesting feedback within Unity, like mapping your face from webcam video onto a 3D head in the middle of the menu that looks around at the selected slice!

Unity3D Pie Menu Demo

Good Idea: Pies Contain Slices. Slices Contain Items.

Earlier implementations of pie menus used the Pie/Item model, in which the pie menu contains one or more items, which are positioned around the menu center in an evenly spaced circle. There was is no way to specify an empty slice, and no way to put more than one item in a slice. And the directions of most of the items would change every time you added or removed an item, so it was very hard to control or visualize which direction each item ended up.

Great Example: jQuery Pie Menus

These jQuery pie menus use the Pie/Slice/Item model, with a more evolved, web friendly design, but I haven’t made an editor for them yet. Here’s the documentation and free open source code.

jQuery Pie Menus Documentation

One change is that I’m de-emphasizing the idea of “menus”, and just calling them “pies”, because I believe that framing pies as menus has too much historical baggage, does not emphasize their gestural, direct manipulative qualities, and precludes thinking of them more like a directed graph or geographical map, instead of a hierarchical tree.

jQuery Pie Menus Source Code

Pie menus for jQuery, by Don Hopkins.

Hard Problem: Designing Memorable Pie Menus

SimCity has a tool pallet of various building and editing tools, which are related to each other in various ways, and have different costs, functions and properties. I tried to arrange them into a set of submenus that made those relationships and differences more obvious and easier to learn. I also arranged the static tool palette on the screen to reflect the layout of the pie menus and submenus, to serve as a kind of map to the pie menus (which foreshadowed the spatial map design I explored with Method of Loci, described in another article).

Good Example: SimCity Pie Menus and Tool Palette

This is the multi player version of SimCity running on a Sun workstation on TCL/Tk/X11, showing the tool palette on the left side of the map, and the “Tool” pie menu popped up over the map:

Multi Player SimCity on X11
SimCity “Tools” Pie Menu
SimCity Tool Palette

Deep Example: The Sims Pie Menus

This is a video and illustrated transcript of a demonstration of the pie menus, architectural editing tools, and Edith visual programming tools that Don Hopkins developed for The Sims with Will Wright at Maxis and Electronic Arts.

The Sims, Pie Menus, Edith Editing, and SimAntics Visual Programming Demo

Challenging Problem: Enabling and Educating Users to Design Great Personal Interfaces For Themselves

I think an important goal is to not only give users the tools to create their own pie menus, but design tools that support and motivate user to intuitively understand Fitts’s law, and how to design good pie menus for themselves.

Crazy Example: PieCraft

A Slice of PieCraft

Awesome Example: Monster Hunter: World — Radial Menu Guide

Monster Hunter: World is a wonderful example of a game that enables and motivates players to create their own pie menus, that shows how important customizable user defined pie menus are in games and tools.

Want access to all your items, ammo and gestures at your fingertips? Here’s a quick guide on the Radial Menu.

With a multitude of items available, it can be challenging to find the exact one you need in the heat of the battle. Thankfully, we’ve got you covered.
Here’s a guide on radial menus, and how to use them:
The radial menu allows you to use items at a flick of the right stick.
There are four menus offering access to eight items each, and you can fully customize them, all to your heart’s content.
Radial menus are not just limited to item use, however.
You can use them to craft items, shoot SOS flares, and even use communication features such as stickers and gestures.

Monster Hunter: World — Radial Menu Guide, Showing the Importance of Customizable User Defined Pie Menus

Excellent Example: An Empirical Evaluation of Some Articulatory and Cognitive Aspects of Marking Menus

Marking menus are also unique in that they ease the transition from novice to expert user. Novices can “pop-up” a menu and make a selection, whereas experts can simply make the corresponding mark without waiting for the menu to appear.

An Empirical Evaluation of Some Articulatory and Cognitive Aspects of Marking Menus

English Translation: Physical and Mental Effects of Pie Menu Design

I’ll try to explain some of the practical results of the paper “An Empirical Evaluation of Some Articulatory and Cognitive Aspects of Marking Menus” in everyday language you don’t need a PhD in TLAs to understand, and I’ll summarize some useful design techniques and rules of thumb that may or may not be obvious at first glance, but have been discovered and proven by experimentation and measurement.

Even if you have incredible dexterity, photographic memory and lots of free time, you have better things to spend it on than menus.

With 2 or 4 slices, Fitts’s Law has an overwhelming effect, because each slice’s target area is enormous (1/2 or 1/4 of the entire screen area), and adjacent to the cursor which starts in the center of the menu. (Maximizing the area, minimizing the distance).

Tip: Even Symmetrical Common Patterns Are Good

With 7 slices, there is no common English word or concept for all but one of the directions. But with 8 slices, you benefit from the compass framework, opposite pairs, orthogonal axis, vertical, horizontal or diagonal patterns to use as a framework for arranging the slices. And with 12 slices, you benefit from the clock dial framework, as well as pairs, orthogonal and diagonal patterns, etc.

Bottleneck: The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two

“The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information” is one of the most highly cited papers in psychology. It was published in 1956 in Psychological Review by the cognitive psychologist George A. Miller of Princeton University’s Department of Psychology. It is often interpreted to argue that the number of objects an average human can hold in working memory is 7 ± 2. This is frequently referred to as Miller’s law.

This is a mental bottleneck, more than a physical limitation, but not a hard and fast rule. 10 and 12 slices are past the “seven, plus or minus two” sweet spot. So I’d recommend sticking with 8 slices at most, unless your slices semantically fit into that number of directions, like a 10 decimal dial, the 12 hours of the day, 12 months of the year, 12 signs of the Zodiac, etc.

Don’t Be So Odd: Seven is Surprisingly (or not) Worse Than Eight

Kurtenbach and Buxton expected that the selection time would be monotonically increasing as you added more slices, but were surprised to find that 8 slices were faster than 7, and it kind of plateaued between 11 and 12.

Figure 1: Eight Days a Week Pie Menu

Good Non-Hierarchal Example: MediaGraph Music Map Gestural Navigation and Editing

In the jQuery pie menu documentation, I explained:

One change is that I’m de-emphasizing the idea of “menus”, and just calling them “pies”, because I believe that framing pies as menus has too much historical baggage, does not emphasize their gestural, direct manipulative qualities, and precludes thinking of them more like a directed graph or geographical map, instead of a hierarchical tree.

In this MediaGraph demo, you can see two different approaches to pies working together.

YouTube Pie Menu Play List

Questions and Answers: Hacker News Discussion

Example: OLPC Sugar Pie Menu Discussion

That would be cool! Note that the Python pie menus also support linear layout as well as hybrid pie/linear layout, and the application developer can control which items go into the pie and linear parts, and what directions they’re laid out in.

Good Example: Pull-out Font Pie Menu

Multiple items in the same slice are just laid out vertically (or horizontally, or even diagonally) in the slice direction, or it could display only the selected item in the slice, and switch between them as you pull out. The items can track based on entering/exiting rectangular label targets just like a linear menu, or by the distance (like a pull-out font size menu, etc).

Pull-out Font Pie Menu

Interesting Problem: Other Techniques for Handling Many Items

One straightforward technique is to put items into nested submenus. It takes thought and care to decide how to break up the items into submenus and how deep to arrange them. But first let’s see what happens if you have too many items!

Bad Example: The Most Gigantic Pie Menus In The World

Here’s a demo that shows some of the Most Gigantic Pie Menus in the World, the largest with 360 items. The first has a huge 24 item menu with 15 items each, and the second has a gargantuan 360 item menu that’s much bigger than the screen, and is thought to hold the world record for the Most Gigantic Pie Menu In The World.

Early pie menu demo by Don Hopkins, on NeWS 1.0, running on a Sun 3 workstation. Shows the Most Gigantic Pie Menus In The World at 2:54.

How To Choose with Pie Menus, Showing Shows the Most Gigantic Pie Menus In The World at 2:54

Good Example: Scrolling NeWS Pie Menus

I’ve also tried various forms of spiral scrolling, paging, and weird springy precision pie menu things. And also limiting the maximum number of pie items, so the first eight “most important” items are assigned to different directions, and subsequent items are laid out below or above the menu as linear items.

Scrolling NeWS Pie Menus

Weird Example: Springy Precision Pie Menu

Weird Springy Precision Pie Menu

Good Example: Method of Loci

Some people remember things spatially, and other people don’t. The Greeks invented a spatial memorization technique called the Method of Loci.

iPhone app iLoci by Don Hopkins @ Mobile Dev Camp

Good Example: Micropolis (SimCity) Web Demo

Demo of Micropolis (SimCity) running on a Python web server back-end, with an OpenLaszlo/Flash client, including pie menus, and PacMan robots who eat traffic.

Micropolis Online (SimCity) Web Demo

Constructionist Educational Open Source SimCity

Don Hopkins Demonstrating SimCity on OLPC XO-1

The OLPC project is focused on “Constructionist Education”, which is about children learning — anyone learning, by building things. And SimCity is pretty much the quintessential constructionist education game.

Open Sourcing SimCity, from Chaim Gingold’s “Play Design” PhD Thesis

Pie menus play a critical role in The Sim’s user interface design, dovetailing perfectly with the object and AI architecture. Objects advertise verbs to character AI, so it is natural for the verbs to be arranged in a radial menu about objects. I can’t imagine an alternate design that would have had the same widespread usability, and therefore appeal, without them. It is difficult to imagine The Sims without pie menus. -Chaim Gingold, Play Design PhD Thesis, Open Sourcing SimCity

Spectacular Example: Simon Schneegans’ Gnome-Pie, the slick application launcher for Linux

I can’t understate how much I like Simon Schneegans’ Gnome-Pie, as well as his bachelor thesis work on the Coral-Menu and the Trace-Menu. Not only is it all slick, beautiful, and elegantly animated, but it’s properly well designed in all the important ways that make it Fitts’s Law Friendly and easy to use, and totally deeply customizable by normal users! It’s a spectacularly useful tour-de-force that Linux desktop users can personalize to their heart’s content.

Simon Schneegans’ Gnome-Pie

Gnome-Pie is a slick application launcher which I’m creating for Linux. It’s eye candy and pretty fun to work with. It offers multiple ways to improve your desktop experience.

Check out the project’s homepage and demo:

Simon Schneegans’ Gnome-Pie

Simon Schneegans’ Bachelor Thesis

For the same reason they are effective. But by far the most remarkable advantage is their continuous learning curve. Users may become extremely fast just by using the menu. Every time they make a selection, they get faster and more accurate. At some point it is not necessary to read the labels anymore, because the user remembers the direction of an entry. With “normal” linear menus that is not possible. The maximum selection speed with a mouse is very limited and soon obtained.

The Coral-Menu

Simon Schneegans’ Coral-Menu
Cursor movement of users of the Coral-Menu. Green dots visualize mouse clicks.

The Trace-Menu

Simon Schneegans’ Trace-Menu
Cursor movement of users of the Trace-Menu. Green dots visualize mouse clicks.

4.2. Test results

Simon Schneegans’ Thesis:
Performance Comparison of Trace-Menu, Coral-Menu and Liner Menu.

Free Source Code

The Fabrik Programming Environment

Frank Ludolph, Yu-Ying Chow, Dan Ingalls, Scott Wallace, Ken Doyle. Apple Computer.

Fabrik uses simple directional gestures to increase the number of commands associated with the mouse button.

Unfortunately, no known videos and not many screenshots remain of Fabrik, but the paper describes the directional gesture menus in detail:


Fabrik Gesture Menus

Directional Gestures

Fabrik: A Visual Programming Environment. Dan Ingalls et al., 1988
Built on Smalltalk (Mac)
Fabrik: A Visual Programming Environment.
Demonstrating the rotational logic.
All display and mouse-tracking operations are properly scaled and rotated.
Fabrik: A Visual Programming Environment.
The left three panels have been selected as the “user frame”,
and a menu command lets one “enter” that frame.
The Fabrik Programming Environment

Matthias Schreck on Pie Menus / Radial Menus

Excellent presentation about pie menus by Matthias Schreck, Design Manager, including a description of Krystian Samp’s work.

I held a 15 minute presentation in front of the IxDA (Sydney Chapter) in August 2012 about pie / radial menus. I spent a little bit of time talking about their history, and about various classifications of this menu type, and then went into detail about the academic research that has been done in that field. I summarized about 10 articles in this field, but the main body of the academic part is based on an excellent research thesis by Krystian Samp.

Globalmoxie: Touch Means a New Chance for Radial Menus

The radial menu is seeing a renaissance in touch interfaces, and that’s a good thing.

User Learning and Performance with Marking Menus

Gordon Kurtenbach, William Buxton, 1994. Proceedings of CHI ’94, p. 258–264.

A marking menu is designed to allow a user to perform a menu selection by either popping-up a radial (or pie) menu, or by making a straight mark in the direction of the desired menu item without popping-up the menu. Previous evaluations in laboratory settings have shown the potential of marking menus. This paper reports on a case study of user behavior with marking menus in a real work situation.

The study demonstrates the following: First, marking menus are used as designed. When users become expert with the menus, marks are used extensively. However, the transition to using marks is not one way. Expert users still switch back to menus to refresh their memory of menu layout. Second, marking is an extremely efficient interaction technique. Using a mark on average was 3.5 times faster than selection using the menu. Finally, design principles can be followed that make menu item/mark associations easier to learn, and interaction efficient.

User Learning and Performance with Marking Menus

Recommendation Letter for Krystian Samp’s Thesis: The Design and Evaluation of Graphical Radial Menus

I am writing this letter to enthusiastically recommend that you consider Krystian Samp’s thesis, “The Design and Evaluation of Graphical Radial Menus”, for the ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award.

An example of a selection from a Compact Radial Layout menu

The Design and Evaluation of Graphical Radial Menus

Krystian Samp. National University of Ireland, Galway.

The Design and Evaluation of Graphical Radial Menus

Visual Search in Radial Menus

Krystian Samp, Stefan Decker. INTERACT 2011, Part IV, LNCS 6949, p. 248–255.

Menu research has focused predominantly on linear menus (e.g., cascading menus). Little is known about user behavior with radial menus, which have been around for some time. The paper investigates the order in which users find items in radial menus. We analyze data collected in a controlled experiment and define serial position for items laid out in a circular fashion. For the first level (ring), the serial positions start at 12 o’clock position and alternate between both sides of the ring. For subsequent levels, the serial positions follow distance from a parent item. The defined search pattern yields strong fit and has substantial effect on search performance. We discuss the results in the context of radial menu design.

Visual Search in Radial Menus

Obsessed With Pie!

And now a final word from Weebl and Bob: “PIE!!!”

Obsessed with Pie! | Weebl And Bob

The Email that Started My Amazing Journey

Dedicated to Mark Weiser

Mark Weiser, July 23, 1952 — April 27, 1999.
Photo courtesy of (and with) Corinne Iloreta and Nicole Reich-Weiser.

“For thirty years most interface design, and most comptuer design, has been headed down the path of the “dramatic” machine. Its highest idea is to make a computer so exciting, so wonderful, so interesting, that we never want to be without it. A less-traveled path I call the “invisible”; its highest idea is to make a computer so imbedded, so fitting, so natural, that we use it without even thinking about it.” -Mark Weiser

The Philosopher of Palo Alto

The Computer for the 21st Century

Vol. 265, №3, SPECIAL ISSUE: Communications, Computers and Networks: How to Work, Play and Thrive in Cyberspace (SEPTEMBER 1991), pp. 94–105

“The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” -Mark Weiser

A time lapse doodle summarizing Mark Weiser’s seminal article
The Computer for the 21st Century,
published in 1991 in Scientific American.
The Computer for the 21st Century presentation by Trevor Dennison
The Computer for the 21st Century, by Mark Weiser. Scientific American.

Designing Calm Technology

Designing Calm Technology, by Mark Weiser, Xerox PARC.



User interface flower child. Pie menus, PizzaTool, SimCity, The Sims, Visual Programming, VR, AR, Unity3D / JavaScript bridge.

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Don Hopkins

User interface flower child. Pie menus, PizzaTool, SimCity, The Sims, Visual Programming, VR, AR, Unity3D / JavaScript bridge.