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Navigation through multiple windows using only arrow keys

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000016353D
Original Publication Date: 2002-Nov-24
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2003-Jun-21
Document File: 3 page(s) / 61K

Publishing Venue

IBM

Abstract

Disclosed is a software algorithm for using arrow keys to control which focusable object on a computer desktop obtains focus. When a computer user would like to navigate a computer's on-screen desktop, the mouse cursor is typically the most convenient mechanism for controlling what window (or object within that window) has focus. However, some computer uses do not lend themselves to the use of a mouse cursor. For instance, a television set-top box may be navigated via a TV remote control. The problem with navigating a desktop without using a mouse cursor is that there is no consistent mechanism for switching focus among all focusable objects on the screen. It would be beneficial if the user could continue to use solely the arrow keys to move the focus within and between windows. This is easy to accomplish if the desktop layout is fixed and the applications or desktop manager can be coded to follow a predetermined focus path from object to object. However, if the desktop layout is configurable or changeable by the user, the focus path can not be predetermined and must be calculated on the fly. There are several problems to overcome in determining the focus path on the fly: 1) How to determine when the focus should leave a window, and 2) How to determine where focus should go next. The solution to these problems begins with a set of desktop manager functions. The applications partake in granting and receiving focus to/from other applications. Consider a desktop where focus is on the lowest visible object (button, text field, check box, etc.) of a window and the user presses the down arrow.

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Navigation through multiple windows using only arrow keys

Disclosed is a software algorithm for using arrow keys to control which focusable object on a computer desktop obtains focus. When a computer user would like to navigate a computer's on-screen desktop, the mouse cursor is typically the most convenient mechanism for controlling what window (or object within that window) has focus. However, some computer uses do not lend themselves to the use of a mouse cursor. For instance, a television set-top box may be navigated via a TV remote control. The problem with navigating a desktop without using a mouse cursor is that there is no consistent mechanism for switching focus among all focusable objects on the screen. It would be beneficial if the user could continue to use solely the arrow keys to move the focus within and between windows. This is easy to accomplish if the desktop layout is fixed and the applications or desktop manager can be coded to follow a predetermined focus path from object to object. However, if the desktop layout is configurable or changeable by the user, the focus path can not be predetermined and must be calculated on the fly. There are several problems to overcome in determining the focus path on the fly: 1) How to determine when the focus should leave a window, and 2) How to determine where focus should go next. The solution to these problems begins with a set of desktop manager functions. The applications partake in granting and receiving focus to/from other applications. Consider a desktop where focus is on the lowest visible object (button, text field, check box, etc.) of a window and the user presses the down arrow.
a) the window owner (application) determines there is no lower object to focus
b) the application calls the desktop manager passing the coordinates of the currently focused field and the user's desired direction
c) the desktop manager determines the next window to be given focus

d) the desktop manager gives focus to the next window and informs the window's application of the old focus coordinates and direction
e) the application determines what object should be given focus and grants it

The desktop manager, when determining which window should gain focus, needs to select the window which the user would naturally expect to receive focus. This is not necessarily the closest window to the currently focused object, or even a window in the exact user chosen direction. This algorithm is the central part of this disclosure. The primary mechanism of the "next window to focus" selection algorithm is to virtually expand the desktop in the direction perpendicular to the direction of focus change and then calculate the distance from the current focus to each visible, focusable object. This weighs objects in the chosen direction more highly than those not i...