A rejected attempt to inject pseudo-physics into Windows 8 toast notifications

Raymond Chen


Windows 8 toast notifications appeared in the upper right corner of the screen, and you dismissed them by flicking them to the right.

Budget meeting
Conference Room A
Today: 1:30 PM

During the design explorations for how toasts should behave, a senior executive lobbied for the ability to pull the toast to the left.

What happens when you pull the toast to the left?

Well, nothing yet.

But the deal is that the toast is on an invisible rubber band, and when you let go, the toast goes zoom off to the right.

Budget meeting
Conference Room A
Today: 1:30 PM

So now, instead of just flinging the toast off the screen, you can shoot it off the screen!

I don’t know how long it took the design team to talk the senior executive down from this idea. For all I know, the visualization above is the closest it ever came to reality.

Maybe they were able to convince the senior executive by pointing out that if you add this behavior for dragging to the left, then you won’t be able to add swipe-left features in the future. The swipe-left gesture got wasted on this stupid animation.

Or because the overall design aesthetic for Windows 8 was to reject physics and skeumorphism and embrace the digital nature of computers.

Or because it made Windows 8 look like the misbehaving student shooting rubber bands at the teacher.

Whatever the reason, the result is that you can’t shoot Windows 8 notifications across the screen. Not that you ever asked for that.


Discussion is closed. Login to edit/delete existing comments.

  • Todd Ostermeier 0

    That’s how multitasking cards worked in WebOS back in the late Palm/HP days (Palm Pre, Pixi, HP TouchPad). You could flick cards up (same action you do in Android these days), or you could pull a card down and slingshot it off the screen. So much more satisfying that way.

  • Sarah L · Edited 0

    The thing is your fruit competitor does this exactly because it conveys useful information.

    First, a gesture response tells you the system received your command and understood it. When the action is invalid, it acts like an error message. If you can’t type in a screen, for example, Windows makes an error beep. That tells you to change something before trying again. What happens if you don’t get a touchscreen gesture response? You assume the system was locked up or your screen was contaminated by water or your gloves aren’t touchscreen compatible and try again, maybe multiple times. That’s frustrating.

    Second, changes in the gesture response tell you whether you can swipe left or right. A strong rubberband, where the object slips under your finger, tells you that you can’t do anything… that’s the invalid action response. In contrast, accurate tracking of your finger indicates that you are going to trigger a response.

    Look at Apple’s Mail app. Previously, you could only left-swipe to delete, they added right-swipe gestures later. Nothing was “wasted”.

    • theLMGN 0

      An important distinction is that when you swipe in a direction that is unintended on a fruit device, it doesn’t do anything. Just moves with your finder then goes back to the original location.

      I still think designers should treat gestures the same way as keyboard shortcuts. They’re not immediately visible, and many users avoid them do to this fact. Just give me a button. I think it was a very bad idea to have the annoying little bounce animation on the lock screens of Windows 8 and iOS 5. Just do the action I’m telling you to do, not play a patronising animation

      • Sarah L 0

        Touchscreen input is inherently more difficult than keyboard shortcuts. It’s hard to mess up keyboard input, where as gestures require recognition algorithms and therefore are inherently fuzzy. On top, you have issues like palm inputs, parallax, finger width, water on screen, gloves, etc. That’s why feedback is important.

        Other thing to note is that it’s hard enough that most of the industry gave up trying to get gestures to work right and shoved Android into everything (e.g. kiosks, printers, desk phones, car infotainment).

  • Gerard · Edited 0

    I disagree with the “you wonโ€™t be able to add swipe-left features in the future” as that is clearly a completely different gesture than pulling a toast to the left, keeping contact with it while moving it and then letting it go, which more reminds me of how you catapult birds in Angry Birds. ๐Ÿ™‚ Some similar sound effects as the invisible rubber band is stretched and a nice woosh sound as you shoot it off, maybe a small explosion a little bit later, and call it Angry Toasts. Missed opportunity!

    • Raymond ChenMicrosoft employee Author 0

      The boundary between “Swipe left” and “Stretch and fling” is not sharp. For example, you start to swipe left, dwell for a half-second to reconsider, and the decide “Yes, I really want to delete this” and let go. Oops, that half-second dwell converted your swipe into a stretch. Or you’re a user with reduced mobility (e.g., over age 70) so anything that is based on speed or coordination becomes difficult to execute. “Okay, dad, now move it to the left and quickly let go. No, you can’t stop your finger before you move it. You have to let go while the finger is still moving. I know you’re trying the best you can. I’m sorry that computers are designed so that only young people can use them.”

      • Michael Spam 0

        My mum (75) struggles immensely with touch screens, sadly very few phones left with a real keyboard that is usable for someone like her, tiny keys aren’t much help either.

      • Bas Mommenhof 0

        It’s kind of comments that I find are the biggest ‘golden nuggets’ this site delivers and why I’ve been reading it (dutifully) for years.

        They show just how much though has gone into the design and usability (and rejection) of a feature, what edge cases have been considered and how it should/would work.

        If wish for this kind of detail to be more available in all aspects of application development (msdn, documentation, (DotNet) reference code).
        On the other hand, the lack of it and my ability to make due, is a great source of income for me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Dave Gzorple 0

    I reckon they should have left the toast-zinging in, then people would have had something good to say about Windows 8.

  • ็ด…ๆจ“้ฎ 0

    It may be that Microsoft was having a problem of too many postmodernism-indoctrinated arts students.

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