We talked quite a bit yesterday about how pie menus work, and even gave a short video demonstration of them in action. Today I thought that I would walk you through the most productive and usable pie menu system that I have come across. It is in the form of an extension for Firefox, and it’s received many upgrades from the last time that I mentioned it.
The Firefox extension is called easyGestures and it is constantly being updated. If you’ve ever used mouse gestures before, using this will almost come naturally, but it’s something that you can’t give up on right away. You have to get used to the way it works and familiarize yourself with the positioning of the commands before you’ll really start to see a rise in your productivity.
Here are some benefits of using easyGestures:
- Less attention needed
Pie menus are based on direction: you don’t have to stare at the screen to know reliably which spot you move and click the mouse. You can mouse ahead through a pie menu, fast and accurate, because it’s the direction, not the distance that matters.
- No need to reach the Toolbar
Clicking on a toolbar’s icons requires nearly as much attention as clicking on drop-down menus. It also requires wide up and down mouse movements that can get you cramps to the hand and eye strain in the case of a long or intensive use.
- More space devoted to web pages display
Because a pie menu is a popup menu that is not part of the user interface and that can replace the navigation toolbar, you would gain about 5% more space for displaying web pages by hiding your browser’s toolbar and using instead the pie menu.
- No memorizing effort
The main problem with regular mouse gestures (without UI) is that people can hardly remember all the gestures. Besides the trivial gestures like back or forward and a few others, they require a mental effort that is not worth doing. That’s not the case with pie menus.
- Shorter gestures
Any other gesture than a straight gesture is definitively a longer gesture and thus slower. Pie menus only require straight moves.
As soon as easyGestures is installed in Firefox it will be ready to use. By default the easyGestures pie menu will be brought up when you middle click in the browser. After the menu is brought up, just drag your mouse in the direction of one of the commands, and then let go of the middle mouse button. The command will then be activated.
You probably won’t know all of the commands right off the bat, and that is something the easyGesture developer thought of. So if you have the pie menu open long enough you should see some text that appears next to each button:
The first thing that I noticed was that middle-clicking and dragging your mouse to the left or to the right always activates the back/forward commands. That matches up to every mouse gesture application that I’ve ever used for browsers, and makes it easy to adopt this extension into your routine.
You might have also noticed the little up arrow at the top of the pie menu. If you drag your mouse towards it, there will be yet another expanding menu (dragging your mouse back down will collapse the menu):
And there’s still more! If you press the Alt key on the keyboard, an Alternate pie menu will appear with even more options:
–Contextual Pie Menus–
The odds are probably pretty good that the commands in the pie menus pictured above won’t apply if you’re clicking on a link or an image. Don’t worry, easyGestures thought of that as well by offering several different contextual pie menus. These can be activated by holding down the Control key on the keyboard and middle-clicking on a link, image, text box, or something you’ve selected.
Note: This can be configured in the Options to not require the Control key to activate the contextual pie menus.
Oh man…there are a lot of options! I didn’t even know where to begin listing the things that you can customize, so I just took a bunch of screenshots to show you what can be done. To get to the options just double-click on the icon located in the Status Bar of Firefox.
I’m sure you will want to know how productive you are with easyGestures, and so it tells you that as well. If you visit the stats section, you’ll find out which commands you are using the most, and which paths your mouse frequently travels. You’ll also find out how addicted you are to the extension with its three-star rating in the upper-right corner. :)
I would say that this is one of the only true productive uses of a pie menu currently available. It’s extremely customizable, and if you so wish it can even be setup to replace the right-click menu in Firefox. And before you know it, you won’t even be looking at the icons because you’ll have the corresponding gestures memorized! :)
I think this demonstrates very well how pie menus would make an operating system more usable…especially with a customized menu system for different types of files and different applications. If you didn’t catch the article from yesterday regarding how pie menus work make sure you check it out because I offer a lot of pointers on why they are so great.