I'm Aza Raskin @aza. I make shiny things. I simplify.

I'm VP at Jawbone, focusing on health.

 

Enso Beta: Hints

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Applications are like isolated cities, each with its own customs and infrastructure.

Both applications and isolated cities have a lot of needless redundancy. Cities have an excuse: they’re in physically different places and are forced to duplicate a lot of things. Applications don’t have such an excuse—they all share the same hard drive, processor, memory, and operating system. Yet despite such proximity, for the end-user, applications don’t actually have that much in common with one another.

For example, both Microsoft Word and Macromedia Fireworks have spell check, but they work in different ways and include separate dictionaries. On my computer, I counted 7 separate implementations of spell check—all of which work slightly differently—with 7 different lists of every word in English. No wonder I have to upgrade my computer as often as I take out the trash*.

Learning a new application is like moving to a foreign city: everything is just similar enough to really throw you off. There are still cars in the new city, but they drive on the left instead of the right. Control-B might be bold in one application, but bookmark in another. Trying to keep everything straight consumes a lot of human resources; wasting our time and brain-power is much more egregious than wasting our computer’s cycles and disk space. Applications do both.

Applications are bad for both the computer and the human. So what would it mean if we could unite all applications by letting their infrastructure and customs be shared?

It would mean more humane and resource-efficient computing, which is the goal of Enso: Humanized’s soon-to-be-released product line.

Enso continues and extends the vision of Jef Raskin, the inventor of the Macintosh. Jef sought to unify and simplify everyday computing tasks so that we users can think about what we want to do, not how to make the computer do
it. Enso is the first step in making this vision a reality.

Exactly what Enso is, I won’t say yet. But this post, along with the transparent message post and Jef’s book The Humane Interface give pretty good hints.

We Need Your Help

The Humanized team is proud to announce, after a year of development, that Enso has hit beta: Enso’s first two products have all of their features in place. However, the software isn’t yet ready for public release: while
we’ve tried our best to make it a solid, stable product, the truth is that there are certain things that are out of our control: the variety of software and hardware configurations that can potentially affect Enso’s behavior is so vast that we can’t possibly exhaust all of them in-house.

We need your help to make sure that once Enso is released, it will work seamlessly on every single computer that meets its system requirements.

If you would like to get your hands on Enso beta in exchange for doing some bug hunting, please feel free to check out our new beta testing program and fill out an application.

Revolutionary?

Revolutionary is a label that’s applied to ideas and products far too often. I’m not sure what a revolutionary mop is, but I can buy at least three varieties at Target. Is Enso revolutionary? I don’t know. But it has certainly changed the way we use computers at Humanized—and we hope it will do the same for you.

*That’s fairly often for those of you who are doubting the merits of my house cleaning. [Back]


Please note: Since January 15, 2008, all Enso products have been free. To get the latest version of Enso, free of charge, see the main Enso page.

RT @aza Enso Beta: Hints | Follow @aza on Twitter | All blog posts

View all 92 comments



Daniel

It is great! I’l try :)

PS: Aza your father was great scientist. I have read THI and it has changed my vision on interfaces… It helps me in my work.


If it’s what I think it is, it’s what I’ve been thinking about for a while now. I won’t say what I think it is, to save myself embarrassment :P
(I just had to open Word to spell-check embarrassment :S)



Daniel

Also it’s very interesting to see what you have done, guys… some real software progress… not in the power ;)


Here’s the conundrum that this concept (which I totally agree with in theory) places before me: The idea that all applications should be consistent and non-redundant (or that there should be *no* applications, as THI proposes) makes total sense from a usability perspective, but isn’t it ultimately anti-competitive? You have to impose a sort of totalitarian restriction on software design in order for this system to work.

Either that or you need to get a small group of developers/companies to *completely* replace all existing software, which seems equally as unlikely.

Buy-in, it seems to me, is the biggest single hurdle THE faces. Even bigger, IMO, than “How do I edit video?” :-)

BTW, I’d love to help beta test Enso, but what the heck is it?


Mike, you raise a good point.

(Disclaimer: I volunteer for RaskinCenter.org but have no affiliation with Humanized, so I have no idea what they’re doing. What I’m about to explain is the idea behind our project at RaskinCenter.)

The idea is to have a decentralized system that is a symphony of commands. Once the framework is complete, companies will be able to produce their software like they do today–the only difference being that they sell sets of commands instead of islands of redundant functionality.

The user simply chooses which commands she wants and those commands will be the end-all-be-all of that specific function. At least until a better version comes out.

The biggest problem is getting people to adopt this framework. I (this is a personal project) plan on solving this by introducing augmented reality to anyone with a PDA or laptop. Since my project will be the first system of its kind, I have the luxury of setting the standard. That’s the plan anyway.



vgolf

Just read the beta testing FAQ. I was sorry to learn that ENSO is going to be Windows-only. No mac?

On the other hand, I suppose Windows users need it most. Oh well…

Keep up!



Nigel

Cold Wolf, what do you mean by augmented reality? Thanks in advance.



Leo

Well, i did send a email regarding the beta testing, but i think that it somehow didn’t make it, as i haven’t gotten any message regarding it….

oh well.



Will

Grrrrrr.

Aza, couldn’t you make a beta version for Mac? Or are mac interfaces good enough already that they don’t need modification?



Ray

When we can download Enso live demo or trial ?

Thanks,

Ray


Ok, the Ajax Experience is gone, when will we see a demo movie of Enso? Our prototype of a new way to interact with media on computers can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyXAjaphkRE

What do you think about it?


Some brief replies for those interested:

Will, VGolf, we’re sorry. Enso is made possibly through the idiosyncrasies of Windows that have been “fixed” on Mac. Although I’m inviting flames by this statement, Mac is as flawed as Windows; it’s just more consistent. Enso could well be coming to Mac, but the development time will be significant.

Leo, sorry if you still haven’t heard back about the Beta program. We’re inviting new people each week into the program; and we aren’t able to answer every invitation as soon as we get it.

Ray (and indeed everyone), Enso is not quite ready. Beta testing has some distance to go before we release a public demo. Sorry.

For those who want more information: it’s coming! I promise, we’ll be releasing more information as soon as we can.

Everyone, thanks for your interest!



Braydon Fuller

@ Alessandro Valli
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyXAjaphkRE

So I can quickly switch between one movie and another movie… While this is novel, this example doesn’t illustrate the benefit. This quickness would be useful for creatives, who are editing, and need to quickly see ‘the big picture’.

While we zooming into and out of an audio object, the sound fades in and out, I think is an excellent solution. The idea of the volume of the sound being determined by your location I think is an excellent one. It maps directly to how things really are.

The grid layout makes it easy to ‘alt-tab’ and switch around. But this works best with objects of a similar dimension, and is great for that. What will happen with objects with different dimensions?

I would be interested in hearing a functional reason why you choose to have the objects have ‘friction’, because I can not think of any functional reasons.

The cursor being a circle is interesting, I’m not sure exactly why, but it seems to resonate, perhaps it seems more like your fingertip. The cursor could also ‘change sizes’ for selection of various levels of details…

The highlight following the cursor around is also very useful because it makes it less hard to loose your mouse pointer.

Why does everything have curved edges? Looks softer and natural or what? I don’t think a director will like his film’s corners being rounded.


I’ve enjoyed reading The Humane Interface by Jef Raskin, and among other books. It has made me so anxious for a better way of interfacing I had to do a project in design school, studying graphic design: http://braydon.com/thehumaninterface_small_h264.mov

Word, Verb, Adjective, Noun
Braydon



Anonymous Coward

I am not sure why anyone would need this on the Mac. Mac OS X already has universal spellchecking, universal dictionary lookup, and with the addition of the third-party freeware app “Quicksilver” it can do the application launching as well.

Folks, this looks nice, but it is certainly nothing new.



Pianohacker

Wasn’t sure whether I should post this comment, but…
Anyway, would it be possible to make an open source version of this for Linux?



Richard Karpinski

Humanized folks,

You should get something Humanized into the OLPC software suite that goes out to literally millions of school kids, (if the project actually gets underway). Even if you don’t do that, you should check out wiki.Laptop.org and contribute a little to the improvement of the Sugar interface. I think it is the most exciting education project ever.

ps I love your Live comment preview even if it doesn’t really match what will show up upon posting. The margins differ and the author and date are just missing. Still, it’s nice



Aza

Great suggestion!

The OLPC developer prototype computers are actually already in production. And, although we would love to get involved in the project (and we have spoken with the OLPC people), we are a bit to busy with Enso to delve into contributing. It is definitely something to work for in the future.



Matt

Enso looks great. Please do a Mac version!

To me, this would fit in much more naturally with the OSX experience than with the Windows one. It is in the vein of existing system-wide, keyboard-based services Spotlight, Expose, dashboard, etc. Whereas I think there’d be resistance to remembering a new input method on a PC. Maybe?



Edson Rodriguez

What an amazing product! congratulations! Waiting for Mac version with much excitement!

Also, I would like to sign up for beta testing your software, either mac or PC ( I use both 12-14 hours a day – sadly, at least)

/beta site is not working by the way.



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