Airborn OS is an in-browser OS and Google Docs alternative that encrypts your files in the browser.

Normally when I talk to people about certain things in Airborn OS, such as its security, they at least think it's somewhat complicated, sometimes even overcomplicated. However, there's one thing I show people that I'm proud of, but they seem to think is completely obvious and even uninteresting:

When you minimize a window, it's placed on the taskbar in the location closest to where it was, not next to the previous window.

Please try out the Airborn OS Demo if it's not clear what this means.

Indeed, it didn't take a long time to come up with this. Nevertheless, I've never seen it anywhere else.

The main advantage to this is that it makes it easier to find windows you were previously looking at, which is the purpose of the taskbar.

The main disadvantage is that if all your windows are maximized and you only have one screen, it doesn't help you. Currently, Airborn OS partially layers those windows on top of each other so that only the icon is visible. However, many modern taskbars already only show the icon, so it might actually work well in that case.

Thinking further

How do we make it easy to find windows you were previously looking at?

One counter-question is, "What do we know about the window we are trying to find?" Every answer to that question points to a window switching mechanism:

  • Its title
    • Show every window's title on the taskbar
    • Make a "window search box" in which you can type part of a window's title
  • Its icon
    • Show every window's icon on the taskbar
  • Its location
    • Make windows' position on the taskbar close to their location
    • Add a mechanism to view and switch to covered windows (e.g., a 3D view which looks at the desktop at an angle from above)
  • What it looks like
    • Add a mechanism to view all open windows
  • That we we were looking at it recently
    • Show a list of windows in order of last focused
  • Where it always is
    • Allow users to order their window list

Obviously, some mechanisms show multiple properties of the window, such as its icon and title, or its location and what it looks like.

Invitation to experiment

Switching windows on many operating systems can still feel a bit behind, say, switching files in Sublime Text. In any case, there's probably always room for improvement on every OS.

If you know HTML, CSS and JavaScript, not just Airborn OS's taskbar is written in it — Cinnamon's (the desktop environment by Linux Mint's developers) is as well, and GNOME 3 allows you to write extensions (including a taskbar) in JavaScript, too.