Desktop Neo: Rethinking OS X

Some smart user experience thinking in Neo, a project from Lennart Ziburski, a twenty-one year old design student in Berlin, that re-imagines OS X in a new, simpler way. Ziburski argues that while mobile has evolved dramatically over its short lifespan, the desktop is still rooted in concepts like folders, windows and the mouse that are remnants from another age.

What struck me about the project is that in many ways iOS for iPad already accomplishes many of these goals (or will hopefully do so soon), and that by drastically simplifying the desktop experience, Ziburski’s concept may actually be robbing that platform of its usefulness. One of Neo’s most dramatic aspects is changing the desktop’s overlapping windowing model to an “app panels” model where windows sit flush next to one another, with no overlap.

Ziburski and I had a friendly debate over this in an email exchange. He wrote:

Focusing on full-height panels allows Neo to use an interface that lets you switch extremely quickly between apps by just scrolling, while still giving you spatial awareness of where your apps are. My guess is that most productivity users probably want two to four apps on the screen at the same time, and full-height panels work best for that.

I argued that his app panels may undermine what power users value most from the desktop: the precision and flexibility that comes with being able to arrange windows exactly as you like them. It’s true that for many users this flexibility is unnecessary and even hampers productivity; for those users, I think that iOS, or some future version of it, makes the most sense.

At any rate, Ziburski makes a very compelling presentation of his ideas over at