Flows

Opening an app

First things first. Let’s try to open an app in Newton.

Safari goes directly in fullscreen mode. Notice how I swapped all the Mac icons for their iOS peers. That’s a matter of personal taste, but I like regularity and coherence across all the ecosystem. The dock and the opening animation have also been inspired by the iPad.

Now, in order to make things very clear until the end of this story, I will use the following nomenclature:

Now you can focus on the user interface and not on the content. This screen is the exact equivalent of the previous one.

Having fullscreen automatically activated saves us a lot of time, instead of the current two-step process where we need to open the app first and then click on the green button.

A few other things happen here, but I’m keeping them for later. Now, let’s open a second app to understand the concept of Flow.

Opening two apps (and more)

Opening two apps. The 4-finger swipe happens on the trackpad (this explains the green color instead of the blue).

The dock is summoned with a 4-finger-swipe halfway up through the trackpad. When Photos was launched, Safari — which was the first opened app — shifted to the right to leave space for Photos to position itself on the left of the screen. In macOS Newton, apps get stacked linearly, with the most recent one on the extreme left of the Flow. Users can add as many apps as they want in the Flow, and place them at a particular position with a simple drag-and-drop:

Dragging Mail into the Flow.

Normally, when apps are opened, the Dock gets closed. However, small detail, if the cmd key is pressed, multiple apps can be launched without closing the Dock; a lock appears on the Dock in that :

Pressing the cmd key will lock the Dock, allowing users to select multiple apps without closing it.

To scroll through the Flow, scroll horizontally with 3 fingers on the trackpad.

Scrolling through the Flow with 3 fingers.

Of course, it is also possible to change the width of the windows, by dragging left or right the black bar that separates them. Magnetic anchors help position it at specific places, like the middle of the screen, and give users the possibility to activate Split View (two apps fully visible onscreen):

Notice the yellow anchor at the middle. When partitions are positioned at anchors, users can activate Split View.

Before macOS Newton, to obtain a similar view (Split View), I had to first open both apps I wanted to have in front of me, long-click the green button on one of these, and finally select the other app. It required too much thinking beforehand, and was not very easy to do. No wonder have I never used it, although it could have proved very useful in so many cases. I think a lot of Mac users are not even aware that they can do it.

Activating Split View in macOS High Sierra. Too many steps, not very intuitive. (And yes, when I work on a concept like this one, my tends to become very messy in no time. But I’ll come back to it.)

In macOS Newton, this process is completely simplified as it is automated and more natural and puts multitasking at the heart of the macOS .

The Flow Strip

This is the essence of this concept. Did you notice what happened when I opened Photos in the previous part? Let’s rewind a bit and look carefully.

The Flow Strip in action.

That black bar at the top of the Dock is called the Flow Strip. There are so many features associated to it, I can’t wait to dwelve into them with you.

The Flow Strip is essentially an overview of the apps that are sitting in the Flows. When using apps, the Flow Strip shrinks down to a simple bar that sits at the bottom of the screen; it fades away after a few seconds. To open it, I just need to hover the lower part of the screen with the mouse.

Apps’ instances (windows) are represented there as dark rectangles, with the name of the app on it, so as not to confuse the Flow Strip with the Dock. Currently visible apps are more opaque than the rest. With this representation, users have a clear representation of what they have open on their Mac. From there, they can also easily rearrange the Flow by simply dragging the dark rectangles to where they want:

Swapping Photos and Mail.

They can quickly go to the desired opened app with a click:

Quick navigation thanks to the Flow Strip. (For some strange reasons, it seems like Medium’s compression algorithms deeply affect the quality of this GIF.)

Users can also quickly delete instances they don’t need by entering edit mode with a long click.

To enter edit mode, long click on one of the Flow Strip’s elements.

Finally, they can drag their apps directly in the Flow Strip to position them at a specific place in the Flow:

You can place your apps wherever you want in the flow.

So, that’s a roundup of all the things you can do with the Flow Strip. Have I mentioned that the Flow Strip is also available in the Touch Bar?

In fact, the Touch Bar was where the Flow Strip came from in the first place. I was trying to come up with a new productive way of using the Touch Bar, and the Flow Strip was how I imagined it. For the first time ever on a Mac, you would have been able to control your windows with your finger. Then I thought that making it available only in the Touch Bar would most likely be too restrictive for a lot of Mac users, and that’s how I ended up with the concept above.

Work scenarios

A Flow is the digital metaphor of a work scenario: to perform a task, we typically use more than just one app, and all the apps contribute to the same goal. In my case for instance, when I write story scripts, I open Pages to write, Safari to look for things on the web or get inspired, and iTunes to listen to music; these 3 apps altogether are associated to me writing, but they can also be used individually in other scenarios. That’s how I came up with the idea of saving Flows.

Long-clicking an element in the Flow Strip will open the edit menu, in which it is possible to save the Flow for later uses.

Click on the Save button to save the Flow.

There is also a dedicated section in the settings, in which I can create and manage my own personalised Flows, thanks to an intuitive UI- based on drag-and-drop gestures.

The Flow panel in the settings.

The last actions that were performed in each app are listed on the left column. On the right, I can create as many personalised Flows as I want, and drag the actions from the left directly in there, in the order I desire. Personalised Flows can be renamed and can even have an icon attached to them.

What’s really neat about these customised Flows, is that they are accessible directly in Spotlight (which I use mostly to launch apps), so they can be invoked from anywhere and anytime. And, they’re compatible with Siri too, so they can be summoned only by saying « I want to write » for instance. In this case, I have set up this phrase to open two different documents of my script project in Pages and launch my « Inspiration » playlist on Youtube.

Saved Flows in Spotlight.
Saved Flows in Siri.

Adding Flows

You can add as many Flows as you need in your desktop. Just click the + button that pops up when you hover the Flow Strip with the mouse.

Click the + button to add a new Flow.

Long click to open one of your saved Flow:

Long clicking the + button will let you open your saved flows.

Once your flows are created, you can switch from one to another with a 4-finger horizontal swipe on the trackpad, the same way we do today to go from one desktop to another.



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