updated 12:20 pm EDT, Thu October 2, 2008
An Apple patent application, published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office, contains indications that the company may seek to expand on the preview concept first introduced with Leopard's QuickLook. Apple notes that in most operating systems, the mouse cursors reacts comparatively little to its positioning, for instance changing shape to enter text or click on a URL. This does provide not much (if any) information however, something the proposed patent would aim to change.
Unlike QuickLook, which requires that a person select a file and hit the spacebar to bring up a preview, Apple's system could be set to bring up a preview thumbnail when mousing over items, including webpages linked through Safari. Should a thumbnail be impossible or take too long, a cursor could alternately display an icon representing the item's format.
In a more complex version of the concept, mousing over could in fact present a contextual menu, presenting options such as e-mailing, file transfer or simple playback. People could alternately be shown several supporting applications; in the case of a text file, for example, users could choose to open it through Pages, Word, BBedit or Text Edit.