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Apple experimenting with "radial" menu design

updated 06:25 pm EST, Thu December 2, 2010

Can be used with both mouse and finger

A recent patent application by Apple brought to light by UnwiredView shows the company doing further research into the concept of pop-up menus in a radial arrangement, a concept that could expand user options while still manageable by simple gestures. The new "radial" menus follow on from an earlier patent exploring the use of "spiraling" menus to expand options or level of detail.

The use of a circular motion is ideal for touchscreen devices and allows "contextual menus" to offer more choices without using any additional screen real estate. The most common commands or options could be initially offered, but replaced with further detail or options when the user makes a circular motion with their finger. When the desired option or level of detail is reached, a linear gesture or tap could choose the option.

The application, simply entitled "Radial Menus," also describes how radial menus can be more efficiently selected with a pointing device like a mouse over the current "move to menubar to select standard features" model found in all three major operating systems today. Whether the concept might replace the "menubar" idea or just act as a new version of "contextual" or "right-click" type menus isn't made clear.

As with other such technology companies, Apple's moving to patent particular techniques or ideas is not necessarily an indication that the concept will actually be incorporated into current or future products. [via UnwiredView]

by MacNN Staff



  1. vinnieA2

    Joined: Dec 1969


    been there done that...

    Interesting idea... too bad the radial menu is something that has been present in Maya for a number of years. I wonder if they patented it.

  1. Cronocide

    Joined: Dec 1969


    It would be interesting

    To see how Apple could use this in a menu bar. looks good for the iOS, MAYBE a right click interface, but no major adoption in the near future.

  1. ioguie

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Pie Menus

    Vinnie's right. Also these have been known in Unix and CS circles for many years as "pie menus." Google for "pie menus" and see what comes up. Especially revealing is the post at from 2007, in which he implements pie menus for SimCity on OLPC in Python, it appears...

  1. Flying Meat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    It looks visually interesting,

    but they are not spatially efficient. The use of screen real estate (particularly on smaller screens) is a trade off between readability and esthetics. This seems more esthetic than readable from a small screen perspective.

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