In human–computer interaction, WIMP stands for "windows, icons, menus, pointer", denoting a style of interaction using these elements of the user interface. It was coined by Merzouga Wilberts in 1980. Other expansions are sometimes used, substituting "mouse" and "mice" or "pull-down menu" and "pointing", for menus and pointer, respectively.
Though the term has fallen into disuse, some use it as an approximate synonym for graphical user interface (GUI). Any interface that uses graphics can be called a GUI, and WIMP systems derive from such systems. However, while all WIMP systems use graphics as a key element (the icon and pointer elements), and therefore are GUIs, the reverse is not true. Some GUIs are not based in windows, icons, menus, and pointers. For example, most mobile phones represent actions as icons, and some may have menus, but very few include a pointer or run programs in a window.
WIMP interaction was developed at Xerox PARC (see Xerox Alto, developed in 1973) and popularized with Apple's introduction of the Macintosh in 1984, which added the concepts of the "menu bar" and extended window management.
In a WIMP system:
- A window runs a self-contained program, isolated from other programs that (if in a multi-program operating system) run at the same time in other windows.
- An icon acts as a shortcut to an action the computer performs (e.g., execute a program or task).
- A menu is a text or icon-based selection system that selects and executes programs or tasks.
- The pointer is an onscreen symbol that represents movement of a physical device that the user controls to select icons, data elements, etc.
This style of system improves human–computer interaction (HCI) by emulating real-world interactions and providing better ease of use for non-technical people. Users can carry skill at a standardized interface from one application to another.
WIMP-style user interfaces place visually impaired users at a disadvantage, especially when alternative text-based interfaces are not made available. Researchers have been exploring other alternatives that make modern computer systems more accessible.
Moving past the WIMP interface
Multiple studies have explored the possibilities of moving past the WIMP interface, such as using reality-based interaction, making the interface "three-dimensional" by adding visual depth through the use of monocular cues, and even combining depth with physics. The latter resulted in the development of BumpTop desktop and its acquisition and release by Google.
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[...] so-called WIMP interface — for windows, icons, menus, pointer [...]
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The Windows-Icons-Menus-Pointer (WIMP) interface paradigm dominates modern computing systems.
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Researchers are looking to move beyond the current "WIMP" (Windows, Icons, Menus, and Pointer) interface [...]
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"We've taken the WIMP interface as far as it can go," he added, referring to the Windows-icon-mouse-pull-down menu.
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The acronym, WIMP, stands for Windows, Icons, Mice and Pointing, and it is used to refer to the desk top, direct manipulation style of user interface.
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GUI and WIMP (for window, icon, mouse and pointer) are interfaces based on framed text, drop-down menus and clickable buttons arranged along on-screen panels called tool bars.
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