The Nokia N800
And Its GUI Shortcomings From a Newton Developer's Perspective

[Note: This is a living page and I am periodically adding to it as I find new issues. If Nokia fixes things in a future release, I will be sure to note it.]

I'm a former spare-time Newton MessagePad user and software developer. I wrote, among other things, the Waba for the Newton Java virtual machine and the Hemlock Internet Search Tool for the Newton. And a lot of Chinese applications. I think I qualify as a power user and developer. I'm also an okay UNIX hacker, though I'm better on BSD than on Linux, much less uLinux/BusyBox.

I recently purchased a Nokia N800 Internet Tablet to replace my aging Newton MessagePad 2100. The MessagePad's touchscreen is going bad and with the advent of Intel Macs, I can no longer do any software development for it. This is what makes the N800 particularly attractive to me: it's a 100% Linux box with phenominal features, and enables me to throw some code around again. Woohoo! Plus eventually, with luck, I might get Einstein running on it. Einstein is a Newton emulator which runs (slowly) on N800's predecessor (the 770). The idea is not to convert the N800 to a Newton -- for me, that would be foolish -- but to give grumpy Newton users an easy way to migrate to a new platform. And to open up a whole new set of applications to N800 users. Indeed, in the primary Newton forum I told others that the N800 was the first PDA I'd recommend as a Newton replacement.

The N800 is a great machine. Technologically speaking, the N800 is a dramatic advance over the Newton. At right is a Newton MessagePad 2100. It's an old monster. Its screen is twice the size of the N800, but it's only 320x480. It's much larger and heavier than the N800, mostly due to NiMH batteries. It does have a much better stylus, so much so that I keep it in my N800's bag. [Bag hint for N800 Owners: the N800 is about the same size and shape as the Nintendo DS Lite]. In contrast, the N800 has true multitasking. It has a CPU that's twice the speed. It has 32 times as much SDRAM. It has a color screen, and built-in 802.11 and bluetooth (Newton users hack wireless and bluetooth with public domain plug-ins and cards). It has a flat memory model and 2 SD cards rather than 2 PCMCIA slots. It's got a client USB rather than serial ports. It's got a great, modern web browser with JavaScript and Flash.

I like the N800. That's why I bought it. But as great as the N800 is, and as much of an advance it represents technologically over my 10-year-old MessagePad, I am surprised at how much more sophisticated the MessagePad is than the N800 in terms of user experience.

The point of this essay is to discuss places where Nokia could improve the N800 quickly and easily, particularly from a Newton viewpoint. But it might be useful first to mention some areas where the Newton really shines compared to the N800, but which the N800 probably will never (and in some cases should never) adopt simply because the change in technology would require too large a tradeoff in other areas. Unfortunate but probably necessary given the N800's intended purpose. After this I'll discuss some things that Nokia can (and should) steal from the Newton immediately. Second, I'll discuss some stupidities in the N800's interface, independent of Newton discussion, which Nokia ought to fix as soon as possible. Third, I'll mention some serious interface failures of individual applications which come with the device.

Great Things the Newton Has that the Nokia Doesn't
(...and Maybe Shouldn't)

Now, the Newton also has flaws that the N800 should not copy: No threading or top-level multitasking. The Newton's C++ innards are preemptively multithreaded, but not the NewtonScript application environment. It is perfectly plausible for one app to hog as much time as it wanted. And furthermore, TCP/IP is very slow because it had to all be done with event callbacks. No file system. Without one, Newton applications could not easily trade files with external systems, since the notion of "files" was somewhat alien. No file system also meant that large streams of data (web pages, for example) were nontrivial to shuffle in and out and manage. Doable but problematic. No built-in keyboard except in the laptop-style Emate 300 shown at left. Many people (myself included) can type much faster than we can write. Sure, the Newton had an optional, loud keyboard which plugged into the serial port. But even a slide-out thumb board would have been enormously helpful sometimes. Over-reliance on developer toolkits tied to a proprietary, and dead, OS (MacOS 9). Apple never opened their development tool sources. Now with MacOS 9 gone, the Newton third-party development is extremely difficult. Segmented memory space. The Newton reserved chunks of RAM for the NewtonScript VM, the screen, C++ processes, globals, etc. This made expanding RAM in one of those segments nearly impossible short of modifying the ROM. Don't expect Linux on this device any time soon.

What Nokia Could Steal from Apple Today

The N800's "Hildon" UI is shown at right, in a screenshot reduced 50%, which gives you the sense of how large it looks on the N800's small screen. The N800 employs the GTK+ toolkit, originally created for the GIMP photo-manipulation program but (unlike the GIMP itself) bearing the hallmarks of inexpert design. It tries to copy much of the look and feel of Windows 95, including IMHO its worst features. Nokia then took this toolkit and tweaked it to look if not feel a little better, but couldn't escape their cell phone roots: the modified version they created is very, very modal. Much like PalmOS, only one application may appear at a time; applications take up the entire screen; and applications interact with one another rather less than in the Newton.

In fact, the modality relationships with PalmOS are interesting, in that Palm was started by ex-Newton third-party developers (Graffiti was written for the Newton). The Palm Pilot was created because the Palm didn't like where Apple was going: making ever more impressive (and expensive) machines, rather than a $300 machine, with a cut-rate but cheap GUI and OS, that customers could afford. And they were right. But strangely, with much better and cheaper hardware available now, and a much better OS (Linux), Nokia is still basically copying features from a quick-and-dirty GUI designed for 8MHz processors.

At right is a screenshot from Einstein, the bit-for-bit Newton emulator on my Mac. The UI is less flashy than Hildon of course, but anyone who's used Newtons for a while will understand that it's a very sophisticated UI. And there are a lot of things Nokia could trivially steal from it. I've hilighted in red some simple items I'll discuss below.

Windows Which Don't Take Up the Whole Screen    On the Newton you can have multiple applications displayed at one time. Typically one application is in the background taking up the whole screen (such as the Note Pad shown at right). And other applications, or subwindows of the main application, may float freely on the screen, such as the number pad at right. The earlier screenshot of Einstein shows further floating applications. This allows for drag-and-drop or via-event application interaction which largely doesn't exist on the N800. On the N800 all dialogs and notification windows are fixed in location and no additional windows are permitted. You just have one application take over or another, PalmOS-style.

I understand the basic argument for having windows take up the whole screen: the screen is small, and required window manipulation at that size is less than optimal. This is the lesson that Palm learned. And indeed on the Newton most "primary" apps (note pad, calendar, etc.) take up the whole screen. But this shouldn't preclude the ability to make draggable, small windows. There are lots of useful utility applications that can exist by floating on top of the main, screen-filling app. You could have a small floating calculator, or a Chinese input window, or a little dictionary or spell-check app, or a floating pasteboard, or pop-up timer. Not on the N800.

Stability    The Newton is rock-solid stable. The N800 is not. In the course of using the machine I've had status bar icons disappear, Opera crash once or twice, menus refuse to go away without me choosing something, and the machine suddenly disavow all knowledge of its SD card. But the worst by far is the email program, which crashes as a matter of course. It's like crashzilla. The Newton crashes so little that I had forgotten what crashes looked like on a PDA.

Changeable Icon Bar Icons   The Icon Bar on the Newton is for whatever apps you find useful to place there. Just drag them from the Newton's equivalent of the File Manager. But on the N800, there are three big, overly-spaced icons which cannot be replaced; and only the third one, which pops up a menu, allows part of that menu to be changed. What the point of that is I have no idea.

I suspect the reason why there are only three big icons is because (1) Nokia wants them hittable by your finger and (2) Nokia wanted to leave space for the "small" icons which indicate running processes. Running process icons are cute but not very useful: they replicate the functionality of an existing icon, the oddly-shaped icon. Why not get rid of them, make the icon bigger, and squeeze the icons together a little bit, and you'd have space for six custom icons. No squeezing? You'd still get five custom icons out of it.

Decent System Fonts and Icons    The N800 has okay fonts. But the Newton used bold system fonts throughout, resulting in high readability even in poor light situations. The N800's GTK-inspired small application-function icons are atrocious. The worst I've seen on a PDA. Tiny, with large borders of whitespace around them, faded, obscure, and often difficult to make out. Compare to the Newton's icons, which are bold, professional, have little white space, and are easy to read. This is how you make icons, Nokia. More on this later.

Out-of-the-Box Unicode Support    GTK+ supports Unicode. But how could the N800 have not come with a Unicode font built-in from the start to display in the web browser, much less a Unicode entry system built-in? At right is what we get in Opera when we visit In contrast, the Newton was the first device (PDA or computer) to use Unicode as its foundation, and its web browsers could even display Chinese characters. Like the N800, the Newton didn't come with, say, Chinese fonts by default (come on, this was 1995). But Chinese fonts for the Newton were easily found by even rank beginners and loaded without any difficulty; and they worked everywhere instantly. At right is a screenshot of some fonts I ported to the Newton, including a slight tweak to a preexisting Chinese font. All could be printed to Postscript printers.

On the N800, installation of Unicode fonts -- or any fonts -- is, shall we say, an adventure. For an "international" company, Nokia's machine is fairly unimpressive in the Unicode font scene.

Cut and Paste Through Drag-And-Drop    On the Newton there is no concept of cut and paste per se. You don't select an object (text, picture, file, whatever) and then choose "cut". Instead, you select the object and drag it to the side of the screen. When you lift up, it sticks there, in miniaturized form, as a "clipping". If you Tap-Drag rather than just Drag, the object is copied to rather than moved to the clipping. Depending on settings, you can have many clippings attached to the various sides of the screen.

Next, you go to some other application or different document as you like, then drag the clipping to the location you want and it unhooks and moves there. If you Tap-Drag from a clipping, a copy is made from the clipping and the clipping remains. If you Drag the clipping to a nonsensical place, it is deleted. You can also move clippings to another location on the edge of the screen.

There is also a notion of a "primary" clipping, which is the last clipping that you touched with your stylus. Some applications have "cut" and "copy" and "paste" menu options, for the benefit of people with keyboards -- if you choose "cut", a clipping is automatically created on the side of the screen and becomes primary. If you choose "paste", the primary clipping is unhooked and pasted in.

Sadly, the N800 can't do anything like this: it uses a cut and paste from the menu, with only a single clipboard. I was all set to write a Status Bar Icon that allowed me to drag text or pictures to the Icon and store it, then drag it off of the Icon's menu to some other application. But Nokia has declared that no drag-and-drop shall leave an application's main window! No, seriously, that's actually what they wrote: (part 12)

Compared to the PC environment, items cannot be dragged outside the application area (i.e. into Task Navigator or Status Bar). If user drags an item out of the application area and then lifts the pen up, the item will be placed back to its original location.

So much for interapplication interaction. Even if this were possible, such a Status Bar Icon would be further complicated by a bad design decision in the N800: if you tap in any text area, the keyboard always pops up. Even if you're just selecting text to drag it, the keyboard still pops up, sometimes obscuring the very text you were trying to drag (this particularly happens in text fields embedded in the web browser). There needs to be an interface mechanism to allow you to select text without the keyboard coming up and smashing everything. Here's a recommendation: if you tap in a text area, and there is no bluetooth keyboard attached, then the virtual keyboard pops up. If you drag in a text area to select text, you should have the option, in the control panels, of having the N800 not pop up the keyboard. If you tap-drag, then it pops up the keyboard. And please, in the Notes application if I even press the italics or bold buttons, the keyboard still pops up. What the...?

While we're on the subject of the keyboard: the N800's on-screen keyboard (large and small) drops every fifth letter or so unless you go very slowly. I've learned to use the backspace key a *lot*.

Screen Rotation    I find it unbelievable that in 2007 a PDA has come out which cannot rotate its screen. The Newton did this in 1995, and any orientation you liked; you could also move about the button bar (see the first Einstein picture in this article). The Palm Pilot can do it, for heavens' sakes. At right, as a quick cut-and-paste hack, I rearranged the elements in the screenshot at top to show how screen rotation might look.

Routing    Many Newton applications have a routing menu which allows you to send a document (a note, a drawing, a contact's card, a calendar, etc.) to be processed by some other application, or sent somewhere. The basic Newton routing menu can print, fax, beam, duplicate, and delete documents. Applications plug into this menu to add more routings -- for example, you might email a document, or send it via bluetooth, or upload it as a web page, or have it translated into Spanish, or get a word count of it. This is in some sense similar to MacOS X's Services menu. On the N800 we could allow objects to be sent via bluetooth to another N800, for example.

Move In Addition to Save    As mentioned, the Newton doesn't have a file system: it has a database. When I create a document, it's automatically in the database. The N800 takes a desktop-computer approach instead, which is much less functional for a PDA: you save documents in a file system. That's fine I guess, but at lest the N800 should allow you to have the option of moving a document to a new location, from within an application other than the File Manager, instead of just saving it to a new location.

While we're on the subject of the file manager, files are not easily copied or duplicated with drag-and-drop. They can only be moved. Tap-drag should enable duplication and copying of a file, and drag should enable moving a file.

More Expressive Standard Widgets    Longhand is slow, and so the Newton UI designers spent a great deal of time making a large number of powerful widgets shared by all applications. GTK+ doesn't have a fifth of the widgets the Newton has standard, and it really shows: different N800 applications have different methods for entry.

One place the Newton particularly excels in here is in its persistent use of a variety of standard combo-box-like structures. Here are a few.

Some pop-ups are meant to label a text field, like the one at right. Similar pop-ups fill in the text field for you, either with common items, or with one of the last N items you had entered for that particular text field, or both.

Other pop-ups are more traditional, but augmented with additional menu choices.

There are a wide variety of pop-ups for times and dates. Shown at right are pop-ups for time intervals, calendar days, and date intervals.

There are sophisticated pop-ups for choosing locations as well. Here I'm picking a new home location for my time zone. Tokyo looks nice. You can also click directly on the map and a menu will pop up of all the cities in the vicinity.

There are even pop-ups which bring forth entire subelements of other applications. Here, after clicking on "Invitees" in the calendar application, I get a popup showing contacts from the Contacts application.

The N800 uses very few pop-ups or other time-saving widgets. For example, to add a field to a contact, I must first click on a weird ">>" button and choose "Edit... ". Then I must click on "Add field", choose a field, and press "OK", then "OK" again. All told six button taps and two dialog boxes when I could have done this with a single pop-up menu.

I am afraid to say it, but the N800 has a great many frustrating dialog box mazes like this one. More on problems with the Contacts app later.

Useless confirmation dialog boxes show up a lot. Here's one from the Bookmarks application. I have just dragged my Reddit bookmark into the N800 folder (for purposes of demonstration here). And I receive: a confirmation box to move the Reddit bookmark into the N800 folder! Isn't that what I just did? On every other operating system I can think of, when you perform a drag-and-drop, it happens -- but the N800 requires you to do an extra tap to confirm what you just did.

I suspect one reason for all of Nokia's verification dialogs is several standard N800 applications (Contacts, Bookmarks, File Manager, etc.) don't have Undo. So they're being way overly cautious, verifying every drag-and-drop even if it's reversable. This kind of thing happens a lot, forcing you to do lots of extra taps when you should have just performed a single pen operation. Even though they should have Undo, even without it, such trivially reversable operations shouldn't have annoying confirmation.

While we're on the subject: why is there no "New Bookmark" icon on the button bar? But there is a "New Folder" icon. I, like most people, construct bookmarks ten times as often as bookmark folders. I spent an hour today adding bookmarks, and every time I had to tap three times to wend myself through a deep menu.

A Better Button Bar   The Newton designers expended considerable effort reducing the number of taps necessary to do something. As a result, the Newton in my experience requires about half to a third as many taps to do things as WindowsCE does. The N800's not bad here, but it could be significantly improved. The N800's big failure here is its over-reliance on a single menu with submenus and subsubmenus. To create a new document I often need to tap at least three times to wend myself throughout the menu, not including the many taps to save the old document. On the Newton, it's two or less, because all the menus are split out onto the button bar, and documents are stored in a database (no "Save"). Here's the Newton's contacts application's button bar at bottom:

The little diamond icons indicate that clicking on a text button pops up a menu; "New" pops up "Person", "Company", and "Group". Pick one and you're on your way -- no need to save the old document (as previously mentioned). If you have a very common operation, it's fine to have a textual or icon button just for it. The "i" menu is the Information menu, and typically contains About, Help, and Preferences. The folder files the document under a folder, and the envelope, as mentioned, is the routing menu. The "X" is the close box. The Newton's main widgets are all on the bottom, which is easier to tap.

How could we improve the N800 button bars, allowing for a bit more Newton-ish operation? By allowing the user to organize the button bars. Perhaps the most elegant mechanism would be a procedure by which the user could select a submenu or menu item, drag it to the button bar, and assign it an icon or a textual button like the Newton (and to rename the text). There's plenty of space on the button bar right now (see gripes later on) for whole menu structures. MacOS X does this in a particularly elegant fashion, albeit with no option for menus. Here the button-bar-reorganization panel has popped up on my text editor. The Mac also allows for different sized icons in the button bar: the N800 could very easily do this as well, obviating some my complaints below about poor icon sizes.

These changes need to be persistent -- they need to stay that way when you quit the program and relaunch it. See below for more discussion of persistence.

This goes along with the need for changeable Icon bar icons. I don't want to have to wend my way through a menu to find an application to launch. I want to have it right there on my Icon bar, launched in one tap. Why can't I do this?

Bad, But Easily Fixed GUI Design Flaws

Nokia Loves Triangles

Nokia seems to have a triangle fetish. The eight triangles at right are all taken from the N800 interface, and they largely do different things. One of them pops up the menu. One of them pops up a combo-box. One of them reveals additional headers in the mail program. Two of them scroll menus. One of them scrolls the scroll bar. One of them specifies the sort ordering in a column. And one of them appears in button which, counter-intuitively, changes the relative ordering of items in a list. This is doubly problematic:
  1. Icons which perform different functions should look nothing like one another. Yet we have at least five different major functions, all being represented with the same basic shape.

  2. Icons which perform the same basic function should look largely identical. But even the two menu-scrolling triangles have different aspect ratios! The triangles which pop up various objects are all different looking. And to make matters worse, there are other strange triangular icons which also pop up menus, such as this one: Note to Nokia: that icon usually implies "Fast Forward".
Can you tell what icon does what function? Have fun.

Here are some Newton icons for similar operations. This icon: appears alongside text in combo boxes, and this one: appears alongside text inside buttons which pop up menus. This icon: performs global scrolling down for the main document, and this one: performs local scrolling for small windows and menus. Note the consistency.

Bad Icons

Many PDAs have settled on one or two icon sizes: a "big" one and a "small" one. The N800 has three. One "large" one, which exists only for coolness factor, and two "small" ones, one which is a nice 32 pixels high, and one which is slightly smaller for some reason (typically 18-24 pixels high).

To make matters worse, the icons tend to be cryptic. Here's some fun from the email program. This icon: apparently means "put a star on my envelope". I'm just guessing here. This icon: means, I imagine, "rock beats paper". Which everyone knows is false. In rock-paper-scissors, paper beats rock. This set of icons: means "reply", "reply-all", and "forward". If the reply-all wasn't there, would you have any idea which one was forward and which one was reply? There's no way to find out except for pressing the icon, a potentially destructive operation. And here is yet another down-arrow icon for scrolling to the next item (in this case the next message).

While we're on the subject, let's examine the Nokia Button Bar.

Notice two things. First, the icons are tiny compared to the button bar. Here's the button bar at approximately the size it appears on the N800 in reality, at least on my Mac:

Note the considerable amount of wasted whitespace, which only emphasizes the icons' small size. A number of the icons throughout applications are also light in color on a big white background, making them quite surprisingly hard to read on the N800 screen. Making matters worse, there's a useless decorative border on the bottom of the button bar which does nothing when tapped. If Nokia had seen fit to change the background, make the icons larger (there's plenty of space!), move them closer together, and delete the borders so as to increase the vertical hit-space, we'd have a much easier to use toolbar. How can we know this? Because there's another bar on the same screen which employs Nokia's "slightly bigger" icons on a legible background: the Status Bar! Shown below.

Reduced by 50% to Nokia screen size:

Now this button bar is a little better. The icons are slightly larger (they could stand to be larger still), much more legible, and I find them a bit easier to hit. Quite weird, having two button bars on the same screen, one better than the other, in the same exact UI. Note to Nokia: when the status bar overflows it should extend in width. I don't need to see the whole application title. It should also shrink to fit the icons there. And what's with the status bar hanging down by about five pixels, pushing the available application space down by that much?

Immobile Windows

The N800 has various dialogs and notification boxes. For absolutely no good reason, none of them can be moved. The most egregious example is the notification box at right: the email application's "Deleting" notification. It's important to understand that this window pops up in a non-modal fashion: you can still do things in the background. That's nice. What's not nice is that the window obscures the scroll bar up-button, and sometimes the entire scroll bar thumb, and there's no way to get around it. Why can't you move this window? I really have no idea.

Lest you think this is just an email thing: I've seen the same immobile non-modal dialog in at least one other standard application.

Why does this non-modal window exist at all? In the same application, when you're performing another non-modal background function -- connecting to the server and downloading mail -- the notification appears inside the button bar, pushing some button bar buttons to the side:

That's a perfectly good approach. Why can't Nokia adopt it everywhere? Note to Nokia: the white "Connecting" text on blue background is very close to unreadable.

Hard-To-Manipulate Widgets

At right is the N800's File Manager application. It's a pretty decent program all in all. But it nicely illustrates some places where widgets could be significantly improved.

While we're on the subject of hard-to-hit widgets, this is a good button: and this is not a good button: . One is easy to hit with the stylus, the other is not only painfully small, it's hard to read and lacking in whitespace. I understand why the N800 has both. It's not a good reason.

Also, on the N800, only a few apps have persistent state widgets. If I adjust the column sizes in the email program, or change the location of the slider bar, it stays that way after I quit the program and return. Good job! But if I do the same thing in the File Manager, it doesn't stay that way. This tells me that widget persistence has to be programmed in on a per-app basis and is not a built-in feature of the GUI. That needs to be fixed.

Windows Style Alerts

Linux tends to copy Windows even when it's really really bad. Here's a place it should be copying OS X instead. OS X's dialogs and dialog buttons actually mean things and only occur when it's necessary.

At right is one of worst GUI mistakes I've seen in the N800: the Delete Verification panel. It's bad design on quite a lot of levels: it has a radio button list with only one option; it has badly-named buttons; it has a "Note" with no value; it only exists because of a program flaw. Allow me to vent here.

On the Mac, dialog buttons are actions. "Cancel" is an action, but "OK" is not an action, it is an agreement. "Delete" is an action. It makes it clear what you're going to do when you press that button. Plus, what's with the Note? Beginners wouldn't know the difference between headers and messages, and experts wouldn't ever make the assumption the Note warns against. No email program does that. A message is a message.

Ideally this ridiculous window could have been replaced with a simple window that says:

Permanently Delete This Message?

[Delete] [Delete Only on N800] [Cancel]

Or if you're using IMAP, it's should simply be:

Permanently Delete This Message?

[Delete] [Cancel]

The question remains: why does this window even exist? Because unlike practically every other email program on the planet, when you delete a message on the N800, it is deleted. Not moved to a Trash folder. Gone from the server forever. If the app instead moved to Trash, this window wouldn't even be necessary, as the action would be undoable.

While we're on the subject, so far as I've been able to tell the email program is incapable of clearing your email cache. So if you set it to download 50 messages, the next day it downloads more messages to add to that 50. You can't restrict it to just 50, and you can't clear them out to save memory, short of removing the account. Oh yes, and the email is stored on your internal flash with no option to move it to a card: it just slowly burns your flash out.


Big Bad Menus

The N800 has a nice feature. If you press on the screen with your finger, certain menus and keyboards pop up in "big" size, easy to select with your finger rather than with the stylus.

Unfortunately this feature is marred by a really stupid menu mechanism. Consider the "big-size" menu at right, which popped up when I pressed my finger on one of the icons at its left. What's wrong with it? Several things.

  1. It's powerfully wasteful of space. If I'm selecting with my finger, I want to use the whole screen to pick items, but I'm restricted to the "standard" width menu, which can only hold four items!

  2. What in the world is the giant grayed-out scroll triangle doing there, wasting an entire line? Why not just have no scroll triangle there, which tells me the same thing? It's standard practice on a number of OSes for the menu triangle to only appear when you actually can use it. For example, at right is a MacOS X menu in three parts: the start of the menu, scrolling in the middle of it, and down at the bottom of it.

  3. The scroll triangles adjust the menu -- I wish I were kidding you -- by the pixel. Not the item. The pixel. It's really fun pressing and holding for things to slowly go by.

It's not hard to fix this. Just have menus which fill the whole screen in a grid as shown in the imaginary screenshot at right. If you need more space, make a big right-pointing arrow, and when you press it, a whole new grid slides in to replace the current one (plus a left-pointing arrow is introduced perhaps). But in many cases, such as the example at right, no arrow is necessary. The entire menu could have easily fit on the screen. You just need a little space to click on the background behind the menu in order to cancel it.

One issue with this revised version is how to navigate submenus or go back to a supermenu. Submenus are easy: if you press one, the menu fades away and the submenu fades in. To go to a supermenu, perhaps a "back" button might appear at left along with the left arrow, if any. I see no problem with modality here -- this is where short-term modality is expected by the user -- unlike other places in Nokia's interface.

Note to Nokia: why is it that if you press the icon with your finger, the menu that pops up displays items with small icons rather than the large icons used everywhere else? As a result you get a few more, slightly shorter menu items. Surely you could squish the regular large menus together a bit more in a similar fashion.

Application-Specific Interface Failures That Should Be Fixed

I'll continue to add here as I find things.

The Opera Web Browser

The Contacts Application

Unlike the web browser, the contacts application is decidedly not wonderful. Compared to the Newton's Names application, it's a very poor program. I have no compassion for Nokia here: they are a cell phone company and a well-designed contacts program GUI should be a central competency of the corporation; and they've made this program front and center, non-removable, in their OS UI.

The primary function I want to do with a contacts program is: look up phone numbers. The secondary function is: look up addresses. I don't make internet chats or voip calls from my contacts program. I use the chat program. I don't initiate email messages from my contacts program. I use an email program. A contacts program exists fundamentally to store, view, and edit contacts. Yet Nokia has seen fit to make this basic function unusually difficult, or (in the case of snail mail, see below) impossible, in order to put front and center features which, in my opinion, no one wants.