A patent filed by Apple in Europe last week revealed two potential new features in the upcoming OS X Lion release- scrollable menus and toolbars.

The menus and toolbars familiar to OS X users are ancient, having been in use since the advent of the graphical user interface (GUI). The most common menus are dropdowns, such as the “File” option in nearly every program. Toolbars usually take the form of palettes (think Inspector in iLife/iWork).

The issue with both GUI elements (and why Apple wants to improve them) has to do with size. Menus and toolbars occupy screen real estate, reducing your available workspace. This can be problematic on smaller screens, especially with the new 11″ MacBook Air. Apple’s patent, which also pertains to iOS, presents a different take on the traditional menu and toolbar.

Take the scrollable menu. It would be displayed as a command on your screen. Selecting it via trackpad or touchscreen would present a menu of icons or text, allowing you to scroll through to save, print, or execute whatever function you need. The patent also includes different scrolling menu formations, including columns and a circular loop:

The ingenious aspect of this patent is the design. It’s applicable to both menus and toolbars, with multiple benefits for users. The immediate upside is a cleaner interface, which goes hand-in-hand with Apple’s simple, modern design aesthetic.

However, the line where OS X ends and iOS begins is steadily blurring. Adopting this method of presenting menus and toolbars, coupled with the march towards full-screen apps (iLife ’11, anyone?) is creating a strange OS X/iOS hybrid. We’re living in a world of increased touchscreen device usage, but we’re still unable to part with the keyboard/mouse combo for full-powered computing. It’s a strange tug-of-war. With the popularity of iOS devices, it’s quite probable that touchscreen computing will come out on top.

Do you prefer touchscreens over using a keyboard and mouse? What do you think of this patent: improvement, or a waste of time? As always, leave your thoughts in the comments!

Article Via Giga Om

Photo Credit: Patently Apple

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