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Apple Lisa was the first commercial personal computer to be operated by a graphical user interface. Xerox Alto, the first GUI-based computer from the ’70s, was a research project, while Xerox Star and PERQ, both predating Lisa, were technically workstations.

Lisa’s GUI introduced many concepts in a way we know them today – the list includes pull-down menus, drag-and-drop (for moving icons), double clicking (for selecting the icon and performing the default action), and desktop trashcan.

The original trashcan for Apple Lisa was supposed to have been an old, beat up alley trashcan, with the lid half open, flies buzzing around it and appropriate sounds as user put something inside.

Apple Lisa interface initially supported scrollbar boxes that were proportional to the displayed portion of the window, but the designers abandoned this idea, fearing that users will have problems understanding it properly. It took years for the idea to resurface; proportional scroll boxes appeared in Mac OS 8 in 1998, and also earlier in Windows 95.

The interesting terminology of Apple Lisa seems to have inspired other GUI architects. Authors of OS/2 2.0 Workplace Shell wrote in their guidelines “We characterize the Minimize and Hide actions as requests to ‘put aside temporarily,’ while Close is thought of as ‘put away.’” This is almost identical to “Set Aside” and “Put Away” options of Lisa.

The Apple Lisa screen had unusual, non-square pixels, a decision which gave the display higher horizontal resolution at the expense of awkward aspect ratio (1.5:1 instead of typical 1:1). This was a problem while rotating objects, running Macintosh-native programs, etc.

All icons, buttons and GUI elements in Apple Lisa Office System are glyphs in special system fonts, and are drawn internally just like regular text.

Page added on 22nd January 2005.

Copyright © 2002-2006 Marcin Wichary, unless stated otherwise.