Chapter 1. Overview of the Indigo Magic Desktop

The Indigo Magic Desktop environment allows users to interact with applications by using a graphical, point-and-click interface based on icons and windows. It offers an easy, powerful alternative to typing commands in the traditional UNIX® style.

This chapter provides a brief overview of the Indigo Magic Desktop environment from the user's perspective. It describes how users expect to interact with their graphical environment and with your application. The specific implications for your application are discussed in the remainder of Part One, “Integrating With the Indigo Magic Desktop.” For details on how users interact with the Indigo Magic Desktop, see the online IRIS Essentials manual.

This chapter covers the following topics:

Overview of the Desktop

The Indigo Magic Desktop appears in Figure 1-1 along with the major desktop tools and examples of icons and minimized windows. The important elements in the Indigo Magic Desktop environment are:

  • 4Dwm—the window manager application underlying the Indigo Magic Desktop. (4Dwm is the only sanctioned window manager for the Indigo Magic environment.) It is an X Window System client based on the Motif Window Manager (MWM). 4Dwm provides window management, desks (defined below), and session management. It provides facilities for controlling window placement, window size, keyboard focus ownership, and minimized windows.

  • Toolchest—a menu bar that provides general system commands not specific to any application. This menu bar is displayed horizontally or vertically, depending on the user's preference, and is positioned by default in the upper left corner of the desktop.

  • Find an Icon tool—a tool for either retrieving a file's icon, given the name, or obtaining the full path and filename given the icon.

  • Directory Views—windows that display the contents of a UNIX file directory (folder icon) in various formats involving icons. The Directory View has an optional shelf pane where users can store frequently used icons. Note the thumbwheel on the lower left side of the window—it lets users adjust the viewing size of icons in the display area of the Directory View window.

  • Desks Overview—a tool for creating and managing multiple virtual screens (desks). It lets users set up and switch desks, typically for organizing their work. 4Dwm allows these desks to display different backgrounds.

  • Search tool—a tool that lets users search for files, printers, hosts, drives, and people.

  • Icons on the screen background—symbols that represent entities, such as applications, files, directories, people, printers, the Indy Cam™ camera, removable media devices (for example, CDROM, floppy, and DAT drives), and other devices. Users can place icons in any portion of the desktop to have them readily accessible.

  • Customize control panels—windows that let users specify various types of preferences, such as screen background and language.

  • Icon Catalog—a window that allows users to access application icons directly. It uses a page-oriented metaphor with six default pages: Applications, Collaboration, Demos, Desktop Tools, Media Tools, and Control Panels. Users can also create their own pages.

These tools affect the design of your application. Specific design implications are discussed in detail in the remainder of Part One. For more information on the tools themselves, see the IRIS Essentials manual.

Figure 1-1. Major Elements of the Indigo Magic Desktop

How Users Interact With Desktop Icons

Users interact with icons on the Indigo Magic Desktop using a point-and-click graphical user interface. For example, the following techniques represent some of the ways a user can launch an application using icons:

  • double-clicking the application icon, which launches the application and opens a new file

  • double-clicking a file icon, which launches the application opened to that specific file

  • selecting the application icon (by single-clicking or dragging a rectangle that encloses it) and then choosing “Open Icon” from the Selected menu (in the Toolchest for icons on the screen background or in the specific tool window for other icons)

  • dragging a compatible file icon and dropping it on top of the application icon, which launches the application and opens that specific file

The six states that are used to represent icon manipulations are indicated primarily by painting specific portions of the icon with a predefined “icon color.” As the state changes, the areas painted with the icon color change color. For the specific implications on the design of your application's icons, see “General Icon Design: Components, Size, and Colors” in Chapter 2.

The icon states of the IRIS Showcase application icon are illustrated in Figure 1-2. (Note that the magic carpet under the magician's hat is the generic executable symbol used in the Indigo Magic environment to identify the icon as an application icon.) In the figure, the hat brim, the light shading on the hat, and the carpet are in the predefined icon color and thus change color as the state changes. The states are:

  • neutral—the icon isn't involved in any operations. The icon appears in the base colors you've chosen. The portions containing the icon color appear in light gray.

  • locate highlight—the pointer is resting on the icon and the icon isn't currently selected (see the following description of the selected state). The icon color portions change from the neutral state color light gray to white. The locate highlight feature lets the user know that the highlighted icon will be selected if the user single-clicks or opened if the user double-clicks. (The locate highlight feature also applies to components in windows to provide feedback as to which objects are true components and which are passive graphics, as described in “Enhanced Graphics in the Indigo Magic Look” in Chapter 3.)

  • selected—the icon has been chosen potentially for some operation. Users select an icon by single-clicking on it with the left mouse button or dragging a rectangle around it using the left mouse button. When an icon is selected, the icon color portions turn yellow. Note that the icon color is bright yellow when the window containing the icon (or the screen background) has the keyboard focus; otherwise, the icon color is a dim yellow. Users can choose entries from the Selected menu (from the Toolchest if the icon is on the screen background or from a window's menu bar if contained in a tool window) to perform various operations on the object represented by the icon.

  • open—applies to application icons but not to data file icons. For application icons, the open state indicates that the application is running. Application icons indicate their open state by moving the magic carpet from a horizontal to a vertical position and by changing their application icon symbol. This is discussed in more detail in “Application Icon Design” in Chapter 2. Note that application icons don't indicate their open state with colors.

  • drag—an icon is in the process of being moved on the screen. Users drag icons by pressing and holding down the left mouse button while the pointer is positioned over the icon and then moving the mouse. The icon moves around the desktop with the pointer. As an icon is dragged, the portions colored with the icon color display in yellow since it's in the selected state, and a ghost image of the icon with the icon color portions displaying in dark gray remains in the original position. The ghost image remains until the user drops or places the icon or cancels the drag operation.

  • drop-accepting—an icon has another icon moved on top of it to perform some operation. For example, users can move a file from one directory to another by dragging the icon representing the file and dropping it onto the icon representing the new directory. When an icon has another icon positioned over it, the icon color portions of the destination icon turn royal blue if the destination icon can accept dropped icons or remain in their current color if the destination icon doesn't accept them.

    Figure 1-2. Icon States: User Actions and Effects

Mouse and Keyboard Hardware

The Silicon Graphics three-button mouse supports the mouse actions defined in the OSF/Motif Style Guide (such as press, release, click, motion, multiclick, multipress, and multimotion). Table 1-1 lists these buttons and their functions. If a mouse action is mentioned in this guide without reference to a specific mouse button, assume that the button being used is the left mouse button. For example, “when the user clicks on the OK button. . .” means “when the user positions the pointer over the OK button and clicks the left mouse button. . . .” Note that users can switch the mouse to a left-handed mouse via the Mouse Settings control panel available from the Desktop->Customize menu in the Toolchest.

Table 1-1. Mouse Button Names and Functions


OSF/Motif Name

Silicon Graphics Name


Leftmost button


Left mouse button

Used for all primary interactions, including selection, activation, and setting the location cursor.

Middle button


Middle mouse button

Used for moving and copying elements. Can be used for advanced user shortcuts that are also included in a more obvious interface.

Rightmost button


Right mouse button

Exclusively used for popping up menus.

[a] This table assumes a right-handed mouse.

Silicon Graphics keyboards support the following special keys that are used to interact with Motif-compliant applications:



<Back Space>






<Page Up>

<Page Down>

Modifier keys: <Ctrl>, <Alt>, <Shift>

Ten function keys: <F1> through <F10>

Special printing characters: </>, <\>, <!>

Arrow keys: <down arrow>, <left arrow>, <right arrow>, <up arrow>

In addition to these keys, Silicon Graphics keyboards also support the function keys <F11> and <F12>, which aren't included in the OSF/Motif Style Guide. If your application uses these keys, limit them to application-specific functionality rather than the general functionality described in this guide.

Table 1-2 lists the keys that the OSF/Motif Style Guide defines but that don't appear on Silicon Graphics keyboards; it also lists the corresponding Motif-compliant substitutions for Silicon Graphics keyboards.

Table 1-2. Keyboard Substitutes

OSF/Motif Key

Silicon Graphics Substitute