Patent application title: Method of Selecting an Application Target Window in a User Interface
Brennan Boblett (San Francisco, CA, US)
Evan Small (Menlo Park, CA, US)
Roy Goldman (Cupertino, CA, US)
Michael Fairman (Santa Cruz, CA, US)
TESLA MOTORS, INC.
IPC8 Class: AG06F30481FI
Class name: On-screen workspace or object window or viewpoint on-screen window list or index
Publication date: 2014-04-03
Patent application number: 20140096069
A method for controlling application windows is provided for use with a
graphical user interface (GUI) display which is divided into at least
first and second application windows. Various software applications may
be launched in the first and second application windows. In order to
switch locations of the software applications launched in the first and
second application windows the user selects a swap window button, for
example by tapping or clicking on a swap window icon on the GUI display.
1. A method of controlling application windows on a graphical user
interface (GUI) display, the method comprising the steps of: configuring
a first portion of said GUI display into a first application window and a
second application window; launching a first software application in said
first application window; launching a second software application in said
second application window; accepting a first user selection of a swap
window button, wherein said first user selection is made by a user of
said GUI display, and wherein said swap window button is represented on
said GUI display by a swap window icon; and switching said first software
application to said second application window and switching said second
software application to said first application window in response to said
first user selection of said swap window button.
2. The method of claim 1, further comprising the step of switching said first software application to said first application window and switching said second software application to said second application window in response to a second user selection of said swap window button, wherein said second user selection is made after said first user selection.
3. The method of claim 1, further comprising the step of displaying said swap window icon between said first and second application windows.
4. The method of claim 1, further comprising the step of displaying said swap window icon adjacent to an intersection of said first and second application windows.
5. The method of claim 1, wherein said GUI display is comprised of a touch-screen, wherein said step of accepting said first user selection of said swap window button is comprised of the step of said user tapping said swap window icon on said touch-screen.
6. The method of claim 1, wherein said step of accepting said first user selection of said swap window button is comprised of the steps of placing a cursor over said swap window icon with a mouse controller and clicking said swap window button with a mouse controller button.
7. The method of claim 1, further comprising the steps of: providing a taskbar on a second portion of said GUI display; and displaying a plurality of icons within said taskbar, wherein each of said plurality of icons represents a corresponding one of a plurality of software applications, wherein said plurality of software applications include said first and second software applications, wherein said step of launching said first software application is performed in response to a user selection of a first icon of said plurality of icons, and wherein said step of launching said second software application is performed in response to a user selection of a second icon of said plurality of icons.
8. The method of claim 7, wherein said GUI display is mounted within a vehicle.
9. The method of claim 8, wherein said plurality of software applications include at least two of an entertainment system application, a navigation system application, an energy tracking application, a browser application, a camera application and a phone application.
10. The method of claim 8, further comprising the step of providing a plurality of persistent controls on a third portion of said GUI display.
11. The method of claim 10, wherein said plurality of persistent controls include at least one of a vehicle settings controller, a passenger cabin temperature controller, a vehicle seat warmer controller, an audio volume controller, and a defroster controller.
12. The method of claim 1, further comprising the step of pre-sizing said first and second application windows.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
 This application claims the benefit of the filing date of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/706,915, filed 28 Sep. 2012, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference for any and all purposes.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention relates generally to a user interface and, more particularly, to a method of selecting the target window in which an application is viewed on a user interface.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 A conventional computer interface provides a variety of simplified techniques that can be used to select and activate a particular program or application. While the nomenclature and launch features may vary depending upon the operating system, in general these techniques allow a shortcut for the desired program/application to be placed directly on the desktop or within a taskbar or dock located at a screen edge, for example along the top or bottom of the screen. When the user selects a particular program/application, either by tapping (or double tapping) on the program/application icon if the interface is a touch-screen, or selecting the program/application by clicking (or double clicking) on the icon using a mouse, the program/application opens up on the screen. Generally the program/application will open in a full screen mode, i.e., maximized to cover the entire screen window. In some operating systems, if the program/application was minimized prior to its last closure, when re-opened it will re-open in the same size window as when it was closed. Similarly, if the program/application was minimized prior to its last closure, when re-opened the program/application will typically be located in the same location on the screen as where it was when it was last closed.
 When a touch-screen or mouse-controlled user interface is used in a vehicle, the driver is often required to open an application, input data, or otherwise interact with the interface in a rushed manner and while performing other tasks related to driving the car. In this and similar scenarios, conventional application shortcuts may provide the user with insufficient control. Accordingly, what is needed is shortcut technique that easily and quickly allows a user to control the target windows associated with multiple applications, thus minimizing user interaction while still providing the user with the desired level of control. The present invention provides such a user interface.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 A method for controlling application windows on a graphical user interface (GUI) display is provided, the method including the steps of (i) configuring a first portion of the GUI display into a first application window and a second application window; (ii) launching a first software application within the first application window; (iii) launching a second software application within the second application window; (iv) accepting a first user selection of a swap window button represented on the GUI display by a swap window icon; and (v) switching the first software application to the second application window and switching the second software application to the first application window in response to the first user selection of the swap window button. Each time the swap window button is selected, the software applications within the first and second application windows switch positions. The swap window icon may be displayed between the first and second application windows; alternately, the swap window icon may be displayed adjacent to the intersection of the first and second application windows. The user can select the swap window icon by tapping on the icon, assuming a touch-screen, or selecting the icon using a mouse controller.
 In another aspect, a taskbar may be included within a second portion of the GUI display, where a plurality of icons is displayed within the taskbar and each of the icons corresponds to one of a plurality of programs, including the first and second software applications. The GUI display may be mounted in a vehicle and the plurality of programs may include at least two of an entertainment system application, a navigation system application, an energy tracking application, a browser application, a camera application and a phone application. A plurality of persistent controls may be provided on a third portion of the GUI display, where the persistent controls may include at least one of a vehicle settings controller, a passenger cabin temperature controller, a vehicle seat warmer controller, an audio volume controller, and a defroster controller.
 A further understanding of the nature and advantages of the present invention may be realized by reference to the remaining portions of the specification and the drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1 provides a block diagram of an exemplary interface system that may be used with the present invention;
 FIG. 2 illustrates an exemplary GUI screen; and
 FIG. 3 illustrates the exemplary GUI screen of FIG. 2 after a user has selected the swap application window button, thereby swapping application locations on the GUI screen.
DESCRIPTION OF THE SPECIFIC EMBODIMENTS
 The preferred embodiment of the present invention utilizes a large format screen, preferably a touch-screen, which is of sufficient size to allow multiple windows to be opened. It will be appreciated that the screen size required for multiple window viewing depends upon a number of factors, including the user. Thus while the preferred embodiment utilizes a 17-inch touch-screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio, other embodiments may utilize both smaller and larger screen sizes.
 In the preferred embodiment, the touch-screen display is used in a vehicle, both as a visual aid and as a means of controlling multiple vehicle subsystems. It should be understood that the invention may also be used in non-vehicle applications (e.g., desktop computer, laptop computer, tablet, smartphone, etc.). If used within a vehicle compartment, preferably the display is mounted within the vehicle's central console, thus providing access to the data on the screen as well as the displayed system controls to both the driver and the passenger seated in the passenger front seat.
 FIG. 1 provides a block diagram of an exemplary interface system 100 that includes touch-screen 101 and is suitable for use with the invention. In system 100, display 101 is coupled to a system controller 103. Controller 103 includes a graphical processing unit (GPU) 105, a central processing unit (CPU) 107, and memory 109. CPU 107 and GPU 105 may be separate or contained on a single chip set. Memory 109 may be comprised of flash memory, a solid state disk drive, a hard disk drive, or any other memory type or combination of memory types. Controller 103 is coupled to a variety of different vehicle subsystems, including the vehicle subsystem controls and vehicle subsystem monitors that are to be accessed and/or viewed on display 101. Exemplary subsystems include audio subsystem 111, climate control subsystem 113, navigation subsystem 115, drive train monitoring subsystem 117, charging subsystem 119, mobile phone subsystem 121, vehicle camera subsystem 123, vehicle set-up subsystem 125 and web browser subsystem 127. Vehicle set-up subsystem 125 allows general vehicle operating conditions to be set, conditions such as seat position, moon roof or sun roof position/operation, internal and external lighting, windshield wiper operation, etc. Preferably a mobile telecommunications link 129 is also coupled to controller 103, thereby allowing the controller to obtain updates, interface configuration profiles, and other data from an external data source (e.g., manufacturer, dealer, service center, web-based application, remote home-based system, etc.). Mobile telecommunications link 129 may be based on any of a variety of different standards including, but not limited to, GSM EDGE, UMTS, CDMA2000, DECT, and WiMAX.
 FIG. 2 provides an exemplary screen 200. It should be understood that the icons and information shown on this and subsequent graphical user interface (GUI) screens is for illustration purposes only and that the invention is equally applicable to screens utilizing a different format, size or configuration as well as interfaces utilizing different operating systems, different programs/applications, etc. Furthermore, it should be understood that the terms "program", "application" and "program/application" are used interchangeably throughout this specification.
 A GUI display configured for use with the invention, regardless of whether the display is a touch-screen as preferred or a non-touch-screen, preferably includes a dedicated taskbar region 201. Although taskbar region 201 is shown positioned at the top of GUI screen 200, it will be appreciated that it could be located elsewhere (e.g., at the bottom of the screen, along a side of the screen, etc.). Within taskbar 201 are icons representative of the applications that provide the user with shortcut access to each of the designated applications, for example applications that control various vehicle subsystems. In one embodiment the application shortcuts located within the taskbar are configured by a third party (e.g., the system or vehicle manufacturer) while in another embodiment the application shortcuts located within the taskbar are configured by the end user. Typically the shortcuts in taskbar 201 are for those applications for which frequent access is desired. In the exemplary GUI screen the illustrated shortcuts are for a media/audio/entertainment system application (i.e., media icon 203), a navigation system application (i.e., navigation icon 205), an energy tracking application that monitors battery usage/charging (i.e., energy icon 207), a browser application (i.e., web icon 209), a camera application for a back-up and/or forward view camera (i.e., camera icon 211), and a mobile/cell phone interface application (i.e., phone icon 213).
 In accordance with the invention, a portion of the GUI display screen is divided into two or more windows that are used to display the selected applications. In the exemplary screen 200, two windows are shown with upper window 215 displaying web browser application 209 and lower window 217 displaying a map selected via navigation interface application 205. In the preferred embodiment, a selected window may be expanded to cover all of the windows (e.g., windows 215 and 217), a particularly useful feature when either the web browser or the navigation system is selected. In the illustrated embodiment the user can switch between a full-screen and a half-screen mode for a particular application by tapping, or clicking, on button 219 within the lower left hand corner of the affected window. It will be appreciated that button 219 can be located elsewhere on display screen 200, or an alternate means may be used to toggle between full-screen and half-screen display modes for a particular application window. Additionally, in some embodiments the user can resize windows, for example allowing the lower window to cover 75% of the available display screen while the upper window covers only 25% of the available display screen.
 In the illustrated GUI a portion 221 of the screen is used for persistent controls that remain on the display screen regardless of the applications being displayed on the screen. These persistent controls may be selected based on the need for frequent access (e.g., temperature controllers 223/225, seat warmers 227/229, climate controller 231 and audio volume controller 233, etc.) or for safety (e.g., front defroster controller 235, rear defroster controller 237, etc.). In the exemplary screen, a "settings" button 239 is also shown, which provides the user with instant access to the various vehicle settings (e.g., lights, sunroof control, etc.). The persistent controls may be configured by the user, the system/vehicle manufacturer, or by a third party.
 In accordance with the invention, the user is able to easily and quickly swap the positions of the software applications within the upper and lower windows, thus allowing the user to customize the display to meet current preferences. For example, during a drive the user may have selected the web browser application 209 in order to use an internet radio service. During the majority of the drive the internet radio service may be displayed on the lower window (i.e., lower window 217) while a navigation screen, selected via navigation application 205, may be displayed on the primary viewing region of the screen (i.e., upper window 215). At some point during the drive the user may wish to switch positions of these two application windows, for example in order to position the web browser in the upper viewing window 215 while using the web browser to look-up an address, get additional information about the destination, etc. According to the invention, in order to swap application window locations, the user simply taps, or clicks, on button 241 (represented by a swap window icon on the display), where tapping refers to selecting button 241 by touching soft-button 241 on a touch-screen and clicking refers to selecting button 241 using a mouse controller or similar input device with either a touch-screen or non-touch screen display.
 In the preferred and illustrated embodiment, window swap button 241 is located between windows 215 and 217, or adjacent to the intersection of windows 215 and 217, thus intuitively linking the button's location with its function. The use of a double-ended arrow icon for button 241 provides the user with a visual indicator as to the functionality of button 241. Note that the inventors clearly envision button 241 having a different look/icon, for example a button with the word "swap" and a double-ended arrow. Similarly, the inventors envision that button 241 may be located elsewhere on the display 200, for example within portion 221 of the screen.
 When a user activates button 241, for example by tapping or clicking the button, the application windows switch positions as previously noted. Thus if the user is viewing display 200 shown in FIG. 2 and taps or otherwise selects button 241, the applications would switch positions as illustrated in GUI screen 300 shown in FIG. 3. Then, if the user selects button 241 again, the two windows would switch positions back to the positions shown in FIG. 2. It will be appreciated that this technique of providing a simple means of swapping application windows may be used with any two applications, e.g., media/audio control interface, phone interface, etc.
 It should be understood that identical element symbols used on multiple figures refer to the same component, or components of equal functionality. Additionally, the accompanying figures are only meant to illustrate, not limit, the scope of the invention and should not be considered to be to scale.
 Systems and methods have been described in general terms as an aid to understanding details of the invention. In some instances, well-known structures, materials, and/or operations have not been specifically shown or described in detail to avoid obscuring aspects of the invention. In other instances, specific details have been given in order to provide a thorough understanding of the invention. One skilled in the relevant art will recognize that the invention may be embodied in other specific forms, for example to adapt to a particular system or apparatus or situation or material or component, without departing from the spirit or essential characteristics thereof. Therefore the disclosures and descriptions herein are intended to be illustrative, but not limiting, of the scope of the invention.
Patent applications by Michael Fairman, Santa Cruz, CA US
Patent applications by TESLA MOTORS, INC.
Patent applications in class On-screen window list or index
Patent applications in all subclasses On-screen window list or index