Going for a scroll with Micosoft Pivot

It’s rare for me to get this excited about software. Even rarer for it to be a Microsoft product. In this case, I think they’ve done something absolutely brilliant. Microsoft Pivot is kind of interesting, as a proof of concept of Silverlight’s capabilities and the traversing of complex sudo-database driven taxonomy. Yeah, yeah, that’s all cool and fun to play with, but what stands out is the innovation of an often overlooked universal user interface element: the scrollbar.

When was the last time we saw a change to the scroll bar outside of the mouse wheel? Pivot’s approach may be a solution the age old problem of the scanning of huge amounts of data, and the scrolling of mobile web content all in one fell swoop (even if they don’t realize it.)

The vertical scrollbar appears just like any other. Upon click-dragging the bar towards the content area of the screen, the content zooms out proportionality. You can then move up and down as you normally would to scroll the zoomed out content. A box moves over the content on the screen to identify which part of the screen you will see when letting go of the mouse button.

This  serves a secondary purpose, as a controlled speed scroll. Try it with your current browser. Click and drag the scroll bar from the top to the bottom of a long page of content (try it with Boing Boing.) The mixed content flashes by without giving anything a chance to catch your eye. With Pivot’s scroll bar, you can see what is ahead and what is behind of the page focus. This gives you a unique ability to scan, even peripherally for something of interest without sacrificing scroll times.

Sure, one could argue that they would never use this. Well…then don’t. The option to use it in the browser would be just another tool like the ‘search page’ functionality; not everyone will want to use it. The beauty is that the function is so subtle that it hides in plain sight. If you want it, it’s there. If not, it wont effect the way you browse the web.

This type of modest functionality is exactly what we need. Perfect for both large content pages and small display interfaces such as mobile devices. The simple interaction necessary to access this zoomed scroll is so intuitive and simple, that I feel embarrassed that I never thought of it. I guess that feeling is a cue to its effective simplicity and its genius.