Directional Selection is Easy as Pie Menus! - March 1987

Directional Selection is Easy as Pie Menus!
Don Hopkins
University of Maryland
Written March 30, 1987
Abstract for the 4th Usenix Computer Graphics Workshop.

Simple Simon popped a Pie Men-
u upon the screen;
With directional selection,
all is peachy keen!

Pie Menus provide a practical, intuitive, efficient way for people to interact with computers. They run circles around buttoned-down square old pull down menus, in both capability and convenience.

The choices of a Pie Menu are organized in a circle around the cursor, so that the direction of movement makes the choice, allowing the distance to be used in other ways; essentially, they have two outputs: direction and distance. Pie Menus encompass many forms of input: they can utilize various types of hardware, and their two dimensions of output can represent many types of data.

Their circular nature makes them especially well suited for spatially oriented tasks. Menu choices can be positioned in mnemonic directions, with complementary items across from each other, orthogonal pairs at right angles, and other natural arrangements. Pie Menus can make intuitively explicit the symmetry, balance, and opposition between choices.

Choices can be made from Pie Menus in quick, easily remembered strokes. When the direction of a selection in a Pie Menu is known, it can be chosen without even looking. The use of familiar Pie Menus does not require any visual attention, as the use of pull down menus demands.

Experiments comparing pull down menus and Pie Menus have shown clearly that people can choose items faster and with fewer errors from Pie Menus. They are straightforward and simple to master, and facilitate a swift, fluent, natural style of human computer interaction.