What is the best user interface you've ever used? One that made doing your task a pleasure, that was perfectly designed for the task it was intended for and facilitated doing it with ease. One that made you want to somehow locate the creators over the internet, personally fly to their location, and then hand them a large pile of money.

What made it so great? Was it simplicity, unobtrusiveness? Screenshots are a plus.

Related question: Worst UI Ever.

Update 8/12/2010 9:55am: Speaking of this question potentially being "confrontational", here are the most controversial answers, where "controversy" is defined as (1 - (# down votes / # up votes)). 0 would be most controversial with an even ratio (equal number of people hate it and love it). I also included the total number of votes so you could see how 'hot' the topic really is:

  • vim: 0.7, 52 total votes
  • Unix shell: 0.716, 131 total votes
  • Mac OS X: 0.719, 187 total votes
  • Smith & Wesson 357 Mag: 0.723, 83 total votes
  • Total Commander: 0.724, 37 total votes

What can we all agree on?

  • Half-Life Weapon Selector: 1.0, 19 total votes (unanimous agreement of awesomeness)
  • textmate/e: 1.0, 25 total votes (must be a great editor... or not well-known... or both)
  • uTorrent: 0.973, 115 total votes
  • Tortoise SVN: 0.95, 43 total votes
  • GMail: 0.949, 247 total votes

I should add this is biased to the higher-scoring ones, or ones with a lot of votes. For example, Facebook is probably most controversial by far (0.2), but it only has 11 total votes, so that's probably not representative enough. Also people probably upvote more than they downvote anyway, so maybe the ratio should be different. But this isn't a scientific experiment anyway =).

260 accepted

That would have to be Google.



It totally changed the way I think about email, tagging and searching. We're forced to use Outlook at work -- I used to think it's the cat's whiskers but GMail has spoiled me.


I know that this is controversial. But I really like the new UI of Office 2007, especially the Office Ribbon Bar.


I know this looks like a shameless suck-up, but Stack Overflow ranks right up there for me as a great web UI. There are many subtle but helpful UI features that make it an intuitive environment.

Some of my favorite features include:

  • Ability to see new answers without abandoning the one you are editing.
  • Markup-based text editor with live preview.
  • Answered question suggestions when you are submitting new questions.

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just one among many features - Now you see it, now you don't!

Often, the solution to a problem can be found just by disabling a few CSS properties and seeing what the world looks like without them. As you mouse over each property, you'll see a little circular icon on the left. Clicking that will disable the property, and clicking it again will turn it back on.

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I'm really happy with Google Chrome.

It's missing some features I think are really important, so it's not perfect software, but the UI is great.

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The iPhone

I keep finding wonderful stuff it does. Like when you browse to a web page in Safari that has a telephone number in it when you touch the number it dials it for you.

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uTorrent - nice and simple

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Mac OS X. Love Apple or hate them, you have to admit that they've got the edge when it comes to UI design.

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The iPod is one of the better interfaces I've ever used. Especially once they went to the click-wheel.


The Unix shell, especially modern variants like ksh and bash that include process substitution with things like <() and >().

The large library of utilities and the uniform way of assembling them using pipes makes it the closest thing to the Lego Brick model of assembling pre-written components that I have ever seen.

With tools like cut/paste/wc/sed/awk/grep/comm/sort/look/join/etc. for processing text, tools like find and xargs and "for loops" for processing files, and tools like bc, dc, and expr for processing numbers, it is the most flexible, responsive, and subservient environment in which I have ever had the pleasure of working.

I place a very special value on subservience in computers. I believe that the purpose of the computer is to serve the human, and one of the best things about Unix is that it follows your instructions, no matter how stupid or how clever they are. It doesn't try to out-think you or stop you if what you are doing is dangerous. It just does what it's told.

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Picasa, hands down. It made me think differently about how pleasant an experience a GUI could give.

A friend then told me "if you like that, you should get a Mac -- the whole OS is that way". So I did, and it was nowhere near as good. Especially iPhoto.

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    From: patl@athena.mit.edu (Patrick J. LoPresti)
    Subject: The True Path (long)
    Date: 11 Jul 91 03:17:31 GMT
    Newsgroups: alt.religion.emacs,alt.slack

    When I log into my Xenix system with my 110 baud teletype, both vi
    *and* Emacs are just too damn slow.  They print useless messages like,
    'C-h for help' and '"foo" File is read only'.  So I use the editor
    that doesn't waste my VALUABLE time.

    Ed, man!  !man ed

    ED(1)               Unix Programmer's Manual                ED(1)

         ed - text editor

         ed [ - ] [ -x ] [ name ]
         Ed is the standard text editor.

    Computer Scientists love ed, not just because it comes first
    alphabetically, but because it's the standard.  Everyone else loves ed
    because it's ED!

    "Ed is the standard text editor."

    And ed doesn't waste space on my Timex Sinclair.  Just look:

    -rwxr-xr-x  1 root          24 Oct 29  1929 /bin/ed
    -rwxr-xr-t  4 root     1310720 Jan  1  1970 /usr/ucb/vi
    -rwxr-xr-x  1 root  5.89824e37 Oct 22  1990 /usr/bin/emacs

    Of course, on the system *I* administrate, vi is symlinked to ed.
    Emacs has been replaced by a shell script which 1) Generates a syslog
    message at level LOG_EMERG; 2) reduces the user's disk quota by 100K;
    and 3) RUNS ED!!!!!!

    "Ed is the standard text editor."

    Let's look at a typical novice's session with the mighty ed:

    golem$ ed

    eat flaming death

    Note the consistent user interface and error reportage.  Ed is
    generous enough to flag errors, yet prudent enough not to overwhelm
    the novice with verbosity.

    "Ed is the standard text editor."

    Ed, the greatest WYGIWYG editor of all.


    When I use an editor, I don't want eight extra KILOBYTES of worthless
    help screens and cursor positioning code!  I just want an EDitor!!
    Not a "viitor".  Not a "emacsitor".  Those aren't even WORDS!!!! ED!


    When IBM, in its ever-present omnipotence, needed to base their
    "edlin" on a Unix standard, did they mimic vi?  No.  Emacs?  Surely
    you jest.  They chose the most karmic editor of all.  The standard.

    Ed is for those who can *remember* what they are working on.  If you
    are an idiot, you should use Emacs.  If you are an Emacs, you should
    not be vi.  If you use ED, you are on THE PATH TO REDEMPTION.  THE



It's fast, intuitive, and very adaptable. It allows for so many tasks to get done quickly and simply.


The best UI I've ever used is my Smith & Wesson 357 Mag.

The first "Point-and-shoot" user interface. I must admit that it is VERY intuitive. ;)


I would have to say Paint.NET

It is a very powerful editor and very intuitive.


Tortoise SVN: The shell integration is really smooth, stays out of your way, and works just the way you expect it to work.


vim deserves a mention. Horribly unfriendly to new users, really nasty learning curve, not particularly discoverable, but once I was familiar with it it was really productive.


When messing around with paint.net I found a really cool feature of the UI, the exit without saving dialogue:

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These kind of dialogues usually only take up a small part of the screen however they block you from clicking anywhere else, so why use normal size buttons? Love it!



The two easiest to use yet most powerful editors I've ever seen.


Visual Studio 2008 with Resharper


Since @splattne already mentioned the Office 2007's ribbon I have to write my second best:

Total Commander

Simple & powerful interface. 2 big important panels, few buttons, keyboard shortcut for everything. Most used program for me, I can't imagine copying, moving and organising files using multiple explorer windows.


Half-Life Weapon Selector

  • Easy to visualize the weapons in your arsenal and much easier to find a particular weapon when you don't remember its number.
  • Only 7 weapon number/slots were needed instead of the usual 10, which really helps when I want to bind other keys for weapon selection.

I really like the UI of stackoverflow.com


I am not going to post a single, and doubt there's a "best" in my experience. Some great UIs:

  • Adium -
    highly customizable multiple-service IM client. I've seen it all tricked out, but I have it configured to be extremely minimalist.
  • Transmission -
    full-featured torrent client, with an extremely minimalist UI. Has nearly all of the features of Azureus, with none of the bloat and very little of the heavy UI.
  • Versions -
    GUI for Subversion. My favorite aspect is that it has a single interface for repositories and working copies. Highly customizable but also very simple; well integrated with the OS.
  • FileMerge -
    Apple's Diff GUI. I listed this because it has excellent visualization of changes (they are visibly connected, and scrolling side by side correctly keeps unchanged lines adjacent).
  • Balsamiq Mockups -
    UI sketch up tool. It isn't actually a particularly great UI, but it's the best I know of. It makes designing UI concepts dead simple and has a wealth of built in widgets.
  • Reason -
    I realize this is not a terribly great UI, but it is absolutely the best in music software that I've worked with, and does a great job of matching UI to task.
  • Google Chrome -
    I feel a bit disappointed to post it, because it's also not a terribly great UI, and the Mozilla UI team is doing much more in terms of useful innovation (it just hasn't been released yet), but the browser UI landscape absolutely blows and Chrome stands out as best in class.

Some already mentioned which got my up-vote:

  • Textmate
  • Quicksilver
  • StackOverflow



Google Reader


One thing that blew me away lately was Photosynth by (surprisingly) Microsoft. It requires installation of Silverlight2, but it offers two amazing things:

  1. The guys at Live Labs used what they now call Deep Zoom (formerly known as SeaDragon), which I encourage everyone to read about, and watch the demos online. This is truly an awesome new technology, that has the potential to revolutionize the way pictures are shared on the web.
  2. The ability to fly freely through a 3D point model of the photographed object/location, created automatically from the supplied photos, is really incredible in some models, even though currently it's a keyboard only feature (I believe they're working on it).

Another application UI that I like is that of the virtual globes, Google Earth and Microsoft's Virtual Earth. Both are excellent, intuitive and practical, especially if you have the right hardware.

Yuval =8-)


Amazon. It's simple, but very effective.




blender3d has both the best and worst interface around.

Its worst for a simple reason. There's no way to learn it. There's no clear way to discover what the next step in your modeling process should be. If you figure out what you need to do next, there's no way to figure out where in its immense interface that is. Even if you know where it is, it is not always obvious how to use it. Your only hope is to spend several hours or days going through manuals and tutorials and screencasts.

That being said, it's actually very well thought out. It's based on the assumption that you will have one hand on the mouse and one on the keyboard. It places each tool very close to where you'll need it. Almost everything can be accessed from a few keystrokes combined with context menus. You can adjust the position of all the controls to suit your particular needs and environment, but they lock in place so they will always be where you expect them. There are very few floating windws, most tools are in a paneled view so nothing is ever in the way of what you're working on, but the few floating windows are used as overlays, augmenting the view, rather than obscuring it. Everything can be zoomed and panned, weather its the model your modifying, the button panels, menus, python scripts...


I feel like World Of Warcraft should be mentioned.

Simple, not too clunky and very customizable.


I use Linux but Office 2007 is the best I've seen for 'easy and good looking UI'


GNU Emacs. When I'm in the zone, I am able to manipulate it as fast as I can think.


Cinema 4D - 3D editing and animation is very hard to make user friendly due to the inherent complexity of working in 4 dimensions, but this one is as intuitive as they get. I frequently use it as a point of reference when designing my own UIs.


XBMC - for a community project it has such a low barrier to entry my child can run it with nary an issue


Really, no-one's mentioned SketchUp yet?

There are a lot of interfaces that are ?good?: that do what we expect within their application field. UIs that have been whittled down by years of understanding the target domain. By now it's pretty standard for a text editor or a web browser to have a ?good? interface.

But SketchUp isn't merely ?good?, it's exceptional. OK, it's hardly perfect, there are rough edges in many places, but it's light-years ahead of every other 3D modelling app.

Modelling is a fundamentally hard activity to provide a 2D UI for. Look at all the other modelling apps and you'll see a UI disaster area of ugly custom controls, endless grids of obscure icons, reliance on obscure keyboard interactions, and forums full of bewildered new users. SketchUp is different. Its smooth mix of direct-action and numeric input, and most of all its intelligent approach to ?snapping? makes for a modeller in which a beginner can just start dragging around lines and objects without thinking too much about it. It brings the ease and speed of a good 2D vector graphics package to 3D modelling, and that's an amazing feat.

OK, it's somewhat limited in regard to what kinds of curved surfaces you can have, and it certainly doesn't have all the enormous feature set of Blender or the other high-end modellers. But it is the only modeller an Average Person stands any chance of being able to actually use.

(Then Google made it free. Thank you, Mister Google Sir.)


I'd have to answer: The Book. The dead tree version. The interface is superior, does not need any power, works both indoor and outdoors, no user-training necessary. All controls are exactly where I expect them to be, regardless of which book I'm using at the moment.


I'm usually pretty down on Microsoft products, but I have to admit that I think the UIs for both Word and Excel are spot on. All of the most commonly used features are front and center where I can easily find them. There are tons of other features packed into the menu, and I can customize the toolbar if I frequently use features outside the normal set.


Adobe Photoshop.

It succeeds not because of its tools and palettes (which are also excellent), but because it exposes such a successful metaphor for interacting with images: canvases, layers, channels, swatches, rulers, brushes, masks, filters, etc...

Using that central metaphor, the software provides a massively powerful set of image-processing tools, using concepts from real-world physical media that can be easily understood by artists and graphic designers.

I know of no other software that delivers such a powerful set of specialized tools, without becoming a nightmare of grids, tables, and checkboxes.

What's especially impressive to me is that they developed such a compelling metaphor almost twenty years ago, and as they've developed the software, they manage to fit all of the new features within the context of the existing metaphor.


WASD + mouse :p

(Quake, Unreal Tournament and lots of others)


The iPhone - As much as it's almost a cliché to say it now, it really has changed my expectations of UI's since i've owned one.

Everything you do on it is exactly how you would expect it to work and everything is where you would expect it to be.

And I think the key point is, it's simple.

I never understood the fuss about Apple until I owned an iPhone, now i'm a complete convert and would definitely buy other Apple products. So a great UI, to me anyway, is certainly one of the very best marketing tools for a company to encourage brand loyalty!


I find the best UI is one that works and is so intuitive and unobtrusive that it's invisible. Two examples that aren't software related:

  • I had some friends over for dinner and asked one to help set the table. He commented, Hey, I just realized I didn't need to ask where anything is--you put everything where I would have put it!"

  • Several companies make multi-function pens: pens with several different colors of ink, and perhaps a pencil, within the barrel. Bic's answer is a big honkin' plastic behemoth with 4 colored plungers at the top, one for each color. They tend to stick and jam; mine have all been euthanized. Zebra has a pen/pencil combination: twist the barrel clockwise for the pen, counter-clockwise for the pencil. Rotring (and some cheaper knock-offs) have a single plunger and four colored dots spaced around the top of the barrel. You select a color by holding the pen horizontally with the corresponding dot facing up, so you can see it. Press the plunger, and gravity (or magic) selects that color for you.


Adobe Photoshop. Amazing.


Delicious Library 2, a Mac software for cataloging books, movies, music, software, video games etc, written by Wil Shipley. It won several Apple Design awards.

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  • Word 2007. The Ribbon is awesome and live preview is fantastic functionality.
  • Windows Explorer. Simple and straightforward. Makes work on the file system a breeze.
  • Winamp. Again, simplicity.

TiVo - because it has the classic "blip blip blip" audio fast-forward cues which greatly enhance the experience.



Flickr always behaves as expected, a very, if not THE most important feature in an UI.


Winamp 3.

I miss the days of the simple music players.


Opera browser.

I use it for ages, probably since version 5. It was probably the first browser with such a great UI improvements as mouse gestures, tabbed browser, speed dial pane, wand-like parssword saving, built-in adblock and RSS reader. Now all others are copying it.

You can use skins and rearrange panes as you want (I prefer tabs with pages on the right). You can turn off displaying images, styles and adjust page the window width by a click.

The nice thing is you get just by installing single <10mb file. And it works!

--- warning, subjective content ---

Sure, there is Firefox, which is far more popular and has milions of great plug-ins (Opera sucks badly here, especially dragonfly is far worse than firebug). You can get much more functionality via plugins. But then, it's not firefox but plugins :)

Very important thing is speed. Opera is one of the fastests on the market. But when you open more than 80 pages, it still works fast (and uses 550MB RAM). Firefox starts to choke at ~40. It's specific case, but I rarely have less than 20 pages open. A bad habit maybe? :)


3D Studio Max - very complex and friendly UI.


I like Sony's XMB used on PSP, PS3, and other Sony products. It's simple, intuitive, and pretty.


Adobe Lightroom

Before I tried Lightroom, I always had Adobe has a company that can't make a friendly UI. Photoshop is good once you know it, but getting to that point is really hard.


How about Notepad?

Probably doesn't get the credit it deserves but in my books its about as simple and easy to use as you can get.

WindowsXP's start menu ranks your most frequently used apps and my top two are Calc and Notepad....even Notepad++ is 4th....which has to say something about their usability since if they weren't good I wouldn't be going back to use them over and over again.



I could never get my head around Media Player. Navigating around your music and pictures, etc, never seemed intuitive to me, whereas in iTunes, it does.

Also, a common feature I use is to play all my music on shuffle. In iTunes, it's at most 3 clicks away (select Music, turn on shuffle (if it's not already on), click play). In Media Player, that seemed to involved creating a new playlist containing all your music, which had to be updated if you added new music.


windows 7 - the new taskbar is so awesome. the win-left and win-right combinations. life is much easier now

zune - the ui is pretty and does what its supposed to do

onenote - not so much for the ui but for the features it offers


Mac OSX -> System Preferences

Mac OSX - System Preferences

Compare that too...

Windows Control Panel

Windows...helps you too go to "Classic view" as they believe the new UI is not friendly enough...



Just about every option is there in the right place where you'd expect it. Everything is easily reachable, but interface is not crowded. Maybe it isn't the best VM solution out there, but UI is perfect.



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Enso is an application laucher that displays the progams to be lanched in a semi transparent interface. Pretty much closer to Launchy and to QuickSilver.

EDIT after eyelidlessness comment

Yes, Enso has this "feature" that I have not seen in any other interface ( well I do actually, but not in this way, keep reading ) .

This "feature" is also the most criticized aspect of the app.

To make Enso work, you have to:

  • press the caps lock key
  • then while holding it type the command you want
  • and then, when you release the caps lock key the command gets executed.

It is very odd the first time you do this.

I thought "I'm not going to use this application more than a day" but after that day, the "press and hold" became more and more natural. With time you don't realize anymore about the caps hold and it is something that comes very easily.

In fact, this behavior is also present in all the text editing "software" we use everyday, included SO answers ( this ), notepad, MS-Word, E-mail, etc. etc any text editor has it. It is the same thing we do to write uppercase characters.

When we want to write upper case characters most of us ( if not everyone ) do press and hold the "SHIFT" key and write the uppercase character we need.

When we don't need more uppercase characters we simply release the SHIFT key.

This is has become so natural, that we don't realize we do it anymore. This has become habitual.

The same happens with Enso capslock hold. After using it for a while it becomes habitual and you don't realize it's there, you just hold type and release and things happens.

After a couple of days using it, it is like if the interface disappear, which is very pleasant because it does not interrupt whatever you're doing, it does not break your train of thought at least not completely.

Is something strange, very nice, and the most controversial feature. I guess you have to experiment it your self.




The original Napster - it wasn't pretty but it did what it needed to do in a very simple and intuitive way.


Zonealarm (when it was really simple).

It was just a firewall that worked. It didn't ask hard technical questions. My mum could set up permissions without knowing what a firewall was or why she needed it. It just worked.


I really like Amarok 1.4.x's UI design. Everything is where I need it to be and where it logically makes sense to find things. Context menus have features you need and avoids a lot of repetitive actions.


Microsoft Expression Blend (and the other apps from this pack but I use Blend the most). It has nice, simple UI, you can search for properties you want, you can change size of tabs, etc.:

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IntelliJ IDEA

It packs an abundance of powerful features in a way that they are easily available but don't get in your way. (And if you are a hardcore power-user, you can make IDEA fly by making use of all sorts of shortcuts, live templates, intention actions, etc.) Takes care of the mundane and lets you focus on actual development work, the things that need human thinking.

When I first started using IDEA some 4 years ago as a junior developer, it was an eye-opening experience to see how good tools really make a difference.

Lots of details and screenshots here: http://www.jetbrains.com/idea/features/


The GIMP, but just for two features:

  1. Remappable keyboard shortcuts.
  2. The scroll wheel.

Seriously, the scroll wheel can change your brush, change the color, zoom in and out, and of course scroll through the document, and instead of being based on clunky modifier keys, all you have to do to change the scroll wheel's function is to move the cursor around the screen.

As for the keyboard shortcuts, I've placed all the commonly used tools in one cluster of keys, so I can change tools with my left hand and draw with my right.


For me it has to be Windows 7. I have been working with Windows since 3.1 and this is the first one that I thought: Finally a good, well thought through product. When you turn off Aero and most effects, you get a stylish, fast interface with a ton of small, user-friendly things you find out you have wished for all the time. That every location is searchable - even the control panel. That it tells you which program is blocking the file you can't delete. The well-designed, humanly understandable screen that explains to you why you can't shut down yet (instead of a cascade of grey windows that scare the shit out of unexperienced users). And a lot more things like that. I find working with Windows to be really fun now, for the first time ever.


I'd say the column view in Mac OS X Finder, once you understand how to operate it with the keyboard, is a fantastic way to browse files. Probably hasn't changed much since the NeXT days.


Picasa UI. Never seen something like that yet, it's intuitive, beautiful, fast, responsive. A wonderful example of UI even if it lacks in OS UI integration.

As an application, in some cases it sucks, but hey... no one is perfect.


Instant Eyedropper

Drag it out of your system tray; when you release the mouse button, it picks up the colour under the cursor and copies its hex code (configurable) to the clipboard. It doesn't even have a UI in the conventional sense - but I absolutely love the way I interact with it to get my job done.


Microsoft Word for DOS

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Amarok 1 (haven't tried 2 until now). I just love load thousands of songs, simply searching through the quick search bar. A multitude of customizable desktop wide hotkeys.



Firebug (Firefox Plugin) is really a great tool for a web developer to have.
Netbeans brought the fun back in building Swing GUIs in Java. Currently my top IDE for Java development
2Advanced.com - Their website is one of the coolest I've seen...



It's pretty simple UI, but effective, and I use it throughout the day.


I think the UI in "The Sims" is pretty darn good. I like, for instance, how they make use of pie menus. I don't play it much myself but my daughter started playing when she was around 9 and can work it like a pro. I never once have heard her say something like "it's really stupid that you have to ..." or "I wish it were easier to ...".



Simple UI, you do nothing wrong, and I like the message when you just run: DrWatson

You're fine


I love Mac OS X and all of Apple's applications. Apart from that, my favourite application as of writing is Versions. Its icons are beautiful, its interface is laid out nicely, and it makes working with Subversion much easier!

(You can see screenshots of Versions on their website.)



It must be blu !! it is just a twitter client(WPF) but it is fun to use


I love the Windows Vista (and now Windows 7) control panel. It's a great user interface, because whatever task you want to do you can just type a few words of it in to the search box and the control panel will quickly direct to the proper place for doing that task.

It's better than the control panels in older versions of Windows where you had to remember Microsoft's arbitrary groupings of settings and look for the right little icon to click on.


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Print & share from Ricoh. Gives you a nice clean overview.


Autodesk Animator had one of the best GUIs ever created, in my opinion. Its creators seemed to base their design on the realization that a UI that is easy for a novice to understand and use is not necessarily a productive UI for an expert user, and that most users eventually get past the point where they need constant hand holding, and therefore designing a UI that's geared towards an expert user results in software that is more productive and easier to use - in the long run.

Productive use of the UI required one hand on the mouse and the other hand on the keyboard for changing mouse modes. I've seen expert users fly through operations that would have required multiple menu selections on more conventionally designed software, and even I - by no means an Autodesk Animator expert - still miss that streamlined workflow sometimes.

  • Google
  • Stackoverflow.com
  • Basecamphq.com
  • Slickrun - the best launcher i have used (www.bayden.com)
  • Keynote - the best note taking program i have used
  • Todo List - the best to do list software
  • Mindmanager - Great Mindmaps

If you got a tablet try out Autodesk Sketchbook sometimes .

  1. Windows XP. I've tried Gnome, KDE, MacOS, Vista. XP UI is definitely a masterpiece from perspective of a pro-user. Don't get me wrong, bash rocks as well, just a different beast.
  2. uTorrent. A very clean minimalistic UI.

Microsoft/Windows Update website deserves credit, too! Before this website was invented, you would have to manually scour for updates and drivers on the internet. Windows Update solved this big problem by providing the one place to get all the updates you need.

And it's easy to use, just let is scan for updates, pick the ones you want, and install.

  • You don't have to specify you Windows version.
  • You don't have to deal about which update should be installed first, your selections will be validated.
  • You don't have to run each update manually!

Newtek Lightwave 3D - when it comes to 3D editing, having non-intuitive icons is a pita so the mostly pure-text buttons sectioned by both position and a few carefully chosen colors makes it easy to hunt down a specific function and then remember the hotkey. Also, the main hotkeys are used without qualifiers which greatly speeds up the workflow (hitting a or x instead of alt+a or ctrl+x for instance). And, it also looks great, unlike most other major 3D packages, though that's just icing on the cake and not actually relevant, real fullscreen mode included ^^

The lack of full-color-icons and other color clutter puts the actual content in focus instead of the UI. Looking at the Cinema 4D shot (great package btw) the colorful and abundance of different looking UI elements seems to scream "look at me!" more than the actual content which to me is the wrong way to go.

Using a non-standard UI might be questionable but half of the reason for that is that it looks and works exactly the same regardless of platform (Windows, Mac OS).


Automatic Teller Machines where I can get done what I need to do in a quick efficient way would be the best since I can get money out of my account when done.


For old school people: PC Tools Deluxe (MS-DOS)

I found this UI amazing in a MS-DOS environment.


TextPad! I have been using it for years. I can always count on TextPad for any language and any file type. It does exactly what it was made to do.


Boxee is a media center with a great UI. It's different that most media centers UIs I've experienced, but it remains intuitive and fun.


OK, a few 3d packages have been mentioned so far, but I have to give respect to SolidWorks. I'd struggled with a lot of different 3d packages in terms of modelling exactly what I wanted without having to do endless eyeballing of positions and unnecessary tweaking of vertices. I had an idea of how the interface to a 3d modeller should work. When I discovered SolidWorks I was overjoyed - it works exactly how I wanted it to work.

SolidWorks has a user interface that makes something very complex (3d solid CAD and 2d drafting) only as complex as it needs to be for the job in hand. Someone else mentioned Sketchup - well imagine Sketchup's simplicity but with the ability to make much more models with multiple moving parts, complex curvatures, etc. And it retains construction history so you can always go back and change stuff - the biggest problem with most 3d software.

Of course it is a CAD package rather than a general 3d modeller, so it's a big apples-to-oranges to compare it with Maya/3ds/Cinema4d etc., but I really wish other packages incorporated SolidWorks-style building for non-organic modelling. Houdini has the power, but has the user interface from hell.


Not sure, but gmail is very good IMHO. Also the iPhone has a great UI.. and some (lesser known) native OSX applications, such as Omni Graffle (best UI for a chart drawing tool) or pixelmator (photoshop clone).


Most anything that follows the GNOME Human Interface Guidelines is simply a pleasure.


Autocad hands down.

I've used it all the way back to the dos version and the power users use a command line system. In particular the right click mouse button can be bound to the enter key so that your left hand didn't have to move back and forth across the keyboard so much as you enter in command aliases and dimensions.

It's not uncommon of for users to do 30 commands a minute with it. You can really throw down the lines with it.


MacBook Air, the hardware design, the feel, the OS, cuts way above the rest! :)





IPhone. It is complex yet powerful. A person out of his/her mind can easily use it and you have to be a genius to misuse it. Apple did a great job on the IPhone.


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When Mackie Tracktion got released it came with this advertising:

Tracktion is a radical new type of music production software - giving you a clean, intuitive, and clutter-free interface without losing the features you find in software costing much more.

If you like your software to use dozens of overlapping windows, Tracktion is not for you. It won't pretend to be a mixing desk or show you panels with pictures of screws that are accurately copied from a real piece of hardware. There is no Windows clutter, nor obscure menus full of commands that you'll never use. In short, Tracktion is a little bit different. It's a continuously evolving product with new features and updates regularly released. Most people who've used a sequencer before can get to grips with Tracktion in about 10 minutes, and once you've grasped a handful of basic concepts (which aren't exactly rocket-science), the learning curve practically disappears.

And IMHO they promised not too much! I love to use it and don't wanna use Cubase or Logic again.


The most recent incarnation of YouTube's video play (click to stop/start)


Master of Orion (version 1) planet resource allocator. Amazingly concise interface for allocating resources across multiple industries with surprisingly rich functionality. Increasing or decreasing allocations in one bar would take/give proportionally from/to other bars. You could also lock a bar with a click and take it out of the proportional allocation pool.

Master of Orion I Screenshot


Master of Orion (version 1) planet resource allocator. Amazingly concise interface for allocating resources across multiple industries with surprisingly rich functionality. Increasing or decreasing allocations in one bar would take/give proportionally from/to other bars. You could also lock a bar with a click and take it out of the proportional allocation pool.

Master of Orion I Screenshot


MacOS X Tiger/Leopard iWorks iLife, Office 2007, Picassa and StackOverflow...I think they are inspiring when you have to design a UI...

Cheers from argentina!


Camtasia Studio from TechSmith is pretty great.

  • Memory resident text editor Sidekick. Back in the nineties.
  • DOS.
  • Turbo Pascal.

XBOX Live. Very user-friendly and intuitive.


I think facebook has one of the most usable sites around.


Psion Series 5 PDA


Lotus Magellan

It made the most of old hardware, a toy operating system, and a text console. It allowed you to access the full power of the software without needing to take a hand off the keyboard, but still in a more intuitive fashion than command line programs. To top it off, it could find and display (sometimes even edit) any file, quicker than any of my current computers with tools like Spotlight and Quicklook and Quicksilver on OS X or Google Desktop. I didn't completely abandon it until after I moved to Windows XP. When I used it under DOS, it entirely replaced the command line.


I'm utterly shocked at the horrendous interfaces that have floated to the top of this question. Just shocked.

but to answer the question, the best interface I've used is at http://zoomii.com


Recently I've enjoyed Shelfari and Reddit. For desktop apps, Rhapsody is pretty nice.


Navicat for MySQL. Hands-down, easily one of the best MySQL administration tools.

Simple, straight to the point, and clean-cut to boot.



One that made doing your task a pleasure...was perfectly designed for the task...facilitated doing it with ease...made you want to locate the creators...personally fly to their location, and then hand them large pile of money.

Not sure about the "large" pile of money, but I'm real happy to pay for such an excellent experience!


I'm going to have to say Enso. I think that is the application that increased my productivity the most. It's simple and unobtrusive. I can search google, launch applications, and spell check text using with using the mouse very little or not at all.


The Apple iigs -- and if I had to pick a specific app for it, probably Symbolix, because it was both so powerful and discoverable.

For cheaper than a Mac, you got a UI that was almost identical (and in color!), but the whole system was more hackable, both in hardware (tons of expansion ports), and software (Unix-like command shells).

People rave about Mac OS X today, which is a pretty nice system, but still lacks the consistency that the classic Mac and GS/OS had. I hear Mac people debate about "in app $FOO you can drag the $BLARG to move a window, but in app $BAR you have to drag the $ZLEFFLE" today, which seem like exactly the kinds of inconsistencies Apple users used to nag Windows 3.1 users about.


Bar none, all other a joke in comparison, Cubase VST +..


New friendfeed.com has a very neat and useful UI


A dialog I created :-( Fortunately it has disappeared from our application long ago.

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Of any application I have used in the last 28 years: BBEdit from Bare Bones Software.

It is simple to use in the beginning and discovering more advanced features is very intuitive.

Studying the user interface of BBEdit is recommended for anyone designing a user interface on any platform.

At least that is how it was when I used Macintosh'es (1993- 1997). Apparently it also runs on Mac OS X.


Less is more: WriteMonkey


Claris Works on System 7 was the first GUI application that I learned to use. It certainly set a high standard for future apps to live up to.


Does anyone else remember Interleaf? One of the original desktop publishing programs (it predated Sun Windows), it had its own windowing system and was organized optimally for a print shop. Clumsy for content generating/editing users, but very intuitive for production work.


My own app, TheKBase. This is not because it has a good UI, but every time I want it to do something, I just open up the code and hack away.


I saw a detailed post here by Abhishek Parolkar http://l.whol.ly/tzgrh , Its about their realistic observations on signup process


Most applications that I've seen written with QT have nice interfaces. Plus, it was the first GUI library my teacher taught me to use with Python. Now if only it would come out for Python 3.x sometime soon ...


Apple TV. In classic Apple style, the menu system is highly intuitive, even for my three-year-old, and the remote has just a few buttons: back, select, up, down, left, right.


I totally love Things and Coda's UI.

To be honest, switching to mac has opened my eyes when it comes to eyecandy in applications and general usability and user experience.


... well, Framework II by Ashton-Tate comes to mind. Circa 1985, but I still miss it. 500Kbytes that had word processing, spreadsheet, an internal database (tables) application, and an OUTLINER which is something missing from all subsequent "office" packages until today. Oh yeah, and for power users it had a language to control it all from behind.


Hmm, wow no one has mentioned it yet..

One of my favorite UIs has to be Flash MX. I haven't used it since it was called that (what is it Adobe CS now?) but it had an extremely handy UI. The keyframe thing could be understood in a few minutes of playing around without reading the manual Everything was just how you expected it to work..

Course, I'm only covering the UI here and no other stuff such as the hell that is ActionScript.


Ubiquity plugin for Firefox.


It's not the 'best' for it has been refined since then, but I wanted to fly and give the creator lot of money (as you ask in your question).

They came up in 1984 with the concept of a "drag'n'drop in slot" user interface for inventories, which got later on reused in a lot of videogames (including World of Warcraft) and... It's not unlike the 'slots' for the iPhone apps in your iPhone.

The game was called "Sundog" and is one the best game ever made. Period. It still has followers and its authors are still getting fan emails after more than 25 years since it came out.

These programmers where true visionaries and they invented the "drag'n'drop in slots" UI in 1984 (probably 1982 or 1983 while they were developing the game).

This is a major UI achievement that very few have achieved:


Sadly the Wikipedia article doesn't show the "big" inventory, only the smaller ones which don't do the game justice.

That same company, after Sundog, went on to write Dungeon Master which was also way ahead of its time.

The guys at FTL were (and still are) true geniuses.


All Blizzard games UI's are pretty intuitive.

World of Warcraft

It's not only about the UI itself but about how you are presented to its functions.

Blizzard really masters that. One can jump in and feel at home in a snap.



being a window manager, it does very well the job of managing the windows to utilize the display space optimally, and simultaneously being itself almost invisible (as well as providing you much configuration power)


Without a doubt, the best UI ever done was the Amiga's Intuition GUI shell. There were just so many little things they got right.


Google desktop search.

I love that little finger Ctrl double-tap :)


I think Facebook should be mentioned as a really good Web 2.0 UI. I'd say it is probably better than Gmail, just because it has more responsibilities than Gmail.


Battery 3 audio sampler. I like a lot of the native instruments GUIs but Battery is my favorite because of the sheer simplicity of it.

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I can't believe that no one even mentioned SSMS (SQL Server Management Studio) yet. WHo needs more of a UI when you can type your own queries directly in de UI



nothing can beat it :)


Almost any game on a Nintendo has a better user interface than anything whatsoever on Windows, on the internet, or on Unix/Linux/BSD/what have you.


I think there are way too many geeks here :)

No one mentioned Lightroom for example. (by Adobe)


GNOME Desktop 2.x

I particularly love the Nautilus file manager. Everything that can be represented as a line item is structured hierarchically. You don't need a redundant file tree on the side, like Windows Explorer, because you can open tree nodes within the browser without losing your place by changing directories. The GNOME VFS's URL scheme allows access to pretty much anything you want on the network or elsewhere, not just local files.

GNOME is pretty much everything I wished Windows Explorer was.


The Office 2007 ribbon for me. I have no problem admitting that.


Of all the Texas Hold'Em Poker Odds Calculators, this one is best (it's a Flash App):

PokerNews.com Poker Odds Calculator (Small Version)

PokerNews.com Poker Odds Calculator (Big Version)


  • All you have to do is click the cards to define the input.
  • Click the card on your hand or the table will remove it.
  • The deck cards will update with green tints indicating your advantage cards. More green cards means a bigger chance of winning.
  • More Red tints means you should fold the hand.

Lotus Notes