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Apple patent reveals scrollable menus, toolbars for OS X Lion

Apple has filed a patent featuring some concepts for scrollable menus and toolbars that could eventually be used in the next version of OS X, 10.7 Lion. The new patent covers all kinds of things, from extra UI elements in the OS X desktop to special iOS menus and features. But they all look like what you see above -- an almost Cover Flow-like scrollable interface that boils down a series of functions or menus into a set of icons.

I like it -- while the drawback seems to be that you'd have to really know what's available in the menu and where to find it (because you only see one icon at a time, you'll basically have to just get used to knowing what the other options are), the menu seems like a great way to put a lot of functionality easily reachable in a very small space. There are a few different "menu shapes" to help with this, too, from just one icon rotating to the foreground, to an entire wheel of icons all with different features or choices on them.

As with all Apple patents, we'll note that these are strictly concepts, and there's no guarantee that a feature like this will actually show up in OS X. But it's good to see that Apple is still playing around with even very traditional UI interfaces like menus. Always nice to see innovation even in the growing-ever-older desktop space.

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