Interesting: the guys at Humanized have added an option for their new Enso Launcher to behave modally (instead of quasimodally, which is the default).
This is interesting because they believe really strongly that modes are bad. In fact, “Modes cause misery” is commandment #8 in their company philosophy:
There exists a mortal enemy to your habits and your train of thought: it’s called a mode. If an interface has modes, then the same gesture that you’ve habituated performs completely different actions depending on which mode the system is in. For instance, take your Caps Lock key; have you ever accidentally pressed it unknowingly, only to find that everything you type LOOKS LIKE THIS?
When that happens, all that habituation you’ve built up about how to type on a keyboard gets subverted: it’s like your computer has suddenly turned into a completely different interface with a different set of behaviors. And that derails your train of thought, because you’re suddenly confused about why your habits aren’t producing what you expect them to.
When you think about it, almost everything that frustrates us about interfaces is due to a mode. That’s why good interfaces have as few as possible.
The alternative approach is to use a quasi-mode: a mode that only sticks as long as you hold down a particular key (Enso used Caps Lock). That way, all you have to do to exit the mode is to stop whatever you are doing.
They added the modal (aka “sticky”) option due to lots of user feedback. Now I know they have to make money, and I’m not saying they shouldn’t listen to their users, but sometimes people don’t know what they want. I think that for certain products, especially ones that are more revolutionary than evolutionary, you need to stick to your guns and have faith that people will learn to love your product as you originally designed it.