December 9, 2022

Direct Manipulation in iPhone User Interface

The concept of Direct Manipulation was invented by a computer scientist named Ben Shneiderman in 1982.

The concept refers to giving software objects some of the same attributes and behaviours as physical objects. This enabled people to interact with digital bits as if they were real-world items.

For instance, with the Macintosh, interacting with an object on the screen meant moving the mouse cursor to that object. Picking it up was done by the mouse click. This interaction was similar to how one would grasp an object with their hands. Dropping the object into a folder meant dragging the object on top of the icon of a folder and releasing the mouse button – similar to dropping physical objects in a drawer or folder.

All these interactions made computing friendlier and they helped introduce the concept of direct manipulation.


  • Creative Selection (Ken Kocienda), Chapter 9: The Intersection
  • User Friendly (Cliff Kuang, Robert Fabricant), Chapter 5: Metaphor