Microspeak: Redlines

To the outside world, redline can mean to mark something for removal, or it could mean the maximum safe speed of an engine. But in the world of Microsoft design, the term redlines (pronounced as if it were written as the two words red lines, but the accent is on the red) refers to a diagram showing the exact position of visual elements. They typically take the form of a proposed screen shot, with arrows and lines superimposed to indicate the distances between items, which items align with each other, and so on. They also contain indications as to the exact colors to use for different elements.

Originally the lines and arrows were actually red, hence the name. Here's an example of something that gives you the idea:

These aren't real redlines because the diagram doesn't contain any indications about the colors to use, and more complete redlines would include diagrams showing the hover, pressed, and disabled states.

Comments (30)
  1. ipoverscsi says:

    At first I was amazed: How on earth did you render that image in HTML?!

    Then I was really amazed: It's an actual image!


  2. Martin says:

    Which program is this? On which version of Windows?

    It could be Notepad.

  3. Joshua says:

    Now that's documentation I keep trying to find and could never do so.

  4. Azarien says:

    All right, I have to say it: will Windows 10 have prettier window borders than Windows 8.x? ;-)

  5. SimonRev says:

    @Azarien:  Thus far the answer seems to be only in minor ways, which is sad because I really like 8.1 and window aesthetics are really one of my biggest complaints.

    They are addressing one area — the foreground window now has a noticeable drop shadow under it (In an early build it was radically bigger than the one even in Windows 7.  Now it is more distinct than Windows 8, but still fairly subtle).  However the flat shading, square windows and gray shading on inactive windows that causes them all to blend into an indistinct jumble all seems to still be in place.  Also when you are in mouse/keyboard mode the window borders are quite thin (like one pixel) instead of the fat ones from Windows 8.

    Having said all that, the desktop experience is pretty good overall.  I do wish that I could put my expensive GPU back to work rending translucent, rounded borders.

  6. bzakharin says:

    That reminds me of bluesheets at my first job, where they were code submission/review/test forms to fill out by the developer and then reviewer and tester before being submitted (with a hard copy of all the code diffs) to the librarian who would check them in  to source control (non-librarians could only check stuff out). They were originally printed on blue paper and, even more originally, contrasted with redsheets which were used for the VMS version of the application (the blue ones ran on Windows NT/2000/2003/XP). I've seen blank redsheets, but never filled-out ones. By the time I started working there, we had only two people who knew VMS, the president and the head of QA (neither of whom normally did coding/debugging by that point), but a handful of customers refusing to upgrade (even though our policy was to support only the latest and second-to-latest major release, in practice it was more profitable to support paying customers with older versions than losing them). Eventually the blueness of the sheets started to lose its ubiquity, though it was always colored, never white. I remember green, pink, and brown bluesheets, though I'm sure there've been more.

  7. Nick says:

    So is the correct snack to eat while filling out redlines Redvines?

  8. skSdnW says:

    I wish MS would publish the layout of (at least the v5) comctls, IIRC the listview uses x/y_edge * 2 etc in some places.

  9. Azarien says:

    @SimonRev: I haven't checked that, but I think that window borders in win8 aren't any thicker than in win7, they only look that because of flat colors.

  10. Chris says:

    @Azarien: SimonRev was talking about the window borders in Windows 10, which ARE a lot thinner.

  11. JamesNT says:

    @ipoverscsi – I have to admit I wasn't impressed at all.  I long ago accepted the fact that Raymond can do anything.  It's just a natural law of the Universe.


  12. cheong00 says:

    And I thought the auto post program can't handle image. :P

    Btw, when I first see this, I think Raymond implemented data URI image feature, and there will no longer be awesome HTML edits.

  13. Brian_EE says:

    @cheong00: Autopost didn't need to handle the image. It was a hotlink to an image already hosted on archive.org.

  14. There is a bit of Microspeak which I am dying to know about: Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella once said "I want Microsoft to be loved by users". It took me a length of time before I realized it might be Microspeak, during which I took it literally. So, what does it mean?

  15. Fleet Command: I don't think that's Microspeak.  That's just normal colloquial English for "really like us".  Because we like degrading the meaning of words in English, for some reason.

  16. Neil says:

    @Brian_EE: I've never thought of archive.org as a hosting service, although I suppose it could be called that if Raymond and/or Microsoft have donated to it.

  17. Martin says:

    I am probably OT, but is there some theme editor allowing to redraw the window decoration (buttons, edges, etc.) for windows 7 and newer ?

  18. MV says:

    What I still can't figure out is how anyone can stand "smeartype".  See all those color fringes around the word "Help", and how almost indecipherable the "w" looks?  That's exactly what it looks like to me at normal size!  

  19. AsmGuru62 says:


    The look of "smeartype"-d text depends a lot on a resolution.

    I got a new laptop for work recently – I barely can see a 1 pixel line.

    Text looks great on it.

    However, my home system has Clear Type disabled – text looks better without it.

  20. Nick says:

    @MV: Some displays don't do ClearType well (I think old tube screens were particularly terrible at it, also some screens that are being used in not their standard rotation (such as a horizontal monitor being used vertically)). On those, disable it. Other devices work great with it and you only really see it if you blow up the text (WinKey+Equals) or use a non-native resolution (like 1280×800 on a 1920×1080 screen).

  21. Klimax says:

    @MV Because there is no smeartype, just cleartype. Maybe running Cleartype tuning might be good idea.  (And as pointed by others, some monitors are bad fit)

  22. ChrisR says:

    @Nick: That's a very handy shortcut; thanks for mentioning it.  I'll also add that it is probably WinKey+Plus rather than Equals, and that WinKey+Minus will zoom back out.

  23. MV says:

    I've used smeartype on a dozen or more different non-CRT monitors, in their standard orientations, at their native resolutions, after using the cleartype tuner…. and it still looks like a blurry mess with color fringes around everything.

    [Please avoid insults. Among other things, it makes people less likely to want to help you. Thanks. -Raymond]
  24. MV says:

    @Raymond: Fair enough – it's certainly not your fault, and probably not the fault of anyone else reading this blog (I don't really know if your readership is mostly internal, mostly external, or what).  I don't mean to insult anyone – but really and truly, I just don't understand how anyone can stand cleartype.  But this isn't the place for that discussion, so I apologize for bringing it up.  I only thought of it because the zoomed-up screenshot is such a vivid example of what I see every time I look at a machine with cleartype enabled.

    [If you don't to insult anyone, don't call it "smeartype". Anybody who might want to help you will probably say, "Oh, this guy is just going to insult my feature if I try to help. Life's too short for this crap." -Raymond]
  25. Azarien says:

    I like ClearType. I hate IE11 and Office 2013 for its blurry 1995-era text rendering.

    This is why I'm not gonna buy Office 2013 or any newer version unless they fix it.

  26. ender says:

    @MV: ClearType was the reason I upgraded to XP – without it I'd have stayed on 2000 far longer. I've seen very few monitors where it couldn't be tuned to look good.

  27. (Add to the above)

    All in all, I really love to know what Microsoft defines as being liked by the customer.

    [It's not Microspeak. It's just English. Apple wants you to love Apple. -Raymond]
  28. Joshua says:

    Respect is a two-way street. Maybe if the attitude of "I can read it therefore it must be fine" were lost…

  29. @Chris Crowther: Are you sure? Because I don't see a sign of him wanting Microsoft be "loved", "really liked", "adored", "endeared", "metaphorically worshiped" or "develop a strong fanbase" by users. I still think it is Microspeak, i.e. "I want Microsoft be the subject of every controversy" or "I want Microsoft to sell a lot". I am *ruling out* the tempting premise that SN might be a totally clueless person. (I wouldn't say such a thing about CEO even if I really intended to insult him or her.)

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