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For some time now Windows has used the following animation to indicate some task is being performed:

enter image description here

This image seems odd. It starts as you might expect, but on the second revolution the dots simply disappear and then the whole thing repeats. I would have expected the dots to continue going around until the process is complete.

Has any explanation ever been offered for this, or is it possible to theorize about one? Is it simply a bug that Microsoft has never fixed, with the animation supposed to be continuous?


Edit: Note that the animation above is not exactly the same as the Windows one. The Windows one is worse, with the dots being cut in half before they disappear, and the break between cycles of the animation is more obvious.

closed as primarily opinion-based by JonW Dec 1 '17 at 10:16

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • There is always one dot going around all the time. Google's spinner is similar, the partial ring? It almost disappears from in certain phases(?). – locationunknown Aug 27 '15 at 12:13
  • If you look carefully, the dots start at about 4 o'clock. They go around twice and then disappear at the 6 o'clock position. Then the animation starts again. When I first saw it I assumed it was a bug. – user Aug 27 '15 at 12:34
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    Actually, one circle does continue going. But really it's a weird animation. – Majo0od Aug 27 '15 at 13:08
  • See my edit. I agree, it is weird. – user Aug 27 '15 at 13:34
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    It's because the designer designed it that way. – DA01 Aug 27 '15 at 16:05
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I think they're just there to make the animation interesting

Many loading icons are very boring and Microsoft might try to make it less boring by changing amount and speed

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It appears to be a deliberate variation of the standard spinner graphic.

Most of the time these spinners are baked in as animated GIFs or something similar instead of being dynamically animated on the fly.

They chose to start the animation with a single dot, probably to create a gradual appearance on the screen.

Because the animation starts with a single dot, it has to end with a single dot in order to loop properly.

They likely chose two revolutions as the default loop length since they figured most of the time the task would be complete before the animation was scrutinized too much.

  • Well, it's slightly more than 2 revolutions because the dots start at about 4 o'clock. It seems like they intended them to flow on from the previous loop. And when the loop ends, if you look at the Windows one (not the one above) you can see that the last frame of animation for each dot shows it cut in half. It looks completely wrong. – user Aug 27 '15 at 13:32
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    That wouldn't be a good reason. You could simply have an opening .gif and an looping .gif – BlueWizard Aug 27 '15 at 15:30
  • @JonasDralle You could, but then you need to add logic to track when the first one is finished and replace it with the second. It can't be done on a timer since gif animation speed can be affected by other things using system resources (likely when using a spinner), so you have to code something to determine when the last frame of a gif is reached. Now we're into timelines and stuff which is a lot of work that could instead be drawing the animation dynamically. – Nathan Rabe Aug 27 '15 at 15:40
  • Do you really think that in an OS code base, adding a single conditional to change the looping gif would be a burden? I agree with @JonasDralle, this can't be a good reason at all. – Gustavo Maciel Aug 27 '15 at 15:47
  • It's not as simple as a single conditional. I tried looking around for likely ways to make it work, but instead I found this (stackoverflow.com/questions/20093320/…) which basically says don't bother and use Javascript to run a time line. Once you do that you'd have the tools to animate each dot separately, though, so there wouldn't be a need for .gif files. – Nathan Rabe Aug 27 '15 at 16:25
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I believe it is just a cut down version of the full animation, which is much longer. The dots slide in horizontally from the right, do two full loops and then slide out horizontally to the left.

They probably wanted a spinner to fit in a smaller space, so just cut down the original to keep some sort of visual consistency.

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