This course teaches the principles of constructing user interfaces. In this course you will learn how to actually implement user interfaces. Some attention is paid to issues of design and usability, but CS 449, HCI, provides more complete treatment of these topics.


This course provides an introduction to contemporary user interfaces, including the basics of human-computer interaction, the user interface design/evaluation process, and the architectures within which user interfaces are developed. Students implement and evaluate portions of typical user interfaces in a series of programming assignments.

Recommended Text

Building Interactive Systems, 2010, by Dan R. Olsen Jr.

A copy is available on 3-hour loan at the DC library.


All announcements, questions, and answers are on Piazza.

We'll be using an online tool named Piazza for all announcements, as well as questions and answers about the course material and assignments. You should have received an invitation email (or will shortly); when you register, please use an identifier that clearly indicates who you are for the purposes of the course.


(all email addresses are


TA office hours will begin May 19.

Byron Weber Becker (bwbecker@)
Office Hours in DC 3524: Friday 3:45-4:45pm or after class or by appointment

Teaching Assistants

Please email TAs for an appointment if you need to meet with them.

Sandy Beidu (sbeidu@)

Mingyu Liu (m83liu@)


There are four major assignments, worth an average of 10%, a midterm worth 20% (see schedule for date and location), and a final exam worth 40%. Final course grades will be calculated as follows:

   assignments = A00*.01 + (A01*.07 + A02*.11 + A03*.11 + A04*.11)/.40
   exams = (.20*Midterm + .40*Final)/.60
   normal = .60 * exams + .40 * assignments
   if assignments < .50 or exams < .50
       grade = min(.47, exams, normal) * 100 
       grade = normal * 100 

Note: to pass the course you must pass the weighted average of the assignments and the weighted average of the exams.


Assignments are meant to provide meaningful, engaging experiences in constructing interfaces while giving you the opportunity to create applications you will want to share with others. There's lots of room for creativity in assignments and each will have a component for going above and beyond the basic assignment specification.

The assignments in this course require a significant amount of time. Do not underestimate the time it takes to code interactive applications.

Detailed assignment descriptions and due dates are posted in the course schedule when available.

There are four assignments plus a bonus:

Assignment Policies

  1. Assignments are in cross platform languages and development frameworks (X Windows, Java, etc) but they must compile and execute in the provided virtual machine .
  2. Due dates are Fridays at 5:00 PM but not actually collected until 11:59 PM on the following Sunday. The exception is A0. It has a firm due date.
  3. Submission must be via the CS349 subversion source code repository.
  4. Assignments are your individual work:
    • You can use code examples provided in class and on on the resources page.
    • You should NOT be doing general Internet searches for specific solutions.
    • If you're not sure, ask the instructor or TA.

SVN Setup

To work on your assignments, check out your subversion repository as follows :

svn checkout --username userid svn:// .

Where "userid" is your WatIam userid, shortened to eight characters. Note that the '.' at the end of the command above means "current directory" and should not be omitted.

You will be asked for a userid and password to proceed with checkout. Use the ones we sent you via email the first week of class (if you added the course late, then you may need to email the instructor to get these). You can choose to store your userid/password locally where you are running your subversion client to save you from having to type it in the future. Your client should ask if you want to do this.

If you are working from off-campus you will likely need to connect to the internet using UW's VPN (virtual private network) service. See for more details.

Once you have checked out a copy, you can add files and directories using the svn add command, and then check-in changes using svn ci. For help, type svn help command, where command is the command you'd like help on.

Also note that after you checkout your copy, you will not need to specify the host and port information during "svn add ..." or "svn ci ...", etc., that is stated above in the initial "svn checkout ..." command.

See the SVN Resources and A0 for more information.

Virtual Machine (VM) Setup

We have prepared a Linux VM for this course, and we recommend that you use it for all of your assignments (and the X Windows assignments in particular). TAs will mark your assignment and assess its behaviour based on how well it runs in the VM, and you will lose marks if it does not run well in that environment. For this reason, please test all assignments on the VM.

Set-up Steps:

  1. Download the VirtualBox software for your computer and install it (your computer is the "host"). Version 4.3.10 was current at the beginning of the course and is the expected version.
  2. Download our CS349 VirtualBox VM (~1GB). To verify that it downloaded correctly you can check the md5sum. (md5 Lubuntu_14.04_S14.ova)
  3. Start VirtualBox.
  4. Select File→Import Appliance... and import the VM downloaded from step 2.
  5. Find "CS349_Ubuntu" in the list of virtual machines and power it up.
  6. Login as user cs349 with password cs349s14. Your VM will be on the network, so change the password right away (passwd from the shell)
  7. Check that your VM works:
    • Open the terminal (link is in side bar)
    • Test X Windows by running xeyes, xclock, xcalc, etc ('xeyes')
  8. Create a share to a directory on your host operating system. This is much safer than saving all your code inside the VM. The steps are explained in the VirtualBox manual. If you're using the supplied VM, Guest Addons are already installed. Configure shared folders by:
    • Launching Virtualbox and select your VM from the list
    • Click on Settings --> Shared Folders
    • Browse to the folder that you want to share, and provide a name (your share folder will appear in Linux under /media/folder_name.
    • You may need to reboot Linux to have it show up.


Academic Integrity

In order to maintain a culture of academic integrity, members of the University of Waterloo community are expected to promote honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility. [Check for more information.]


A student who believes that a decision affecting some aspect of his/her university life has been unfair or unreasonable may have grounds for initiating a grievance. Read Policy 70, Student Petitions and Grievances, Section 4, When in doubt please be certain to contact the department's administrative assistant who will provide further assistance.


A student is expected to know what constitutes academic integrity [check] to avoid committing an academic offence, and to take responsibility for his/her actions. A student who is unsure whether an action constitutes an offence, or who needs help in learning how to avoid offences (e.g., plagiarism, cheating) or about 'rules' for group work/collaboration should seek guidance from the course instructor, academic advisor, or the undergraduate Associate Dean. For information on categories of offences and types of penalties, students should refer to Policy 71, Student Discipline, For typical penalties check Guidelines for the Assessment of Penalties,


A decision made or penalty imposed under Policy 70 (Student Petitions and Grievances) (other than a petition) or Policy 71 (Student Discipline) may be appealed if there is a ground. A student who believes he/she has a ground for an appeal should refer to Policy 72 (Student Appeals)

Students with Disabilities

The Office for persons with Disabilities (OPD), located in Needles Hall, Room 1132, collaborates with all academic departments to arrange appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities without compromising the academic integrity of the curriculum. If you require academic accommodations to lessen the impact of your disability, please register with the OPD at the beginning of each academic term.