I believe the basic design of the notebook interface is fairly good. The classical format of presenting technical material in serial form using text, equations and diagrams combined in sectional groupings is thousands of years old. It has worked very well, it is what people know, it is the uniform current practice, and it should not be lightly abandoned.
This style can be extended to include active elements, active calculation and various dynamical presentations, both within the notebook or as side windows. Such notebooks can be orders of magnitude superior to static documents. But even working from a familiar and intuitive base style, there is much to learn to implement this. I have gradually evolved a number of principles, some of them adapted from Tufte, but I won't expound on them here other than to say: use a light touch and eliminate any feature that does not clarify an idea or convey information, no matter how nifty it might seem in its own right.
From: George Woodrow III [mailto:email@example.com]
I think that the real problem is that the notebook interface paradigm has been stretched past its breaking point. I don't think that the same metaphor works for both printed presentation and screen. The recent problems with the default notebook style is in part the result of an effort to satisfy two different requirement sets. (Granted that there are also aesthetic issues -- the use of Arial, the size and color of the Title, Sections, etc.)
Once it became possible to make an entire 'document' with interactive elements, the need for a GUI designer like Interface Builder (or the current Storyboard) should have been obvious.