Re: Instant apply (and an HIG change)
- From: Seth Nickell <snickell stanford edu>
- To: Bradford Hovinen <hovinen ximian com>
- Cc: desktop-devel-list gnome org, Jonathan Blandford <jrb redhat com>, Richard Hestilow <hestilow ximian com>, usability gnome org, hig gnome org
- Subject: Re: Instant apply (and an HIG change)
- Date: 23 Jan 2002 15:39:29 -0800
Hackers: please read the last few paragraphs even if you don't want to
read the rationale between here and there :-)
> On the subject of instant apply, I must say that I have not been
> convinced on the merits of this strategy. While it sounds useful in
> theory, I still see many problems inherent in it, enough to overwhelm
> the advantages. It is possible that such a strategy could work, but I
> insist that we not make it difficult to use to a manual apply approach.
It would be great if you can detail the inherent problems you see with
instant-apply so we can consider them.
The aspect of instant-apply that I personally find most convincing is
that it increases the user's perception of directly manipulating the
machine. Users feel more comfortable changing things on the machine when
they feel like they are in control. It makes the computer feel like less
of a black box.
Think of it like the difference between choosing things off the aisles
of a supermarket (direct manipulation) and asking the man behind the
camera counter to get "the camera to the left of the big black one, no
no, one row above, to your right a little, yeah that one" out of the
display case (conversational) ;-)
There are times when a conversational interface is important. For
example, there are security reasons why cameras are put in a display
case, and for people like me who are not really familiar with cameras
its useful to have somebody to mediate between mean and the bewildering
number of camera models and technical aspects. The historical trend, and
I think the prefered model by most people is a simplification of things
to the point that they no longer need a conversational entity to mediate
between them and the object being manipulated. Telephones, elevators,
and gas pumps (except in oregon :-) are all examples where technology
was simplified, demystified and put directly into the hands of
Instant-apply property pages come somewhere between resizing windows by
dragging (a fairly direct operation) and non-instant-apply dialogs (just
think where the term "dialog" came from, it means conversation). While
property pages don't have the same physical feel as dragging, they still
have the same sort of immediate ramification. The user's conceptual
difference is between *asking* the computer to change the background,
and changing the background themself. The second demystifies the
computer, the first hints at the complex operations going on when to set
There are other good things about instant apply and property pages, but
I've already gotten long-winded (as usual).
> To those people contributing code to the control center: I have been
> structuring my code so that it is easy to modify the dialogs it to be
> either auto apply or manual apply. I strongly request that everyone else
> who helps out with the control center do the same. In other words,
> please hook the code up to signals on the various widgets, but also use
> changesets rather than interfacing with gconf_client directly. Better
> yet, use the property editors in libcommon -- they will use a changeset
> if one passes it to the constructor and interface with gconf_client if
> one passes a NULL pointer instead. And I thank you deeply for your
OK. I'm not thrilled about doing extra work that could be spent elswhere
on the GNOME2 beta for something I see as being of dubious value, but
I'll convert the background properties page tonight if I have time.
> On the subject of whether dialogs should have close buttons, I believe
> this is a rather unimportant issue, particularly because it is trivially
> easy to patch the code to eliminate the dialogs' close buttons. The
> control center that I maintain will have close buttons on its dialogs
> for the forseeable future. As above, I am concerned with consistency, so
> I request that anyone working on the control center respect this
> protocol. This is the last I will mention of this subject.
I find it ironic that you mention consistency as one of the reasons for
having the "Close" button, since that would nominally be breaking
consistency with the rest of the desktop.
I tend to agree that its a pretty unimportant issue, but not for
technical reasons, but because I don't think there are huge end user
ramifications either way. I think its better usability not to have
buttons because it enhances the feeling of direct control discussed
above, but its not some great travesty of usability if there's a "Close"
Since a couple people are stonewalling and I care way more about
consistency across the desktop than about this "issue", lets switch to
having a "Close" button on all instant apply pages. Lets just get all
the pages converted that we can prior to the imminently-upon-us BETA ok?
While its not really important which of two interfaces we go with, it
*IS* important that we get most (dare I hope...all?) of the instant
apply pages in GNOME 2 to use one or the other.
Just to clarify:
Instant apply pages should have a "Close button" on the right, and an
option "Help" button on the left.
I apologize profusely to the people who have told me that they already
switched to no buttons based on my previous message, but its quite
important to have consistency across the desktop on this, and I hope
you'll be willing to change again.
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