Re: Searching preferences?! [Was: switching to g-c-c shell?]

On 8 Jul, 2005, at 12:40 PM, Jeff Waugh wrote:
Don't you see searching for preferences as an astounding failure on Apple's part (and others, who have done searching for preferences before)?

For a single application, certainly (and I seem to recall rejecting such a suggestion for the Mozilla suite, though I can't find the bug report now). But for an OS, there are some preferences for which there is no good way to categorize them, so a search may be a faster way of finding them.

For example, (1) your choice of screensaver belongs in the same panel as (2) how long before the screensaver appears, which belongs in the same panel as (3) how long before the screen blanks, which belongs in the same panel as (4) how long before the computer goes to sleep. But (1) your choice of screensaver does not belong in the same panel as (4) how long before the computer goes to sleep; they're completely unrelated. There needs to be a split somewhere along that chain, and wherever you make the split will surprise some people who were expecting the things on either side of it to be in the same category. (Windows mitigates this with a button in the "Display Options" Screensaver tab that opens the "Power Options" control panel; but the Screensaver tab doesn't warn you when your current Power Options make the Screensaver settings inoperative. OS X does warn you when your Energy Saver settings make your Screensaver settings inoperative, but does so only in the Energy Saver panel, not in the Screensaver panel where you actually want to know.)

A more obvious example is accessibility preferences, because these are organized as a "why" (you want to set them *because* you have a disability), whereas the rest of the preferences are a "what" (you want to set *something* regardless of reason), so they're bound to intersect. Should key repeat delay go in keyboard preferences, or accessibility preferences? Should flashing the screen on alert sounds go in accessibility preferences, or sound preferences? Again, whatever you decide will not be the guess of a substantial chunk of people.

Searching may be an answer to this (especially in a Gnome-based OS, which has a wider range of hardware to cater for than Windows or OS X do, with some of it needing configuration because it's not ItJustWorks-compliant). However, if the problem can be solved by improving the number and presentation of categories to the point where scanning through them is quicker than searching, I agree it would be much better to do that instead.

Matthew Thomas

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