Re: Dia's user interface

On Mon, 22 Apr 2002, Alan Horkan wrote:

i went on for ages about keybindings but never got around to
submitting all the necessary patches.  I know that you can easily set
these yourself but that is no reason not to have sensible defaults (as
i have said previously on this list and was mentioned in the article).

I agree.  Most people don't know about the assignable shortcuts, so we
should have sensible shortcuts whereever we can.  Most of the Ctrl keys
are assigned, but I think the single-letter shortcuts should be assigned
to things like the standard tools.

I think it would be worth reorgansing slightly some of the keybindings
and as much as possible bring them in line with the HIG (Human Interface
Guidelines) for Gnome2.

Should check on those.  Sounds like they got some stuff right.

I also think that Ctrl+key should be used as much as possible, rather
than single key shortcuts.  Reasons: Consistancy, harder to accidentaly
do something wrong, and how do you handle conflicts with Text Input.

Single key shortcuts should only be for things that don't actually change
anything in the diagram, i.e. selecting different tools, colors etc.  Gimp
already has that.

As for the text input conflicts, that has been bugging me for a while.
Especially that Ctrl-D deletes the whole string, rather than (like Emacs)
the next character.  The problem is that you can't select a text object
without entering edit mode, so if we turned off the shortcuts when editing
text, there would be sudden strange mode shifts not easily noticable.
Here's where my knowledge of UI design ends -- what would be a good way to
handle this?

I was also suprised that the default text layout was centred, rather than
left alinged (although i can understand why this was done).  In one of my
diagrams i wanted to add quite a long description, what i really wanted
was a standard* Text Area, left aligned text with a fixed width but a
scalable height.  (* standard as in it would work the same as a text area
on a web page)

I have been thinking about allowing a fixed width text area, for I
sometimes really want wordwrap.

Ctrl+A, is currently used for Fit to Page (i may have gotten the name
wrong i dont have it in front of me) and in my previous mail i suggested
that it be changed to Ctrl+F (F for  Fit ...)
That would allow Ctrl+A to be used for Select All, and Ctrl+I for Invert

Ctrl-F is already used for Bring to Front.

A couple improvements for the color picking I've been pondering:
Have easy access to the most frequently used colors in the diagram (not
  sure how -- menu on color widget?  Menu somewhere else?)
Have (even) more selection types, like select by same color, same line
  style etc.

I have to give this more thought and find an example i really like.  As
the article says you should not just bolt on more Preferences.  If you do
it well so that it "Just Works" then you probably will not need so many

Indeed.  Which is why I'm asking for input instead of running out and coding.

I believe we can give placement hints that the decent window managers
may ignore, but which may make it easier for SDI people to have a decent
layout.  Point to work on.

Currently i maximise the workspace then resize it enough so that i can
put the toolbox on the left and then i resize maximise the height of the

Somebody should probably sit down and deal with 'Good First Impression'
setup -- includes window placement, initial help, default key bindings etc.

Are the start-up tips (as in Gimp and Gnucash) useful?  They may reduce
the amount of simple questions (like right-button click).  If well
organized, they can come instead of (or with) the splash screen.

I used to find these mildly annoying and would read through the first few
and then turn them off, but on reflection I do think they are generally a
good idea and clever way to get people to read at least a little bit of
the documentation.

Me too, I will actually read the first ten or so to make sure I'm not
missing something important.

Labelled toolbar buttons.  When you are just getting started having to
use tooltips is slow and cumbersome.  Also bigger buttons are easier
to hit.  Although i realise this may not be appropriate for Dia, it is
something programs like abiword should make more use of.  (Abiword can
actually do this if you edit a config file and it has the UI for it
but no one actually wired the UI to functionality.  It is an old bug
and one of my pet peeves but i digress).

Is this for the toolbox icons (ie pointer, magnify etc) or are you


Hmmm... that's one of the things I can never decide on, do I want labels or
not.  They're probably good for starters, but then just take up space.

of load/save/print-toolbars?

i dont know about these toolbars, my version of dia may not be
recent enough.

No, those don't exist in Dia.

Font sizes are not set using the standard sizes such as 10 point, 12
point, 24 point etc.  It is like forcing an American to use metric.  I
can figure it out but i know roughly what size 12 point is when it is
printed and i dont have the same referenece to reality when the units
are changed.

I am not an American.  I did not even realise what the scale being used
was metric.  I was merely commenting on the fact that i did not have any
frame of reference to what the scale meant.

I know.  But Dia should handle units better, much better, than it does.

Yes, that's probably the biggest UI problem, the fact that the units are
hardwired to centimeters.  There's half-assed code in there that does
unit-based input, but it needs to be tested and used.

Exam time approaches so i cannot offer my help.  In fact i should be
studying right now.

I should actually be writing my prelim paper right now:)  I just wanted to
stir up the nest a bit and get to hear what would make Dia easier to use.

I should have probably filed most of these in Gnomes Bugzilla but some of
these things require more detail and it is hard to know if a project is
receptive to criticism (and even harder to be constructive when you

Indeed.  I find it useful to occasionally invite criticism to hear what
input people can give.

Boy, this is getting long.  In a couple days, I will go over the discussion
and write up a to-do list.


Lars Clausen (| Hårdgrim of Numenor
"I do not agree with a word that you say, but I   |----------------------------
will defend to the death your right to say it."   | Where are we going, and
    --Evelyn Beatrice Hall paraphrasing Voltaire  | what's with the handbasket?

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