Re: changing properties dialogue

On Sat, 19 Oct 2002 19:59:06 +0100 (IST), Alan Horkan <horkana tcd ie>
The error many dialog designers make is to enable "OK" before it
should be.  Until the requisite data are provided, it should be
disabled.  Taking your password dialog example, if "OK" is disabled
until a username and long-enough password are provided, pressing
<Return> does nothing, because

Good design would use return to put you in the next text box
that required data (in this case the password box).
So while doing nothing is "correct" it is not the best answer.


The problem with that approach is that <Enter> gets treated inconsistently
among dialogs.  

Given a login screen with just Username and Password fields and "OK" and
"Cancel", sure, you can say <Enter> proceeds to the next required field,
and from there to "OK".  Sure, it's asking one button to do two jobs, but
it's also a little helpful.  

Then consider a little address form, with some required and some optional
fields.  What should <Enter> do now?  Move to the next field (like tab)? 
Move to the next required field?  If you're on the last field (perhaps
using the mouse), should it press "OK" then?  When all the required fields
are completed, should it press "OK" then?  

If <Enter> behaves as I describe, pressing it before the required data are
filled in provides feedback i.e., that you haven't supplied all the
necessary information.  You expect it to dismiss the dialog; when it
doesn't, you're bound to look closer.  

Occasionally you'll come across a malformed dialog such as my hypothetical
address form that thinks <Enter> is like <Tab> only bigger and on the
other side.  You'll fill in the required data, and press <Enter>.  It
won't dismiss.  You'll look at "OK" and see it's enabled, and if you
squint you'll see the little "I" bar has moved to some inconsequential
place you weren't thinking of.  If you're like me, you'll then grab the
mouse, click on the blasted "OK" button, and mutter a little curse^W
prayer about consistency.  

You and I have just examined this in minute detail.  Normal people would
only gather a vague sense unpredictability.  

<Tab> navigates, <Esc> cancels, <Enter> proceeds.  On ancient Mayan
keyboards, they even called it <Send>.  



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