Re: [Epiphany] Tabs options

On 30 Aug 2003, Mike wrote:

> > "A multiple document interface presents a paned, tabbed or similar
> > presentation of two documents within a single window. MDI has several
> > inherent usability problems, so its use is not encouraged in new GNOME
> > applications."
> >
> >
> > And anyway if you ask suggestions on behavior of tabs to our usability
> > people you get replies like "I'm not able to design things that
> > shouldnt exist" ;)


I'm not a fan of Tabbed interfaces.  Due to their current popularity in
browsers they are being suggested all over the place, in places where they
are not particularly suitable.
Interfaces dont scale particularly, too many tabs at once (more than fit
on a single row) are not very user friendly.  (For example when a
tabbed Preferences dialogs gets to crowded, tabs usually get replaced
with something else).

> OK - didn't see this before (or hear of it which is surprising)
> My main thoughts are
> 1. The HIG talks about "several inherent usability problems" - which
> are?

I should point out that HIG by necessity does not go into the details of
why things should be done a certain way, it would be fill books if it did.

The problem of Tabbed Interfaces as with any Multiple Document Interface
(MDI) is that you end up reinventing the Window Manager inside your
application.  Reinventing window managers usually turns out badly.

In Mozilla the Tabbed inteface was particularly succesful because
1) it was way faster than opening a whole new window
2) it provides an easier and convenient way to group documents

It is working around inadequate Window managers.
It is a good workaround (I do grudginly find myself using it) but ideally
a better window manager is what is really needed.

> 2. No mention of usability problems with SDI, which there are many,
> keyboard navigation, screen space limits leading to too many mouse
> clicks, more difficult to edit /view more than one file at the same
> time.

Tabbed interfaces suffer these problems too.

You can only ever see one document at a time, the issue is the ease of
switching between multiple documents.
The tradeoff of a tabbed intefaces is that it takes up more screen space
to allow easier switching.

While it may be more efficient and powerful for you to have more
information available on screen at the one time it is more user friendly
to use SDI.  It is simpler to deal with one window at a time for ordinary
users, even if more advanced users seem to prefer to use multiple windows
all at once.  If nothing else it make sense to have SDI as the default,
even if applications like epiphany choose to also have a tabbed inteface.

> 3. Tabbed browsing is THE main plus point quoted in favour of
> galeon/mozilla/epiphany as opposed to ie

I though pop-up blocking, standards compliance and maybe availability of
source code and actually running on Unix like platforms were the plus

> 4. Just generally I hate SDI in applications, (wish OO, abiword,gnumeric
> didn't do it)

This surprises me.  Also I wonder does this mean that you want tabbed
intefaces everywhere?

Gnumeric has tabs, only they are at the bottom of the document and
indicate seperate sheets within the document rather than whole new
documents.  Same goes for OpenOffice Draw/Present/Calc.

The SDI used by Abiword, Gnumeric, OpenOffice and Microsoft Office 2000 is
a distinct inmprovement over the Windows within windows that Microsoft
Office 97 used.

Hope that the information provide is somewhat informative.


Alan Horkan

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