Re: Dialog buttons

> Liam Quin wrote:
> >
> > Gooerge would be in good company -- in the open look UI, Enter moved to
> > the next text entry in the dialogue until you get to the last, and then it
> > moves focus to the Default Action Button, and then finally another Enter
> > presses the Default Action button (which is clearly marked by a double
> > ring round it, ad might say "Save settings" or "OK" or whatever).

As it turns out, there's a decent discussion about this issue in the
brand new edition of the Java look and feel guidelines-- see:

I spoke a bit to the team who wrote (and usability tested) these updated
guidelines yesterday, and their opinion is that Enter should activate
the default button, but that dialogs need to be designed so that the
default button is disabled until it makes sense to use it.  Dialogs that
have multiple actions (more than OK, Apply, Cancel) need to think deeply
about whether it  makes sense to have a default at all.  If people think
of enter as "do what I mean", then in those cases, there may not be a
concensus of what Enter means.

In response to George's earlier point, they also recommended that when a
window closes due to the use of Enter, there needs to be some visual
feedback-- the default button should depress, and the window shouldn't
go away until it does.  If that button is reasonably in the  field of
view, that's at least good feedback as to what happened, which, if the
dialog box is designed right, will be something that isn't harmful, even
if it wasn't exactly what the user wanted.  

When dialogs have multiple text fields, then you have to do a lot of
thinking about what enter means.  Definitely the default shouldn't be
active until it's clear that the user has entered all the data (notice
in the JLF example, you didn't have to enter a password, but you did
have to advance to the password field).  Enter may mean advance when it
doesnt' mean activate the default.  You may (horror of horrors) have to
usability test your dialog box to get it right.  :o)  


CALUM BENSON, Usability Engineer       Sun Microsystems Ireland
mailto:calum benson ireland sun com    Desktop Engineering Group                      +353 1 819 9771

Any opinions are personal and not necessarily those of Sun Microsystems

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