Re: Self Documenting Interfaces

-----Original Message-----
From: Kai Wetzel <>
To: <>
Date: Thursday, July 23, 1998 10:11 AM
Subject: Re: Self Documenting Interfaces

>Hi, interesting line of thinking.
>Dan Kaminsky wrote:
>> All interfaces should be self-documenting.
>> In other words, when I look at an app, I should very quickly be able to
>> the subtexts of its shape and understand how to get it to do what I want.
>Despite harsh criticism of "Apple's" intuitiveness concept in
>the GUI hall o' shame, etc. I think it's a good idea:  If you
>_know_ what you want to do, you'll find the functionality in
>your applications w/o looking up docs.  Of course it can't works
>for advanced stuff (I guess scripting, etc. most certainly falls
>in that category ;O) but IMO it's a good idea to keep in mind.

Just because Apple interfaces are by no means intuitive as a whole doesn't
mean they shouldn't be.  Most users rarely read the documentation, and if
they do it's when they're at the end of their ropes.  Most drivers have
never read the documentation that came with their car either.

The interface and the documentation really need to combine.  That's one of
the reasons I think GNOME should include app-window and full screen playback
of given commands.

>> GUI's are another matter.
>Yes, but I'd love to have a GUI-CLI, since I love GUIs
>but think the CLI is much nicer for certain tasks, e.g.
>"find / -name "*~" -exec rm {} ';' ;O)
>(Ok, shouldn't forget the ~, hehe - I keep backups, though.)

Agreed.  Any task that can be done by the command line should possibly have
an option to add a "CLIbar" that describes how to do it, right under the
graphical window, with a draggable shortcut to actually do that.  In other
words, if I'm using a GMP3, a front end for mpg123, I should be able to
click a button to see how to execute the given set of preferences via
command line as well as a shortcut to the file.

THAT'S an advanced user toy, though.

[Stuff about wizards]

If you think about it, those things are extraordinarily wasteful, in that
they do things for you instead of showing you how to do it yourself.  That's
the nice thing about screen and window playback functionality being part of
GNOME--you can see *exactly* how to do something.

>> The latter is a disaster, for a simple reason:  No clear way to turn that
>> fugger off without uninstalling it.  It is also incredibly distracting
>> violates my rule about screens organizing by side and not by rectangle.
>> Office Assistant would have been much much much more effective as a list
>> options the UI can help you with sitting in the upper right corner of the
>> buttonbar.  I've never met anyone who liked it.
>Yeah, the paper clip sucks (that's what you mean, right ?)
>It also tries to ingretiate w/ the user which is a bad
>habit and makes him suspicious IMHO.  (Just look at the
>large eyes - way too large for a paper clip - it's a
>concept and very apparently so)

Way too large for a paper clip.  Oh yes.  Way too large.

>How about a menu item Help->Show All Tooltips" ? Then all
>tooltips appear at once.  IMO clicking anywhere should
>hide them again, though, I don't like the idea of clickable
>tooltips somehow.

Should be an option no matter what.

Why not clickable tooltips?  I'd like to hear your reasoning.

>For longer explenation balloon help should be available.
>The really detailed stuff should go in a separate help
>browser window - I prefer the MS style ? cursor and
>F1-context help here.


>I'd say this will make this too easy for newbies, advanced
>users will find it easy enough to invoke the configurator
>from the Options menu or the "Control Panels" directory in the
>file manager.

You'd be surprised how many newbies never ever find the control panel.  And,
since all newbies seem to pick up control-b for bold pretty quick, it
becomes self-documenting that a menu item with a keyboard control will leave
a mark in the Keybox.

>Showing Ctrl-<key> in the status bar could be good I think.
>Also, if it's not too ugly, a little letter for Ctrl+letter
>bindings in the top-right corner of buttons would be nice IMO,
>similar to the "Ctrl+letter" entry in menu items, just
>not the whole accelerator.  I think users will get the
>clue as quickly as they learn to hold down two keys at the
>same time :O)

Too much space...they just won't fit in the buttons!



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