Re: "Undo" button in capplets

On Tue, 2007-04-10 at 19:00 +0200, Denis Washington wrote:

> My two cents on this:
> "Revert": As soon you made only one change that you like to keep, this 
> is pretty much useless.

Perhaps... on the other hand, "Revert" is bascially just the equivalent
of "Cancel" for instant apply dialogs, and nobody complains that
"Cancel" is useless :)

> "Reset to Defaults": How should a user remember which are the defaults? 
> How would the defaults really help the user, given that they are really 
> very few settings that can seriously "break" anything? What if I use the 
> feature and realize that I like the defaults less than the settings before?

I'm with you on that one.

> "Undo" is a common thing in most applications, and it Just Works.

[Somewhat of an aside: how many GNOME apps actually do have Undo?  Of
the ones I have open at the moment, only Evolution does.]

My concern about Undo in Preferences dialogs has always just been
over-complexity, really.  Undo is usually a linear operation, whereas
Preferences dialogs are random access, so immediately there isn't a
great fit.  If I want to undo the second-last thing I changed, chances
are I'm still likely to remember what I changed it from, so it's going
to be easier just to change it back than click Undo twice to wipe out my
last two changes.  (And if I can't remember what I changed it from, then
I'm just as unlikely to remember what the last change I made was, which
I now have to somehow redo after it was wiped out by the first click on

One-level Undo would be simpler, but its functionality seems so trivial
as to be useless in most Preferences dialogs.  At the other extreme,
random access Undo (a la Photoshop) could work for trivial Preferences
dialogs where none of the settings are related to any of the others, but
could get horrendously messy otherwise.

Then there would doubtless be people who would want a Redo button to
counter the Undo button, so they could quickly toggle between 'before'
and 'after' states to see the effect.  A not unreasonable request, but
it would lead to pretty cluttered dialogs.  (Perhaps we could think of
another way to provide this functionality, as e.g. some photo editing
apps do.)

I guess my general feelings are that very few Preference settings are so
complicated that you can't remember what you just changed them from, and
that most Preference dialogs should be simple enough that if you get in
a mess, it's no big deal just to Cancel (or Revert) and start again.

Despite all that, I'm glad we're having this discussion again though--
I'd really like to see it resolved this time.


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

Any opinions are personal and not necessarily those of Sun Microsystems

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