An alternative proposal for instant-apply vs. non-instant-apply
- From: Adam Elman <aelman users sourceforge net>
- To: usability gnome org
- Subject: An alternative proposal for instant-apply vs. non-instant-apply
- Date: Thu, 6 Sep 2001 10:57:58 -0700
I'm moving this into a new thread because I think we've shifted the
discussion somewhat, and I think we need to have some consensus on
this before the HI Guidelines are finalized. Since Colin is
responsible for writing the dialog section of the guidelines, and is
also firmly on one side of the debate, I think it's vital that we
discuss this and come up with a recommendation that most of us can at
least grudgingly agree to within the next week and a half or so.
Hence, I'm making this an explicit proposal which we can
debate/amend/etc. for a few days.
The question: should Preferences/Options dialog boxes in GNOME
applications (including the GNOME Control Center preferences/options
for the overall environment) instantly apply user changes, or should
they wait for the user to click an "Apply" or "OK" button?
Here's my proposal. I think #1 and #2 are relatively
uncontroversial; #3 is the heart of the debate we're having.
1) System settings dialog boxes which can have incorrect settings
should never be instant-apply. These include network settings dialog
boxes (where an intermediate setting in, say, an IP address field
could be totally incorrect and dangerous). These dialog boxes should
have at least the following buttons:
[Cancel] [Apply & Close]
possibly plus "[Help]" if help is appropriate. (I'm proposing "Apply
& Close" here rather than "OK" because I think it's clearer, but I
could be convinced otherwise.) These dialogs shouldn't need a
preview or "Apply" button in general, but it should be easy within
the surrounding application (Setup Tools or whatever) to see the
effect that the changes had and return to the dialog to make further
2) Object property dialogs which have immediate visual effects (say,
a style editor in a GNOME word processor or an object properties
dialog in GIMP or Dia) should be instant-apply. They should not have
any buttons controlling the window: instead, the user should simply
use the standard WM close box or a "close window" menu option to
close the dialog, and the standard Undo command to undo actions
(which ideally should have an infinite chain). If there is no Edit
menu with Undo available in the application, an "Undo" button should
probably be present, although only if it has a reasonable number of
Undo levels (i.e. more than 1).
3) User preference dialogs which might have immediate visual effects,
but also might take time to apply across the whole desktop, should
_not_ in general be instant-apply. (This is where we run into a real
source for debate.) This includes desktop/WM themes. The problem is
that while it'd be nice to have the immediate feedback, the time the
computer spends processing the change actually gets in the way of
using the system. If you're on a slow machine, even if the settings
change is not dangerous, the time wasted in waiting ~5 seconds for
the theme to change can feel dangerous enough to prevent users from
wanting to explore different settings.
If there is a way to set the preference via drag & drop (for
instance, dragging a background thumbnail to the desktop, or dragging
a color/theme chip to a receptacle) the result of that drag/drop
should indeed be instant; however, dialog control settings should
wait for a button click.
I propose that the buttons in this case should be "[Revert] [Apply]
[Apply & Close]". If "Apply" is clicked, "[Apply & Close]" should
change to "[Close]".
There are, I think, two major sources of debate on #3: a) whether or
not dialogs which affect visual preferences but take a long time to
process requests should in fact be instant-apply, and b) if not, what
the button labels should be. Let's discuss (a) before getting back
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