Re: [Usability]Re: Controls, widgets, and UI learning.

The contributors in this string who tend to support "Widget" as a tab title in 
the Appearance capplet make the following summarized claims:  

- The term "Control" or "Controls" is vague and unclear because there is a 
potential noun vs verb confusion. 

- The term "Widget" is precise, clear and covers things like radio buttons, 
scrollbars, sliders and so on. 

Speaking from a documentation point of view, these arguments bear closer 


The definition of the noun "Controls" in the American Heritage Dictionary (AHD) 
is given as: 

- An instrument or set of instruments used to operate, regulate or guide a 
machine or vehicle. 

In the case of GNOME, the machine is the UI. Radio buttons et al are part of a 
set of instruments. If that's what "Controls" are, then this definition covers 
the need. 


The >>two<< definitions of the noun "Widget" in the AHD are as follows: 

1. A small mechanical device or control; a gadget. 

2. An unnamed or hypothetical manufactured article. 

The first definition does mention "control", however the sense of the 
definition, especially given the sub-clause "a gadget" indicates that the term 
"Widget" applies to out-of-the-ordinary controls. Special gadgets that are 
designed to do a one-off, unusual job could therefore be called "Widgets". There 
is no indication that standard controls, such as radio buttons and so on, would 
fall under this definition. 

The second definition is more worrying. Basically, "Widget" is a synonym for 
"Thingy" or "Thingummy". A word that you apply when you don't know what 
something is called, or can't remember, or you are posing a theoretical item. 
Hardly precise and clear. Ok, you might reply that in the computer world 
"widget" has a more defined meaning. That's fine, but the problem with the term 
is that most of our end-users do not inhabit the computer world. For them, the 
term "widget" has the meanings given in the AHD, whether we think that is right 
or wrong. 

Jargon - An Informal Dictionary of Computer Terms has the following to say about 

"A widget can be sort of a wildcard term for a real thing for which you don't 
have an exact name."

On the other hand, the same reference goes on to say: 

"Some PC users in a graphical user interface (using windows and icons) ... call 
the scroll box a widget." 

Notice: only the scroll box is mentioned, not any other controls, thus 
introducing a further element of doubt as to the universal applicability of the 
term "Widget" to all classes of UI controls. 


"Controls" is preferable to "Widget" or any of the other suggestions such as 
"Window Contents". The word "Controls" is defined and understood sufficiently in 
general usage, as defined in the AHD. The word "Controls" covers things like 
radio buttons et al. There is no need to educate users about a new concept. The 
set of instruments concepts is known and familiar. The argument that "Controls" 
will cause problems for translators doesn't hold water, the translation glossary 
for each language can easily sort out this issue.  

There is no need to look for a replacement to the term "Controls", and I suggest 
that the term is used in the UI in the same sense as in the documentation.  


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