[Usability]MM's new Gnome file dialogs


First I would like to say that I'm very happy to see that people are
looking at improving gnome's file dialogs, and that I've really enjoyed
seeing MM's progress and hardwork!  I think he's done a really good job
with them, and I hope that he continues to work on them until they are
in gnome.  I do think there are a couple of changes that could be made
to make the layout of the dialogs a bit more user friendly though.  The
biggest problem I have with MM's current ones is the placement of the
file controls ("Save As", "Emblem", "File type") over the Location

According to Jeff Johnson's "Gui Bloopers", the layout of the controls
should follow four criteria:  Dominant reading order, Frequency of use,
Relationship to other controls, and User expectation.  

Dominant Reading order:

In MM's save dialog, the first editable controls an english speaking
user will encounter are the file controls.  In some cases, this is a
problem.  You may not know what you want to name your file until after
you've decided the location where it will be saved.  In MM's dialog for
example, a user would first enter a file name, choose the emblem, file
type, and finally choose a folder to save the file in.  If that folder
contained a file of the same name as the one being saved, it would be
necessary to return to the "Save As" field and change the name.  If the
file controls instead were placed under the location controls, the user
would first choose a folder, and then specify the file name (with the
any additional knowledge gained by having chosen a folder first). 

Frequency of Use:

There is an arguement for having the "Save As" dialog box at the top of
the folder.  An english speaking user will encounter the "Save As" entry
box as the second control in the dialog (the file icon being the
first).  This will save them from wading through other options if they
only want to name the file and save it.  I personally feel this isn't a
very strong arguement though, due to the next criteria.

Relationship to other controls: 

In MM's dialog, the closest controls to the "Save" and "Cancel" buttons
are the Location controls.  If the last thing you do is to specify the
folder where you are saving the file, this makes some sense.  In cases
such as the one listed above, it becomes less useful.  Placing the "Save
As" field so far away from the "Save" button requires a lot of extra
mouse movement every time you want to save a file.  Even if you only
want to enter a file name and hit the "Save" button, you need to travel
from the top of the dialog all the way to the bottom.  In cases where
the last thing you do is use the location controls (say for overwriting
another file), having the file controls above the "Save" and "Cancel"
buttons only moves the location controls vertically about 64 pixels.  

User Expectation:

Basically all major windowing systems besides OSX have placed file
controls under the location controls close to the "save" and "cancel"
buttons.  For users coming from Kde, Previous versions of Gnome,
Windows, MacOS Classic, and other OSes, having the file controls at the
top is going to be unexpected.  

If people are having trouble visualizing this, I've made an image
comparing MM's current dialog on the left, and a revised one on the


Mark Nelson

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