Re: [Usability] Competing Preference Window Layouts

On Mon, 24 May 2004, Steven Garrity wrote:

> Date: Mon, 24 May 2004 15:42:25 -0300
> From: Steven Garrity <stevelist silverorange com>
> To: usability gnome org
> Subject: [Usability] Competing Preference Window Layouts
> I've noticed that there are two preference windows with similar content
> with quite a different method of layout/organization. I wondered if
> there was one method that was preferred and if they should be consistent.
> The two preference windows in question are the "Preferred Applications"
> window and the "CD and DVD Preferences" window.
> The "Preferred Applications" uses tabs. There are four tabs each each
> with a few UI controls.
> The "CD and DVD Preferences" uses a taller single window, placing the UI
> controls from four sections all on one pane.
> A few pros/cons:
>   - The tabs are more expandable - it's easy to add more,
>     and if there were too many for tabs, a side-list view
>     could work as per the HIG.
>   - The tabs make everything an extra click away.
>   - The all-in-one window could be a bit overwhelming.
>   - The all-in-one window method makes nice use of icons
>     for the four sections. This could work well for the
>     preferred applications window too as there are theme
>     icons for each of the four types of apps.
> My preference would be to use the all-in-one-window method that the CD
> and DVD prefs use for the Pref Apps as well.

The all in one window is preffered, but it is not always the right answer.

I'm not sure if the Gnome Human Interface Guidelines explicitly specify*
this (the probably do mention in some form) but Tabbed dialogs are
something that should not be used without careful consideration.

As you have pointed out Tabs hide the information away and require extra
clicks but there comes a point where there is too much information to put
it all in a single dialog and at that point Tabs become a necessity.
Dont forget that Gnome should work even on machines with smaller displays
(old hardware, or small laptops.   no sense deliberately excluding
people who are still using 800x600 or even 640x480 without a very good

There also comes a point when there is just too much information to be put
in tabs, and application like Mozilla and the Gimp have a sidebar with a
treeview listing the various categories.  The downside of this is that
the connection between the items in the treeview list and the page beside
them is not as obvious as the clear connection a Tabbed interface

I suspect the designer of the Preffered Applications Dialog took into
consideration that one might want to set a Preffered Application to cover
all the major MIME types and left room to expand rather than putting too
much effort into pushing everything into one window.   (I notice there is
no settings for default Video Player/Editor, or Graphics Viewer/Editor).
So while you might be able to reorganise it to fit nicely all in one
window, it wouldn't be a good idea if more applications are likely to be

Hope that helps.


Alan Horkan

* I haven't memorized the HIG, I'm lazy, you'll have to check for
yourself, sorry.

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