Re: [Usability] New beeps in gtk

On Jan 3, 2007, at 7:50 AM, Yevgen Muntyan wrote:
I would like to ask your opinion on this new GTK feature: more beeps
here and where.
First, it beeps when you press a shortcut for insensitive menu item. For instance, if Undo is disabled and you press Ctrl-Z, it beeps.

Oh, bravo! I've idly wondered if that would ever be possible, but I never investigated whether it was reported as a bug.

In particular, you can press and hold Ctrl-Z to undo all changes and wait until it starts beeping (it beeps on every key press, i.e. you hold keys and it's beeping repeatedly).

That would be excessive. It need only chime once, when the action first becomes impossible, and then remain silent until you release the key.

Second, it beeps when you press an arrow key or Home/End or
PageUp/PageDown (or those with modifiers) in a text widget (GtkTextView
or GtkEntry) and cursor can't be moved, i.e. if it's already where this
key would move it - first position for Left, first position nit the
paragraph for Home and so on. For instance, if cursor is at the beginning of an entry and you press Left, it beeps.

That too would be excessive. It is much easier to see that you are no longer scrolling through a text field than that you are no longer undoing things, so a sound is not nearly as helpful.

Is this right from usability point of view? It's said that this beeping
actually is usability - you get notified when an action initiated with keyboard failed. But I believe it's counter-usability, computer should not beep if nothing that requires user attention happened and nothing happened that user won't know about without beep (e.g. if you press Ctrl-V and paste failed for some strange reason but not because there is nothing in clipboard).

There are two general approaches to a sound interface.
*   Negative -- play sounds for unsuccessful actions, be silent for
    successful ones. (Like the audio equivalent of the command line.)
*   Positive -- play sounds for successful actions, be silent for
    unsuccessful ones.

Hardware already takes a positive approach -- keyboards and mouse buttons are noisy, and deliberately so.

Software has long taken a negative approach, mainly because its sound abilities have been crappy, confined to loud and ugly beeps. In the late 1990s Microsoft and Apple introduced positive sounds for their operating systems, but these were off by default. (Microsoft also introduced positive sounds for Mac Office 98, but I can't remember what the default was for these.)

It would be interesting to try a positive approach, but it would need careful engineering to produce sounds that were subtle and reassuring.

Matthew Paul Thomas

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