Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 17th May 2007 18:54 UTC
Gnome In the GNOME bugzilla, there is an ongoing discussion about whether or not to include a patch into the default GNOME installation which would enable GNOME to (optionally) have a global application menubar, similar to that of the Mac OS and KDE (in the latter it is optional and off by default). Installation instructions and .deb packages, as well as a 60-page (and counting) discussion of the patch, are available on the UbuntuForums. Read on for a poll on this issue.
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Fitt's Law
by jdub on Thu 17th May 2007 22:31 UTC
jdub
Member since:
2005-08-19

Everyone invoking Fitt's Law to argue for this feature have apparently not been paying attention to the rapidly increasing DPI and size of computer displays. The top menu makes less sense now than it did in 1980 (and before that), and will make vastly less sense as we move ahead.

Also, this is not an issue related to "options in GNOME" and "developer fascism" or anything like that. It makes no sense to trivialise major interaction issues like this by pushing for "choice" over self-consistency and DESIGN. Those who do, compromise their ability to deliver appropriate user experiences to real users.

Software Freedom is NOT JUST FOR GEEKS.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Fitt's Law
by rayiner on Thu 17th May 2007 23:01 in reply to "Fitt's Law"
rayiner Member since:
2005-07-06

1) Where, praytell, are the terms for DPI and screen size in Fitt's Law? Also, note that a lot of the HCI research in the 1980s was conducted on displays that would be considered "high resolution" even today. I believe the Xerox workstations eventually had 1024x1024 displays. A lot of the research dribbled down into 512x384 resolution Macs, but it wasn't invented there.

2) Displays have increased in size only marginally over the last two decades. High-end computer monitors were ~20" a couple of decades ago, and are only up to 24"-27" now. Indeed, a modern widescreen 24" display has approximately the same height as a 20" monitor did all those years ago. And screen size has nothing to do with Fitt's Law! It changes D in the equation, but that's far outstripped by the change in effective W.

3) If you work the numbers, you can see that the size of the display itself is fairly irrelevant. What matters is D2/D1, where D1 is the distance traversed in the in-window menubar case, and D2 is the distance traversed in the top-menubar case. A larger screen only causes D2/D1 to increase if people tend to keep windows the same size, in the middle of the screen. However, people don't do that. People with larger monitors just resize the window to show more of the document (vertically). Either way, the tops of windows (where the menubar would be) are still pretty close to the top of the screen.

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[2]: Fitt's Law
by Dave_K on Thu 17th May 2007 23:39 in reply to "RE: Fitt's Law"
Dave_K Member since:
2005-11-16

A larger screen only causes D2/D1 to increase if people tend to keep windows the same size, in the middle of the screen. However, people don't do that. People with larger monitors just resize the window to show more of the document (vertically). Either way, the tops of windows (where the menubar would be) are still pretty close to the top of the screen.


I think this is spot on. I know plenty of people with large monitors, and on my main workstation PC I use a 26" display with a 22" secondary display. At work quite a few people working on CAD or database design have dual 24" displays, while other staff have one or two 19" or 20" displays.

Observing the way they fill those screens, I can see that the location of windows (and crucially the menubar at the top of them) hasn't changed that much since the days when 800x600 was an impressive resolution.

Whatever application is being used, I never see windows resized into the bottom corner of the screen, where the menubar would be a long distance from the top edge. Probably 95% of the time people still have a single maximised application window on screen, with only a titlebar's width separating the menu location from that of a single menubar (of course that's plenty to destroy the Fitts' law advantage).

A larger monitor means that people view full A4 pages in a word processor or a DTP app, maybe two pages side by side on a widescreen. It means they keep a much larger section of spreadsheet on screen. Or view a whole photo without zooming out so much. In my experience it doesn't mean that they're ever likely to tile windows vertically on the screen, placing the menubar in the middle. Even if they did, I doubt the increased distance would outweigh the accuracy and speed offered by a control on the screen edge.

I certainly still maximise windows a lot of the time, especially when using MDI apps that make life difficult if used any other way.

If anything I think a single menubar might have more of an advantage on a larger screen. Quickly hitting a small target is even more difficult when the distance is larger, especially when using faster mouse acceleration to compensate for that distance. With the pointer stopping when it hits the menu, you can throw the pointer to the top of the screen as fast as you like and you can't overshoot it.

Overall I think the argument that larger screen sizes invalidate the benefits of a single menubar is totally spurious, it just doesn't hold up to real world interface usage.

Reply Parent Score: 3