Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 18th Nov 2007 15:46 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces This is the sixth article in a series on common usability and graphical user interface related terms [part I | part II | part III | part IV | part V]. On the internet, and especially in forum discussions like we all have here on OSNews, it is almost certain that in any given discussion, someone will most likely bring up usability and GUI related terms - things like spatial memory, widgets, consistency, Fitts' Law, and more. The aim of this series is to explain these terms, learn something about their origins, and finally rate their importance in the field of usability and (graphical) user interface design. In part VI, we focus on the dock.
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irbis
Member since:
2005-07-08

Well, my comment about MS Clippy help app may not have been a very good one anyway, as it is not so much related to the subject here. My point in mentioning it was only to give some kind of an example about looks vs. real usability. So putting emphasis on aesthetics does not always improve usability.

"4x4 icons may be really pro, but it is exponentially easier to hit 16x16."

Of course you're right about that. And there's absolutely nothing pro about too tiny 4x4 icons IMHO... ;-) Anyway, in Gnome I make my top and bottom panels 21 pixels high (possible with certain fonts like Free Sans) which is plenty enough in order for them to remain both clear to see, easy to use, and narrow enough so that they take minimum amount of space and can contain maximum amount of shortcuts or applets if I prefer to have them there.

"I am a big fan of the quicklaunch in windows (I hate, hate, hate the start menu, and always have)"

But start menus are - for a very good reason - found in almost all desktop environments. You tell that you hate them but fail to explain why? Care to elaborate?

I still wait to see a better way than a handy start menu to show, browse and get access to all the available applications? A start menu - of some sorts - seems like a necessity as far as I can tell. Running commands would be another way to browse, find and open apps - but not very newbie-friendly. The place where the start menu is located or can be opened is not essential. Some window managers have a "start menu" that can be opened by right-clicking the desktop background, but that is still the same start menu, and is also more difficult to reach if the desktop background is hidden under open windows.

Still about docks in general:
Mac OS X dock (and maybe many of its "copies" too) looks really nice. In aesthetics Mac OS X may be a clear winner. But what comes to functionality I prefer the old though maybe a bit dull looking taskbar. Not only does taskbar take much less desktop space but textual shortcuts of the taskbar show much more clearly than mere graphical icons what each shortcut represents. If you have, say, 10 open folders, and you can see only 10 similar looking folder icons side by side on the dock, which is which?

Mac OS X dock has some really nice features, though, like docklings and the availability of extended menus that control applications without making them visible on screen - but that could be implemented with a taskbars too.

Edited 2007-11-18 23:50 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 3

Savior Member since:
2006-09-02

"I am a big fan of the quicklaunch in windows (I hate, hate, hate the start menu, and always have)"

But start menus are - for a very good reason - found in almost all desktop environments. You tell that you hate them but fail to explain why? Care to elaborate?


I don't know why he hates it, but here is why I do: there is just so much information in them to easily find the application you are looking for. Especially in Windows, where each installed application puts its entries by default to the Programs root. I have seen such start menus all too often. And if you arrange it to folders (like Games, Utilities, etc), it will take a lot of time to go through the folder structure. Under Linux, it is a bit more sane, but it is much more difficult to edit the menu than in Windows, making it again a bit uncomfortable.

Of course, it is absolutely necessary to have something like that. But for programs I use every day, quicklaunch is much faster and more convenient. That was on Windows, though; on Linux, katapult beats every other solution for me. I do not even have a quick launcher anymore, just alt-space, type the first 2-3 characters, and there is the app I want. Brilliant.

Reply Parent Score: 2

gustl Member since:
2006-01-19

I did not yet try out katapult, but it seems to be a very good app launcher interface. For people who know what they are looking for (know the name of the app), that is.

On the other hand, give a Windows user (or a complete newbie) the task of burning some data on a CD with a KDE desktop. What does he do? Right: Launch the "start" menue, look for "archiving" or "CD/DVD", or maybe even "multimedia", all sane places where you could find a CD burning application. It will take him some time, but he will be able to complete the task without having to ask for help.
But set him in front of katapult, and he will try to type "CD", "DVD", "Nero", ... . none of which will bring him closer to "k3b". Or did I miss some ability of katapult there?

Reply Parent Score: 2

google_ninja Member since:
2006-02-05

But start menus are - for a very good reason - found in almost all desktop environments. You tell that you hate them but fail to explain why? Care to elaborate?

I still wait to see a better way than a handy start menu to show, browse and get access to all the available applications? A start menu - of some sorts - seems like a necessity as far as I can tell. Running commands would be another way to browse, find and open apps - but not very newbie-friendly. The place where the start menu is located or can be opened is not essential. Some window managers have a "start menu" that can be opened by right-clicking the desktop background, but that is still the same start menu, and is also more difficult to reach if the desktop background is hidden under open windows.


I dont have a problem with the start menu as sort of an installed software directory, but I don't like it as a main application launcher. On OSX i used quicksilver (now i use spotlight), on linux I use an embedded run dialog (which has been replaced by deskbar in gnome which I don't like at all), and on windows it always bugged me that there was nothing similar (until WDS on Vista).

Currently, I do all my work on vista. I have 7 shortcuts in the quicklaunch that I use several times daily. These require one click.

I have 20 items "pinned" to the start menu (or panel, I guess you would call it now). These are apps I use semi-regularly. It consists of the Office apps, some adobe apps, terminal, powershell, Safari and Opera (for website testing), torrent software, IM software, etc. These take me two clicks. Usually I will use several, but not all of these every day.

So far so good, but what about the hundred or so small apps I use infrequently? Stuff like regedit, defrag software, server config utils, backup software, dvd authoring software, calculator, virtualization software, burning software, etc. That is what most people use the start menu for. These I will use a few of every day, but always different, and not frequently enough to put it in an easy access location.

Start menu requires up to four clicks with a lot of sifting through folder names to get to what I want. Considering the size of the items in the list, the amount of items there are, and the bad organization (ESPECIALLY in windows), it is significantly more of a pain to find what I want. Some people just litter their desktop with hundreds of launchers, so they can quickly find what they need. This is a symptom of the start menu problem.

Nowadays, the only time I open the start menu (or application menu on linux, or the applications folder on OSX), is to see what is installed on a computer I am unfamiliar with. I know this may seem like nit-picking, but IMHO it is a badly designed UI element and I find it frustrating to work with as long as any alternative exists. The fact that so many exist kind of points that I am not the only one to feel this way.

Sorry for the huge response, I figured I may as well be thorough, as it is a hard thing to articulate ;)

Reply Parent Score: 4

hobgoblin Member since:
2005-07-06

there was plenty of third party type and run apps for windows.

here is one i have used before:
http://www.donationcoder.com/Software/Mouser/findrun/index.html

Reply Parent Score: 2