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Resize and close window

I was wondering-I've seen this mentioned in other places.  In Windows (at least Windows 98 which is the only one I have regular contact with), why is it that resize and close window are right next to each other on the top right?  I've gotten better at not mistakenly closing the window-but I know plenty of people that still do it by mistake.

Is there some rational reason?  It seems like this is a UI problem that's just stuck.

razib khan
Tuesday, March 19, 2002

The "rational" reason is that graphic designer wanted "consistency" and uniformely placed these squares with equal separators.

This is a kind of consistency that kills me. Very often when I see a stupid UI decision, explanation from developer is "this is the way we have it everywhere in our app".

Roman Eremin
Tuesday, March 19, 2002

This is sort of a legacy thing, and I KNOW I'm getting the sytanx wrong so someone correct me, but the symbols represent the keystrokes required to perform those actions... <some key> underscore, dash, and x. Was this an old DOS thing?

Also, from one standpoint, those are the three window options, minimize, maximize, and close. Move and resize being more complex.

Mark W
Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Also, on my windows NT there's a pixel or two more between the two resize buttons and the close button.

Mark W
Tuesday, March 19, 2002

"Also, on my windows NT there's a pixel or two more between the two resize buttons and the close button."

But not in my Windows XP. Consistency has won!

Roman Eremin
Tuesday, March 19, 2002

"but the symbols represent the keystrokes required to perform those actions... <some key> underscore, dash, and x. Was this an old DOS thing?"

Not anymore, at least. The minimize button  button is Alt-Space-n. The maximize button is Alt-Space-X, and the close button is Alt-Space-C.

The icons are meant to be a visual mnemonic, I would guess. The min button is an underscore symbol, suggesting "lower". The max button has a square outline with a thicker top bar, suggesting a full window. The close button has an "X", which is similar to the Cancel symbol sometimes used, and also generally means to cross out.

Dave Fischer
Tuesday, March 19, 2002

I'm really not trying to start an OS war here, but did those icons come from NeXT?  A major difference being that the window sizing icon was as far away from the close button as possible.

Screen shot at:
http://www.osdata.com/system/ui/screens/snext.htm

rich
Tuesday, March 19, 2002

I think Windows 95's choice of window button placement can be somewhat forgiven. In Windows 3.1 and 95, there is the "system menu" in the upper-left corner of each window. Windows 3.1 then had the minimize/maximize buttons in the upper-right window corner. So the question for Microsoft's graphic designers, given that UI compatibility with Windows 3.1 is paramount, should you place the new window close button [X] on the left near the system menu or on the right near the minimize/maximize buttons?? I don't think either choice is a safe one..

Windows 3.1 screenshots:
http://www.bris.ac.uk/is/selfhelp/documentation/win-i1/win-i1.htm


Compare this to Mac OS X's Aqua windows. The minimize/maximize/close button are indistinguishable, except for their color!

Mac OS X screenshot:
http://www.apple.com/macosx/technologies/aqua.html

Banana Fred
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Nice. Anybody else reminded of the three sea-shells in 'Demolition Man'?

DB
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

I agree it's irritating. That's probably why many people who know about prefer to double click the Caption bar to maximize or restore the window.  It's much easier because of the larger area and does not have the danger of clicking the close button.

What I find at least as irritating is that the buttons on the taskbar (including the startbutton) have a one pixel space with the screen edge.

To answer the question on why this is so bloody irritating (most Windows only users aren't even aware of the issue) read question 5 in Ask Togs "A Quiz Designed to Give You Fitts":

"5. Explain why a Macintosh pull-down menu can be accessed at least five times faster than a typical Windows pull-down menu."

http://www.asktog.com/columns/022DesignedToGiveFitts.html

For more on this check out Fitts's law:
http://www.asktog.com/basics/firstPrinciples.html#fitts's%20law

Jan Derk
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

I think one of the problems is that windows came to the GUI market quite late.  Other GUIs (Like MAC and NEXT) already had the best options, and Windows had to do thing differently to avoid Look and Feel issues.

Ged Byrne
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Personally I disagree with the menu placement criticism.

I'm lazy. My mouse mat is not the size of my desk either. I don't want to move my hand much, so large mouse movements involve a succession of small movements, with the mouse being lifted up and replaced where I started from (I've only just realised I'm doing this).

So to go from the middle of my 1280x1024 screen to the top where the Mac boys want the menu to be, I need 3 to 4 mouse movements. To go to the menu bar on the explorer window I'm currently typing into... that I can do in one or two movements. Even if I overshot I've done no worse, and usually better, than the amount of movements I'd need to get to the screen edge.

What stunned me was, as pointed out earlier, that the Aqua GUI had three *identical* and *blank* buttons to perform three different tasks - the only difference between them being their colour. This sort of thing is a triumph of style over useability and makes it hard to listen to the Mac bunch going on about how Windows does it 'wrong' and MacOS does it 'right'. There are lots of GUI elements that work well in both these systems - sadly that gets hidden in the 'our way is best' arguments oh-so-often presented.

DB
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

DB wrote:
"Personally I disagree with the menu placement criticism."

That's not what I meant. I guess I did not make my point clear enough. What bothers me is the fact that the buttons in the task bar are located 2 pixels from the screen edge. It does not seem much but it's the difference between a 22 pixels and infinite target height. The Apple menu items are placed directly against the screen edge to make them infinitely high.

Here's an example. Let's say your cursor is near the center of the screen and you want to click the Start button. Most users will quickly move the mouse in the lower left corner and slow down when arriving at the location because the target to hit is quite small (55 pixel wide and 22 pixels high). Without visually focussing and carefull mouse movements it is practically impossible to hit that target.

Now imagine that Microsoft in all its wisdom had decided to place the Start button right against the lower left screen corner. If they had done that the Start button would have had infinite height and width. You could have moved your mouse at 200 mph to the lower left corner with your eyes closed and still hit the Start button with a 100% success rate. Just try it. (spoiler: you won't succeed because you will be clicking the useless left bottom corner pixel)

Not using that most expensive piece of real estate (the screen corner pixels and the screen borders) is a very serious design flaw in Windows and makes hitting the Start button or any Task bar button 5 times as slow as it could have been.

This is one of the reasons why ages ago Apple put their menu's right against the top of the screen. If you don't believe me, just ask Tog ;)

Jan Derk
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Jan, I guess you were sending pyschic waves to Microsoft, because in Windows XP the start menu, and indeed all the task bar items, outside of the system tray, can be invoking by hitting the last pixel on the screen.

Malcolm
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

>Jan, I guess you were sending pyschic waves to Microsoft

Well, maybe the people at MS just read Tog or Joel :-) You do not need to get esoteric to gain wisdom. Good to see that they are able to learn, though, isn't it?

Have fun,

Jutta Jordans
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Malcolm wrote:
"[..]in Windows XP the start menu, and indeed all the task bar items, outside of the system tray, can be invoking by hitting the last pixel on the screen."

That's really good news. I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I worked with an XP computer for half an hour and did not notice that. Like Jutta says it's good they learn, although it should have been done W95 already.

What I did notice in WindowsXP is ClearType. If you have a laptop or an LCD screen with Windows XP, switch it on right now (it's somewhere in the advanced Desktop properties).

Cleartype is a subpixel type anti-aliasing that makes your fonts look marvelous. The improved readability will reduce eye strain a lot. Gibson has some gif images which show you how it looks on any Windows computer (the greatness will only show using an LCD display):
http://grc.com/ctwhat.htm

Here's the MS page:
http://www.microsoft.com/typography/cleartype/

Nielsen even claims that you will save $2000,- a year if you use it:
http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20020203.html

The bad news is it will only work with LCD's and that it is not switched on by default. Cleartype alone is for me enough reason to get an LCD and upgrade to XP.

Jan Derk
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

DB, that's baloney! I can easily move over the entire area of my 1600 x 1200 screen in one motion, even in Windows which has much less refined mouse movement.

pb
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

> DB, that's baloney! I can easily move over the entire area of my 1600 x 1200 screen in one motion, even in Windows which has much less refined mouse movement.

It depends on how fast your mouse is (in NT v4 that's setup using Control Panel/Mouse/Motion).

Christopher Wells
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Plus as I said - I'm lazy. Why move my hand a few inches when a few cm will do, especially when I've got paper all over the desk impeding on my mouse mat? :)

DB
Thursday, March 21, 2002

1) DB, try a trackball. A bit of getting used to but no picking up and moving it. I've all but forgotten what that's like. If you're that lazy, it'll be great for you. Moving your thumb is a lot less effort that moving your whole arm, and you can keep your arm on the desk rather than hovering.

2) Is it just me or is <basphemy> isn't most of Joel's book regurgitated someone else? </ blasphemy>

3) I didn't like Hotmail's new interface, why would I like XP? yech. Not that I've used it much.... I don't have 50gb to spare.

4) I have no isues with clicking the right one min/max/x button, but rarely use them. My monitor is set to "insane" resolution and all my windows are 800x600 or maximized, always.

5) That must be what I was thinking of. The upper left hand Win31 dash was meant to look like a space bar. I was sure there were two others though.

Mark W
Friday, March 22, 2002

> 5) That must be what I was thinking of.
> The upper left hand Win31 dash was meant
> to look like a space bar. I was sure there
> were two others though.

Here's a Windows 3.1 screenshot that shows an MDI frame and an MDI child. The frame has a "space bar" graphic indicating ALT+SPACE opens its menu, and the MDI child has a "minus" graphic, which means you can use ALT+- key combo to open its menu.

http://www.valt.helsinki.fi/atk/basic99/win311.jpg

I don't recall a third one. One of those UI design features that never really took off. Reminds me of the "menu item ellipsis" idea. Nobody does it right, including Microsoft. Wouldn't it be fun to start a topic to see how everyone thinks it is REALLY supposed to be used?

B
Friday, March 22, 2002

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