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UI question

Back at it with my program. The testers have suggested I implement some way to choose whether the form remains on top or not.

I think the most obvious way is to use a sticky button. I am not completely happy with the button, but it will do (eek, did I just say that?) However I am not sure where to place it.

http://calebsoftware.com/screenshots/refmate20040617-option1.JPG

http://calebsoftware.com/screenshots/refmate20040617-option2.JPG

Any thoughts, I am not sure that I like either of them too much, any other suggestions?

Aussie Chick
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

seems intuitive to me.  Why don't you like it?

muppet from madebymonkeys.net
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Option1 strikes me as a waste of space, so of the two I'd prefer Option2.

However, isn't this pin usually up in the top-right corner somehow? -- in the title bar, preferably, but if not, right below it.

Alyosha`
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

but, the traditional "sticky button" means "stick to this desktop" in a multi-virtual-desktop environment, rather than "stay on top", doesn't it?

I like it at the bottom just fine, preferably option 2.

muppet from madebymonkeys.net
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

or rather "Stick to this position, regardless of what desktop I'm on"

muppet from madebymonkeys.net
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Yes I like option 2 better definetely, no question now.

Do you have any examples of the pin being in the top-right? The main form I have been looking at is Outlook2000:

ie
Normally:
http://calebsoftware.com/screenshots/outlook_plain.JPG

When the mouse hovers over the icon:
http://calebsoftware.com/screenshots/outlook_when_mouse_over_icon.JPG

when the button is pressed:
http://calebsoftware.com/screenshots/outlook_down.JPG

I like the look of this screen, and am trying to achieve the exact same effect.

Aussie Chick
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Yes it does, in my mind it is not 'always on top', but more 'always on top of the Word document'.

It is slipping slightly beyond the usualy perception, do you think it would be confusing?

Aussie Chick
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

the only place I've seen the pushpin in the top right is in virtual-desktop shells like Gnome or KDE, or some shell replacements for windows like LiteStep or the occasional WindowBlinds skin.

muppet from madebymonkeys.net
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

in the way you've positioned it, it seems obvious to me what it's for.

I think if it were in the top right I might expect the more traditional function.

muppet from madebymonkeys.net
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Excellent. Thankyou for your feedback. I will stick with option 2 and move on to other items in my todo list!!

Aussie Chick
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

OK - you have more items in your todo list, but when you
find some more time you should do something about
Cancel button which should go to the right.

And sticky button somehow has no place among regular
push buttons which invoke immediate actions.

This is why you were not happy with any of designs.

Sticky button is like checkbox. It's a state indicator. Bold or
not bold, italic or not. They belong in toolbars, or since you
don't have a toolbar, at least add statusbar and when
the button is pushed you could print its state there
too.

Or just add a simple checkbox - it would be like usual
checkbox that sais "Don't show this message again".

VPC
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

I hear what you are saying, but I don't feel I can make the changes that you suggest.

Yes, cancel should be to the right (hence my first option 1). However option 2 is more aesthetically pleasing.

I need a sticky button, and it needs to be obvious. I think I address this. I think if it were higher up it wouldn't be so noticeable. Where else would it fit?

Aussie Chick
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Eek, now that I have made the button all pretty, I have to figure out how to make the form 'stay on top' of the word document.

Any VB programmers out there who might be able to add some incite...please do!

Aussie Chick
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

I'd say that mixing it in with the Accept/Cancel buttons is a bad idea. That's messing with a pretty iron-clad convention. I'd put it in the left corner, to the left of the Clear Form button. That leaves the right two buttons for form accept/cancel operations as usual, and the buttons on the left for form manipulation actions. It would probably look best as well.

  --Josh

JWA
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

I think getting overly hung up on convention is silly

as for staying on top.. some sort of modal window?  I dunno.. it's been a VERY long time since I've programmed in VB...

muppet from madebymonkeys.net
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

yeh, I like that too.

http://calebsoftware.com/screenshots/refmate20040617-option3.JPG

Aussie Chick
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The problem is that I can't change modes when the form is running, which is essential what I am wanting to do.

Aussie Chick
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Sounds like a request for a feature that will never
be used. Reject it as "not a bug" and move on.

son of parnas
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

HOWTO: Create a Form That Always Stays on Top

http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/q184/2/97.asp

grog
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Hmm, I would have placed it up, to the right of the 'Electronic Version' check ~ as an option to be considered early in the top-bottom, left-right flow.

IIRC, VB_Form_OnTop was an API hack that often caused problems. I'm foggy on his though - could look it up for you if no-one else jumps in.

Mr E Lurker
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

I just tried using event_handlers, however the best I can achieve with them is that every time I click re-activate a word document, the for jumps on top. Once activated, clicking on the word document sneds my form to the back again.

I am interested in that MS Article, Except I need a lunch break right now. first thing when I get back.

If that doesn't work, then this 'feature' can wait until the next release.

Aussie Chick
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

I like option 3 the best, however, kinda unrelated, but I also like the GNOME convention of the button to 'move forward' with the dialog being in the bottom right all the time.  Be it OK, More>> or whatever.  But the button for affermative in the bottom right.  :)

anon
Thursday, June 17, 2004

Yes, I like that too (more>> in the bottom right).

However the fact is that there is only 1 single bottom-right position, and countless buttons vying for it!!!

Aussie Chick
Thursday, June 17, 2004

If you're going to use option 3, you may want to move the "Clear Form" button more to the right, lest someone attempt to pin the form and instead lose whatever he's entered.

Kyralessa
Thursday, June 17, 2004

Icons are dumb.  No, really, it's an unfortunate fact of life; everyone will decipher the hieroglyph differently.

If you represent it as a pin, the 'obvious' place to look for it is near the top of the window, because we, as humans, are familiar with gravity.  Even if you can wrap your head around 'looking down on the window,' there'll always be the user who can't.  (Moreso, there will always be the user who will *never* figure out what the image is of, and sit there waiting for the tooltip, if they're lucky enough.)

...But if you did somehow sneak the pin into being a titlebar widget -- which isn't very consistent, but it's about as close to consistent as you can get -- it'd end up next to the close button... even worse than next to 'cancel.'  Ow.

I can only imagine that a hieroglyph of a window 'floating' (erm, can I be a dork and mention the old Amiga raise/lower widget, as a visual example?  Square on top of square, one square highlighted or with attention lines around it or something) will be slightly more decipherable to your users... simply because, by making it an abstract symbol that users will either "get" or "won't," at least you won't drag their differing opinions of how real life pins work/should-work into the mix.  Or tophats.

[Disclaimer:  Not actually pretending to be a guru.  Only one user's opinion.]

Anonymous Peon
Thursday, June 17, 2004

I have to say I'm not happy with the icon either. As said before in this thread, the icon has different meanings in different situations.

Why not make a checkbox with text that says: "Keep on top"? Now everyone would get that (well, more than 80% anyway).

On the button positions: Why is "clear" on the left and "cancel" on the right? Why is there a "clear" anyway when you can cancel? Better place them next to each other, on the right - "cancel" as rightmost one.

Then, on the left, put your "more" button, and the checkbox. If you decide not to go with the text idea, _please_ use tooltips. Nobody will take the time to look into your manual, and there doesn't seem to be context help eiter.

Just trying to be helpful! Good luck.

Janonymous
Thursday, June 17, 2004

Oh and by the way, if possible at all, test the new form with a different set of users.  My experience is that testers are more likely to say that something is better than not.

Besides, the old testers would already _know_ the meaning of your new button. New users won't, I tell you, especially if they're like my mom. Or the average library assistant...

Janonymous
Thursday, June 17, 2004


Aussie,

Curiosity urges me; what is this application that you are developing? From what I see, it seems like a software catalogue to index book titles, and your clients most likely to be libraries, book publishers and printing presses.

What language are you using to develop this tool? How does this tool relate to Microsoft Word from a user perspective? In other words, going by my assumption of the end-users, if I were a librarian working at the British Council Library and I bought your software, Reference Mate, to index the titles available at the library, why will I have to use Microsoft Word along with it?

A regular poster to this forum
Thursday, June 17, 2004

Just my twopenneth - the pushpin icon looks too much like an acorn to me, which would be confusing if I didn't already know what we were talking about....

Ant
Thursday, June 17, 2004

Kyrallessa: good point I will adjust that.

Janonymous: While I appreciate the effort to say something, please be real, your comment "Why not make a checkbox with text that says: "Keep on top"?" is so unrealistic I am guessing it was either intended as an extreme example, or you are developing a new concept in GUIs. The reason I say this is that if I where to be so verbose (yes three words is very verbose) when trying to create a form, the form would be unusable. 
Having said that, I do agree that the icon is ambiguous, and conflicting with other peoples ideas about how a sticky pin works in the realm of computers, and how a pin-tack works in the real world.
As for tooltips, I do use them,  I am a tooltip user, and so I implement them fairly well.

Ant: That is funny, I am Australian, and therefore confusing that with an acorn would just not happen. Having siad that I do want to move in the US market should this every take off....

thanks for all your comments, I am still struggling with the coding of the actual function, and having it match what the users expectations would be. I think this should wait until next release, that way I can devote alot more time to perfecting it.

Aussie chick
Thursday, June 17, 2004

A regular poster to this forum :
Sathyaish, is that you?

Aussie chick
Thursday, June 17, 2004


You're so intelligent, Cass! But mum's the word! Don't go about telling everyone. I permeate the entire universe.

Sathyaish Chakravarthy
Thursday, June 17, 2004

http://calebsoftware.com/screenshots/refmate20040617-option4.JPG

Following with some suggestions I have put the pin in the top corner.

I have also decided that the window can stick with normal computer 'stick pin' conventions. That is, if the pin is down, the window is on top of everything.

Any thoughts?

Aussie chick
Thursday, June 17, 2004

"While I appreciate the effort to say something, please be real, your comment "Why not make a checkbox with text that says: "Keep on top"?" is so unrealistic I am guessing it was either intended as an extreme example, or you are developing a new concept in GUIs. The reason I say this is that if I where to be so verbose (yes three words is very verbose) when trying to create a form, the form would be unusable."

No relation to JAnonymous, but apparently people with "Anonymous" in their name(s) think the same way.  So, well, yeah, you've decided your window should be such-and-such dimension for whatever presumed-good reasons, but text does have the advantage of being only as ambiguous as text.  New concept?  1970s concept...*

One thought that popped into my head was having a keyboard shortcut or two to appear/disappear the window no matter what ("nonmodal," especially with separate keys for raise and for lower; the user can just smash the proverbial raise key before every single entry, which is still a little suboptimal, but possibly less so than a reach for the mouse)... but I'm not sure that'd be implementable in this case, if this involves Word having focus.

The other would be to have it in a dropdown, but obviously a dropdown only really makes sense if you can think of more than one thing to have in the dropdown, and that ups it from one find-click to two find-click operations.

*Actually, for... example 1, was it?... the checkbox and line of text might be more aesthetic for the sake of filling up the whitespace.

Anonymous Peon
Thursday, June 17, 2004

The pin-button solution Ok, except you have put it on wrong place. The same button in Outlook Express is located on some kind of "notification" or "indicator" window. In your case it's an dialog box, so at the bottom right corner some terminating button is usually expected.

usabilist
Thursday, June 17, 2004

anonymous Peon:

I  agree with you, in the first solution it may have been a white space filler. The reason I said what I said was that this form has alot of text on it, yet I still think it has done a good job of being easy to read. Adding checkboxes (with words) below buttons is going to start making this form difficult to read.

Not something that I want.

Aussie chick
Thursday, June 17, 2004

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