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Design Decision

As some of you may know, I am (near completion of) creating a small Word-AddIn aimed at university students.

I hope this question doesn't seem too silly, I am quite capable of making this decision myself, but would love to be able to just ask anyway.

The program is a word AddIn, as you might expect this will mean placing reference to the AddIn in the menu system somehow.

I have a 'Reference' menu which contains:
-Insert Reference (ie opens the main program)
-Style > (pops open a submenu listing all the possible styles
- Help (Basic help, including some tips and tricks etc)

To put it simply, I am not sure whether to place the reference menu as a submenu under the standard 'Tools' menu, or to whack it up top in between "Tools' and 'Table'

I know, this is pretty minor, and yet this is the first part of the UI that the users encounter.

To have the menu up top,
-Easier to find directly after install
- well it is better advertising, even if someone is using a friends computer (using Word)....well there is a greate chance of it being seen if it isn't buried in the 'Tools'  menu.
-It is also easier access (2clicks as opposed to 3)

To have it buried
- Well, I don't like programs taking over my normal UI, ie I would rather it bury itself.

Okay, as I type this I think the question is dumb, the answer is 'whack it up top'.

Still I ask, feel free to say that I am being silly to even be concerned.

Aussie Chick
Thursday, January 1, 2004

Small as the issue is, its really a dilemma, isnt it?

I say put in the menubar.

Eric DeBois
Thursday, January 1, 2004

Do NOT mess around with the menu bar. What you will be advertising is that you are an insensitive overweening jerk.

Pu your application in the Tools menu, and put an icon on the standard toolbar if you wish. This is what the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary does, and I really doubt if your application is more important or going to be more used than that.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, January 1, 2004

Now see, this is exactly why I asked.

Add an icon to the standard toolbar too you say.

I had better prove to everyone that I am not an oversomething jerk!!!

Aussie Chick
Thursday, January 1, 2004

Some people might object to the icon in the standard toolbar but others will not be able to find your program if you don't. It seems a reasonable compromise

But leave the program in the correct place in the menu (that is under tools; I tnink if you put it in add-ins people won't find it - if you put a folder in the start menu then that is a different matter). Remember yours is not going to be the only program people are installing so leave the menu bar as it is.

The menu bars, system tray and right click context menu should be inviolate (and of course nothing should ever be installed to the root folder). I am going to install winamp if I can't quickly find a way to delete the three meaningless entries it's put on my context menu.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, January 1, 2004

Maybe it should be a preference the user can specify at install time?

Scot Doyle
Thursday, January 1, 2004

Why not make your own toolbar, and show it by default, including one button that acts like a menu? If you want an example, then install NewsGator into Outlook. I think this level of integration is perfect: don't mess with any of my standard menus or toolbars, but if I want, I can move things around and do it myself.

Brad Wilson (
Thursday, January 1, 2004

I can't wait to see what Aussie Chick has created.  ;-)

Are you going to place it on the internet and make it downloadable?  (Or would that conflict with your marketing scheme?)

Thursday, January 1, 2004

I've got two Outlook addi-ins, a duplicates eraser and Spam Bayes that do that. By default I get a toolbar with two or three icons for the first, and one for the second. Sure I can move them around, but how many people know that? And those that do also know they can delete the icon from the standard toolbar if they want to.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, January 1, 2004

Well, I'll buck the trend and vote for creating a new menu.  Reasons:

(1) The Word menu structured is cluttered enough as it is, and it may be hard for users to find it.  Plus, unless they've disabled the "auto hide infrequently used menu items" feature, your application may disappear entirely if they don't use it on a regular basis.

(2) It will add perceived value to your application.  If your program is relegated to a somewhat obscure location in the Word menu structure, users will assume that it's an inconsequential little feature.  If it's more prominent, it will seem more like a "real" application that was worth the $20 or $40.

However, Scott's suggestion for making this an option is good.  (Of course users can rearrange menu items manually, but probably less that 1% know how to do this.)  I also second the toolbar suggestions.

Robert Jacobson
Thursday, January 1, 2004

>I can't wait to see what Aussie Chick has created.  ;-)
>Are you going to place it on the internet and make it >downloadable?  (Or would that conflict with your >marketing scheme?)

Yes, my marketing scheme is not figured out altogether yet.
But yes I do intend to stick a trial version on the web so yes it will be available for you to check out if you are interested (in fact I would appreciate the feedback).

Aussie Chick
Thursday, January 1, 2004

Robert Jacobson, you make good points also, except I think I am erring on the side of a submenu in the Tools menu, and an icon on the standard toolbar.

Perhaps I could add it to the start menu, ie the shortcut in the start menu would open would open word and automatically start the program.

I don't think I will give it its own toolbar, as it really has only one icon that will be used.

Aussie Chick
Thursday, January 1, 2004

One other thought... since you'll be distributing this as demoware, make sure that your users are reminded frequently that the program is installed and running.  A danger is that they'll download the trial version and forget to use it, and then not purchase it when the 30 or 60 day evaluation period is up. 

For example, you could add a splash screen that loads after the regular Word splash screen, or perhaps have a "tip of the day" type screen.  (Either is probably nicer than a typical "nag" screen.)

I'm not sure how a Start Menu icon would work.  If you're making a traditional Word add-in, won't it load automatically whenever you start Word?

Robert Jacobson
Thursday, January 1, 2004

Dear Robert,
                    So far you have suggested that Aussie Chicks addi-in take a whole space in the menu bar, which no known add-in to any part of the Office suite has ever done, and now you are suggesting that it annoys the user every time they start up Word.

                    Why don't you get it to get the computer to sing "please buy me'" every fifteen minutes, or better still to phone you on your mobile every fifteen minutes to sing you the ditty, and why not send suggestions to everybody in the address book to get them to pressure the customer into buying.

                      If people use the program so little that they forget it times out after thirty or sixty days they have no reason whatsoever to pay for it. All the splash screen is going to do is to get them to uninstall the program pronto, like the second time they start up Word.

                        There are few programs useful enough that you put up with the splash screen; in fact Zone Alarm is the only one that occurs to me. And note, that I put up with the splash screen rather than paying for it.

                        I can give you a long list of software that I have uninstalled pronto because it annoyed me, or had unannounced crippleware characteristics. In at least three cases I would have probably bought the software if the crippleware was not so atrocious, and worst of all unnanounced. Pissing off your users is not good marketing, even in the short term.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, January 1, 2004

Well said Stephen, I am of the same opinion.

I have actually been reading a number of articles about how to best 'remind the user'

I hate splash screens and annoying pop-ups.
The best idea I heard was to 'make it easy for your user to register from anywhere in your program'.

This is not to throw up heaps of popups and ugly 'buy now' signs, but to just ensure that the user is aware of how much time they have left, and how to easily register.
Things like ensuring you have 'Register Now' buttons in the menu system, (in a full blown program this would include more then once, even at the bottom of every menu might be okay.).

For me, I intend to display it nicely in the reference menu (which will be a submenu of tools), as well as at the bottom of the menu I will have an 'about the free trial' link.
On the main user form I will also put neatly but plainly a label saying how many days of the free trial is left, and a button/link to register now.
Keeping it all inline with good UI, so that the user that these will disappear in the registered version.

Aussie Chick
Thursday, January 1, 2004

should have said: that the user *will know* that these will disappear in the registered version...

Aussie Chick
Thursday, January 1, 2004

Lol Stephen.  Good suggestion with the singing, maybe I'll use that with my next app.  <g> 

What I hate are the pop-up messages that say "DANGER DANGER WILL ROBINSON: THIS SOFTWARE WILL SELF-DESTRUCT IN 17 DAYS.  YOU MUST BUY NOW."  (Insert animated GIF with robot flailing arms.)

What I suggested was something more subtle, and presumably less annoying, like a "tip of the day" box.  By convention, these "tip of the day" boxes can be permanently dismissed if the user doens't want to see them.  (Usually by simply unchecking a "Show tip of the day" box in said dialog.)  That way, if the user finds them helpful, they stay visible.  If the user finds them annoying, they're easily dismissed.

Robert Jacobson
Thursday, January 1, 2004

I'd opt for a menu entry under tools, with a submenu from it and a private toolbar.
Isn't that how EndNote ( ) does it as well?

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, January 2, 2004

Toolbars take up a centimetre or so of screen real estate. If the user knows what he's doing he can move them, but most users don't know that; they may know enough to turn off your toolbar so you don't see it though.

Stephen Jones
Friday, January 2, 2004

Putting the menu in the top level is not "scalable": think about what a mess this would become if every add-in did this.

Popups (of any sort) are not scalable as well: think about what a mess this would be if every program did this.

Friday, January 2, 2004

For an example of a similar (I think) application, go to
They have a write-n-cite feature that puts a command in the Tools menu and also creates its own menu bar.

Also note that MathType (equation editor) and Acrobat install new top level menu items, and that doesn't seem so bad.

Harvey Motulsky
Friday, January 2, 2004

Id have said that adding a top level menu would be fine so long as it doesn't upset the order of preeexisting menuitems.

ie, a menuitem at the bottom of the list wouldn't bother me, but one that placed itself at the top and pushed everything else down, thus disturbing my model of where things are, would be uninstalled pretty quick.

Saturday, January 3, 2004

remember that this is an addin that will only be installed by _people who want to use it_

In my opinion this is a different category of software to the normal shareware stuff, and different rules apply.
If I _want_ a particular feature to be added to a program, and I _choose_ to keep that feature installed because it does what I want then I will _want_ it to be easily accessable.

Saturday, January 3, 2004

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