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Comments On Dean's FE Proposal
- To: <us>
- Subject: Comments On Dean's FE Proposal
- From: Marc Stiegler <marcs>
- Date: Wed, 20 Sep 89 14:46:04 PDT
Yessirree, it would really be nice to have our frontend--any
version of our frontend--with which to critique proposals for
In response to dean's recent message on fe redesign, I have the
1) Double clicking on the dot to go to the document would work.
However, I question whether it will buy us as much improvement
as one might hope because the bubble in the current design has
2 other functions. One of those other functions, dragging the
headline, is discussed below. The other function, which is newer
than any of the documentation, is to make visible the difference
between REFERENCED documents and CONTAINED documents. In the
new draft-in-production, the bubble
is either square or circular to denote containment or reference.
For more discussion of this, please talk to me or read the new
draft of the documentation as soon as I get it done (probably
It is possible that we should not even have both contained and
referenced documents in Release 1.0; it is possible we should
only have referenced documents. However, I would like to have
a clear upgrade path to contained documents, since we will surely
want the distinction either in a later release or in a power-user's
version (InfoFactory Professional?). The bottom line on this
is that we will eventually need an icon the size of the original
bubble icon, somewhere on the screen. What we eliminate by moving
the open-document operation to the dot is NOT the bubble, but
rather the dot, which was pretty inoffensive anyway.
We also "fix" it so that, when you single-click to put a check-mark
in the icon spot, you wipe out the indicator of whether the document
is contained or referenced--a minor inelegance. You also lose
the indicator of whether the document is empty or not--another
minor inelegance. But a lot of little inelegances add up to a
This is the BEST case; we still have to deal with other parent-only
operations besides open-document.
2) Having put the open-document command into the dot (which is
also sometimes a "+" even in the simplest representation), we
now faced the question, how to manipulate a parent headline without
its children? Of course, the first legitimate question to ask
is, do you really need the ability to manipulate the parent without
the children? I must confess, my personal feelings about this
are so strong that they qualify as "religious" feelings. So,
to get the religion out of the way, let me say, YES YES YES WE
MUST HAVE PARENT-ONLY OPERATIONS (whew, I feel better now :-).
So, do we really need them for anyone but me?
On the opposing side, we can observe that no existing outliners
have parent-only operations. So one could argue that even without
them, our inclusion lists will be as powerful as the best of
existing outliners. To state it the way I feel about it, our
inclusion lists would be as powerful as the best of the hopelessly
inadequate existing outliners.
Another reasonable observation is that parent-only operations
are not frequent. However, when you want one, you want it really
bad. Many many people out there really hate outliners (roger
is our best local example). How much of that hatred is caused
by the following sensation? On those rare occasions when you
DO want a parent-only operation, it provokes surprisingly fierce
anger, because you can SEE what you want to do, it's RIGHT THERE
staring at you, but YOU CAN'T DO IT. Instead of just grabbing
the parent and yanking it to the right place, you must first
select all the children, drag them up to the adjacent parent,
and THEN move the sucker. Needless to say, people make frequent
errors--they grab the parent, then remember that the children
are coming along for the ride. So they then reposition the parent,
and THEN follow the "legal" sequence. This still happens to me,
Outliners earned their reputation for being too rigid with just
such clever behavior. I am desperate to make our system more
flexible than basic outliners, for this among other reasons.
The outline metaphor should add capabilities, not constraints.
3) Assuming we will do single-header movement, how do we represent
a) Use a command-selection to get the parent alone. This brings
up a philosophical point: I do not believe that command-selection
works under hardly any circumstances. It is possible that More
HAS such a command selection to manipulate the header, I wouldn't
know, because I gave up trying to use the sucker without trying
this invisible possibility. Making it a command selection is
marginally different from not implementing it.
b) Expand the parent's triangle icon when there are children,
making 2 regions, one region for the family handle, one region
for the parent-only handle. I like some characteristics of the
concept--the parent-only distinction only appears when there
is a family there to drive a distinction. I am uncomfortable
with it in some way, but I can't articulate the issue at the
moment; I'll need to think on it. Anyway, using this approach,
combining it with the earlier discussion, our net reduction in
visual complexity with the new approach is that we got rid of
the column of small dots and now have occasional oversize icons
here and there in the view.
4) Looking at the new approach from a meta-view, it appears to
me that the main focus of this current proposal is a desperate
effort to reduce the triangle-plus-bubble next to the headline
to one icon, no matter what the consequences are for the rest
of the screen. This pair of icons obviously bothers everyone
else more than it bothers me. In my own mind's eye, the triangle
and bubble DO merge together, only to be resolved when needed.
I am really inclined to believe the best solution is to find
a pair of icons that will seem to blend together in normal human
vision much as this pair blends together in mine. I will put
together a couple of proposals.
5) I like the idea of putting a "margin note" button in the control
panel. Actually, in Mac-land, this is a canonical example of
something you would just put in a menu on the menu bar, but I
want it to be really easy to create documents this way, so I'm
in favor of putting it in the control panel.
There should be a choice in the menu bar for attaching a new,
blank inclusion list; I don't think this needs to be another
button in the control panel. Eventually, we will want to make
this system extensible so that you can use the same mechanism
to create, for example, a new Autocad document as a "margin illustration".
It occurs to me we could do this with a popup menu in the control
panel, so that you could create either a margin note or a margin
inclusion list directly; I'm not necessarily in favor of this,
just observing the alternative: it is not quite as light-weight,
though more flexible.
6) The drag button on a selection is closely akin to an idea
hugh and I have discussed before. I would favor putting a button
at each end of the selection rather than just at the stopping
point, in case the guy wants to scroll around a bit after selecting.
Using a double click to copy rather than move is a great improvement
on the mechanism I had in mind for this operation earlier. If
the user hits the Delete key after double clicking, it is the
COPY that is deleted, not the original.