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§ Why the #&* did you put those commands next to each other

Through a convoluted series of weblinks, I ended up on this page, which describes the Windows User Experience Interaction Guidelines for ribbons:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc872782.aspx

From my experience, there's a pretty high chance that either you absolute adore the ribbon or you think it is the devil spawn of UI controls. I haven't decided yet, only having used ribbon-based applications for a short time, and while I didn't find it an especially amazing experience, I didn't despise it either. I figure that it isn't a bad idea to read through the guidelines and see what generally applicable wisdom is in the ribbon's design.

This particular sentence had me cheering:

Avoid placing destructive commands next to frequently used commands. A command is considered destructive if its effect is widespread and either it cannot be easily undone or the effect isn't immediately noticeable.

Don't know what I mean? Here's one example, from the Windows common file dialog:

[file dialog]

See the first icon with a yellow folder on it? That's the "go up to parent" button. See the icon next to it with another yellow folder? That's the new folder button. I can't tell you how many times I've accidentally created a new folder while trying to go up. Even worse, if you hit the Escape key to abort the new folder, it just leaves a folder called New Folder that you have to manually delete. Argh!!!!

Here's another example, this time from the P4Win application, which is used to interact with a Perforce source code control depot. This is the context menu you get when right-clicking on a file in a pending changelist:

[P4Win changelist context menu]

One of the things I do very frequently is integrate files between branches, and before doing so I often diff the changes, especially if the merge is involved. I'd like to know who decided to put the "Reopen for Edit" command right next to the Diff command. As you can probably guess, I have a habit of accidentally re-opening branched files for edit. Unlike the New Folder case with the file dialog, there's no easy way to undo this; if you're a purist and want to keep the integration changelist clean, you have to revert the file and re-branch it. Sigh.

So, basically, putting some separation between one command that the user might use a lot and another that has annoying effects seems like a good idea even if you're not using a ribbon.

P.S. I found this portion of the ribbon UI guidelines ironic, given how it was received when it first appeared in Microsoft Office:

Avoid marketing-based placement. Marketing objectives around the promotion of new features tend to change over time. Consider future versions of your product and how much frustration a constantly changing organization will cause.

Comments

Comments posted:


"I can't tell you how many times I've accidentally created a new folder while trying to go up."

Totally agree with you. Hate that.

Allan - 05 10 09 - 17:19


A semi-related annoyance in Vista and W7 is that, in explorer, the behavior of the backspace button has changed. Previously it always did "go up", but now it does "go back", unless you don't have any back history, in which case it does "go up". Talk about a stupid change. If anyone has a patch or something that will fix this, please let me know!

Stefan - 05 10 09 - 19:51


I'm still undecided about the ribbon as well. I've only used Office 2007 very briefly and it seems okay. I don't love it but I don't hate it either. (I do hate the non-standard window border and common controls -- blue scrollbars? WTF -- in Office, but they are not the ribbon's fault.)

Seems to me the ribbon would be terrible in some applications and isn't something *everyone* should use, but it does work well, at least for casual usage of complex apps, in others.

It's worth nothing that the ribbon still lets you have one toolbar that you can completely customize yourself, so you don't have to keep switching ribbon tabs for those commands you find yourself using all the time.


Stefan:

It's not a patch and it won't affect the File Open dialogs, but you could try using one of the alternative file managers.

IMO, using Explorer for managing files is like using Paint or Notepad for editing images or text. :-)

I like Opus the best (and I've written some introductory guides to it on my website) but there are a few other good ones (and some awful ones too, of course). Don't suffer with Explorer, especially with how bad it is on Vista and Win 7.

Leo Davidson (link) - 06 10 09 - 00:04


I dislike ribbon enough that I switched to OpenOffice.org - I know keyboard shortcuts for most of the commands that are on ribbon, and the few commands for which I used the menus in the past are now gone (unless you add them to the one toolbar they still let you customize). Also, I don't like any of the three colour schemes offered by ribbon.

As for the Vista/7 file dialogs, I'm also bothered by the backspace key reassignment (and because they broke the tab order, so you now need two Shift+Tabs to get from text entry to file list). Haven't found a workaround yet though.

ender - 06 10 09 - 03:58


I could have sworn that Backspace in Explorer was fixed in Windows 7. That change was one of the things that really drove me crazy about Vista, since I use Explorer through the keyboard all the time, and I was happy when it was bound to Go Up in Windows 7 RC again. I'm going to be pissed if they reverted it back to broken again in RTM.

As for OpenOffice.org, it's funny that you mention that, because I've been using OOo for a while and I'm considering going back to MS Office. There are too many things I miss in recent versions of Word and Excel that aren't in Writer and Calc -- at least, in the version of Office right before the Ribbon was added. AutoFilter is missing some features in current versions of Calc, and I keep running into annoying limitations in Writer, like only being able to bind ONE style to an outline level.

Phaeron - 06 10 09 - 15:41


Right click -> undo. The most fun command of all, you can never tell what it un-does.

Gabest - 06 10 09 - 19:11


You can use ALT+UP to go one folder up and not back.
I hate it also. But I nearly never use Explorer. I only use SpeedCommander or Total Commander

Mag-Lite - 06 10 09 - 20:06


Those destructive commands - would they be like the delete button being right next to postpone in job control ;-)

dloneranger - 06 10 09 - 20:58


> I could have sworn that Backspace in Explorer was fixed in Windows 7.

It definitely wasn't. I'm still running RC7100 at work, and it's bound to Go Back there.

ender - 07 10 09 - 01:59


I know this is being picky but I don't see "creating a new folder" as a destructive command. Mind you I've used backspace to navigate and right-click in the file list to create a new folder for so long I've forgotten the buttons are there.

ISTR that ClearCase has "Undo Checkout" right below "Checkin..." which got me a few times, especially as I considered myself a "power user" and disabled the "prompt on undo" because it annoyed me :-)

Chris Oldwood (link) - 07 10 09 - 09:19


I've created a new folder when trying to go up so many times too... :S

On a similar note, I've selected "Reopen video file" accidentally while trying to get "Append AVI segment" in Vdub's file menu many times, destroying the progress I made up to that point (I often append 6 to 10 times in a row), good thing Vdub has a keyboard remap feature, but copying the directory to another PC, the program runs for the first time and no keyboard remapping is saved (mapping is saved as a registry entry?). Alternatively, there's no way to export keyboard settings... :S

pimp_my_dragon - 29 11 09 - 07:14


> On a similar note, I've selected "Reopen video file" accidentally while trying to get "Append AVI segment" in Vdub's file menu many times, destroying the progress I made up to that point

That's actually not supposed to happen, since the point of the reopen command is to keep current settings. You're saying that you lose the appended files when the reload occurs? Sounds like a bug.

> Alternatively, there's no way to export keyboard settings...

Yeah, I know this is missing. Cheesy way: export HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\VirtualDub.org\VirtualDub\Accelerators\Main in the Registry Editor.

Phaeron - 29 11 09 - 07:23


That's correct, if you have appended AVI files then they will be dumped if you choose 'Reopen video file'... although, actually, i thought that's what the command was for, and i use that command for that very purpose, to clear off the appended files! I now use F2 to append, and the file menu to reopen, a lot less chance-y. :) (i do Music Video editing...)

Thanks again for the amazing Vdub, and your super-fast reply, I just had time to browse your forums again finally and found you replied less than 10 mins later, wow! Trying your new release, thanks so much! A belated Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

pimp_my_dragon - 29 12 09 - 04:36

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