[Libreoffice-ux-advise] Toolbar look improvement (toolbar option button removal)

Christoph Noack christoph at dogmatux.com
Sat Jun 11 14:25:44 PDT 2011

Hi Kendy, hi Cor, all!

Am Samstag, den 11.06.2011, 00:11 +0200 schrieb Cor Nouws:
> Jan Holesovsky wrote (10-06-11 18:39)
> > I just got to some "make LibreOffice nicer" hacking today, and thought
> > you might be interested in it ;-)
> That sounds as a relaxing day ;-)

Phew, I think there may be even more relaxing days without LibO ;-)
Let's see how relaxing it might be from a UX perspective ...

> > This time it was related to the toolbars:
> > http://artax.karlin.mff.cuni.cz/~kendy/blog/pics/toolbar-menu-gone.png
> >
> > I removed the menus for handling toolbars.  First, the visual look was
> > extremely suboptimal (too visible for functionality that is not used
> > daily)

I know that people complained from time to time that the gradient looked
quite awful on some platforms, but I never heard "active" complaints
about its behavior. Of course, it doesn't mean anything at the
moment ...

But (a huge but) we should prepare for _serious_ noise if we remove the
option buttons. Especially since we break with Microsoft Office 2003
(Windows) behavior, and we have impact on the usability for
close-to-no-context-menus platforms like Mac OS X.

I tried to collect some data on the toolbar use, but I miss the
appropriate names within the code - it seems they are not even tracked
within the Improvement Program in OOo. Grrrr.

By the way, my only complaint is the next/previous "navigation" toolbar
that really breaks the look/feel/behavior.

> second, the functionality just duplicates the right-click on the
> > toolbar handle, so one can achieve the very same thing with the exactly
> > same effort just by clicking somewhere else.

That is true, but - looking at the original specification [1] - one of
the aims was: "Customization must be easier". For the Writer notes, I've
explicitly specified such an option button [2], and Microsoft mentions
them in their guidelines as well [3].

So, it really depends on:
      * How often are these items used/needed? --> Most probably, you're
        right that its only used a few times.
      * How easy is it do discover the functionality? --> If we remove
        the option buttons, pretty hard. Many people don't know much
        about context menus (trust me).
      * Are there good alternatives? --> In our case: not really. The
        options dialog misses the functionality of simple drag (within
        the dialog) and drop (directly to the toolbar) like MS Office
        2003 does.
      * Does it break other functionality? --> Yes, since the floating
        toolbars still do have such buttons (which now causes

Personally, I'm fine with such as change since we clean the interface a
bit - and we behave a bit more like Firefox & Co. (although our software
is much more complex and sometimes needs different handling).


[2] http://wiki.services.openoffice.org/wiki/Notes2_Design_NoteWindow

[3] http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa511502.aspx#contextMenus

> Only one thing I see: when the toolbar is docked, there is hardly any 
> visible free space, so I get mouse-over events everywhere, which IMO 
> makes it unnatural to right click - which cán be done anywhere I see. 
> The small triangle might make people curious ...
> > Please note that when you make the window so small that some of the
> > toolbar items get hidden, the menu control appears again, so that it is
> > visible that there is "something more somewhere".
> Ah, that is ok.

Mmh, it misses something ... if you show the same control (having the
down triangle and double-arrow), then it becomes weird from the user's
point of view. Because: There is more functionality if space is limited
in comparison to sufficient space available.

So, I do have two proposals to solve these inconsistencies - but I'm
still unsure whether people will (more than) complain. Touching this
functionality gives a 50/50 chance for improvement/non-improvement.

Proposal 1: Based on your proposal ...
      * In all cases, keep the context menu as it is today (e.g. show
        the remaining items if the toolbar cannot be fully shown and
        hides some items).
      * Docked toolbar, sufficient space: (like you proposed)
      * Docked toolbar, limited space:
              * remove the toolbar options
              * keep the items being shown due to limited space for the
                usual toolbar
              * remove the downwards triangle
              * center the double-arrow (>>) that indicates items are
      * Floating toolbar: Remove the triangle to access the options

Proposal 2: If the current proposal mainly relates to the visual noise
the current option button causes, then ...
      * We might adapt this button to be less visible (I have some ideas
        ranging from "less saturated colors" to "mouseover animation").
      * Fix the forward/backward (navigation) toolbar to be less
        distracting as well. (No ideas yet, since I don't know what it
        is currently used for).

By the way, I noticed that we do not conform to Windows standards - our
floating toolbar titles do not react on right-clicks to open the
corresponding context menu, see [4].

[4] http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa511500.aspx#paletteWindows

> > Please let me know if you like it - I hope that yes :-) - and I'll blog
> > about it.
> Well, though I hardly ever use them, I'm a bit undecided.
> But there are real experts over here, that will have an opinion too ;-)

Opinion? Done.

Sorry for the long reply, but changes with regard to menus and toolbars
are something that caused quite some noise in the past ;-)

Kendy, Cor ... what do you think?


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