[Libreoffice] [UX]How to drive new users to style-based formatting (idea)

Rafael Daud rwrwdw at gmail.com
Thu Feb 24 09:40:00 PST 2011

Hi all,

I've just joined the development list, and don't have any programming skills
worth to mention, but I'm quite eager to contribute to the development of
LibreOffice (BrOffice here), and do have few ideas to share. Please advert
me if I don't follow the good practices in here :-)

What I was thinking is how to make new users (or even old ones) to use
style-based rather than direct formatting. I myself have used direct
formatting for years now, and it was not until libreoffice came that I
learnt the "good way". Many users are not aware of how styles can improve
consistency and save a lot of keystrokes when making a document. Most don't
even know what styles are good for.

I realize the whole interface is designed towards direct formatting. If I
click Crtl-B, I get Bold, but as direct formatting, not as character or
paragraph style. If I change Font, from the drop-down menu, the same. Even
if I go to the main menu and choose Format -> Paragraph, the dialog I get
only applies direct formatting, even though a much similar dialog shows when
I go through Style & Formatting -> Edit...

The result is Style formatting is quite invisible to many users, unless they
know what they're doing. And in that case, it's still not pretty or easily
accessible. You can feel the power when you change the Font in all of your
titles at once, or when you change line spacing in all of your paragraphs
but long quotations in their own paragraphs. Even then, having to open a new
Styles & Formatting window, selecting the right style, asking to edit it,
then managing through a new dialog is quite a hassle. What if I just wanted
to change a single aspect of my style, say, first line indent, then see how
it looks, then change another, say, paragraph indent, then another, and
another, I would have to go though that dialog a thousand times. I might get
tired, and opt for the direct formatting as a easier way to do things. I've
done that, back then with openoffice 1.1.

What if there was another way? An easier, more intuitive, self-explanatory
way? I still need to do a visual mock up, but I'll try to explain what I
have in mind. In the formatting toolbar, there's a checkbox, checked by
default, with the phrasing "applies to style" next to it, and after that,
the drop-down entry of styles. So it would read, as default: [x] Apply to
style (Standard/Default). So every change you made from the interface, while
the checkbox was checked, would apply to the style. I really cannot imagine
how hard this would be to code. I guess it would be real hard. So maybe I'm
just daydreaming. But let's daydream about a little.

So I go to the ruler, and change the first line indentation. Next paragraph
(and the ones above it) all get the new indentation, without me having to
Crtl-A or select manually all of them. Just because they use Default Style.
But say I want this one paragraph to be different than others? Then I go to
the style drop-down entry and choose Textbody, or whatever. Then all new
changes to the ruler, font etc. gets applied to the new style. And, of
course, when I change style from the style entry form, the new chosen style
gets automaticaly applied to that paragraph. So I know what's going on: I'm
working with styles.

That way, even the most newbie will know right from the start he's working
with styles. With that in mind, he gets the chance to uncheck that box and
do not work with styles, but instead do direct formatting. Maybe he'll do
just that -- you can't forbid him -- but he'll know there's another way,
quite as much simple as that, to do things.

What if I don't want to use an already existing style? Then there's an icon
on toolbar and a menu entry saying Create/Manage Styles, and a submenu with
the type of style I'm up to: Paragraph, Character, Page and so on. And only
then I get the dialog box, from where I can edit a new style or manage an
existing one, pretty much the way it already works. So there's no need
whatsoever for the much hatred (least by me) Styles & Formatting window.

This way, users will learn from the beginning that they are working with
styles; they will learn in an intuitive way how to apply new styles, and
they will get a chance to search for the menu entry to Create/Manage Styles,
as a way to improve their formatting. They will be encouraged to use styles
even in one-page documents (which would be ideal, as I read somewhere).

All that applies to paragraph styles, but once you are in that path, it's
quite easy to take a hand on character and page styles. As for Bold and
Italic, and some of the other character formatting, I guess it poses a
problem, for which I don't have any answers yet. The most uses of Bold and
Italic are with direct formatting. I don't know if anyone uses character
styles for that, when you just need one or another word in a whole page to
have that different formatting. Maybe that could be left alone, and not be
applied to style, despite consistency. Maybe only paragraph formatting
should be applied to [paragraph] style, and if you wanted character style,
you should go to Create/Manage Styles. Or go for direct formatting with
those exception formatting, by just unchecking the box.

Well I guess I made my point, just let me know if it's worth to make a
visual mockup to exemplify. I don't know either if that just changes too
much the logic of the interface or of the software as a whole. I'm no
expert, hardly consider myself a power user. It looks easy and effective to
me, though.

I'm aware this is a known issue and much thought must have already gone onto
it by the developers. Since I'm a newcomer, just let me know if there's
already a direction into addressing this matter, and please point me to the
discussing so I can follow, join in and perhaps contribute. If not, I'd
appreciate to know your thoughts about this idea, whether or not it's
priority (at this time) or even something doable, or any issues that arises
with it.

Regards to all.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.freedesktop.org/archives/libreoffice/attachments/20110224/8404d651/attachment.htm>

More information about the LibreOffice mailing list