Eclipse interface terminology

Subject: Eclipse interface terminology
From: "MDoyle TStorer" <storerdoyle -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 14 Nov 2008 17:48:58 +0100

The company where I work as an editor is producing an application developed
using the Eclipse development environment. The interface real estate of the
application largely mimics that of the Eclipse workbench. The writers (and
I) are wondering how to refer to the interface elements. I've been looking
at the Eclipse User Interface Guidelines available at:,
but these are mainly for the Eclipse workbench itself. I would be interested
to hear how other technical writers are approaching Eclipse-designed

The application window contains perspectives. "A perspective is a visual
container for a set of views and content editors," says the guideline, and
"A perspective is like a page within a book. It exists within a window along
with any number of other perspectives and, like a page within a book, only
one perspective is visible at any time." Individual views can have tabs and
tabs can have subtabs. Perspectives and views do not always have titles. To
be honest, I'm not entirely sure when I'm looking at a view and when I'm
looking at a perspective, and whether or not multiple tabs in a view mean
the view is really a perspective (where each tab is a view).

To me, the perspective/view terminology is not intuitive and would need to
be defined, but in an online help system users are not always going to look
for the topic that defines interface terminology. Windows, panes, areas,
sections, zones, perspectives, views, tabs... the number of possible words
to describe a user interface seems to be endless. Making it trickier to
document is the fact that you can often pull the pieces around the screen
and position them where you will; you can open and close them one by one;
even when they're open, you can hide content by pushing it either up and
down or to either side, with the space then being filled by adjacent
content. This can easily lead to situations where users customize the
display without realizing quite what they're doing, and are then confused
about what they're looking at and how to return to the default display.
Consistent, clear ways to talk about interface components is therefore all
the more necessary in the online help.

If anyone has any bright ideas or useful links or books to point me to, I
would be very grateful! Thanks in advance.

- Tom Storer

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