Re: Brainstorm for toolbar button

Subject: Re: Brainstorm for toolbar button
From: Gary Merrill <sasghm -at- UNX -dot- SAS -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 30 Nov 1995 14:32:25 GMT

In article <v01510100ace23b28b870 -at- [205 -dot- 134 -dot- 228 -dot- 28]>, Sarah Lee Bihlmayer
<tecscrib -at- SIRIUS -dot- COM> writes:

|> Then there's Kevin Harper's comment:
|> >But is a toolbar button that displays a defaults dialog really necessary?
|> This is a good point, and I have to agree that I've never seen this sort of
|> button on a toolbar either. However, a default button might be useful in
|> dialogs...many apps I use heavily have a Default button (marked with text)
|> that the user can click to return the settings to the program defaults.
|> There is an added benefit--using icon buttons can also help to reduce the
|> physical size of dialogs.

This is more than a good point. It is fundamental. I really cannot
imagine a situation in which a "Default" button would be appropriate
on a *toolbar*. A toolbar is (surprise) for tools. While the
concept of "tool" in this context may not be wholely precise, it
nonetheless typically comprises a part of the program that is
readily identifiable in terms of clearly defined function and
scope (e.g., editor, browser, search, find, ...). It seems pretty
obvious that "Default" does not fit into this category.

Okay; so let's liberalize the bar idea and call it a "button bar"
rather than a "toolbar". Does this help? Possibly -- but only
if the buttons on the bar in question form a coherent and logically
connected group. For example, if the button bar pertains to
"Options" or "Preferences", then a "Default" button on that bar
is immediately meaningful to the user and makes sense.
But if the buttons on the bar do *not* all fall under such
a coherent category, then the bar is an example of poor interface
design: it is a collection of unrelated items. (Believe
me, I've done this sort of thing myself and then been repulsed
by the results.)

With respect to the question conerning a "Default" button,
a critical consideration is to provide that button with
a *context* in which it is meaningful. Such a context is
typically a menu (e.g., a "Preferences" menu) on which
"Default" is one selection or (as suggested above) a dialog
within which it is clear what the "Default" applies to.
Without such a context, you simply have a bad interface.

Gary H. Merrill [Principal Systems Developer, Compiler and Tools Division]
SAS Institute Inc. / SAS Campus Dr. / Cary, NC 27513 / (919) 677-8000
sasghm -at- theseus -dot- unx -dot- sas -dot- com ... !mcnc!sas!sasghm

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