Re: Windows 95 terminology (help!)

Subject: Re: Windows 95 terminology (help!)
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- EXPERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 13 Sep 1996 09:35:19 -0700

David Locke replied to Beth Baxter:
>>Windows? Dialogs? Dialog boxes?

>Dialogs are modal windows. Modal means that focus cannot be changed to
>another window (or dialog) until the window (dialog) with focus is closed.

Well, not quite.

A Window is a major program interface element. Typically, windows stay
open until you specifically close them. In Windows, only the program's
main window can have a menu bar. Secondary, or child, windows are those
things that appear within the main window, can be resized, mimimized,
and closed. Secondary windows can have toolbars, but cannot have menus --
in Windows. Other GUIs do this differently (so, in OS/2, for example, you
can have a menu in a secondary window. You see secondary windows in MDI
(multiple document interface) applications, like the Windows file manager.
Individual Windows are called "document windows" and can be opened and
closed independent of the program.

In some applications, windows are divided into several panes. Panes can
usually be resized, but cannot be closed independently. They're stuck in
the window. In some applications, like MS Word, you can divide a window
into panes and then remove the division.

Dialog boxes, or dialogs, create a dialog between the program and the
user. They are generally not resizeable or minimizable and close
automatically when the user clicks OK (or some other button). Whether
you call these dialogs or dialog boxes depends on your audience. More
technical users will prefer 'dialog' as it's less wordy, but novice
and occasional users will be more comfortable with 'dialog box'.

Those dialog boxes that do not allow you to do anything else in the
program until they are attended to are called 'modal'. It is not
necessary (or, probably, even advisable) to introduce this term to
a non-technical audience, but be prepared to describe the behavior
of a modal dialog.

Dialog boxes may or may not be tabbed.

Property sheets or property pages, display information about a
selected entry. They differ from dialog boxes in that the information
is already filled in (but may, if the program allows, be changed).

You may be tempted to aviod the 'technical' terms, especially if your
audience is novice or non-technical. However, introducing non-standard
terminology isn't a good idea (and lots of usability professionals on
the utest list will back me up on this) because users build on standard
terminology to gain an understanding of the environment and the programs
that run on it.

Sue Gallagher
sgallagher -at- expersoft -dot- com
-- The _Guide_ is definitive.
Reality is frequently inaccurate.

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