Information fields and popups

Subject: Information fields and popups
From: Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 1998 08:40:06 +0000

Jill Clay wondered <<In our product, we have some "non-dialog boxes"
that display information... These informational windows are accessed
the same way as, and have similar appearance to, our regular product
dialog boxes. For example, one dialog box lets you set settings;
another lets you see those settings and other statistics, but you
can't change anything in the information window.>>

To me, it would make more sense to use one dialog box for both
purposes, and use the right-click shortcut to let you both
display and modify settings. It'll save a lot of coding for your
programmers (thus, fewer bugs) and will be much simpler for
users. But you didn't ask that question, so... <grin> Since this is
an information window, I'd go with your first instinct and just call
it an information window; that should translate well into most other
languages I'm familiar with. If you want to be more elaborate, you
could call some of these things "status windows" or "settings
windows" to distinguish between the different types, but that's
probably more complicated than your users need to deal with.

<<What do you call a "field," in general, that supplies information
but you can't change it>>

Most commonly, a "status field", though if you want to pick nits,
"field" has a connotation of being something editable, and thus
might not be the best choice; "status line" would probably be better.
But if you want to keep your terminology simple, and you've already
called the non-dialog boxes "information windows", "information
line [field]" would be more consistent from the user's standpoint.

<<A writer in our group prefers the term "Right-click menu" to
"pop-up menu;" she says, correctly, that it describes what you have to
do to access a pop-up menu. I contend that we expect our users to be
Windows- proficient and don't have to explain how to get a pop-up

"Right click" isn't necessarily correct, since many lefthanders remap
their mouse buttons or use left-handed devices with the buttons
reversed, and there are many non-mice with different button
configurations. There's been some discussion on this list about
whether users will understand a command such as "click the right
mouse button" if they've remapped their mice or other input devices;
my opinion is that anyone bright enough to have done so will
remember that when you say "right click", they have to "left
click" instead.

For less sophisticated users, I don't like to assume that they know
how to get a popup menu, so my preferred solution is to simply
provide a section in the getting started (tutorial, reference,
whatever) manual that explains how to display a popup menu. Explain
this once for a right-handed mouse (probably 95%+ of all pointing
devices are right-handed mice because that's what came with the
computer), but add two notes:

1. If you're using a lefthanded mouse...
2. If you're not using a mouse at all...
--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

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