All caps in GUI elements?

Subject: All caps in GUI elements?
From: "Geoff Hart (by way of \"Eric J. Ray\" <ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com>)" <ght -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Sat, 6 Mar 1999 05:03:27 -0700

Karen Peterson writes <<...end-user documentation for UNIX database
segments. In several segments, the GUI designers used all caps for
things like window titles, buttons, and check boxes. I am told that,
for various reasons, the GUI can't be changed.>>

Whenever I hear this, I take this as equivalent to "go away little
boy and let the big boys play with their compilers"... think red flag
and bull, and in this case, they're probably giving you what comes
out the far end of the bull. I'll concede, if pressed, that there may
be cases where things really must be capped (e.g., if they're
industry-standard acronyms, or there's an ISO standard you're
following), but in all other cases, they're just being lazy or too
stressed by their own deadlines to worry about things like
user-interface issues. Talk to them; most times, I've been able to
convince developers to part with the resource file that holds the
labels so I can do all the editing and retyping directly in the
file, without adding to their burden. OTOH, I've acquired a lot of
favors I can call in, and they've learned to trust me, so I can get
away with murder sometimes. Can you? (If not, maybe it's time to
start acquiring some of that capital against future need.)

<<My question is this: how should I capitalize things in the
documents?>>

In general, the rule of thumb is to make the documentation reflect
the screen display as closely as possible, since differences draw
attention and make a nervous or neophyte user wonder if the docs are
really describing what they see onscreen. (Don't laugh... I've got
a friend who works for a large bank, and you wouldn't believe what
scares people with PC-phobia.) If you absolutely can't get the
programmers to change (or let you change) the spelling in the
interface, it's probably best to match the screen text as closely as
possible.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Patience comes to those who wait."--Anon.

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