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Suggestion: Tabbed windows interface

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Posted by Linda   Sweden  (164 posts)  [Biography] bio
Date Thu 23 Oct 2003 09:20 PM (UTC)  quote  ]
Message
Lately I am finding that I often need to have more than 10 windows open, and I really find it awkward not to have them easily available on the activity toolbar. I am very much a 'point and click' person, and I pretty much never use keyboard shortcuts.

However, I can see that it would be awkward to have to do a bunch of additional menu buttons for each new number. So, perhaps a different solution can be found, which doesn't involve having to do new buttons for each new number needed?

One such solution might be to have a tabbed window interface as seen in Netscape 7.x/Mozilla and Opera. The text on each tab would not need to be an image, but could be regular text which is coloured/highlighed/otherwise marked to indicate the state of each world. It might even be possible to let a user customize how much text they want to display (just the number, or number + name, or just the name, and so on), and of course it could automatically trunctuate once more windows are opened and the space alloted for each tab shrinks.

To my non-programmer ears this sounds like a very flexible solution which would allow as many windows within easy reach as each person wants to have. But I am not sure how doable it is, of course.
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Posted by Poromenos   Greece  (1,037 posts)  [Biography] bio
Date Reply #1 on Fri 24 Oct 2003 12:02 PM (UTC)  quote  ]
Message
This might be a nice solution, but even if it was easy to implement, I and (I assume) almost everyone else is so used to Ctrl+number that I find it very hard to mud without it. Maybe it would be feasible to add 26 more buttons with letters on them (but you wouldn't be able to jump to them with Ctrl, since Ctrl+a for example would not work) and they would be created as you opened worlds? I don't know, but since you're a point and click person, why not use the "Window" menu, where you can see all the names? :P

Vidi, Vici, Veni.
http://porocrom.poromenos.org/ Read it!
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Posted by Flannel   USA  (1,230 posts)  [Biography] bio
Date Reply #2 on Fri 24 Oct 2003 06:55 PM (UTC)  quote  ]
Message
Could also just use hyperlinks, whether in the world youre active in, or create a "menu" world, that you squeeze down to almost no size. That would give you something to click on.

~Flannel

Messiah of Rose
Eternity's Trials.

Clones are people two.
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Posted by Linda   Sweden  (164 posts)  [Biography] bio
Date Reply #3 on Sat 25 Oct 2003 02:01 PM (UTC)  quote  ]
Message
I don't see why the tabbed interface solution would take away the option to use Ctrl+number? The worlds could still be numbered.

Using the Window menu is obviously not a good replacement for clicking on the list of number or clicking on a tab, as it takes much longer and is far less direct. I also can't easily see which worlds have new activity without actually going to the menu first.

Having a 'menu' world or using the new activity list just isn't very smooth either.
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Posted by Nick Gammon   Australia  (19,500 posts)  [Biography] bio   Forum Administrator
Date Reply #4 on Wed 29 Oct 2003 05:31 AM (UTC)  quote  ]
Message
The activity window (not the activity button bar) can be sorted into world order, and is effectively a list of worlds that you can click on to activate (double-click anyway).

- Nick Gammon

www.gammon.com.au, www.mushclient.com
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Posted by Linda   Sweden  (164 posts)  [Biography] bio
Date Reply #5 on Wed 29 Oct 2003 09:58 AM (UTC)  quote  ]
Message
I have yet to find a good way of using the activity window, however. :)

I find it extremely awkward to work with a window that is narrowed to a tall, narrow column (which even at its narrowest still is too wide for my tastes as it takes up too much of the window width) since clicking on the side of the window to switch world just isn't very smooth when you have clicking at the top of the window ingrained.

It is also something I have to setup manually (the window arrangements, that is) every time I open MUSHclient, and that is just too much trouble.

So, for me anyhow, the activity window is not at all useable for the purpose of being able to easily access more than 10 worlds.

And, since I know that the general response to 'more buttons on the activity toolbar' has been that it is a process that is complicated quite a bit by all the button styles, I thought that a non-activity toolbar solution might be a good idea. I know I am not the only one who finds 10 buttons too little and who finds the activity window as a poor solution to the problem.

So, why not tabs? Half, if not more, of the programs I use ona daily basis have tabbed interfaces that work just great, and some of them are small, compact applications too.

Of course, if it isn't a feasible solution, that is obviously a good reason for why not, but I don't think a good reason is that a good alternative (i.e that activity window) already exists, because I don't think one does since the activity window has so many drawbacks.
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Posted by David Haley   USA  (3,881 posts)  [Biography] bio   Moderator
Date Reply #6 on Wed 29 Oct 2003 04:27 PM (UTC)  quote  ]
Message
Out of curiosity, how can you guys possibly be actively using more than 10 worlds? Are you using this for multiplaying, or are you actually active in 10+ worlds at once?

David Haley aka Ksilyan
Head Programmer,
Legends of the Darkstone

http://david.the-haleys.org
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Posted by Nick Gammon   Australia  (19,500 posts)  [Biography] bio   Forum Administrator
Date Reply #7 on Wed 29 Oct 2003 08:07 PM (UTC)  quote  ]
Message
You can drag the world name column in the activity window to the left-most side, and then narrow it so it is just a list of worlds and nothing else. The font used is quite small so the screen real-estate you lose is little. MUSHclient remembers the activity window position, so it will automatically put it back in the same place.

The only real "problem" is that you need to double-click the name rather than single-click it to change worlds, but other than that it gives you a nice long list of world names you can easily view.

- Nick Gammon

www.gammon.com.au, www.mushclient.com
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Posted by Linda   Sweden  (164 posts)  [Biography] bio
Date Reply #8 on Wed 29 Oct 2003 08:55 PM (UTC)  quote  ]

Amended on Sat 01 Nov 2003 12:27 PM (UTC) by Linda

Message
Ksilyan,

I usually have 7-8 windows open on a daily basis, but quite often I add 3-4 when doing various work on my MUSH so that I can have all the necessary builders, etc, logged on at the same time.

Nick,

Double-click vs single-click isn't a problem at all. But the position is. :)

Even narrowed it still 'steals' too much width (mine insists on stealing at least the width of the first four buttons on the main toolbar) and I'd much rather give up height given the length of poses my usual RP sessions involve. It is also very counter-intuitive to have the 'tabs' vertically rather than horizontally when they're horizonal in pretty much any other program.

Would a tabbed interface really be such an awkward thing to do? It seems like such a common thing these days, and I find it really enhances the use you get out of an application. Of course, ideally it should be optional, if people don't like it, just like it is in Netscape/Mozilla.
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Posted by Linda   Sweden  (164 posts)  [Biography] bio
Date Reply #9 on Sat 01 Nov 2003 12:27 PM (UTC)  quote  ]

Amended on Sat 01 Nov 2003 12:29 PM (UTC) by Linda

Message
Some more thoughts:

If a tabbed interface isn't doable, what about other approaches to allowing an 'unlimited' (from the clients PoV, although naturally limited by screen width) number of 'buttons'?

Right now, the number has to be fixed because each button is an image, but what if you could get away from doing images for each button style? Couldn't they simply be styled (I am thinking something CSS-like here, sort of like how skins seem to work in Netscape/Mozilla) text or, rather, numbers?

I don't know what sort of options exist for making toolbars, but in some programs it certainly looks like they're just text with styling applied, and if that is doable then you could still create different 'sets' of buttons without having to actually create an image for each variant.

It might not be related in any way at all, but since World files, plugins, etc are being moved to XML, can't a similar step be taken for the program's interface? As I said, however, I am clueless about how these things actually are done, but it does seem like a lot of interfaces these days are made in such a way that they can be 'styled'.

And I don't necessarily advocate adding full 'skinning' capabilities (although if it could be done without bloating -- that is, no bloating when you use the standard look at least -- the program, it'd certainly be nice), but it seems like something along those lines might offer more flexibility when it comes to menues and toolbars. And offering this sort of flexibility seems to fit well with the idea of allowing people to modify and extend the program via scripting.
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Posted by Shadowfyr   USA  (1,776 posts)  [Biography] bio
Date Reply #10 on Sat 01 Nov 2003 04:28 PM (UTC)  quote  ]
Message
Actually.. Except for MS' bonehead tabs (which is exactly what you are asking about), all objects have the capacity to overlay an image on themselves. Even tabs can be skinned, as long as you use an older version specific to Word or something I think, but the standard control doesn't support it. The only code needed would be something to parse a Skin.XML file, which would load the images in. Of course that is only if you do it the 'cheap' way. Not every image can tile and Stretchbits is not a 'standard' feature in most components, so all of the bloat unfortunately would come from stretching the images to fit every damn time you alter the size of the program window. :( Tilable backgrounds though are a very simple matter, though imho not flexible enough to make a proper skin.

As for tabbing itself.. This adds a layer of additional complexity, since you need to make each world a tab and drop the world window onto that tab. This would almost certainly require a definitely change in the way the client handles worlds.

main {
__if (Schrodinger_Cat is Alive or version >= "XP"){
____if version = "Vista" then Performance /= Number_of_Cores;
____call Functional_Code();}
__else
____call Crash_Windows();}
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Posted by Nick Gammon   Australia  (19,500 posts)  [Biography] bio   Forum Administrator
Date Reply #11 on Sun 02 Nov 2003 08:30 PM (UTC)  quote  ]
Message
My problem here is that the code was written using the MFC libraries. In short, a lot of the user interface stuff isn't directly written. I would probably have to take the existing code and revamp it to some new method. This may or may not be a quick job. It is one of things that I could potentially take a week and still get nowhere, or might get it going in a day.

- Nick Gammon

www.gammon.com.au, www.mushclient.com
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Posted by Linda   Sweden  (164 posts)  [Biography] bio
Date Reply #12 on Sun 02 Nov 2003 08:39 PM (UTC)  quote  ]
Message
I see. :) Well, sort of, anyhow.

Still, I think that if such a change really can add a lot of flexibility to the interface, it would be a worthwhile thing to put on the list as a possible future enhancement. Or maybe give it a stab some day, and if it doesn't get done in a day, put it off for the future. I imagine that if it did work out, that kind of flexibility could be useful for a lot of things, not just as a way of providing tabs or unlimited amounts of buttons.
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Posted by Nick Gammon   Australia  (19,500 posts)  [Biography] bio   Forum Administrator
Date Reply #13 on Tue 04 Nov 2003 04:23 AM (UTC)  quote  ]
Message
Added as suggestion #499.

- Nick Gammon

www.gammon.com.au, www.mushclient.com
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Posted by Nick Gammon   Australia  (19,500 posts)  [Biography] bio   Forum Administrator
Date Reply #14 on Tue 04 Nov 2003 04:27 AM (UTC)  quote  ]
Message
Quote:

Lately I am finding that I often need to have more than 10 windows open, and I really find it awkward not to have them easily available on the activity toolbar.


One other possibility at present is to run two copies of MUSHclient, at least then you could have two lots of 10-buttons. It might be fiddly to get right, but if your worlds fell naturally into two groups maybe it would work OK.

- Nick Gammon

www.gammon.com.au, www.mushclient.com
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