Daniel Sapoundjiev on
  Toolbars and menus

Carpenters workshop

In this paper will brief explain the toolbars and menus idea by comparing it with carpenters workshop.

Enter to Carpenters workshop

If you enter in Carpenters workshop you will see a room full of things. Working table and lot of instruments spread along. And of course carpenter behind the table.

Carpenter is making a chair

Carpenter is making a chair. He is behind the table and on the table are some parts of the chair. He takes instruments that are placed on the table and use them to modify the wood. He changes the instruments one after other. And in the end there will be comfortable chair.

Carpenter is preparing the instruments

Before starting work on the chair carpenter prepares most often used instruments. He takes instruments from the shelf and puts them near the working table.

What slows down the carpenters work?

The table is not so big and not all instruments can be placed on it. So sometimes he goes and takes some instruments that are placed on the wall shelf.

In conclusion

Carpenter has its most used instruments on his table and some other instruments on the shelf.

What about the toolbars and menus

We consider that the mouse position is the working position. With right click popup menu we don't have to move the mouse to different position on the screen. We just click with the right button and we have some instruments.

User can access some instruments from toolbars and all the instruments in a menu. To access Tool buttons we move the mouse to the button and then we click with left mouse button on it. This is a little bit slower than the right click popup menu. But we can keep some instruments that are visualized all the time.

We can keep all the instruments in main menu. To access the main menu we have to move the mouse to it. After that we make one click to open poupup menu of main menu item. After that we make second click to activate instrument. Some submenu items require more than 2 clicks.

Buttons can be grouped in different tabs. Which looks like the ribbon concept. Not neccessery to be on top of the form. They can be put at the sides also.

Folding panels is also a way to keep actions.

Screen area is finite – carpenters table too
Instruments in toolbars are easily accessed – carpenters instruments on the table too
Instruments in menu are slowly accessed – carpenters instruments on the shelf too

Ribbon controls

Ribbon controls replaced the toolbars and menus recently in some applications. Let us look at MS Word 2007. We have only a few buttons fixed on the screen – save button and… And a page opened with some buttons that are easily accessed. For all other we have to make 2 clicks to access them. This does not help the user do quickly the work. Ribbon controls are patented and you can just go and implement your own ones.

Eclipse made perspectives which are much cleverer decision and kept their toolbars and menus.

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