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Re: NSMenu* and NSPopuUp* issues

From: Richard Frith-Macdonald
Subject: Re: NSMenu* and NSPopuUp* issues
Date: Sun, 30 Mar 2003 17:52:14 +0100

On Thursday, March 27, 2003, at 01:10  am, Chris Hanson wrote:

At 10:26 AM -0500 3/24/03, Jim Balhoff wrote:
Which is why the NeXT-style vertical menu is so nice - the whole menu is available where your mouse is right now, with a right-click. A novice user can still see the options available in the menu floating in the upper left corner, if they need.

Tog demonstrated in the mid-late 1980s that this type of system is actually slower than a menu bar bound to a screen edge.

You can't just assume that because the mouse has to travel further that an operation takes longer. It may actually take less time because the user doesn't need to engage their fine motor skills for the entire duration of the task, only at the very end.

(This is why in-window menu bars like that in Microsoft Windows are terrible from a usability standpoint; they mimic the form of the infinitely-tall Macintosh menu bar but you actually have to use fine motor skills to both acquire and manipulate the control. Doh!)

But iirc the methodology was flawed (or at least, only appropriate to certain cases), in that it tested muscle movements (timing of repeated attempts to hit targets with the mouse) without paying much attention to the issue of how the item is recognised. Actual menu usability is a much more complex issue where menu items change from application to application and a recognition of the target location becomes a much larger part of the process than the muscle coordination to hit it. In these circumstances items can be located in a vertical list much more readily.

For the motor-skills argument to apply therefore, it is essential that the top-level menu items of all applications are the same (or at least most of them are), but unfortunately this seems to have been forgotten somewhere on macos.

Of course, if the user only ever uses a single application (or perhaps a very small number of well known applications) recognising the target menu item ceases to be an issue ... but I imagine in those circumstances the user will develop muscle memory to work with *any* menu system.

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