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Re: suggestions on toolbar icons

From: Jan D.
Subject: Re: suggestions on toolbar icons
Date: Thu, 17 Mar 2005 08:11:23 +0100

Some minor suggestions on toolbar icons (in Windows version, at
least). No need for a lot of discussion. If any of this makes
sense, good; if not, forget it.

The tool bar icons follow the Gnome stock items (http://www.gtk.org/api/2.6/gtk/gtk-Stock-Items.html). I think Emacs should follow them as close as it can, but we can of course change if there is a good reason. There may be places in Emacs where a good fit to those stock items can't be found, a change there is more likely. You could try convice the Gnome project though. The point of stock items is that themes may change them and applications that uses stock items change appearence automatically. I have a patch for this for Emacs, but as it only can be made to work for GTK, I have not installed it yet.

If you really want a change to happen it would be more likely if you have made the icons already (both bitmap and pixmap format), and shown us a picture of them in Emacs.


 - Magnifying glass for search: This symbol is often used for
   Zoom, and it should be reserved for Zoom.

This is the Gnome stock find icon.  Gnome has other icons for zoom.

   Suggestion: Use binoculars instead. (People don't search with
   magnifying glasses, anyway.)

 - Manuscript "X" for quit/exit: This symbol is often used for
   Delete. It's not too bad for quitting (killing) a buffer, but
   extending this to stand for "quit" generally (e.g. Info) is
   not good.

Gnome stock close.  It is not used for delete in Gnome.

   Suggestion (my preference): Use the "exit" international
   symbol, which is an arrow leaving a box by its open end:

   <----  |

   Reserve the manuscript X for a real delete operation that
   cannot be assimilated with quitting. Whenever "delete" can be
   considered to mean quit, use the exit symbol.

   Alternative suggestion (but I prefer the one above): Use a
   non-manuscript X for quit (perhaps like the one Windows uses
   to close a frame, in the upper-right corner). It is only the
   _manuscript_ X that means delete and so can be confusing.

The Gnome stock quit could be used in info to quit, it is an arrow pointing to an open door.

 - Tooltip for quit/exit:

   Suggestion: Use "Quit buffer", or "Delete buffer" instead of
   "Discard current buffer". I prefer "Quit buffer".

But "Quit Buffer" is not clear, it could mean the same as "Quit Info" i.e. leaving the buffer intact, just switching to another buffer.


 - Right arrow targeting yellow disk (go to named node):

   Suggestion: Arrow should point to the word "Node" or "Xxxx",
   not to a nameless yellow disk.

Gnome stock jump to.

 - Index:

   Suggestion: Add the letter "i" at the top of the icon
   (lowercase i, as in the information symbol, but without any
   enclosing circle). Split the "text" of each line, to show that
   these are entries in a list (index):

   _ _________                ___________
   _ _________ is better than ___________
   _ _________                ___________

Gnome stck index.

 - Arrows Previous, Next, Up, History Back, and History Forward:
   The structural-move icons (Previous, Next, Up) look too much
   like the chronological-move icons of Web browsers. I don't
   have a slam-dunk suggestion here, but we should come up with
   something better: browser users are used to these fat arrows
   for chronological moves. (It's best to avoid them altogether.)

Gnome stock left/right/up.

   Suggestion (my preference): U-turn arrows for chronological
   moves (right-then-left for back, left-then-right for forward);
   small arrows with ellipsis (indicating continuation) for
   structural moves: ...<-- and -->...

   By "U-turn" arrows, I don't mean the current curly arrows, but
   arrows that make a full sideways turn, like a U on its side.

   Alternative suggestion (but I prefer the one above): U-turn
   arrows for chronological moves; thin arrows for structural
   moves. (The current curly arrows would not be good for
   structural moves, because their shape suggests moving up and

   Second alternative: If people don't like U-turn arrows, then
   use the fat arrows for chronological moves, a la web browsers.

You have to make these icon first before even considering a change. And besides, the stock icons are there, so I don't think we should change.

 - Tooltip for Up arrow: Should say "Go to parent node", not "Go
   up in the Info tree".

 - Home (Info-top-node): Icon is good. However...

   It takes you to the top node of the current file. Once there,
   the icon remains active, although it then does nothing. Either
   it should then be deactivated, or (better, IMO) `Info-top-node'
   should take you to (dir) if you are already at the top of a
   manual. We already have the notion of "Home" being relative
   (different manuals have different homes), so letting it have
   two levels this way would not be disruptive - in a sense there
   _are_ two levels of "home" (or "top").

I'll let someone more familiar with info internals comment on this.

 - Folder (for "file): This is _not_ good. A folder icon is used
   ubiquitously for, well, a folder - that is, a directory.

You are talking Microsoft products here I guess. This is the Gnome stock open icon, I see no advantage to adopt a different set of guidelines different from Gnome where the folder icon is not at all is ubiquitously used for directory. Check out any Gnome application.

   Suggestion: The new-file and existing-file icons should be
   very similar. Use the current new-file icon for both, but, in
   the case of new-file, make it slightly smaller and have tiny
   "sparkle" lines emanating from it ("[ ]" here represents a
   slightly smaller version of the current new-file icon):

   `  |  '
   - [ ] -

   '  |  `

   Such sparkle lines (I don't know the real term) are often used
   to indicate action, change of state, newness, or creation.

Again, you have to make these icons first, but I'd be against changing them, these are the most seen Gnome stock icons as almost all applications have them. To make Emacs use something else serves no point and is confusing to users.

 - Directory (Dired):

   Suggestion: Use a regular folder icon. Duh?

For what action? This is one place where no suitable Gnome stock item exists, but assuming open file is not changhing, it need to be distinct from it. Nobody has made any icon to replace it yet. But if someone will do it, I think any suggestion should be similar to open file.

 - Help:

   Suggestion (my preference): Use a large, lowercase "i" in a
   circle, the international symbol for information.

Where do you find the standard that has these international symbols? This is the Gnome stock help icon.

 - Preferences: This wrench+screwdriver icon is commonly used for
   Preferences, so it will be recognized by users. However,
   although common, it is not a good choice for preferences, and
   it can be confused with the kind of thing that is in the Tools

Gnome stock preference icon, not easily confused by Gnome users.

I use a lot of different environments besides Gnome, but Gnome is the GNU desktop environment, so aligning Emacs with Gnome where possible makes sense. It does not make sense to me to change Emacs for the benefit of any other platform. Now, if someone would like to make a general solution, like adding the feature that an Emacs user can select from several different icon themes or make his own theme, that would be something.

        Jan D.

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