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Re: [lmi] using standard icon sizes and wxArtProvider

From: Greg Chicares
Subject: Re: [lmi] using standard icon sizes and wxArtProvider
Date: Fri, 29 Aug 2008 13:38:41 +0000
User-agent: Thunderbird (Windows/20080708)

On 2008-08-29 07:53Z, Vaclav Slavik wrote:
> On Sun, 2008-08-24 at 14:23 +0000, Greg Chicares wrote: 
>> I'd welcome a better idea. For instance: instead of human figures
>> that can't be recognized at 16x16 resolution, how about Chinese
>> "rod" numerals [U+1D360, U+1D361, U+1D362]...
>> 一 = 1 [U+1D360]; 二 = 2; 三 = 3
>> ...superimposed on GNOME icons? 
> I'm not sure if superimposing would work -- at 16x16, tiny details like
> that get overlooked and the icons need to be distinguishable at a glance
> to be useful, otherwise they'd be mere decorations and not navigational
> aids.

Here are icons distinguished by what seem to me to be tiny details:
I can distinguish Filmy, Hudba, and Obrázky at large size, and even
at medium size Složky is recognizably different from them; but would
they remain distinct at 16x16?

Let me ask, though, whether this really matters. AIUI, 16x16 icons,
which tango calls "extra small", would be used mainly in menus. Must
they really be quite distinct there? Probably the answer depends on
the purpose of icons in menus. Maybe my thinking is out of step with
current practice and should therefore change, but I think of icons
in menus as just an aid to learning. If I pull down the "File" menu
and see a depiction of a floppy disk next to "Save", then I learn
that the similar (but larger) icon on the toolbar means "Save".
If I see three almost-indistinguishable icons next to three "Print"
menuitems, then I learn that similar (but more distinct) toolbar
icons represent different print commands.

But to the extent my way of thinking about this is idiosyncratic or,
especially, heterodox, I would rather not impose it on users: it
would be better to follow current common practice.

For example, I always thought that either all menuitems should have
icons, or none should; but people who have thought more deeply about
this than I have seem to disagree:

| The Tango Project recommends keeping the number of menu items with
| an icon to a minimum. Only the most frequently used menu items
| should feature an icon. Otherwise the purpose of visual anchor is
| nullified by introducing visual noise in the menu.

Unfortunately, I would guess that our most frequently used menuitems
are the ones with one and three superimposed figures.

Then again, is it really bad or unusual to display no icon next to
any menuitem whatsoever? Then we wouldn't need any 16x16 icons.

> It's probably better to have 1,2,3 objects in the icon at this
> size.

Let me be sure I understand. I could imagine several interpretations:

 - 1, 2, or 3 pictures of a printer--probably not what you mean,
   because there's little room for three. Many years ago, I drew a
   single printer with various amounts of "paper" being ejected
   from it; that seemed obscure.

 - 1, 2, or 3 superimposed..."things" (there's probably a technical
   term for that, but I don't know it) like my little human figures?
   I saw a tango theme for thunderbird that distinguishes "reply"
   (an envelope with an arrow) from "reply to all" (same, but the
   arrow points to two human silhouettes [0]). That seems clearer
   than the old thunderbird icons (one envelope with a green arrow,
   versus two envelopes with a blue-green arrow). But aren't you
   recommending that we avoid superimposed "things"?

 - A depiction of arabic numerals '1', '2', or '3'?

> But in general, the counting approach worked for me we with the
> existing icons (where you do the same, only with more complicated shapes
> than the "rods"): the cardinality was clear even without knowing the
> precise meaning of "class" and "case" terms in this domain.

Perhaps the basic approach is sensible, then: a common picture
symbolizing the operation, with a superimposed cardinality

>> Alternatively, is there a better way of distinguishing, e.g., three
>> print operations, iconically? Differentiating them only by color
>> might work, and would at least be visually discernible.
> The problem with color-coding is that it's not very good from usability
> standpoint: not only is it much less useful for color-blind users, all
> users have to learn the entirely arbitrary color->function mapping used.
> That defeats the purpose of having icons as easily recognizable
> representations for the actions.

You have convinced me that distinguishing only by color is wrong.

>> Yet another option is to revert to the icon set used by our legacy
>> application. (Let me know if you don't have it handy, and I'll send
>> it to you.) I think those icons are clearer, but they're also cruder,
>> and might not mix well with the highly-polished GNOME icons; then we
>> might choose to use no GNOME icons, because a consistently-crude icon
>> set would at least be consistent. What do you think?
> Personally, I think the "old" GNOME-derived ones without antialiasing
> are better, because they are larger (for toolbars). On Linux, they blend
> much better into the desktop (of course they do, being based on the old
> GNOME style), but I'd say they're better fit even on Windows XP than the
> win3.1-style of the IHS ones.

Hmmm...I guess they are reminiscent of ms windows 3.1, and that's
not good at all.

>> BTW, are there stock icons for menuitems on the MDI "Window" menu,
> Not that I'm aware of -- Qt doesn't have them, GTK+ doesn't do MDI and
> Windows doesn't have stock icons. Some GTK+ 

I think you were going to write more there.

But anyway, the only reason to have icons for the "Window" menu would
be to provide an icon for every menuitem without exception--and, as
noted above, tango argues against that.


[0] "arrow points to two human silhouettes"

That's the fifth toolbar icon from the left here:


Their depiction of humans is rather more attractive than mine. And
theirs is larger, too, so perhaps it "shrinks" better or is easier
to see even on large icons. Should we try overlaying their humans,
in varying numbers, on top of stock icons? If we try that, I would
prefer to use pastel non-human colors for the "heads". The firefox
icon gives prominence to the person with the lighter skin color,
and that would be offensive to some (hence my choice of green,
purple, and blue in the icon set in lmi HEAD).

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