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Re: [lmi] InputSequence questions

From: Greg Chicares
Subject: Re: [lmi] InputSequence questions
Date: Thu, 25 Mar 2010 16:02:52 +0000
User-agent: Thunderbird (Windows/20090812)

On 2010-03-25 14:56Z, Vaclav Slavik wrote:
> On Wed, 2010-03-24 at 17:03 +0000, Greg Chicares wrote:
>> feel wrong. OTOH, if the dialog contains a grid control instead of
>> many discrete controls, then a scrollable grid might be okay.
> A grid helps in that people are used to scrolling Excel sheets, but it
> doesn't make it easier to grasp the whole sequence either.

Using a grid may create false expectations. Our non-wx legacy program
used a grid control that looked identical to 'excel'; and that led
users to say it was great except that it lacked just one little feature
that'd make everything so much easier...and a different little feature
the next day. We added Copy and Paste; then they wanted Insert Row, so
we added something like that; then they wanted Data Fill, and if I
hadn't stopped it there, someone would have asked for pivot tables.

This story provides further support for your decision to use discrete
controls rather than a grid. Even more support is implicit below....

>> Perfect. (IMO, that is; other opinions are welcome, but really
>> must be expressed soon.) If we change "When" to "Until", then
>> it becomes simpler still because "until" need not be repeated.
> But it would no longer be readable as text, then. That is, "0 until year
> 5" is in English and makes it easier to understand the control for a
> first-time user. "0 year 5" is cryptic and requires being familiar with
> the UI or reading the manual...

Okay, then in that case individual lines could no longer be read
in isolation. OTOH, every lmi user has some familiarity with
spreadsheets, so writing "until" as a column header wouldn't be
a formidable obstacle to comprehension.

This is compact (which is good):

      amount  until
      ------  -----
          0   year 5
       1000   year 10
          0   age 70
        500   maturity

whereas this is readable (which is also good):

  Employee payment:
    [   0]  from issue date until [year] [ 5], then
    [1000]  from   year 5   until [year] [10], then
    [   0]  from   year 10  until [ age] [70], then
    [   0]  from   age 70   until [maturity].

If we had to squeeze this into a crowded dialog, then of course the
"compact" way would be better. But for a popup the "readable" way
does seem more attractive. And, while it's not easy to see with
monospace plain text, I suspect that in a dialog the "noise" might
quickly become inaudible due to color, brightness, etc. (With a grid,
however, noise would remain noisy.)

Even though I keep emphasizing that expert users predominate and their
need for simplicity shouldn't be sacrificed to gain some small benefit
for casual users, it's even better if we can serve both in a way that
they all like.

And there's another audience I'd like to reach: expert users of other
illustration systems, who would prefer lmi if we could just open their
eyes. Imagine putting a screenshot of the "readable" dialog into the
html documentation. It quietly screams "This is the system you really
want--download it right now". Knowing that lots of cool stuff like
this is available in free software sucks all the joy out of using
anything else, but first we have to attain that level of coolness.

>> > * There's the problem with "until" that you mentioned yourself; it's not
>> >   clear whether the interval is closed or open. I hope that this can be
>> >   fixed by better wording alone (any ideas?). If not, the "When" header
>> >   may spell it out ("Until when (not including the endpoint)").
>> We'll restrict the GUI to '[)' intervals. Then "until" is always suitable.
> The question is how to convey this to the user. It's the kind of thing
> that is hard to remember (for me, anyway), so some hint directly in the
> UI would IMHO be in order.

Isn't it appropriately clear in the "readable" example above?

I say "appropriately" because it seems to me that this GUI offers
restrictive guidance that's easy to follow, and readily permits
users to express whatever they need to--subliminally, so their
conscious thought isn't distracted by the restrictions. But
maybe I'm hallucinating from having stared at this too much.

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