About Window Implementation

This is a carry over discussion from a mailing-list. Trying to avoid a lengthy discussion on the mailing list. I was discussing how the current method that “About Application” windows are used does not properly match usage behavior. I believe in the idea presented in Cooper’s “About Face 2.0” that “About Application” windows should contain a short description about the application and its capabilities. Credits, copyright, and support information would be in a renamed window like “Identity Information”.

[quote=Humdinger]This information could become quite extensive…
The help/tutorial files would be the right place for that IMO.[/quote]

The argument against this is it would take too long to find the information.
Most users would then end up wasting time to see if the program can do what they want to do. Also it shouldn’t be lengthy documentation to explain what a program is and it’s most basic features. It would just be an overview so that user can quickly understand what exactly the program is about. More detailed information (like actual steps, etc) would be in the Help/Tutorial files.

Basically the argument is about what an “About” Window really should be. I would argue the other information should be a separate menu entry like Credits, Support, Identity Information or even Copyright.

The usage behavior you describe sounds more like finding support information than it does finding out about the application.

This is exactly what I’m getting at. Sure the coders should get public recognition, but in an “About Application” window?? Does that really make sense??
The only reason it might make sense is because it’s been done so in the past. Does that really make it valid?

I’m not really proposing the existing About Window really be gotten rid of, but should be called something else with it’s own menu entry.

Anyway, don’t want to beat on this too much. I just felt it important to express the idea that the way “About Windows” are currently being used is quite archaic and a better usage pattern has been recommended.

Curtis

Hi Curtis! :slight_smile:
I don’t like the idea to separate the contents that is now in About into e.g. Support, Credits, Version, Copyright and About Application, each with its own menu entry.
I’d really like to have all this in one spot. After all, how many times do you need it? If the time comes it’s easier to remember to go to that one place instead of looking through a populated menu to find the correct window with the mostly one-liner information.
So, a renamed “Info” or “Information” window should be a good solution IMO.

What I do like to see is a fixed structure of that Info window that’s the same for every app. Like:

  • Icon
  • App's name
  • Version/date/build
  • Copyright
  • Clickable website
  • Clickable email
  • Credits (maybe automatically vertically scrolling if it's more than 3 lines)

Now to the “real” About Window, that you feel should give a short description of the app’s capabilities.
I frankly don’t think that it’s necessary at all.
Consider Haiku supplied programs. These are the most basic apps an OS comes with. MediaPlayer, Mail, ShowImage, Magnify, preferences for Screen, Sound, Network. The name alone should be descriptive enough; if that isn’t the case (I propose renaming it) the user interface, available tools etc. should give clues. Anything that’s too complex to be recognized is too advanced for the user to be explained by a short paragraph in the About window. The user turns to the Help menu.

What about 3rd party applications? I think usually a user knows beforehand what she is going to download and install. Actually, mostly it’s the other way around: You search the net for a tool, browse a dozen websites, read a dozen descriptions, before you find a suitable candidate to download/install.

If all else fails and the user is desperate for help, she does just that and clicks on the menu with the big, reassuring letters H-E-L-P. :slight_smile:

So I see why you think the About window is misnamed. I concur and propose renaming it to “Info”. What is associated with a “real” About window is in all practicallity irrelevant to the user and should be moved to the equally easily accessible Help. Maybe, if Haiku gets an integrated help system, it can be enforced to have the help window open with a short description paragraph. Which is the proper thing for an introduction anyway.

Humdinger

[quote=Humdinger]Hi Curtis! :slight_smile:
I don’t like the idea to separate the contents that is now in About into e.g. Support, Credits, Version, Copyright and About Application, each with its own menu entry.[/quote]

Not really what I meant (poorly written on my part). I just meant meant it should be in a seperate window with a seperate name (like “Info” for example).

I disagree, it is not aways easy to understand the programs capabilities. Can the ProcessController limit the amount of CPU usage by a process? What exactly is it controlling?

Others that you list
Mediaplayer and ShowImage, will they handle the formats that I want to use?

I don’t know about your experiences, but I find most documentation cumbersome to use for such basic (not very complex) questions. Now if I need the steps to do something specific, that’s a different matter.

I would argue that is not always the case. I’ve already downloaded software thinking it would do what I wanted and it doesn’t. Also, if a user has already installed it and haven’t used the program in while, they might have forgotten its purpose and need a reminder.

So go to “help” to find “about” a program. That really doesn’t make logical sense as a usage pattern. I think the implication that wanting to know about a program means you need “help” is actually rather insulting.

btw. Cooper states that the programmer’s names should be in the About Window (not the Identity Window). So that contradicts part of my earlier statements.

Curtis

Man, the weather is really hot here. I can’t continue to argue a point I’m not passionate about. :slight_smile:
OK, have your blurp on the basic features of the app. I still don’t think it’s necessary, but it doesn’t bother me either. In any way, since I’m a mere user it lies in the hands of our trusted coders. I’m confident in their judgement.

Humdinger

[quote=Katisu]Others that you list
Mediaplayer and ShowImage, will they handle the formats that I want to use?[/quote]

In this case - the user would have to be directed to the list of media add-ons or image translators they have installed…

Maybe showing a list of them in the About box would be neat though :slight_smile:

[quote=Humdinger]Now to the “real” About Window, that you feel should give a short description of the app’s capabilities.
I frankly don’t think that it’s necessary at all.
Consider Haiku supplied programs. These are the most basic apps an OS comes with. MediaPlayer, Mail, ShowImage, Magnify, preferences for Screen, Sound, Network. The name alone should be descriptive enough; if that isn’t the case (I propose renaming it) the user interface, available tools etc. should give clues. Anything that’s too complex to be recognized is too advanced for the user to be explained by a short paragraph in the About window. The user turns to the Help menu.

What about 3rd party applications? I think usually a user knows beforehand what she is going to download and install. Actually, mostly it’s the other way around: You search the net for a tool, browse a dozen websites, read a dozen descriptions, before you find a suitable candidate to download/install.

If all else fails and the user is desperate for help, she does just that and clicks on the menu with the big, reassuring letters H-E-L-P. :slight_smile:
[/quote]

This touches a nerve for me. It’s easy to point at little accessors in Haiku because Haiku has hardly been adopted yet, but I have an interest in a future of potentially lots of software coming to this platform.

In the early Mac, “About [This App]” was in the Apple menu. In Windows, “About [This App]” showed up in the Help menu. In both cases, as a younger user of computers at the time, 100% of the time I found “About [This App]” and actually selected it, it was because I was browsing some old software that had a cute name like “Limeade”, rather than something annoyingly obvious like “Sound Player”, and I wanted to see a brief abstract of what it is for. Or, I just wanted to see, in its own words, how it described itself, to get an idea of its primary objectives and not rely entirely on my own guesses by looking around at its interface. In those moments I was also hoping for a hyperlink, button, or some other link to a Help window for more detailed information if I needed it. And instead, 100% of the time, I just get the same logo as is already being displayed in the Finder or in the Windows window, along with “Authored by…” and a copyright year. And that’s it. 100% of the time, I wanted to pick up my computer and throw it out the window … okay, I wasn’t nearly that angry, but I found it REALLY rediculously annoying. “Yes,” I’d mutter bitterly, “I already know your name, you’re Limeade, and I don’t get a flying goose who built you or when you were written. What are you?” I’d kill it and never run it again, perhaps never knowing its actual purpose.

I think if there is going to be an “About [This App]”, it should be up to the app’s design to figure out how to use it, but if it can be templated by the base operating system, there should absolutely be a window with a brief abstract. Software should always describe itself. Perhaps if the author didn’t code up this window, it could be pulled in from the executable file’s metadata. Perhaps there should be a three-tab display – the first tab shows a graphic and an abstract description, the second tab is a list of hyperlinks and a button to fire off the display of some main documentation window, and the third tab shows copyright information, list of programmers, etc.

I think this would be good to have for all of Haiku’s little applets, even the ones that are obviously named. Otherwise, there should be no “About” option at all–it will only frustrate those who see it and place momentary hope and expectations in it. If you must show author information, as you guys were saying, don’t call it “About [App Name]”, call it “About the author”; on the other hand, author information is relevant if it is shown alongside an app summary description (“About [App Name]”, where the app itself is properly described).

[quote]Functionality
Extensions
Release Information (inc. version and release notes)
Developers (inc. credits, website) [/quote]

While all these items might seem at first glance to be overkill on quantity of data, it might make sense to just drum up an XML schema. App devs can just drop in an app.about file or something during the build process, consisting of XML that conforms to this XML schema, and during compile some prebuilt library can just read off that XML into a pretty, standardized interface at compile-time.

Just thinking of the dev process for templating this while making it easy to maintain. While I don’t recall this exact process being in place in any SDK or C++ compile tools I’ve seen, the idea comes from my experience with C# apps in Visual Studio (MS Windows), and I don’t see why some lib can’t be dropped into the GNU toolset to allow for this.

I think Curtis and Jon have valid points. A new computer user would expect the "About Application" menu item to provide them with information about the functionality of the application. When they need to know how to use that functionality, they would choose the "Help" menu item. Granted those user needs are closely related. The application version information and credits contained in most "About Application" windows would be of very little value to a new user. I think having a tabbed interface for the "About Application" window would be useful. Example tabs could include:

  • Functionality
  • Extensions
  • Release Information (inc. version and release notes)
  • Developers (inc. credits, website)
  • Talking about the About window makes me question the Help menu. The Help menu of Firefox includes:

  • Help Contents
  • Release Notes
  • Report Broken Website...
  • Report a Bug...
  • Report Web Forgery...
  • Check for Updates
  • About Mozilla Firefox
  • Very few of those menu items have to do with Help. Would it be appropriate to have an "Application" menu? It could contain items such as:

  • Help
  • About
  • Preferences
  • Check for Updates...
  • Report a Bug
  • Quit
  • Just ideas... Don.