Editing Ease

Editing Ease --- RichardGabriel 6 Dec 2001

. . . When people are trying to communicate they want their tools to be natural and non-intrusive (LowOverheadMessages, RhythmOfConversation, TheContextOfOurLives). To many designers this means that the windows, buttons, menus, pop-ups, and dialogue boxes should be well designed and well tested. But it means much more than that because the experience of using the tool extends down to the visual presentation of text on the screen, its formatting, and the editing commands . . .

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The experience of a software tool extends down to the smallest physical detail. The fonts on the screen down to the pixel level, the tint of the electronic paper being typed on, the feel of the keyboard and keys beneath the fingers, the height and angle of the keyboard, and the physical size and smoothness of the pointing device.

One thing often overlooked by designers of interactive software is that fact that people can develop an affinity to specific keyboards, pointing devices, fonts, white-paper color, and editing commands. Many designers use the text editing structure of the underlying platform, meaning the operating system, while the designers of that system have sometimes simplified, reasoning that application writers will supply better editing tools.

Computer hardware is designed for people to plug in their own input devices and monitors, but this is rarely the case for software devices.

Some textual communication systems require people to move their hands off the keyboard to a pointing device or arrow keys to navigate while other systems provide chordal navigation commands that allow the typist to leave their hands in typing position.

Writing textual communications is one of the most commonly done editing tasks, so you should provide the person with his or her most comfortable editing commands and features


Do what you can to make it so that editing and other user-input software is broken into components so that people can use the editing structure of their choice.

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Use a plug-in metaphor to accomplish customizing editing. Or perhaps provide as underlying functionality the navigational moves of all text editing systems and provide an easy way for the user to assign key chords and sequences to that functionality or combinations; if you do this, also provide all the known editing structures to use as templates for customization. Encourage the implementers of other text editors to provide a compatible editing component.


Last edited December 24, 2002
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