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Christiaan

Interface: the single unified window

Question

I'd really like VectorWorks to move to a single unified tabbed window interface, along similar lines of Apple's Pro Apps series such as Aperture and Logic (screenshots attached below)

Here's a review of Logic, which only recently gained the unified interface (the reviewer agrees with me):

http://www.macworld.com/weblogs/creative/2007/09/logic-studio-8/

One of the things I really dislike about many applications is their reliance on floating palettes, toolbars and panes. Maybe these were useful at some time in some situation but I've never found them useful; just a pain in the ass to manage.

But that's just me and I'm quite organised about the way I use VectorWorks. When I see how other less experienced or less organised people manage their palettes it just blows me away how inefficient the whole paradigm is.

Maybe it isn't as much of an issue on Windows because Windows has "dockable" toolbars, but I think a unified window would be advantageous to Windows users too. Can anyone explain why a non-unified interface is a good thing, for instance, in light of such interface ideas as tabbed windows and tear-able palettes?

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I'm also kind of 'control' freak when it comes to how a program looks and how the palletes show.

I like the dockable palletes, but sometimes I can't use it on my laptop, so it's a pain that they do not stick where they are.

I've seen many VW users on mac and it drives me mad when I see their workspace.

A little problem in windows with VW is that sometimes, the dimensions of the palletes change when you restart VW.

I do not really understand the unified interface, but I think it is just a way to say to palletes: stay on that place (x,y)?

This would be a good idea.

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I'd go along with this. Floating palettes annoyed me a lot when I first moved to a Mac - the worst thing is seeing bits of other applications in the gaps between the windows, as it looks very messy. A single window would get around this and would also be better at adapting to different screen sizes and resolutions than the current loose palettes.

One particular palette that bugs me most is the little Attributes palette. Why is this separate from the Obj Info palette? It only encourages people to disassociate the line/fill colour from the other object properties, particularly the class, and people who override colours away from class defaults should be shot of course :-)

*Colour = Color, depending where you are in the world...

Edited by Chris D

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Floating Palettes are a huge benefit to my workflow ... opening & closing ... moving closer or farther ... up or down ... combined with zoom the entire process seems very efficient. Menu items are handled with keystrokes whenever possible.

Since every display is dependent on the saturation of graphic information , moveable palettes allow for 'best use' of the all the available area with minimal mousing movements. Why dock the palette when you can just close the sucker and leave it ?

Of course, may be I've just gotten used to the paradigm and configured my work to suit it.

Yet, wouldn't a floating palette be beneficial for this forum ... instead of having to scroll up to the top to access the various UBBCode functions. I could have my little Palette Buddy sitting right here next to this Quick Reply box.

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I have to agree with Islandmon. Different users work on different sized displays, and the more singular the window becomes, the less control the user has as to how much actual drawing area real estate is available. At least with individual palettes you can windowshade them or minimise them, or close them if you are not using them, or move them out of your way if they are blocking something. I work on a 23" display at one workstation and a 17" display at the other. The movable palettes allow me to customize the palettes to get the largest drawing area on either display.

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If you had a tabbed interface, what would you put under each tab?

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Floating Palettes are a huge benefit to my workflow ... opening & closing ... moving closer or farther ... up or down ... combined with zoom the entire process seems very efficient. Menu items are handled with keystrokes whenever possible.

A unified window interface wouldn't need to preclude this, as "tear-able" palettes have already demonstrated to us.

Why dock the palette when you can just close the sucker and leave it?

Again, a unified window interface wouldn't need to preclude the opening and closing or minimising of palettes. It would simply open within part of the main window. And why close palettes at all when you might be better off simply changing tabs.

Yet, wouldn't a floating palette be beneficial for this forum ... instead of having to scroll up to the top to access the various UBBCode functions. I could have my little Palette Buddy sitting right here next to this Quick Reply box.

Actually some websites do have navigation bars that stay in place relative to your browser window; which is more akin to a unified window interface. I'd rather have this and now that it's always where it is, instead of floating window that could be anywhere, including off screen or behind another palette.

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If you had a tabbed interface, what would you put under each tab?

The main one I had in mind was actual files. In fact this could be implemented independently of a whole unified window interface. Safari web browser and Firefox work in this way. So does Dreamweaver.

And the other aspect, such as tabs within tool palettes is already being implemented in VectorWorks, the Nav palette being a good example. But you could take this further and actually tab palettes as well, so you could have a number of palettes in the same position but tab between them to access them (just an example)

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Different users work on different sized displays, and the more singular the window becomes, the less control the user has as to how much actual drawing area real estate is available.

Yeah but does this justify the aggravation inherent in floating palettes? Apple's interface designers clearly don't think so, and I have to agree with them.

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I'm starting to have second thoughs: there may well be something in this! In a way my own set-up is based on some of these concepts: all palettes are outside the drawing window and thus never need to be moved. Looks a bit like AutoCAD!

If I only had a larger screen...

(And I said "In a way"!)

However - how many people have multiple files open and need instant access to them? Maybe the tabs could be views? (Just thinking aloud, not to be taken seriously.)

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However - how many people have multiple files open and need instant access to them?

That's what command+tilde is for....at least on a Mac

Apart from copy and paste, it's probably my most used keyboard shortcut

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It could be an option worth considering for people with larger monitors. Wouldn't work for those with small or two monitors though. Where it would be a plus would be thatit it would unify the appearance. The untidy and disorganised way that some people layouts their palettes absolutely frustrates me.

More important for me though is having an option to consolidate the open files into one window object. Having an option to have tabs across the bottom bar would be ideal. Changing between files would then be quick and easy.

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Funnily enough, I kinda like what MS have done with the Office interface

ms-office-ui-preview1.jpg

(from AppleInsider)

though...only with the Windows version (the Mac version is a mess)

This uses some sort of unified tabbed interface to quickly change entire toolsets

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VectorWorks offers an approach to a tabbed interface using Tool Sets. While the tab key does not navigate between them, you expose a toolset on an as needed basis. If anyone remembers the interface before the toolsets, palettes were all over the screen and really took up a lot of screen real estate.

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If anyone remembers the interface before the toolsets, palettes were all over the screen and really took up a lot of screen real estate.

Absolutely. Toolsets was a great improvement.

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Yep, toolsets are good as they stand. The new MS approach is just taking that to a new level. You can imagine a large part of the interface changing when doing 3D editing, as opposed to 2D, for instance. A dynamic UI like this can actually save screen real estate by switching large parts of the interface around, depending what you're doing.

A CAD/BIM application is a good place to be doing things like this with the interface, as there are so many different tasks that are undertaken on a project using the same software - sketching, drawing, detailing, scheduling, annotating, massing, modelling, visualising, etc. The interface could be quite dynamic based on the task.

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I vote against going for a single window interface.

I often have multiple drawings open, often spread out across two monitors so I can see one as a reference as I work on the other. I think that with more emphasis on using referenced files, that this functionality will become even more important.

Pat

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I vote against going for a single window interface.

I often have multiple drawings open, often spread out across two monitors so I can see one as a reference as I work on the other. I think that with more emphasis on using referenced files, that this functionality will become even more important.

I don't think a unified window need preclude this sort of thing. You could either allow for multiple main windows or you could allow for "tearing off" pages from the main window similar to the way you can tear off a toolset now.

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I'm with Pat, and the Status Quo, and the Silent Majority, and the Peanut Gallery. Please don't mess up a good thing. Change for the sake of change is painful, at best, and at worst, mind numbing. Palettes need not clutter up the landscape. Most of mine are off most of the time and the screen is filled with a very large drawing area. Beauty to the eye of this beholder. Wish for the sky, but I for one wish your wish is never granted. Nothing personal. ;-)

Raymond

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If we stuck with the status quo all the time, we'd still be with the DOS command line.... ;-)

I have a lot of sympathy with the idea of toggling your palettes on/off, which to be fair, I hadn't noticed you could do until reading this thread. I might even start doing this myself, to get that glorious large drawing area of which you speak. I think this will be less and less successful though, as the program, inevitably, gets more complicated, and as competitor applications develop their interfaces along dynamic lines.

I'd like to hope, as Christiaan says, that we could all be happy - if palettes could be torn off, and then toggled on/off, this would surely give you something like you have now.

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Change for the sake of change is painful, at best, and at worst, mind numbing.

Where on earth have I argued that this is a change for change sake?

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If history is any indicator, once all the little stuff gets fixed and most of the major technology issues resolved, then there will be nothing left for the Engineers to do but play around with the window interface. Perhaps by v2014 every new version will have thicker & deeper Menu Bars containing dozens of tabs with hundreds of cute little icons representing every possible function... each one can then be 'torn-off' and placed anywhere on the display... only to snap back neatly into place with a click of the mouse.

There will even be icons to hide various parts of the Menu Bars, tabs... and icons. There will be so many choices & options that all Users will feel compelled to feel completely satisfied.

VW will finally become a full fledged "main stream" application... at long last victory will be ours !

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Have I ever ranted about icons? It took us thousands of years to develop the various alphabets that replaced hieroglyphs and similar pictogrammatic writing systems.

Three thousand years of brotherly love and universal literacy and what have we achieved - icons, the hieroglyphs of the modern world! Give me cuneiform any day...

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Personally I don't see the beauty of the 'unified window interface'. Maybe someone can expIain it's superiority.

I see in Aperture,Lightroom etc a seriously restricted drawing area. My main screen has little more than maximum drawing area and the menu bar on it. Why do we need another bar below that?

The flexibility of floating palettes is unbeatable, and I have never had this problem of them not staying put. I work on a 12" laptop, a large 2 screen setup and a 22" widescreen in different locations, and I work differently on each. Floating palettes allow me to maximize drawing area, which means less zooming and panning.

In CS I tend to untab everything so that I can have floating palettes, and then I look at the empty gray bar that used to house them and wonder why it's there doing nothing. I guess I'm used to "managing" floating palettes. Maybe it's an old-guy Mac thing.

And I dislike all those toolbar at the top interfaces like office,fastrack and acrobat to name a few. I want to put my tools and resources where I like them, and that's never at the top.

Mostly I work on the dual setup with everything open including a couple of database sheets. How do those fit in a unified window?

Status Quo once more,

Charles

Edited by ccroft

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