Alright, CHI paper dump incoming
Using Earcons to Improve the Usability of Tool Palettes (Brewster, CHI 98) adds sound cues to the selection of tools from a palette in order to reduce user error. Their user study finds that it does work.
This paper describes an experiment to investigate the effectiveness of adding sound to tool palettes. Palettes have usability problems because users need to see the information they present but they are often outside the area of visual focus. Non-speech sounds called earcons were used to indicate the current tool and tool changesso that users could tell what tool was in use, wherever they were looking. Experimental results showed a significant reduction in the number of tasks performed with the wrong tool. Users lmew what the current tool was and did not try to perform tasks with the wrong one.
Multiblending: displaying overlapping windows simultaneously without the drawbacks of alpha blending (Baudisch et al., CHI 04) takes issue with alpha blending palettes on top of content, particularly in image editing, as it can distort the perception of color/brightness underneath the palette. They propose a solution that involves multiple blending techniques to create what they call “glass palettes”. Their user study finds that user prefer glass palettes, and perform better at the tasks they defined (recognizing the background properly).
Categorization Costs for Hierarchical Keyboard Commands (Miller et al., CHI 11) compares speed of command selection using keyboard key combos vs direct tool palette selection. They find that while 1-Menu conditions (for example Ctrl + one key) is faster than direct toolbox selection, 2-Menu conditions (for example Ctrl + one key, then another key) are performed slower than toolbar selection.
The study’s practical implications for design suggest that hierarchical, category-based keyboard commands do not provide a clear advantage when compared to toolbar-based selection. Figure 3 presents Toolbar performance from Omanson et al. and contrasts it with the 2-menu results from our study. After 3 blocks, participants were able to select an item from the toolbar at 1.9 seconds on average. At most, the keyboard sequence produces a selection time that is 300 ms faster. However, this difference is likely to be much smaller. Compared to our results, the time of 1.9 seconds is a conservative upper bound for toolbar performance since the toolbar analysis did not remove trials where users had to recover from selection errors. It is also possible toolbar performance would continue to improve after three blocks.
The Hotbox: Efficient Access to a Large Number of Menu-items (Kurtenbach et al., CHI 99) proposes a new kind of widget, named “Hotbox”, which aims to address the issues with menus/toolbars in highly complex professional software - specifically Maya, since the authors of the paper work on that product.
The HotBox works as follows. To display the Hotbox the user holds down the space-bar (with their non-dominant hand) when the cursor is in any of Maya’s windows. The Hotbox instantly appears, centered at the location of the cursor. The “rows” of the Hotbox (see Figure 2) behave like traditional menubars. Individual menus can be popped down like menubar menus by moving the mouse (with the dominant hand) so the cursor is over a menu label and pressing any mouse button (Figure 3).
Each row of the Hotbox corresponds to a particular set of menus (Figure 4). The top row, is referred to as the “com- mon” row. This corresponds to menus commonly found in most applications’ main window menubar (e.g., File, Edit,…). The next row down shows the items in the menubar for the window that the cursor is currently in. Below the center row of the Hotbox are rows of menus spe- cific to certain computer graphics tasks.
The center row’s menu label “Recent Commands” displays a list of recent commands issued by the user and allows a user to repeat a command without having to relocate the command in the menus. (Figure 5). The other menu in the center row, “Hotbox Controls” allows the user to control which rows of the Hotbox are displayed. This menu is a marking menu. In Figure 2, all the rows of the Hotbox are displayed. Using the marking menu a user can quickly display and hide specific rows. Figure 6 shows an example of changing the display of rows.
Besides presenting the user with rows of menus the HotBox one of the these zones has a different marking menu which can be accessed simply by pressing down a mouse button when the cursor is in the zone. These marking menus are used for user defined menus.
The Hotbox remains displayed as long as the space-bar is kept pressed. This allows a user to perform a series of commands without having to re-invoke the Hotbox.
The feature shipped in Maya, to positive user reception; some portion of their users in fact removed all menu bars from the screen, using HotBox exclusively (I don’t use Maya, I wonder if it’s still in there?).