Re: POW user suggestion

Subject: Re: POW user suggestion
From: John H. Raines, Jr. (
Date: Mon Aug 20 2001 - 06:25:48 CDT

Related to the close command, I would concur with these opinions. No matter what your "interface theory", the behavior of the close command is simply a surprising or unexpected behavior for the majority of users. Having used Abiword for over a year now, I still have occasions where I "accidently" close Abiword because I forgot to open the new document I wanted to work on before I closed the last document

Let us be pure user oriented designers here for just a moment. The user has one document open in Abiword. They click on the file menu. If the user is done with this document, then they can only desire to do one of two things: 1) close Abiword & do something else entirely or 2) close the current document to then open another document and do some more word processing. Now, the programming design that allows the user to do what they want with the least effort is the superior design. The user has 2 choices related to what they want to do on the menu. Therefore, the superior design lets the user click one of these choices to accomplish what they want to do. One click = desired result is always superior to multiple clicks to accomplish the result.

As far as all the theoretical discussion of MDI vs SDI, its just a theory guys! Or a design guideline. Or something. I vote for good user design no matter what your interface theory.

If your desire is to have lots of users for Abiword, then put good user design first and keep the SDI design criteria in the background, as a design guideline only

Possibly this is something for which a "survey" of users would be useful.

My 2 cents, for what it is worth.

J. Raines

P.S. - whenever you get to the point where you are saying things like "users just don't understand" or users aren't thinking". etc., you are probably defending a bad programming design.

*********** REPLY SEPARATOR ***********

On 8/19/01 at 9:28 AM Randy Kramer wrote:

I agree with everything David says, but I want to build a little bit
further on one thing that David mentions, along the lines of AbiWord's
MSDI is confusing. In fact, it is very confusing.

If you open two copies of a document in a "single instance" of AbiWord
(open a document in AbiWord, then open the same document again from that
instance of AbiWord), changes between the two windows are synchronized
(changes in either window are made to both).

On the other hand, as David says, if you open the same document in two
"separate instances" of AbiWord (start AbiWord twice from the command
line on the same document), changes between the two instances are not

Talk about confusing! (Sort of responding in Nil's direction.)

But, yet, I would tend to argue for this behavior (only if I can't have
an MDI interface) -- why? Well, I'm used to opening more than one
window on a single document (in Word97, an MDI) in order to do things
like cut and paste between the documents, without worrying that if I now
have two different (unsynchronized) copies of the same document, (and
that if I save the wrong one, or copy and paste in both directions, or
make changes in the one I'm copying from, I've created a problem for
myself). (In Word97, an MDI, you can still open two separate instances
of Word97, have the same document open in both, and create similar
problems, but, the fact that it is an MDI gives me some other
"contextual" hints such that I can't recall ever having made that
mistake. When I do things like copy and paste between the same document
I do it in a single instance of Word, and recognize what I'm doing
because I commonly display both windows at the same time, side by side
or one above the other, within the same "master window" of Word.)

I understand that Word 2000 is an SDI. I don't use it, and I'm very
curious how Microsoft has dealt with the concerns mentioned above. My
first thought is that they've taken a step backwards. I suppose I'll
really have to find a copy of Word 2000 and try it.

I guess I've regarded the decision of AbiWord to be an SDI (which I
thought it was until (1) I recently discovered the behavior described
above, and (2) Paul told us it was an MSDI) as pretty much cast in
concrete, but, if there is an opportunity to reconsider ...

(Also, this explains the existence of the Windows item on the AbiWord
menu, something that surprised me on what I thought was an SDI

Also, to respond to Håkan:

Notepad (from Win95): SDI, no Close option, only Exit
Wordpad (from Win95): SDI, no Close option, only Exit
Word97: MDI, much as David described in another post, for Word 2000:

Close and Exit both exist. With one document open, if you click Close,
Word remains open with no document (window has all the Word controls,
but a gray background). At this point, the Close menu item is grayed

Randy Kramer

David Chart wrote:
> But AbiWord isn't just a document. We have a Window menu and an Exit
> command that stop people think of it that way. Our UI tells people
> 'AbiWord is something over and above the documents'. This behaviour of
> the Close button says 'Oh, except when you select Close with one
> document open. Then AbiWord is just the same as the document.'
> Also, the File menu says 'There are two different commands. Close closes
> this document. Exit closes the whole of AbiWord.' And then you discover
> that when you only have one document open, Close and Exit are the same,
> although they aren't under other circumstances.
> The interface is inconsistent, and creates confusing expectations. There
> might well be advantages to the MSDI model, but it's a kludge, and the
> fact that it requires a kludge on the behaviour of some commands to make
> them consistent should not surprise anyone.
> Pure MDI would be fine. All the windows would open within the Abi frame.
> (Mac behaviour is, effectively, MDI.) Pure SDI would be fine. Every
> document would be a separate instance of Abi, needing a separate 'kill'
> command in Unix to bring it down.
> Here's yet more confusing behaviour. Under Linux, launch Abi twice,
> using, say, a panel button. You get two Abi windows, both called
> Untitled1. If you have autosave set for backup, Abi will happily save
> one file over the other's backup. The Window menu doesn't list the
> windows of the other instance. Indeed, it appears that opening a
> document by double clicking it opens a new instance of Abi under all
> circumstances.
> Hmmm... And you can open the same document in two instances of Abi, save
> changes in one, then make changes in the other and save them, then close
> the first instance and lose all the changes you made. Maybe this falls
> under 'user is a twit' errors, though.
> The document/application model is a mess. I hereby propose to ignore any
> further arguments based on what is consistent for an SDI, at least until
> Abi is rewritten so that it *is* an SDI. (New instance for every
> document, new directory for backup files (or something), no Window menu,
> no Exit command.)
> As long as it's the current hybrid, the current behaviour of Close is
> inconsistent and confusing, and needs to have something done to it. (It
> is inconsistent because it does different things in different situations
> without warning the user. It is confusing because about half the people
> contributing to the thread are confused by it, at least at first. These
> are not debatable points. I am fairly sure that inconsistent and
> confusing bits of UI should be changed.)
> --
> David Chart

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