Re: Features V stability

Subject: Re: Features V stability
From: Piotr Sawuk (
Date: Sun May 06 2001 - 11:25:21 CDT

Ron Ross wrote:
> Sam TH <> writes:
> > On Thu, May 03, 2001 at 10:37:28PM -0400, Ron Ross wrote:
> > > A corrective followup to my previous post:
> >

> > > On terminating a numbered paragraph, in all mentioned word processors,
> > > another such paragraph with an incremented number is automatically
> > > created. In AW and Word, if you hit return again, the listing is ended
> > > and you're back to "normal" (or whatever). In WP, a second return adds a
> > > newline previous to the new autogenerated numbered paragraph, pushing
> > > the latter and the cursor position down one line, and you can add as
> > > many such intermediate newlines as desired while preserving your
> > > position in the ordered paragraphs. This makes it easy, as a Normal
> > > User, to produce the desired spacing layout for listed items, in the
> > > same sense that the normal user usually hits return twice between
> > > paragraphs instead of defining inter-paragraph spacing in their default
> > > paragraph style. Moral: don't do that. But this also calls for a robust,
> > > logical, consistent and intuitive styles implementation and interface,
> > > which no word processor now provides. More on that later.
> >
> > What do you think would be a good user interface to adding lines
> > between list items?
> It really depends. If the point is to have that extra space between list
> items, then, I realize now, that should be entirely done with styles. I
> think this is a good example of inconsistency in word processor
> treatment or interface to styles. In all of them, a list item is a
> paragraph style, you'll find it in the pull-down list of styles.
> However, in Word, if you place the cursor in the text of a list-item
> paragraph, the little style box does not reflect the fact, it just shows
> "Normal". On the other hand, you've got the Bullets and Numbers dialog

> For starters, though, and off-hand, #1 below seems like the "correct"
> way of doing it... but there's an issue concerning user expectation
> here that I'll have to consider more carefully.

I liked the way Lotus Word Pro does handle lists:

a special checkbox does turn a paragraph-style into a list.
Alt-left does turn this list-style into the previous used style
Alt-right on the first list-element does change the number-style.
Alt-right later in the list does insert a list inside of the list
(same style, but beginning of line is indent-ed according to previous)
in the sub-list alt-left/-right work as above, except that now
Alt-left does return to the previous list-level
Alt-up/-down does move the current list-element up/down
changing the paragraph-style does get you out of this hierarchy.
Return does add a new list-element leaving the previous blank.

Another thing I liked on lwp was the hierarchy of styles
which basically behave similar to the lists from the previous
paragraph, except that lists are far below even the normal

So, I would propose for AbiWord to use a separate "list-style"
dialogue to set up different kinds of numering-schemes where
also bullets or different algorithms of counting could be
set up in later versions, and where each style does only contain
info on the things written in front of the paragraph and the
distance from the previous list-level. This way one could add
a list-style which does contain no bullet or whatever and no
additional space, but which is still below the previous list-style.
Then a simple change into the next list-level with this style as
the list-style would allow for whole paragraphs inside of one
list-element. And maybe in the paragraph-style-options there
should be the possibility to (in-/)exclude certain list-styles
for people who wish some consistency in their numbering.

Additionally I would suggest a hierarchy of paragraph-styles
(Title being the highest, then sub-title and so on, then after
infinitely many sub-sub-...titles there would be normal text
and any newly-created text-styles by default, and then some
styles which are even below that for example the style I use
for code-snippets) where changing to a style in the lower
hierarchy does not reset the numbering of the higher hierarchy's
list. I have thought of using Alt-left/-right to switch the
list-hierarchy and Ctrl-Alt-left/-right to switch Paragraph-style
from one hierarchy-level to the next. Also Ctrl-Alt-up/-down
would be nice for changing to a different style inside of one
hierarchy-level. This way it would be intuitive enough for me
to convince others to use styles instead of selecting and changing
individual paragraphs to resemble some sub-title-style manually...
> >
> > Currently, AW works like this:
> >
> > If you hit return twice, it eliminates the new list element. In other
> > words, RET-RET behaves exactly like RET-BKSP.

Of course currently my idea doesn't necessarily need this
Alt-left/-right interface, as new lists would be added by
inserting a list-header and lists are "exited" by removing
the thing in front of the list-element. However, it still
would be nice to toggle through all the possible list-styles
by this key-interface, and it would seem to be more intuitive
in connection with Alt-up/-down moving the current list-element,
together with all sub-lists and paragraphs of a lower hierarchy,
up by exchanging it with the previous one. Also the current
interface does need to go to the beginning of the line, which
isn't really that intuitive/practical. Also when you really
need to add the current line to the previous paragraph, then
you would need more than one BKSP...

Anyway, I personally never perceived this RET-RET behaviour
from microsoft as really intuitive. BKSP is more like it,
but I still like Alt-left better.
> >
> > There are a few possibilites here:
> >
> > 1. The second return could generate another new list element, leaving
> > the previous new one blank. [ This is how the first AW implementation
> > worked ]
> > 2. The new return could behave like backspace, the way it currently
> > does in AW and Word.
> > 3. The new return could insert a blank line *before* the current list
> > element, the way you describe WordPerfect working.
> > 4. The new return could add another line to the document, at the end,
> > but without a list header on it.

Leaving the previous list-element empty?
Now, why should anyone wish to do that?
> >
> > The only way currently to insert the blank lines you are talking about

Is to insert a line-break at the end of the previous list-element...

> > is to go back to the beginning of the line the new list element is on,
> > and hit return. I think this qualifies as definitely non-intuitive.

For me it's intuitive enough. After all we are not
born with the knowledge how to use a word-processor,
so apart from the secret "standards" the software
companies did agree upon in the word-processing-sector,
there should always be efficiency as the main-goal
in the search for intuitive interfaces. Going to
the beginning of the paragraph is one additional
key-stroke, and not very useful when you wish to
do it for each single list-element. However, this
function would be nice if it would actually insert
an empty line in front of every single list-element
by changing the paragraph-style. But I doubt this would
be what people want, especially as there is no single-key
function to undo such a grave change...
> >
> > Does anyone have suggestions for improving this interface?

I would wish instead of a paragraph-style dialog-box some
more obvious and un-hidden interface. Something like a
tool-bar with a check-box if the current changes to the
paragraph should be applied to the style or only to the
current paragraph. That's what I would call intuitive.

Maybe some ruler appearing on the left where one click
on some check-box would change the spacing below or
above of the paragraph (Warning: proportional font...):

( ) 2 | -|
(o) 1 |_____|
( ) 1/2 | -|paragraph paragraph paragraph paragraph paragraph
( ) 0 |15 --|paragraph paragraph paragraph paragraph paragraph
( ) 0 | -|paragraph paragraph paragraph paragraph paragraph
( ) 1/2 | -|paragraph paragraph paragraph
( ) 1 | -|
(o) 2 |_____|
( ) [3] | -|nextParagraph nextParagraph nextParagraph
( )[1.5]| -|nextParagraph nextParagraph nextParagraph

That would be rather intuitive, especially with drag-and-drop
support for the long "___" on the ruler which would align
to line-length if one of the number-checkboxes is selected
and to the ruler if the checkbox with the real-number in
the text-box is selected. add some key-shortcut to access
the "___" through the key-arrows, and some other for making
the changes permanent for all paragraphs with this style,
and you will get a really intuitive and efficient interface
for paragraph-styles. And if you would make the whole thing
"tabbed" (i.e. hit on a tab to switch to other kinds of
paragraph-style-changing), then it would also save on workspace
for people who continuously alter their styles...

However, this is only day-dreaming, as first Abiword 1.0
should get out without any grave bugs (does abiWord now
auto-save a file before doing a core-dump? last time I
tried, it did seg-fault without saving), then one could
think about such luxury like a technically complicated
to realize user-interface... :-)


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