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Re: On the size of the command set

From: Greg Hudson <ghudson_at_MIT.EDU>
Date: 2004-10-02 20:00:15 CEST

On Sat, 2004-10-02 at 13:41, Benjamin Pflugmann wrote:
> Let me elaborate: IMHO, sorting something alphabetically mainly helps
> with finding something you know by name (or at least have an idea of
> its name).[1] If you have no idea of the name, you have to scan all
> items similar to an unsorted list. Admittedly, with the advantage that
> sorted lists are a bit easier on the eye.

I may have guesses as to the name of the operation you want, based on my
intuition or my experience with other systems. I can look for those
guesses faster in a sorted list.

> If we disregard the last bit (and you agree with my description), we
> are basically down to an unsorted vs. categorized list. Now, as said,
> an unsorted list doesn't speed up your search at all, while a
> categorized one at least helps those which are led by the task they
> want to accomplish.

A categorized list is, to me, more intimidating. Instead of having one
block of a reasonable number of commands, which I can take in as a unit,
I have six or seven blocks of three to six commands each, which is much
harder to treat as a gestalt. If I don't know what category the
operation I want fits into (and I think there will always be a lot of
ambiguity), then I might be worse off than if I had an unsorted list,
because there is simply more verbiage to hunt through.

A simple list allows me to mentally form my own categories, while a
categorized list forces me to accept someone else's.

Obviously, at some point a simple list breaks down. GUI programs have
multiple menu bars because one menu bar with scores of commands would be
unwieldy. (But you'll note that users frequently have to traverse all
of the menu bars in order to find the command they want. Is changing
preferences an "Edit", an "Action", or a "Tool"?) I think the threshold
for a subcommand list is higher than it is for GUI menus, and I think we
haven't reached that threshold yet.

> Ah, and are you opposed to offer both variants (e.g. via "--grouped"
> switch)?

Yes, that would be overengineering. Very few people would find the
--grouped switch, and fewer would find the groupings to be intuitive for
them. It would be like the Subversion book including two different
reference cards with the same information organized in different
ways--theoretically a win, but in practice, likely to confuse more
people than it helps.

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Received on Sat Oct 2 20:00:32 2004

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