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Instant Details Box Option


Ken Thompson
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One feature on the next major Acccordance release that I would like to see is an Instant Details box that would have a float option, which would only display when when the pointer is over a tagged word or link. I like the details box but I can never seem to put it in a place where it is not in the way of something that I will eventually want to view. Using a 14 inch laptop does not leave you with a lot of screen real estate and for me this would be a welcome addition to a great program. It would also be great if this window would size itself according to the amount of data that needs to be displayed or have a scroll option and the ability to freeze the display and copy/paste (via contextual menu) right from the Instant Details box.

 

I believe that Power Bible has something similar to this.

 

Just a thought from my Wish List!

 

Ken

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Ken,

 

We've seen lots of Bible programs which use a floating Tooltips window to display instant information, but I've found that such an approach actually tends to exacerbate the problem of getting in the way of something important.

 

For example, whenever you drag the cursor over the text of the Bible, you might get a tooltip window displaying the Strong's number or grammatical tagging information, but then that information actually obscures your view of the text. In addition, you get an unfortunate visual flashing effect, which is distracting and ultimately tiresome.

 

We could perhaps give you the option to auto-hide the Instant Details box, but even then you would get the constant flashing effect. By the way, the Instant Details box can be opened and closed using the keyboard shortcut command-B, so even now, you can always hide it when you don't need it.

 

Please understand that I'm not trying to shoot down your request. I just want you to be aware of the issues involved. The static and--we hope--unobtrusive nature of the instant details box helps to minimize the visual assault which most Bible programs make on their users, and we're very reluctant to change that. Anyway, let's continue the discussion and perhaps we can come up with a solution which avoids both sets of pitfalls.

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For example, whenever you drag the cursor over the text of the Bible, you might get a tooltip window displaying the Strong's number or grammatical tagging information, but then that information actually obscures your view of the text. In addition, you get an unfortunate visual flashing effect, which is distracting and ultimately tiresome.

 

I think the flashing effect could be ameliorated somewhat if, say, it happened with a smooth, but not too sluggish, visual fade-in (Quartz?). The more serious problem, as David points out, is that the popup over the text would obscure what you were originally looking at. And since you could be conceivably hovering over any part of the window, including near the edges, you would need a way to place the box so it would guarantee no overlap with the item in question and/or obscure as little of the context as possible. This is what the separate ID window solution generally avoids.

 

We could perhaps give you the option to auto-hide the Instant Details box, but even then you would get the constant flashing effect. By the way, the Instant Details box can be opened and closed using the keyboard shortcut command-B, so even now, you can always hide it when you don't need it.

 

I use this shortcut all the time, and I run Accordance maximized with no floating toolbars at all, so I typically park it at the bottom, even if it obscures the bottom of the window, but I find even that placement less than ideal, so I, too wish that there were a better way, be it a size-adjusting-to-content floater or something else.

 

So here are some of my thoughts:

 

1. One limitation (design feature?) of the existing Instant Details (hereafter, ID) box is that it does not dynamically resize (probably, I'm guessing, because it would be a visual distraction). This is fine if most of the abbreviations, verses, etc., were to fit in the box by default. But what if you use it to sporadically check very short abbreviations and then very long verses (which don't fit at a readable point size), and then not at all for extended periods of time? This scenario, which sort of fits me, means that I have to tinker frequently with the ID box size (which also usually means the placement) by dragging the grow handle. At the same time, I'm not sure I'd want it to dynamically resize, since it would probably do so unpredictably.

 

2. I briefly considered what it would be like if ID were available in a pane (probably at the bottom); but that has similar issues: you'd either have to have it resize dynamically (maybe even more disconcerting, since a bigger UI element would probably start sliding around), or you'd have to manually adjust the pane to fit any overly long content (extra mousing).

 

3. I think the Widget Bar in Tiger is a kind of ad-hoc element (any bets on what the background will look like when the next-gen PowerMacs will be redesigned without grater-style panels?), but the way it slides up from the bottom might be a model for a less obtrusive, dynamically resizing, consistently located, ID container. This would, in my mind, have the benefits of being (a) completely out of sight when one doesn't need it, (http://www.accordancebible.com/forums/public/style_emoticons/default/cool.gif appearing smoothly and sliding up as far as it needs to, and is © predictable (unlike long tooltips which would have to calculate to which quadrant around the cursor it would appear to best "fit"). If it used transparency (I know, OS 9 users would probably be out in the cold on this one), one could theoretically also see text it was covering, as well. There would also probably need to be a way to set the default font size so that everything would always remain legible, as well.

 

3.1 A hybrid approach: since ID (e.g., abbreviations) can often be quite short, what if Accordance took a page (no pun intended) from web browsers and had a small status bar (not brushed metallic, please!) at the very bottom? Then, whenever a user moused over any item with short (that is, fitting entirely into the status bar) ID content, it would appear instantly, by default in the status bar; if it didn't fit (say, indicated by ellipsis [...] at the end), and one hovered for more than a second, the whole ID would slide up from the bottom... I like it! http://www.accordancebible.com/forums/public/style_emoticons/default/smile.gif

 

4. At the end of the day, the tooltip style may actually work, too, since many people are used to how it works from other applications like Mail, Word, anything with a toolbar, and it is completely out of the way when one is mousing around at a normal speed, but as soon as one pauses in expectation of more info, it would appear. Still, I don't like the unpredictability factor as noted in 3.c.

 

Now that I've written this post, I think that what I don't like about the existing ID is that it just seems unncessary most of the time (which is why I hide it), but when it's there, I keep thinking that I need to move it/resize it/etc., and "why should I even have to hide it with a keystroke?"

 

J. P.

 

p.s. On another user interface note, I still find navigating the Browser in various long books to be

fairly cumbersome. I can't think of any ways to improve it, but I defiinitely do not enjoy having to click so many disclosure triangles to see what's buried in a table of contents—moving through a printed book is still easier in this respect. Or when you're in an article/subsection, I wish it would auto-expand and highlight the exact level in the hierarchy. But that's a discussion for another time.

 

p.p.s. by the way, I've been working my way through the Accordance Training Seminar DVD, and I have to say it is extremely well done, David! (and a bargain to boot--can you imagine how much you'd normally expect to pay to sit down with a tutor to learn a piece of software?)

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p.s. On another user interface note, I still find navigating the Browser in various long books to be

fairly cumbersome. I can't think of any ways to improve it, but I defiinitely do not enjoy having to click so many disclosure triangles to see what's buried in a table of contents

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Thanks! I found the other shortcuts, as well, in case this was news to anyone else!

 

Tools browser

Option click on triangle scrolls and opens the browser to the selected section

Option click on name selects a range for searching and displaying

Shift-option click on name selects or deselects an additional range

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I like the idea of being able to auto hide the Instant Details Box. That would be a wonderful feature that would allow me to have it off most of the time but have it 'pop up' when I need it but in a place where I choose for it to pop up.

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Ken,

 

We've seen lots of Bible programs which use a floating Tooltips window to display instant information, but I've found that such an approach actually tends to exacerbate the problem of getting in the way of something important.

 

For example, whenever you drag the cursor over the text of the Bible, you might get a tooltip window displaying the Strong's number or grammatical tagging information, but then that information actually obscures your view of the text. In addition, you get an unfortunate visual flashing effect, which is distracting and ultimately tiresome.

 

We could perhaps give you the option to auto-hide the Instant Details box, but even then you would get the constant flashing effect. By the way, the Instant Details box can be opened and closed using the keyboard shortcut command-B, so even now, you can always hide it when you don't need it.

 

Please understand that I'm not trying to shoot down your request. I just want you to be aware of the issues involved. The static and--we hope--unobtrusive nature of the instant details box helps to minimize the visual assault which most Bible programs make on their users, and we're very reluctant to change that. Anyway, let's continue the discussion and perhaps we can come up with a solution which avoids both sets of pitfalls.

 

 

David,

I was giving some more thought to the Instant Details box and I was curious to your thoughts about having and Instant Details pane option. This would clean up the desktop a bit and would avoid the flashing/pop-up effect that some users may find annoying. It would be great if it could be designed to allow the user to capture the displayed data and copy and paste it into a word document. This would allow all the data that is being referenced to be seen and if need be, scrolled through.

 

Just another thought. Let me know what you think.

 

Ken

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Ken,

 

I forgot to deal with your request to be able to copy and paste the information which is displayed in the Instant Details Box. You can do that now by selecting text in a pane and then clicking the Parse button in the Languages section of the Resource palette. This opens a separate window or tab displaying the parsing or Key number information for every word you selected.

 

I don't know how hard this would be to do programmatically, but it might be interesting to have an option to display the parsing information for an entire text in a parallel text pane. We'll certainly look into the possibility.

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There are at least two main scenarios that I'm thinking of:

 

1. grammatically tagged texts, for which this approach might make sense, though, admittedly, I get the feeling that it will end up being information overload--the parsing info is invariably far longer than each word, so practically you'd probably have to read the text one word per line wth the parsing info parallel to it. And from a pedogagical point of view, it's just puttin' the cookies on a lower shelf!

 

2. other tools, which will probably have instant details ranging in length from short abbreviations to unpredictably long footnotes (and you know scholars LOVE footnotes... but I digress). Definitely an argument against a dynamically resizing instant details floating window...

 

Also, if instant details can be frozen, then that implies that the user will have to unfreeze it, and the instantaneity (Tiger's Dictionary, based on the NOAD2, says it is!) becomes selective, and potentially disruptive to the user. So... if the point is to occasionally copy and paste instant details info, why not make it a contextual menu item? Right/control-click the item with the magnifying glass (hm... maybe that violates some UI principle) and have option(s) to copy the info to the clipboard, or spawn a window with just that information... but only if this is occasional.

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Thank you all for the great ideas and feedback. We will certainly implement some of them for version 7 (don't hold your collective breath). :rolleyes:

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