Browse Prior Art Database

Enhancing Scrollable Output Fields for Increased Usability

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000114426D
Original Publication Date: 1994-Dec-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Mar-28
Document File: 4 page(s) / 130K

Publishing Venue

IBM

Related People

Johnson, DK: AUTHOR [+3]

Abstract

In order for an output field under the current implementation to be able to receive the focus, it must be defined in advance to display scroll arrows as well. This is true even if the text is assured of being able to fit in the available space. These scroll arrows will never be usable, will appear disabled, and will clutter up the window and confuse the user. Disclosed is a technique that can be used to overcome all these usability problems, providing the best of all worlds to designers, developers, and users of the applications.

This text was extracted from an ASCII text file.
This is the abbreviated version, containing approximately 41% of the total text.

Enhancing Scrollable Output Fields for Increased Usability

      In order for an output field under the current implementation
to be able to receive the focus, it must be defined in advance to
display scroll arrows as well.  This is true even if the text is
assured of being able to fit in the available space.  These scroll
arrows will never be usable, will appear disabled, and will clutter
up the window and confuse the user.  Disclosed is a technique that
can be used to overcome all these usability problems, providing the
best of all worlds to designers, developers, and users of the
applications.

      In an OS/2* Presentation Manager* (PM) graphical user
interface, output field controls are used to display text to the user
that is determined at runtime based on the current operating
environment.  These output fields have the same functionality as
static text; that is, they cannot receive the focus and have no
capability of scrolling if the output text is longer than the space
reserved for it on the window.

      In an application based on the Window Management System (WMS),
an IBM-internal application user interface development tool, some of
the shortcomings of output fields have been overcome, but at the cost
of visual clutter and possible user confusion.  Output fields can be
defined at application compile time to be scrollable.  This means
that when the window is displayed, scroll arrows are visible at each
end of the output field control.  If the output field text is larger
than the allotted space, the scroll arrows can be used to scroll the
text so that it can be read fully.  Clicking on the scrollable output
field also gives it the focus.

      The importance of a control being able to receive the focus is
two-fold.  Only controls that have the focus can provide contextual
help when the F1 key is pressed.  Information line text, a short
description of the control function displayed on a line at the bottom
of a window, is also displayed only when a control has the focus.
Good usability requires that all controls on a window be able to
provide these two functions.  A control cannot do this without being
able to receive the focus.

      Because windows have to be defined at application compile time,
application designers must decide in advance of runtime whether an
output field should be scrollable.  This means output fields either
always display scroll arrows and get the focus or they never do.
Because output text is dynamic as the application is run, it is hard
to know in advance whether scrollability is needed.  The designer
either has to make the output field scrollable or leave enough space
on the window to allow for longer text.  Scroll arrows are confusing
when they are not needed, while extra space not used on the window
looks unprofessional.  Providing scroll arrows is the normal choice,
since this also provides the output field with the ability to get the
focus, a big usability bonus.

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