KDE HIG: Configuration dialogs

I started to write down some guidelines for configuration dialogs in KDE4. The major differences to KDE3 are:

  • Do not overload your configuration dialogs!
  • Avoid the usage of tree views in the sidebar of paged dialogs.
  • Set the dialog's maximum size to 800x600 Pixels.
  • Make sure all dialog pages are sized equally, so the dialog does not resize.
  • Provide vertical and horizontal scrollbars on each tab (hide them by default). This allows users who require big font sizes to reach all contents while they can see the tab titles and reach the OK/Cancel buttons.
  • Separate advanced preferences from frequently used ones.

Please review the guidelines and give me feedback. I'm basically interested in everything - if you agree on the contents, the format, if there are parts missing, if you need more examples, more concrete guidelines etc. Also, in the lower part of the page, there are some suggestions for new widgets in the standard sections I'd like to see feedback for (font and color requester). You can either use this blog's comment section or write an email to ellen kde org).


800x600 is too big for an 800x600 display. It should be around 750x450. That way the panel, scrollbars, windeco, etc. will all fit.

By dimitrirz at Mon, 03/12/2007 - 23:54

For the lifetime of KDE 4, the low resolution of 800x600 shouldn't matter at all. Even the number of people running 1024x768 is declining rapidly nowadays.

By carlo at Tue, 03/13/2007 - 01:37

There are many _new_ and rather cheap laptops with 1024 native resolution available.

But yes, native 800x600 is relatively hard to find.

However, let's think about people with larger fonts set up...

By Jarosław Staniek at Tue, 03/13/2007 - 20:25

> However, let's think about people with larger fonts set up...

True, but these people* (should) run larger screens. It's an argument against a hardcoded maximum of the dialog size, though.

Also, when you have a complex application with necessarily lots of stuff to configure, personally I'd prefer a fullscreen dialog and even having to scroll in it, instead having to open and close lots of smaller configuration dialogs (which usability-wise is as much a pita as deeply nested dialogs are).

*me included

By carlo at Fri, 03/16/2007 - 01:38

> Set the dialog's maximum size to 800x600 Pixels.

What does this mean? That a dialog window is designed for max. 800x600 pixels, without the possibility to enlarge it? If so, this would be a step backwards. I use e.g. the KDE 3.x file open/save dialogs opened to full screen size for a reason.

edit: Ah, should've followed the link before posting. As it's for configuration diaogs only, I probably can live with it.

By carlo at Tue, 03/13/2007 - 01:29

In a KDE3 application there are normally four "root" entries to the configuration forest: shortcuts, toolbars, notifications, and "general" settings. I notice that according to your guide, for KDE4, notifications will be merged into "general". But what about the other two: should not they be merged as well? I am not entirely convinced myself, but it is something to consider at least. Alternatively, the shortcuts and toolbars settings could perhaps be merged with each other: they are in a sense the same, except one deals with shortcuts for the mouse, the other with shortcuts for the keyboard.

An even stronger case can be made, I think, for the frequent case where there are additional configuration entry points that exist just because of the way the program was written. The most common case is that plug ins have their own menu. In Konqueror we have "extensions" and "spell checking". As a user I don't care much what was implemented in a program itself and what was added as a plug in. A feature which is a plug in in one, say, text editor may well be hard coded in another. So I believe it makes sense to have a guideline that says that the topology of the configuration forest should be based only on what is logical from the perspective of the user, not on what was the most convenient structure for the programmer.

Just some thoughts: I don't know the exact scope of the documents you are writing.

By martin at Tue, 03/13/2007 - 03:09

Think requiring that the content of the dialog must fit on a 800x600 screen is very good, but preventing resizing is not good.
If I want to use large fonts and a big screen I would have to scroll the window even if it all could fit on the screen. Besides there might be lists or other widgets that would allow more information to be shown if the user re-sizes the dialog.

By sars at Tue, 03/13/2007 - 07:13

Can you clarify the 800x600 pixel rule?
I see only problems with enforcing such a strict rule:
- The user may use a different system font from that used by the developer
- The dialog may have widgets that would benefit from more space
- The user may use a different language with longer messages

Basically, I have always interpreted the 800x600 rule as a way to ensure windows would look good in a great variety of environments, and not as a goal in its own.

I know you should be aware of these already... so why such a rigid guideline?

By mikelima at Tue, 03/13/2007 - 08:59

I see the guidelines you have linked to are worded differently...
From them I don't see a strict 800x600 maximum rule.

However, it may not be easy to ensure the minimum size is respected... trying to do that with Qt3 was not reliable. Maybe things have improved with Qt4, however.

By mikelima at Tue, 03/13/2007 - 09:16

Thanks for the 800x600 rule!

I've gotten a bigger screen so I can put Windows next to each other. None of my standard windows are maximized anymore. The only exception is KDevelop, but well, it's nice to have a single focus when you're coding.

I don't think there should be a maximum limit though. Windows has a lot of fixed dialogs, which is really annoying. But I'm curious how it will work out though.

btw, do you have any plans to include information about "negative space" in the configuration dialogs?

By vdboor at Tue, 03/13/2007 - 09:29