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Chris Crawford 2012-06-15 06:12 PM

Clumsy approach
Whenever I select a tool from the icon bar at the top (selection, shape, line, or text), I must use the pulldown menu to "Inspect Style" in order to set the parameters I wish. This seems a clumsy way to handle this task; I would expect a product as elegantly engineered as OmniGraffle to automatically bring up the appropriate style options in the Inspector. Instead, it seems strangely stupid here.

My guess is that the fault is entirely my own, that there is in fact a way to insure that the Inspector mirrors the tool selected, but I've not been able to find it. Could somebody reveal whatever it is that is right in front of my nose and invisible to me?

john.gersh 2012-06-18 06:12 AM

Option-click the tool.

Chris Crawford 2012-06-18 08:44 AM

Thanks, John, for clearing that up for me.

I wonder, is this good design? OmniGraffle is so elegant in its user interface; this arrangement seems like Laurel & Hardy at the Grand Ball. Should the system be reversed: simply clicking on the tool resets the Inspectors, while Option-Clicking preserves the existing Inspector arrangement. Is there any reason why a user would want to preserve the Inspector settings while changing tools?

The user of Option-clicking is another questionable act. It's dangerous because it's invisible; the only way to learn about it is to scour the manual. I did read the entire manual at one point, but the problem with manuals is that you read the information long before you need it, and such information seldom sticks in the mind. I cannot think of any situation in which I would recommend Option-clicking. If I had to use Option-clicking, I would at the very least describe the function in the tooltip. There's no law of user interface design requiring tooltips to be terse.

Food for thought. And thanks again for straightening me out.

whpalmer4 2012-06-18 09:28 AM

The behavior is configurable in the Tool Preferences section of the OmniGraffle preferences.

MatthewS 2012-06-18 10:43 AM

I set my workspace to have most of the inspectors open at all times (though it requires a large desktop) -- Window > Workspaces > Edit Workspaces.

Chris Crawford 2012-06-18 11:29 AM

Interesting! It IS in the Preferences dialog -- but I failed to see it. That's because the label on the radio button is "Inspect a tool". That is shorthand for "set the Inspector to display all options associated with the selected tool".

This is a beautiful example of one of the trickiest problems in user interface design. Designers are so close to the work that they take for granted lots of things that users might not notice. And once a user has figured it out, it seems obvious. The problem is that some users -- like me -- might not figure it out. This is truly a killer problem in UI design and I think that the OmniGraffle designers made a small misstep here. Had I been the designer, I think I would have gone for a more verbose label such as "Update Inspector to reflect selected tool" {with click | with option-click}. Moreover, I would have added a tooltip explaining what that means in greater detail.

But UI design is a very subjective matter.

MatthewS 2012-06-20 02:46 PM

It's true UI is a slippery topic, and I agree that sometimes apps will do something weird for no apparent reason. Sometimes I wonder if an app has patented some kind behavior which forces competitors to work around it.

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