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OmniFocus review/critique from TidBITS Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Howdy,

I'd like to add some more about why we made the UI decisions we did for the controls in the main content area.

The reason the cells light up as you mouse over them is because we want to make it clear exactly where the cells are for the row you're interested in. The article claims that the column header is all that's necessary to find the cell you want, but we'd actually have to add a grid, and require the column titles to be visible all the time, in order to make every cell's position pinpointable. Those are both things that we thought would detract from the focus on the content that is necessary for an app we expect you to look at dozens of times a day, every day of your life. Personally, I'd like the controls to fade in after a fraction of a second, but we probably wouldn't do that until we're on CoreAnimation.

As for why we didn't use standard Cocoa controls in the content area, it's because it's a content area. A few controls carefully arranged on a preference pane, inspector, or sheet look fine. But those heavy Aqua controls stacked up among arbitrary amounts of user data can get pretty ghastly. And nobody expects Aqua controls to appear and disappear based on something as transitory as selection, so only showing them for the selected items wouldn't work either. So we made our own flat-looking controls. The Smart Match cells already needed to be custom controls in order to do our string guessing anyway. Everywhere else that it's feasible, we do like to use standard Cocoa controls.

A lot of the points in the TidBITS article, such as letting the user know that the view is filtered, showing more information in the main outline, and improving the way our completion cells work, are things we're already working on for future versions of OmniFocus. I think we've done a good job for version 1.0, and I'm really excited for how much better we can do in version 2.0.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toadling View Post
I'm having a hard time imagining how this supposed sidebar/main view highlighting would look. I can't think a single application where this is done. Like Brian stated above, this seems to be a missing feature in the Cocoa framework. Can you explain how it would look, or better yet, name an example where you've seen it done?
From a quick glance it's hard to tell which area is active:

Click for full size - Uploaded with plasq's Skitch

vs.

Click for full size - Uploaded with plasq's Skitch

So a good start would be to use the invers highlight in the sidebar when selected and active:

Click for full size - Uploaded with plasq's Skitch

<four image per posting limit, continue reading in next posting>
 
The remaining problem is: what to do when nothing is selected (leaving out "selected but not visible") like this:

Click for full size - Uploaded with plasq's Skitch

What happens when I hit ctrl+cmd+9 in this situation? It's Murphy's law in action.

At the moment I'm not aware of an application solving that issue in any way. But these applications unlike OF show nothing in the main view when nothing is selected in the sidebar, have a special root item for "everything" in the sidebar or don't allow to select nothing in the sidebar. That brings us to the question: do we need a sidebar with no item selected at all?

A visual clue I could think of would be a blueish halo around the active area when nothing is selected:

Click for full size - Uploaded with plasq's Skitch


Quote:
Originally Posted by Toadling View Post
As for the collapse behavior of the disclosure triangles, I don't really have a problem with them. But then, I'd gotten used to them in OmniOutliner years before OmniFocus was even released. And usually, I navigate using the keyboard with right and left arrow of collapse/expand nodes. So maybe it's just a matter of familiarity.
The triangle itself is fine but! ;)

I create a project and enter a name for it. After that most of the time I don't rename the project anymore but open and close it when reviewing and planing. But the triangle is really small and the rename function (clicking on the title) is huuuge. The function most in use gets the least screen estate and vice versa.

Related problem with Context, Folder, Due, header rows: vast amount of space with no use at all, but to collapse or expand I have to target this tiny triangle instead of just a single click onto the row somewhere.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Toadling View Post
That doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. But Matt Neuburg's fuss over them just doesn't seem like a real world issue. Who sits there toggling the triangle open and close over and over again (other than Matt Neuburg and us, that is)?
Hey, 10 sec a day for unnecessary complicated item toggling is 1 hour in your life this year you will never get back. Not to mention the endless hours on the internet spend talking about it. ;)

Last edited by Schlaefer; 2008-05-02 at 12:53 AM..
 
I have just the opposite problem from Matt: I often accidentally collapse or expand something when I'm just trying to select it. This was especially true for action groups before I realized that you can click far to the left of them (well outside the area that gets highlighted when the group is selected) and they'll still get selected.
 
Schlaefer, thanks for the nice screen mock-ups! I agree that it can sometimes be hard to tell if the sidebar or main content area has focus. It's an issue that exists in many OS X apps but is particularly noticeable in OmniFocus because of its outlining capabilities with lots of collapsible nodes in both the sidebar and the content area.

I wonder if the "Collapse All" and "Expand All" options weren't available, would this issue have even come up? The only other app I can think of with similar capabilities is Apple Mail with its "Expand All Threads" and "Collapse All Threads" options. But those clearly only apply to items in the app's content area, so it doesn't matter where focus is. Consequently, it avoids the issue altogether.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Schlaefer View Post
So a good start would be to use the invers highlight in the sidebar when selected and active
Yes, I agree. And that seem to be what most apps are relying on these days.

But doesn't OmniFocus already do this? When I have something selected in both the sidebar and the main content area, and then toggle focus back and forth between the two areas using Command-4, I can see the active region has blue highlighting while the inactive region's highlighting turns gray. Isn't this what you're talking about?

Maybe the highlight color set via System Preferences -> Appearance also makes a difference. If you use the silver or graphite options, visibility may be reduced. I have mine set to the default blue.

So it seems like the only thing that might be done here is to increase the contrast of the current selection to increase its prominence. What do you think?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Schlaefer View Post
The remaining problem is: what to do when nothing is selected (leaving out "selected but not visible") ...

At the moment I'm not aware of an application solving that issue in any way. But these applications unlike OF show nothing in the main view when nothing is selected in the sidebar, have a special root item for "everything" in the sidebar or don't allow to select nothing in the sidebar. That brings us to the question: do we need a sidebar with no item selected at all?
This is actually something that was discussed on this forum last December (see posts near the end of this thread). OmniFocus has a hidden preference to leave the main content area empty when there's no sidebar selection:

Code:
defaults write com.omnigroup.OmniFocus LeaveEmptySelectionEmpty -bool YES
I vastly prefer this behavior over the OmniFocus' default behavior of showing everything when there's no sidebar selection. Not only does it help you determine if the sidebar or main content area has focus, but it's also lightning fast when switching between planning and context modes with no selection (presumably because nothing needs to be rendered in the main content area). I think this behavior is also more consistent with other OS X apps (e.g. Apple Mail, Yojimbo, etc.).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Schlaefer View Post
A visual clue I could think of would be a blueish halo around the active area when nothing is selected
That possibility did occur to me, but can't think of any other app that does that. And I wonder if it would be too garish. But it's certainly something to consider.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Schlaefer View Post
I create a project and enter a name for it. After that most of the time I don't rename the project anymore but open and close it when reviewing and planing. But the triangle is really small and the rename function (clicking on the title) is huuuge. The function most in use gets the least screen estate and vice versa.
That's a really good point. But, at least in my case, it only holds true for the sidebar, where I do more toggling than renaming. But in the main content area, I think I'm more likely to do renaming.

Either way, you and Matt Neuburg are probably right in that it'd be nice if the disclosure triangle had a slightly larger target area.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Schlaefer View Post
Hey, 10 sec a day for unnecessary complicated item toggling is 1 hour in your life this year you will never get back. Not to mention the endless hours on the internet spend talking about it. ;)
Ha ha, you are so right about that!
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian View Post
I'm personally not a fan of the window-widening behavior, but I can tell you it was implemented in preference to having a horizontal scroll bar in OmniFocus windows.
One thing that might be worth mentioning is that this is actually normal window behavior in OS X. It's just that other applications add an extra column (Finder, for example), and we simply can't do that in OmniFocus when one of the main objectives is to elimate distraction.
 
One possible solution to the sidebar/content area focus issue would be to fade the text in the non-selected region (e.g. make it 60% grey if not selected). Alternatively, it is only really necessary to indicate if one or the other area is selected at any one time and not both, so why not just make it very obvious when the content area is not selected and forget about indicating whether the sidebar is selected or not.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JKT View Post
One possible solution to the sidebar/content area focus issue would be to fade the text in the non-selected region (e.g. make it 60% grey if not selected).
But wouldn't that reduce legibility of the content area as you browse your projects by clicking on their names in the sidebar? It seem like this proposal assumes that the user is concentrating on where the focus is, but that's not always the case.
 
Not necessarily - it would depend on how much fading was done - it only has to be a subtle shift to be noticeable - e.g. the entries in the Context area are already at a %grey and are not fully black, and they are easy to read still.

Alternatively, make the context area background a 10 or 20% grey instead.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JKT View Post
Not necessarily - it would depend on how much fading was done - it only has to be a subtle shift to be noticeable - e.g. the entries in the Context area are already at a %grey and are not fully black, and they are easy to read still.

Alternatively, make the context area background a 10 or 20% grey instead.
Hmm, that would be interesting to see. Those sound like some good ideas to try.
 
 


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