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Dialog Boxes, Focus, Placement, and Growl

Posted by notKlaatu , 22 December 2008 · 212 views

As usual, I am writing as a non-programmer and have no clue as to what exactly I am talking about...but I have noticed in practically every distro of Linux and the various versions of OS X that I have used, that Dialogue Boxes do one of two things:1. steal focus at inopportune times2. pop up where ever they so pleaseI understand that sometimes stealing focus is necessary; if it's a warning of some kind, it may really need to stop you from whatever you are doing so that you can attend to whatever emergency is going on. A low battery warning, for instance, is important enough to steal focus. Or a warning that if you continue going down the path you are on, you might fry your CPU or whatever. But usually having focus stolen from what you are really doing by a random dialogue box is NOT preferable.And then there's the issue of placement. It's a sick mind game the OS plays on you; where will the dialogue box pop up next? Sometimes it pops up in the middle of the screen. Sometimes it will use the placement of its parent window, and pop up in the middle of that. Other times it seems to be completely arbitrary.Small diversion for a moment, but please follow me on this....If I want to know what time it is, I generally know where to look on the screen to see a clock. The most all-encompassing way to describe it would be "at the end of the kicker or panel" -- that's as generic as it gets, yet completely consistent and accurate; on Flux, it's at the right end of the panel. On KDE it's on the right end of hte kicker. On Gnome it's at the right of the top panel. On OS X it's on the right of the menu bar. Sure I can change most of these (well not OS X's of course!) but the defaults are always pretty predictable.So.....how about the concept of a Dialogue Box Corner? One corner for all dialogue boxes -- the user could choose which one but I propose a default being near one of the usual corners for clocks...top right or bottom right. The user's eye would not only know where to look when searching for a dialogue box that they may expect to be popping up, and their eye will also become acclimated to noticing activity in this corner so that when an uninvited or unexpected dialogue box pops up, it will catch their eye.Makes sense, right? I think it is "Growl" that does something like this already. I could be wrong on the name...but there is some system dialogue notification that occurs on the bottom right of my screen on a number of my systems...I think primarily for Firefox but possibly other apps too... It's just a little sliding box that creeps up onto my desktop -- never fails to get my attention and yet does it gently and unobtrusively -- and tells me something interesting, like "All Downloads Complete" or whatever. And then, as if it detects my gaze, after I have read it, it creeps back off screen. It's a beautiful thing...so much so that I was convinced it was a figment of my imagination for a long time. But it's real, it exists, and it works like a charm.I wonder if this could be implemented system wide on ALL operating systems, because that would rock. IMHO.

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