The size of a dialog

July 27, 2007

While working on the Qt4 prototype of the dialog, more precisely on the settings panes (the ones that can be changed using the icons), I came across the following dilemma:

How large should a dialog, a printing dialog, be?

Not an easy question. Believe me.

Going back to examples seen in other applications and operating systems there are two possibilities:

  1. Very small dialog. This has the advantage of not using to much screen space. Allowing the user to keep an eye on the original window. Mac OS X has a pretty small dialog. They achieve this by having many, many different panes. The multitude of panes is a real downside in my opinion. Another problem is the limited space to layout the different widgets in the pane (the reason I started wondering about dialog size).
  2. A large dialog. On small screens this is a real pain in the ass. I’ve often had a dialog that wasn’t shown correctly on my 14 inch laptop screen. Buttons or other widgets that weren’t shown on screen simply because the dialog is too big. On the other hand, it gives the designer of the dialog much more freedom for his layout. Allowing him to use icons and other graphics. Something I would really like to do.

So for now the question remains unanswered. I continue to work on the layout of the individual settings panes. Because in the end, that’s where the real configuration is done.

Now for something completly unrelated: My “analog” live has been quite hectic the last few days. Today I almost bought a house. Yep, we found what we were looking for. Unfortunatly, we weren’t the first to find it and the house was sold right before our nose.

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One Response to “The size of a dialog”

  1. Cristian Tibirna Says:

    Very good observation. I have a personal principle that says that a tool window shouldn’t take more than 60% of the screen space usually taken by its parent window. Almost all printing is utilitary for applications. Even considering the not necessarily frequent case of users running all windows maximized, KPrinter dialog shouldn’t take 60% of the physical screen. This is the maximum.

    Now, the KDE guidelines were imposing some time ago that all applications be able to run normally on a 800×600 display. Thus, you get a ballpark maximum KPrinter window size of 480×360 pixels. This is really small.

    Today’s KPrinter takes approx 520×300 in its simplest form (no options) and 520×550 with options tabs expanded. Would we be able to keep ourselves to these maxima?

    Of course, everybody dreams of the day where GUIs will be designed vectorial, so they can smoothly adapt to varying display dimensions. But for now, your question is valid and the answer is difficult. I hope the above helps you a bit.


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