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.


A number of people have commented on the report saying they would like to keep the advanced settings available in the current KDE dialog. Let me start by saying I have no intention to reduce the number of settings just to make the dialog simpler. My goal is to give access to all settings in a way that will make the dialog simpler.

That being said, I’ll write some more about my progress. I’m currently trying to design a prototype of the dialog in KDevelop. Coming from a Java background, Qt is pretty straightforward. The documentation at and is very, very good. The only thing I’m missing is a page like A visual guide to Swing components: a quick (visual) overview of all components along with code examples, api documentation etc. I get the feeling that this information for Qt is spread out over a number of websites.

Another thing I noticed is the quality of QtDesigner. I’ve tried the Eclipse Visual editor thingy and the Netbeans Matisse editor, but always ended up doing the ui by hand. Because GridBagLayout isn’t as hard as it looks… But not with QtDesigner and KDevelop. The visual editor is good.

Here it is. Let the discussion begin…

KDE Printing dialog proposal v0.2

I am currently working on a report about printing dialogs. The report will present the design I propose for the KDE print dialog. It will discuss a number of printing dialogs used by other major desktop environment, operating systems or applications.

The report is going well. Writing the text is not that hard, most of the ideas and results where allready there. Gathering screenshots for all the different dialogs is proving a bit harder, but nothing that cannot be done.

Tomorrow the report should be finished. I will make it public on this blog as a PDF file. My main hope is for the report to spark some discussion about my proposal and print dialogs in general. I am not a usability expert, so input from other people is all I have next to my own experience.