KDE 4: Text labels underneath toolbar icons

Dennis P dennis_p at quicknet.nl
Fri Jan 12 20:16:54 GMT 2007

First a rant.

KDE 4 will feature text labels underneath toolbar icons by default. As 
explained in http://oxygen-icons.org/users/david/?p=31 the texts spread the 
icons too much. The suggested solution is simple: make shorter text labels, 
the 9 characters of "Save as" are clearly too long and should just 
be "Save", "New message" should be "Write" or maybe "Compose" should be 
allowed which still uses 7 characters.

So I guess other languages than English should just make up new words that use 
7 or less characters. Alternatively they could just put the same short word 
underneath each icon which still clearly indicates that an action will be 
executed when you click it; translated, the toolbar would read "Go Go Go Go 
Go" and be both esthetically pleasing, informative and complying to KDE 4 

So this solution cannot work, not all languages have designed a short-form 
thesaurus list. This KDE 4 UI design decision has been held up for more then 
a year (I have not fought it, I can appreciate text labels if it helps most 
users) but for it to be workable in an international DE it would require 
programming a solution. But like the other UI designers I can't program. So 
let me stop ranting and present a solution I have designed which would solve 
this problem and clean up even some more UI clutter. I hope someone can pick 
this up.

The labels should become static-dynamic on mouse-over. Switching between 
showing all the odd labels at once and showing all the even labels at once as 
a default, this doubles the text real-estate for each label and keeps things 
predictable for the user. The icons can remain equally spaced apart.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

When a label still crosses another labels boundary it gets devalued and will 
only be shown on mouse over. For example: if uneven label 1 crosses into 
uneven label 3 that  would mean that label 1 would not be shown when you 
mouse over uneven label 5.

Now the programmer in you will probably think of logically similar cases: what 
if label 7 and 8 are also too big to be shown could we show the labels of 
both 1 and 7 when you mouse over 1 or 7? And could we show label 1 when you 
mouse over label 8? Yes, I like how you think. Most labels don't fit? Then 
switch to 1 in 3 labels being displayed at the same time.

Now that the text label bar underneath the icons has 2 or more instances 
depending on mouse over what if we add another instance? An empty one? Yes, 
the statusbar for applications that don't permanently use their statusbar. 
Let's clean up some screen clutter instead of just adding to it. So in 
Kolourpaint all the meta data about the picture and active tools would remain 
at the bottom status bar, while in Konqueror the status bar is removed and 
when there is something to tell about the current status it gets displayed 
underneath the icons of the toolbar, unless you mouse over the status bar or 
the icon-tool-bar then the icon labels are shown. Otherwise the label / 
status bar is clean.

So let us not add another gray strip to the window dressing but let us design 
something better by reusing the status-bar instead. Any comments?

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