Action icons in menus

Miha Čančula miha.cancula at
Mon Dec 13 19:56:17 GMT 2010

I have recently come across an idea on KDE Brainstorm. [1] The proposal is to change the common actions in menus (cut, copy and paste) from text lines to icons, like in application toolbars. It is currently the most popular idea there.

Someone posted a proof-of-concept example of how this can be achieved, and I used it for Dolphin's popup menu. [2] Code-wise, this change is very simle (5 lines of code at most). Qt can embed custom widgets to menu via the QWidgetAction class, and this class can contain a KToolBar. It has to be done for each application, but there's very little work involved. If the idea is accepted, a convenience method or two would be added to KMenu and/or KStandardAction, so there could be a global settings to fall back to current mode. 

However, it is a major change for user interaction. So I'd like to start a discussion whether such a change is desired for KDE applications or not. The pros and cons I can think of right now are:
  1. Biger clickable area => less chance of misclicks
  2. Icons, when they are intuitively identifiable with an action, can be recognised by humans faster and much easier. 
I think the above makes it better from a usability standpoint, but as a programmer I wouldn't know much about that.

  3. For actions that are not easily identifiable by an icon, this is very bad. This is the reason only some of the actions would be converted to icon display, as you can see from the mockups and screenshots. 
  4. It looks (a little) like the ribbon UI. 

I personally believe such a change is a good thing. However, there must be limits. Using it in right-mouse-button menus is one thing, using it in the File menu is another. I would very much like to know how you feel about this. 

Thank you,
Miha Čančula

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