[TxMt] Avoiding hidden menu items and buttons

Michael Henry macromates at drmikehenry.com
Sat Sep 16 11:48:11 UTC 2006


As I've been using TextMate, I've noticed that some of the features  
are, in my opinion, unnecessarily hard to discover.

Certain menu items are hidden from the user unless the user presses  
the option modifier key while holding the menu open.  Pressing option  
causes one of the existing menu items to change meaning.  For  
example, the Edit menu of TextMate has a "Paste Previous" command  
that converts to "Paste Next" when option is pressed.  The Text menu  
has the command "Execute Line Inserting Result" that converts to  
"Execute Line and Replace With Result" when option is pressed.  This  
makes it harder to discover the available commands in TextMate  
because the user must know to press option in order to see these  
hidden menu items.  As a recent Mac switcher, it was a couple of  
months before I realized OS X menus had this hidden capability.   
Besides making features harder to discover, hidden menus are harder  
to select with only the mouse because the user must press "option" to  
have the items available for clicking.  Also, IIRC, there is  
additional difficulty assigning keyboard shortcuts to these menu  
items (I don't remember the details, but I thought there was  
something about this on the TextMate mailing list).

On a related note, certain buttons on dialog boxes are hidden in a  
similar way (for instance, the Find dialog's "Replace" button  
converts to "Replace in Selection" when option is pressed).  There  
are no visible indications that the buttons are dual-purpose; indeed,  
the user may never know they are there unless he stumbles over them  
(as I did) by accidentally pressing option while the dialog box is open.

Would it be possible to avoid using hidden menus and buttons in  
TextMate?  Other than trying to keep the menu length a little shorter  
or the dialog box a bit smaller, I've not come up with a benefit to  
hiding these items from the user, and in my opinion there are several  
benefits to making them visible all the time.

Thanks for your consideration,
Michael Henry

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