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Where to place the Options menu?

Whereas most menu-bars look quite uniformly today, I find it confusing that the Options/Settings/Preferences dialog seems to have no "standard" location; and no standard name, obviously. (At least under Windows - don't know about other platforms).

A quick survey of applications on my laptop brought up these variants:

Edit>Options...
Edit>Preferences...
Tools>Options...
Tools>Settings...
Tools>Preferences...
Options>Configuration...
Options>Properties...
Admin>Preferences...
View>Settings...,

not to mention several more esoteric possibilities.

So, should we leave that issue to the preference of the UI designer? If not, which convention should I adopt for my next application?

PS: The analogon to File>Open... would be Options>Edit...; I wonder why they reversed the order?
- Roland
Thursday, May 05, 2005
 
 
I think most popular are:

Tools -> Options
Edit -> Preferences

And I like Tools -> Options. :)

JD
JD Send private email
Thursday, May 05, 2005
 
 
BTW, if you have competing commercial product, check what menu location they use.

E.g. Internet Explorer uses Tools -> Options, so to make it easier for the end user, it's natural for Firefox to use Tools -> Options.

JD
JD Send private email
Thursday, May 05, 2005
 
 
I find tools/options completely unituitive. What do tools have anything to do with it. Tools are like things that aren't part of the program, but wait, it is supposed to be one program so what does tools mean?

Edit/Options makes sense because that's my task, to edit something.
son of parnas
Thursday, May 05, 2005
 
 
sons of parnas:

Agreed. On linguistic sense, Tools -> Options doesn't make sense. But there are so many programs who uses this menu item that it sounds like a second nature to me.

IE. All Office Applications. And I don't know how many other apps.

JD
JD Send private email
Thursday, May 05, 2005
 
 
Apple finally got smart with OS X and gave each application a menu with the same name as the app. To me, this is the logical place to put Preferences, as well as Quit and About.

I dno't like the Edit menu, since that's usually associated with text editing. Tools seems to make more sense, and most Microsoft apps have it there. So that seems like the way to go for Windows. Although, looking at the programs I have open now, I can also add Window>Preferences to your list.
JW
Thursday, May 05, 2005
 
 
I prefer an options choice under the Tools menu.  Options are tools that help with how an app works.

I can never understand the choice to put Options under Edit.  I would never do that.
Karl Perry Send private email
Thursday, May 05, 2005
 
 
tools->options

Regardless of my personal opinion on it, the most popular applications use it today and users are likely to look for options under tool than any place else.

For e.g. IE, all office applications, visual studio, and yes  - even firefox.

It's good to keep consistency.(I'm assuming Windows, I know squat about apple apart from owning a shuffle)
v Send private email
Thursday, May 05, 2005
 
 
However, if you do what Firefox did, and have them in different places on different platform builds, I WILL hunt you down and kill you.

Tool > Options under Firefox.win32
Edit > Preferences under Firefox.linux

I know they're trying to be consistent with the platform, but ye gods, if you use more than one platform regularly, it's equivalent to someone breaking into your house at night and rearranging the furniture.
Andrew Cherry Send private email
Friday, May 06, 2005
 
 
> I can never understand the choice to put Options under Edit.  I would never do that.

It's simple: it's so you can 'edit' the 'options'  :)

Yeah, that actually makes sense to some people. Don't ask me why.

+1 for apple leading the way, a bit too late for everyone else to follow, it seems.  The ever popular "be the same as Office" and "don't change the retarded unhelpful things that people are used to" ideas have screwed us all.

Friday, May 06, 2005
 
 
> The ever popular "be the same as Office" and "don't change the retarded unhelpful things that people are used to" ideas have screwed us all.

Good point. I hadn't associated it with office. That's a lot of power.
son of parnas
Sunday, May 08, 2005
 
 
Short answer: No good place currently exists. Putting Options under the application menu in OSX is great, given that options are basically the user-modifiable attributes of the application, but I assume you're not developing for OSX or you'd already have the answer.
"Edit" doesn't really make sense. Edit menu items are general purpose functions that alter the document you're working on (or at least control selection within your document). Are there really people who naively think "I want to edit my Options"? I can only assume these same people try to open a file under the Edit menu because they want to "edit a document." Or maybe they want to "view a document." I think the real reason Options/Preferences were ever under Edit was because some style guide (I think it was pre-OSX Apple) wanted it under *some* standard existing menu, and couldn't see putting it under File or Help.
"Tools" only seems to make sense to so many because that's what MS does. Personally, I hate the Tools menu. What the hell is a Tool? Certainly has nothing to do with my Toolbars --they're controlled under View. How exactly is Spell Checker more a tool to the user than, say, Find and Replace? "Tools" appears to mean "some features that are not necessarily key to the application we think." In other words, you might as well label it "Miscellaneous." Well, that's why MS put Options there. Couldn't think of anywhere else to put it but in the junk drawer. I wouldn't put Options under Tools because I wouldn’t have a Tools menu.
So no good place *currently* exists. My advice is follow the old Motif style and have a separate Options menu. With the size of monitors these days, it's not like we're short of space in the menu bar. If your Options dialog box has multiple tabs, consider breaking it up into multiple dialog boxes with access to each from a separate menu item in your new Options menu.  Assuming users can tell where to look for a particular option, that'll give them faster access to it.
Except that I hate "Options" as a menu or menu item name too. Yeah, MS does it, but in the vernacular *every* menu item is an option --it's something the user can choose to do. "Preferences" is fine, but I would prefer "Customize" as a menu name.
Sorry to rant.
Michael Zuschlag Send private email
Monday, May 09, 2005
 
 
> Are there really people who naively think "I want to edit my Options"?

I guess i am one. My task is to change stuff. That means edit. That is as deep as my thinking goes on the subject.
son of parnas
Monday, May 09, 2005
 
 
Do stuff the Microsoft way. Tools -> Options.

Joel's explanation:

  1. Even if it's not right, if Microsoft is doing it in a popular program like Word, Excel, Windows, or Internet Explorer, then millions of people are going to think that it's right, or at least, fairly standard, and they are going to assume that your program works the same way. Even if you think (as the Netscape 6.0 engineers clearly do) that Alt+Left is not a good shortcut key for "Back", there are literally millions of people out there who will try to use Alt+Left to go back, and if you refuse to do it on some general religious principle that Bill Gates is the evil smurf arch-nemesis Gargamel, then you are just gratuitously ruining your program so that you can feel smug and self-satisfied, and your users will not thank you for it.
  2. And don't be so sure it's not right. Microsoft spends more money on usability testing than you do, they keep detailed statistics based on millions of tech support phone calls, and there's a darn good chance that they did it that way because more people can figure out how to use it that way.
Colm O'Connor Send private email
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
 
 
>  And don't be so sure it's not right. Microsoft spends more money on usability testing than you do,

And 20 years ago some programmer probably stuck it somewhere for who knows why and MS can't change it either now.
son of parnas
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
 
 
>And 20 years ago some programmer probably stuck
>it somewhere for who knows why and MS can't
>change it either now.

If there's a definitive reason why it's the wrong place to put it, somebody on this thread would probably have come up with it by now.
Colm O'Connor Send private email
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
 
 
Why not put it in a couple places in the menu?
Spike
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
 
 
Only use multiple places if the options clearly belong to different features. The only thing worse than hunting for the right option in an options dialog is hunting for the right option in *several* options dialogs!
Chris Nahr Send private email
Thursday, May 12, 2005
 
 
About Firefox:

I know Firefox on Debian has Preferences in the Edit menu, but I always thought that was a Debian-thing, not a Firefox thing.

I haven't checked out an offical Unix-version straight from Mozilla, so I don't know where it is in non-Debian builds. Andrew, do you use a Debian build or another one?
Roel Schroeven Send private email
Thursday, May 12, 2005
 
 
Sorry, scratch that. I installed Firefox straight from mozilla.org, and it also has Edit->Preferences.

That's not good, both because I think Firefox should be consistent between the different platforms and because I think the Edit menu should be for editing your document, not for changing the settings.
Roel Schroeven Send private email
Thursday, May 12, 2005
 
 

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