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Subject: Re: [docbook-apps] oXygen 9 beta with WYSIWYG-like editing supportfor DocBook

George Cristian Bina wrote:
> Dear Eliotte,
> Thank you for your remark.
> The Bold, Italic and Underline actions are part of the customization we 
> defined as default for DocBook and they were added like that considering 
> that people are very familiar with the *B*, /I/ and _U_ type of icons 
> and they were added as shortcuts to insert different emphasis levels.
> I understand your point and we should correct the name and description 
> tool tips for these actions (they read now Bold, Italic and Underline) 
> to clearly specify that they insert emphasis.

Changing the visual representation of bold, italic, and underline isn't 
the point. There shouldn't be any visual or other representations of 
these actions when editing a semantic document. These shouldn't be such 
actions in the first place. Users should be offered semantic actions. 
Presentational actions would be appropriate only if they're editing a 

I also question whether there should be icons at all. There’s a common 
but mistaken belief that proper user interface design requires lots of 
pictures and icons. In fact, it doesn’t. Many concepts and actions can 
be fully and best conveyed by text. While standard icons for directories 
and disks and the like can be helpful, custom icons for an application’s 
unique actions rarely are. The fact is, most icons are not 
self-explanatory; and if they’re not common enough to be standardized, 
they’re not common enough to be learned easily.

Nonetheless, many applications persist in creating pointless, 
incomprehensible toolbars. Icon design is hard. It is not something that 
just any art school graduate with mad Photoshop skills can accomplish. 
Icon design is about conveying an idea with pictures. not merely making 
a 32×32 bitmap look pretty. It’s hard enough coming up with a good icon 
for basic actions like cut and paste. Now try imagining one for “Analyze 
Module Dependencies” or “View Breakpoints”. There’s a reason Susan Kare 
gets the big bucks.

You might be able to come up with good visual for foreignterm, 
wordasword, variable, and so forth. However I suspect they'd be mostly 
text anyway. I suspect the best interface here would not be a toolbar 
with icons at all, but something more like BBEdit's HTML palette. 
Sometimes the best representation of an action is a word.

Elliotte Rusty Harold  elharo@metalab.unc.edu
Java I/O 2nd Edition Just Published!

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