Re: FAQ -- why the MSDI interface? (aka, no pagers please)

Subject: Re: FAQ -- why the MSDI interface? (aka, no pagers please)
From: Paul Rohr (
Date: Sat Aug 18 2001 - 18:43:36 CDT

At 03:22 PM 8/16/01 -0600, Tim LaDuca wrote:
>I think there is only one very specific problem with the current
>MSDI interface, and that is the ambiguity of File->close. If I
>start AbiWord, it opens with a new blank document. I did not ask
>for this blank document, so I would expect that File->Open opens
>the document in the same window(say by-bye to the blank new
>document. Currently this is exactly how abiword behaves.

Excellent description. Thanks. :-) Next time I'll respond to the posts in
order, so I won't have to introduce the window reuse argument myself.

>If I now
>go to File-Close, I would expect abiword to return to it's state
>before I did File-> open. That is, return to a blank new document.
>Currently however, that is not what happens, instead AbiWord
>closes. I beleive this is what a majority of the people
>complaining about the MSDI interface (including myself) have a
>problem with.
>When a document is already open, we have consistent behavior. File-
>Open opens a new window. File-Close returns abiword to the state
>it was in before I chose File->Open, that is, it closes the window.

I've gotta admit that this is a creative solution I'd never thought of. Do
most church secretaries think in stack frames like that? If so, will they
revoke my geek credentials? ;-)

I always had a different narrative to explain what happened. In any modern
desktop, there are two ways to launch an application:

  - with a document (double-click the document)
  - with no document (double-click the app)

In the latter case, it's quite friendly of AbiWord to give you an empty
Untitled document, because that's almost certainly what you want to do.
Yes, it's a guess, but in this context it's a very very good one.

However, if for some reason what you "really" wanted to do was work on an
existing document, for example:

  - you forgot to specify the document when you launched AbiWord,
  - you knew it was on the MRU (most recently used) menu,
  - your desktop is broken and you can't double-click documents,
  - you just *like* using cramped dialogs to find files, or
  - some other perfectly valid reason,

then, well, the Untitled guess was wrong. In that case, the only polite
thing for AbiWord to do is say:

  Sorry for being presumptuous.
  Please forget about that silly Untitled document.
  Pretend it was never here.
  Here's the document you really want.

In that narrative, the user can work all day, opening and closing more
documents as they see fit. However, what do you think their reaction will
be at the end of the day when, upon closing the last document of the day,
AbiWord opens that initial Untitled document back up?

  Huh? Now where did *that* come from?
  That rude little ant wants me to write *another* document?
  No way! I'm going home!
  Die, Abi! Die, die, die already!

Talk about nasty surprises. :-)

>Further, I think when most people go to File->Close they
>think "close the document", not "Close the window". If the window
>closes as a side-effect, that's fine, as long as it is
>appropriate. On the other hand, when most people think "I want to
>close the window" (at least on windows 9x) they click the little X
>in the upper right hand corner, and that's what they will do if
>they really want AbiWord to go bye-bye completely,(or they'll
>click File->Exit).

Erp. In what widely-used SDI application does File / Close *not* have the
exact same semantics as clicking the little X? And why aren't they in the
User Interface Hall of Shame?

GUI fanatic

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