[whatwg] modal and modeless windows

Karl Pongratz karlhp at karlhp.com
Mon Jun 27 12:40:41 PDT 2005

Matthew Raymond wrote:

> Karl Pongratz wrote:
>> Well, if you have a Wizard with 6 steps done by AJAX, how do you 
>> explain to the user that he/she can't anymore use the web browser 
>> back/next button to navigate through the Wizard? Imagine you are at 
>> Wizard step 6, have filled in a ton of form fields and accidentally 
>> click the web browser back button, it will lead you somewhere, maybe 
>> to a resource you have visited before the Wizard resource. Does that 
>> sound as a logical browsing model which a user will ever understand?
>    Actually, the logical thing would be to have each step as a 
> separate AJAX-based web page, where changes to fields are reported 
> back to the server. The server then keeps track of the values of the 
> fields for each step and can repopulate the fields when you use the 
> forward and back buttons. No modal windows necessary.

I can't follow what you mean, sounds like I could access each wizard 
page via the browser back/next button, it means it would be in the web 
browser history, though it shouldn't be there, with or without Ajax.

>> Beside that, how many desktop applications do you know which don't 
>> use modal and modeless windows?
>    In most cases, if you show me an application with a modal window, 
> I'll show you an application that needs to do away with a modal 
> window. The use cases for applications that truly need modal windows 
> probably overlaps the use cases for XULRunner-base applications quite 
> nicely.

That's new to me. Can we live without modal windows from now? Is that 
somewhere written?

>> I know many without a back/next button, but none without modal window 
>> support comes into my mind.
>    Considering that back/next buttons were invented later, that proves 
> little. For instance, any kind of preference or settings dialogs you 
> can think of could be put in a collapsible sidebar. I personally 
> worked on a project where they had forward and back buttons for three 
> different levels. Wizards are a perfect example of back/next as well, 
> and there are plenty of those.

Yep, Wizards are perfect, but not in the web browser history and not 
locked to the web browser back/next button.

>> Is the web browser damned to limit it to back/next only? Will the 
>> only alternative be Java Webstart, Microsofts XAML or Flash to get a 
>> desktop like user interaction model?
>    I can't think of much you can't do with these technologies that you 
> can't do with existing web app technology.

Am I missing something?

> It's simply faster or has more native features. For instance, menus 
> are easily simulated by DHTML-based web apps. Similarly, you could 
> easily simulate modal windows by using a few <div> elements and 
> disabling various controls. Considering modal-anything is generally 
> considered bad UI, I don't think we should encourage it, especially 
> when it's so incompatible with current browser usage.

The "you could easily simulate modal windows" is an illusion, its a 
dirty hack and yet you have no modal windows.

Nobody talks about modal-anything, its an enhancement to the somehow 
limited back/next model, among other limitations.


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