[whatwg] Thoughts on Context and Popup Menus for Web Applications
Matthew Paul Thomas
mpt at myrealbox.com
Fri Jan 6 02:58:02 PST 2006
On 6 Jan, 2006, at 2:54 PM, Ian Hickson wrote:
> On Sun, 14 Nov 2004, Matthew Thomas wrote:
>> On 11 Nov, 2004, at 5:11 AM, Matthew Raymond wrote:
>>> Who's to say the UA couldn't just append the menu to the context
>>> menu? Or append the browser context menu as a submenu?
>> Reasonableness. Shortcut menus (aka context menus) become more
>> difficult to use the more items they have (as closeness to screen
>> edges require that they open in a direction other than southeast),
>> and submenus of shortcut menus are extremely difficult to use for the
>> same reason squared.
> Do you know of a method that could be used that would not suffer from
> these problems?
The usual method is for the app developer to place a visible menubutton
next to the relevant control (e.g. the list of mail folders in Apple
Mail), next to the currently selected item (e.g. a selected e-mail
address in Apple Mail), or inside the relevant text field (e.g. the
search fields in Firefox, Safari, Thunderbird, and many other apps).
These menus are much simpler than a UA-items-plus-app-items menu would
be, because they don't contain the UA items.
So one useful addition to HTML would be a way of specifying a menu for
a text field, where a menu item is either a mode (with text and an
optional icon) or text (which replaces the current contents of the
field). The most common use case for this would be changing the scope
of a search for the former, and choosing a recent search string for the
Another useful addition would be a way of recognizing part of the
contents of a text field as an entity that has its own menu (maybe by
specifying a set of characters as entity delimiters), so that the UA
can display a menubutton next to that text when the item is selected
(and also let an entity be selected in one click). The most common use
case for this would be editing a list of keywords or tags applied to an
item, like photos in Flickr, goals in 43 Things, posts in Weblogs, and
so on. Probably the second most common use case would be to make
addressing as easy in a Webmail app as it is in Apple Mail.
As for placing menubuttons at arbitrary positions, that should be
pretty simple once menubuttons are supported at all.
>> I think we may be venturing into "no practical solution for the
>> platforms some user agents are running on" territory again.
> This would be unfortunate. It is very clear that there is a need for
> Web applications to be able to provide context-sensitive commands.
> Windows Live Local (formely MSN Virtual Earth) provides a context menu
> on its maps, and it makes a lot of sense.
Then that's very poor design on their part. Since that menu opens on
mouseup, so it wouldn't interfere with a drag, they could just as
easily require a normal click to open the menu rather than a
As it is, a large proportion of people using Windows Live Local won't
realize that those functions exist, because they require a right mouse
button that such people either never use or (less commonly) don't have.
> Would we not want to allow a more semantic and accessible way of doing
Context menus aren't particularly accessible no matter how they're
implemented, since there's no hint that they even exist. A menubutton,
though, could be tabbed to even if it had appeared only because the
element it was inside had been selected or focused.
Matthew Paul Thomas
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