[whatwg] Web Applications 1.0 and Menu Labels

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Mon Aug 6 14:10:36 PDT 2007

On Mon, 22 Nov 2004, Matthew Thomas wrote:
> > 
> > It's my understanding that disabling a menu is considered poor form, 
> > and that it is better to disable all the children. (mpt?) ...
> The terms "disable" and "disabled" are ambiguous for a menu/submenu 
> title, because making it "disabled" as in dimmed (grayed out) does not 
> make it "disabled" as in unopenable. So when all the items in a 
> menu/submenu are unavailable, it's best to make the menu itself 
> apparently unavailable too. Then people won't waste time by opening the 
> menu just in case there is an available item inside, but they can still 
> open the menu to explore the scope of the program if they want to.
> *   Windows: "If all items in a menu are disabled, disable its menu
>     title. If you disable a menu item or its title, the user can still
>     browse to it or choose it."
>     http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/dnwue/html/ch08b.asp
> *   Mac OS X: "If all of the items in a menu or submenu are unavailable,
>     the menu or submenu title is dimmed. The user can still open the
>     menu, but all of its items are dimmed to indicate that these items
>     are not available in the present context."
>     http://developer.apple.com/documentation/UserExperience/Conceptual/OSXHIGuidelines/index.html#//apple_ref/doc/uid/20000957
> Given that, I approve of giving menus and submenus a "disabled" 
> attribute that would make all their descendant items unavailable without 
> forgetting the erstwhile availability of individual descendant items. 
> This attribute would relieve applications from having to remember the 
> particular subset of descendant items that were previously available, 
> during those occasions when they are all temporarily being made 
> unavailable (for example, a "Format" menu while focus is temporarily in 
> a plain-text field secondary to the main rich-text area).

The idea of the current mechanism, though, is that you can have those same 
menu items also be a toolbar elsewhere (say), so you'd want to disable the 
buttons anyway. Wouldn't it be better to have the menus automatically 
disable submenu titles when appropriate?

(Note that the Mac OS X guidelines seem to no longer have the quote you 
give above.)

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'

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