[whatwg] Web Applications 1.0 and Menu Labels

Matthew Paul Thomas mpt at myrealbox.com
Thu Aug 9 18:37:01 PDT 2007

On Aug 7, 2007, at 9:10 AM, Ian Hickson wrote:
> On Mon, 22 Nov 2004, Matthew Thomas wrote:
> ...
>> 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?

It would be good for UAs to dim menu/submenu titles whenever all their 
items are disabled, if that's the platform UI convention (and perhaps 
even if it isn't). However, that's orthogonal to my suggestion.

I'm suggesting that since it is common for entire menus -- or toolbars 
-- to be temporarily irrelevant, such as when focus is in a field or 
pane where they do not apply, there should be a disabled= attribute for 
disabling an entire <menu>. When this attribute is present, all the 
<menu>'s items should be disabled, regardless of their individual 
disabled= attributes; when the <menu>'s disabled= attribute is removed, 
the disabled= attributes of the individual items should retake effect. 
This would save authors a lot of work that they might otherwise not 
bother with, thereby making their interfaces more responsive.

I do not think "but the menu items might be duplicated in a toolbar" is 
a strong counterargument. If the temporarily-irrelevant items are a 
subset of the items a toolbar, then yes, they will need disabling 
individually. But often it will be the entire toolbar that needs 
disabling, or the menu will not have equivalent items in a toolbar, or 
-- even more common in Web apps -- the toolbar will not have equivalent 
items in a menu.

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

Yes, they now say the opposite! I think that's a mistake, but in any 
case, that doesn't affect my suggestion. It would still be useful to 
make an entire menu disabled even if the platform UI convention is for 
disabled menu titles to look enabled.

Matthew Paul Thomas

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