User Interface Inconsistencies

There are various programs that I use during the day. Most of them have somewhat consistent user interfaces, but there are still enough points of friction.

Deleting words

When deleting characters in a text field, one usually uses Backspace. In programs with Emacs commands, one can also use Ctrl H. I rarely use the second variant, the first one works in all programs.

More often I want to delete a whole word. In most modern programs this is done via Ctrl Backspace. But not in Vim or the shell, there it is Ctrl W. But do you know that Ctrl W is almost any other program? It closes the window.

The Ctrl Backspace is also not consistent among programs. When I have written “word ” (with a space after it) and press those keys in say Firefox, it deletes the space and the word. This also happens in Vim, though with different buttons. In RStudio it just deletes the space. I have to issue the command twice to get the same result.

Line completion

Some text input fields complete the line based on previous input. This happens in spreadsheets for instance. In KRunner, the KDE program start tool, the line is completed by default. So if I just want to start gvim without any commands, I type in gvim but then I get this:

../../_images/krunner.png

This means that I have to press Backspace in order to get rid of that suggestion.

In my shell, Fish, the completion is on demand. If I just type gvim, I get nothing, because I did run this command like that before:

../../_images/fish1.png

But even when I add that trailing space, the completion is just a suggestion:

../../_images/fish2.png

I need to press Ctrl F in order to accept this suggestion.

Usually in spreadsheets the completion is accepted by default, making it a bit annoying to work with.

Yes and No

One does not have too look far in order to find the first inconsistency in the button layout of dialogs. Say I want to permanently delete a file. In Dolphin, a KDE program, this dialog looks like this:

../../_images/dolphin.png

The affirmative action is delete (“Löschen”) and on the left. The cancel action (“Abbrechen”) is on the right.

Now do the same thing in Nautilus, the GNOME file manager:

../../_images/nautilus.png

You see that the two buttons are ordered completely different. This is due to different interface guidelines of KDE and GNOME. Each are consistent within themselves, but not with each other. The same happens with Windows and macOS, but I do not use these often enough to notice.

File chooser

Another KDE vs. GNOME issue is the file chooser. These are drastically different. And these are not even all the ones that I can find on my system:

../../_images/file-kde.png

The KDE file chooser

../../_images/file-gtk.png

The GTK/GNOME file chooser

../../_images/file-java.png

The Java file chooser

../../_images/file-qt.png

The Qt file chooser

All of them have a separate history, a separate set of bookmarks on the left panel.

And the GNOME one has this strange behavior where everything gets selected with a double click, expect for something that is already selected. The first item in a directory is selected by default, so one has to be very careful when clicking. This is being discussed for years now with no end in sight. But that is a different story.